It’s no secret that Dark Soul started as a bit of a dare. One publisher put call out for gun kink stories and people started elbowing me online, saying “Hey, that’s YOUR call.” (Or, as a friend said: “They are playing your song!”)
My first response was a scoff. Yeah, right. Guns terrify me. I was born in Germany, where you can’t just walk into a shop and buy a high-powered hunting rifle, never mind own one without a ton of licenses, training, and an armoured weapons locker. I’m based in the UK, where just carrying a knife can get you imprisoned (as far as I know—not that I’ve ever carried anything more dangerous than a fencing sword to fencing class).
But when the call came out, my mood was one of “I’m awesome!” (I cycle through this pattern of total megalomania and abject horror at the idea that anybody could hate my stuff…)
In the megalomaniac phases, I firmly believe I can write whatever the hell I put my mind to, and dares are almost irresistible. So I held the idea of a gun as an erotic implement in my head for a while and went through a list of my characters. My characters mostly ran in horror. The soldiers told me guns are NOT sexy; they kill people. My civilians gave me the wide-eyed stare of “Are you kidding?”
But one character stood there and told me he’d be game for it. Now, that was Silvio, who appeared in my brain twenty years ago and who refused to go away (I killed him a few times, and he kept coming back). I needed a partner for him, and decided that using a gun clearly is an act of repression, and it’s also very macho. Stefano Marino was born—repressed, bisexual, and acting macho because that’s the way a “real man” acts. I wrote Dark Soul, the first story, in two days or thereabouts, as the characters kept hitting sparks off each other. The actual gun scene turned out way hot. I don’t have to be into it when my characters are, and they both were.
Silvio’s always been an adventurous sort. In all stories I wrote about him, he was very close to his brother Franco. Even twenty or fifteen years ago, way before I really understood “kink”, people told me there was an “incest vibe” going on. I decided to let Silvio have some play, and he did, in the end, seduce his brother—but in an attempt to fix him by connecting with him. Silvio believes that sex fixes a great many things—in any case, it’s his way to connect to people, because he does have problems expressing his emotions otherwise.
Other stories in Dark Soul are very much about exploring Silvio’s other kinks and issues as a sexual being. When we meet him, he’s the partner of a much older man (Dark Secret). His gender is somewhat fluid (Dark Lady I&II). In the end, there’s even a threesome between Silvio, Stefano, and Stefano’s wife Donata. That’s plenty of kink for one short series, especially as the series also contains phone sex and plenty of power exchange and D/s dynamics, and we understand that Silvio gets off on pain. Even he calls himself a “sick puppy”.
What makes him so erotic is that he embraces all of those motions. Also, he doesn’t actually harm anybody (granted, the Russian mobsters are the exception, but that’s only well-deserved payback). The push and pull happens between characters who know what they are doing, and it’s clear that even when Silvio submits, that even when Franco gets seduced, they are making choices as consenting adults.
To come back to the main question, personally, I write kink when my characters are into it. Some are, some aren’t. The one thing that I almost always bring to the table is what the leather crowd calls “power exchange”. People negotiating power dynamics, sometimes in words, and often not. It’s the one constant in my work, and I’ve done it in everything I’ve written. That’s my personal button, though.
I think kink becomes gratuitous when it’s clear that the author is only doing it to cash in on the hot genre BDSM (and it is hot). I bet you’ve read those books: it’s a normal romance progressing normally, and suddenly, just as things are starting to get a little bit routine and boring, out come the blindfolds, restraints, and floggers for no reason whatsoever. Never did the characters even hint at needing that, but in the next chapter, they call each other “Master” and “pet”, or similar.
For me, the characters have to be into it, and what exactly they are into is determined by who they are and nothing else. People are more than the list of their kinks. On the other hand, well-developed, complex characters, who have certain kinks can go pretty much anywhere in erotic fiction (within the usual limits).
If the author can show me the stakes that a character has, the deeper need behind what he or she needs from sex, all kink is good, but that requires a strong writer with insight into their characters.
And I do believe in staying true to those deeper needs of the character, even if that meant that ARe removed Dark Soul #3 without warning from its catalogue (because of the brother-incest scene), and PayPal, for a time, looked like it might shut down Riptide’s account (yes, Dark Soul was the only story containing the “forbidden content”), and that was really scary; first time I’ve run afoul of the morality police in twenty years of publishing.
At the end of the day, if a writer makes me believe in the deep needs driving a character, I’m ready to read just about anything. If my characters are kinky and need kink in their sex lives, fine, I’ll explore this just like their other traits and attitudes.
But it’s much like in real life; kink comes from a very deep layer of the person, and a writer needs the insight into their characters to show those layers. But then, a good writer can make me believe just about anything.
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