DEBRIEF | ‘Burning On The Edge of the World’ (The Biggest Lover)

I’m shamelessly stealing the following blog format from the excellent B.R. Sanders, who’s been posting these about their own short fiction. (Seriously, I’ve even stolen the title.) Partly this serves as a shameless announcement (Hey you! Go read my story!), partly a record of my writing along side the record of reading that this blog exists as. But I also think that writers don’t always talk about the industry as much as they should, and I find it fascinating to read about when other writers so perhaps someone will enjoy it in return. (It sure helps when you receive your 27th rejection note to be able to read of other stories that have met the same fate.)

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TBL-TheBiggestLover-RJacksonPublication date: February 2016

Completion date: February 2015

Number of times subbed: 0

The story of the story: Our protagonist – a musician escaping the big city – returns to the seaside hometown of his youth, and meets an old friend on whom he once had an all-consuming crush.

This was the first time I had ever attempted anything that could be termed erotica, and I was pretty nervous about writing it. The finished piece, although there is certainly a hefty dose of sex in it, is more character-driven than some of the other examples of the genre I read as research. The central idea arose from an encounter of my own; returned home to the village I grew up in, I met a school-friend for drinks. It wasn’t a friend I had been particularly close to, probably best described as halfway between friend and acquaintance, but we’d spent five years at school together. This friend I had hitherto assumed to be straight, but whilst we sat in the dark by the river he told me that he was gay – in fact, had been in a relationship with a man for a year or two. This opened the floodgates to talk about our respective experiences of school, and in describing the things that we had (necessarily) kept completely secret from those around us, it was as if the stories of my youth were being rewritten.

The encounter wasn’t sexual at all — although there was an odd tensions which wasn’t ‘are we going to get it on now?’ but instead ‘would we have got it on then?‘ — but it was that feeling of having my perspective of my formative years altered and retold that stuck with me, and what I was trying to capture in my story. (Alongside, of course, that elusive feel of homecoming to a place and to the people you left behind a long time ago.)

Plus, of course, this anthology was for an anthology about the larger male, so I was endeavouring to do justice to a character that rarely gets to appear in fiction in general, let alone sexually in an erotica story. (Which, I should say, I roundly applaud The Biggest Lover for, because this is literally the only anthology of its kind, which is shocking.) And this is an erotica story, and there is plenty of lovingly rendered detail to keep those of that inclination entertained. Just wipe up after.

Placing the story: I was invited to the anthology. In fact, when I first was told by the publisher, I thought he was winding me up. He has a habit of doing so, and frequently invents anthologies I should write stories for. Knowing my love of the cubbier man, I assumed The Biggest Lover was the latest in this line, until the editor also contacted me. Writing in an unfamiliar genre, it seemed like a huge challenge, but I’m actually absurdly proud of the story. (And it may have led me to write a whole bunch of other erotica stories… But then again, it may not. Sssh.)

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