Pollygraph (interviews with erotica authors): IM Telling

Why erotica and how did you get into it?

I self-describe myself as a rebel because I never felt that I fit in with the mainstream during my childhood and early teen years in Middle America. The house I grew up in was just outside the reach of neighborhoods during the late 50s. Because of my location and no siblings, I rarely had playmates and I believe this bolstered my creative side. I had no choice but to makeup the games and diversions needed to make it through the day. As urban sprawl finally surrounded my home in the early 60s, I discovered I was simply not one of the guys because I never learned how to be.

Not fitting in, I needed an escape by the age of 17 and chose the military as my way out of my early life but that didn’t work out either. Military service landed me in California at the beginning of the hippie era and the crowd I gravitated towards were like me in many ways… feelings of isolation and dislike of authority were common as was sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

Before spending time around Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco circa 1967 and the Southern California beach towns and North Hollywood in 1968 and 1969, I viewed sex as being a component of love between a man and a woman who entered into a committed relationship; the traditional view.  That changed quickly as I found myself having sex with women, many of them where I didn’t even know their name or saw them again after we got dressed. Sex was for the fun and stimulation, not as an expression of caring.

As my time in the military came to an end, my initial plan was to stay in Southern California and go-native with the times. Something inside me told me that if I didn’t get back to at least some degree of a controlled life, that I wouldn’t live another five years; I think this is commonly called paranoia.  To me, Middle America represented the Eisenhower Era when I left and basically, stayed there until the Reagan Years.  I needed to be on the outside rather than in the middle of it so I returned home a few days after my discharge.

However, the main thing I brought back with me was my total disregard of having a relationship with someone I had sex with, that is, until I met my future wife. Her background was highly traditional with church and family derived attitudes on everything. They say opposites attract and for us, that was incredibly true. What we shared was rebellion; I had it, she wanted it. The night we met, she was an 18 year old virgin and she remained that way until two months later when we had sex for the first time.

We married about twenty months after meeting but dozens of late-night roadside chats about sex with others and the excitement of swinging may have been our most common connection.  I often characterize our early years by stating that I loved all the sexual variety I had experienced while she missed having any at all. Regardless of her wants, it was nearly four years into the marriage before she climbed over to my side. We celebrated our forty-second anniversary last month.

So, how did I start and why erotica? I think I may have already answered the Why Erotica question simply by following the adage of write what you know. As to the How I got into it, the creative side of me that was fostered during my pre-teen years led me into a career in the arts. My art was logic and it started in the days when computers with less power than your cell phone filled a large room. Programming as far as I’m concerned is very much an art form, and the way I interpret it is closer to clay-molding than any other creative endeavor. The computer applications I’ve written start with a large lump of information with rules and guidelines and I shape this into a functional tool/application, using my mind rather than my hands. As I see it, my writing career began with the first line of computer code I wrote.

Reading was one fallout effect of my early solitary years without having a neighborhood of playmates. I read myself to sleep every night, typically with a book in my hand for three hours before I turned out the lights. The fictional stories I read as a child interested me but I hated school. I read Moby Dick because I wanted to and loved it… if I’d had it assigned as homework, I would have never reached page three. Again, this is my inner-rebel controlling me.

Rather than spend my writing time in high school doing book reports and assigned essays, I wrote about what I wanted to write with no intent on showing it to anyone or having it judged or critiqued. Before going off to the military, most of my writing was in the form of variations on movies I had seen although not fan-fiction. It was mostly Science Fiction and in retrospect, I think I avoided writing about my own life at the time because I was too normal then.

My experiences with marijuana and the LSD scene of the late 60s was the first writing I ever did about my own life experiences. Somewhere maybe, in a discarded box, lies my first biographical tale about a beach house party where 20 or 30 of us became paranoid about one of our own narking to the cops and the likelihood of a late night drug raid. I wrote this around the mid-70s. I had done so poorly in school that I would describe the piece as unreadable.

Although I continued to write in the form of computer logic virtually every day, writing IF-statements and value assignments uses a grammar far removed from verbs and adjectives, it is much simpler. The beginnings of the Internet era in the mid to late eighties allowed me to connect with other developers around the country and one day, I was asked if I wanted to write-up an article for a nationally distributed programming magazine. I was paid five-hundred dollars for the piece. I think the fantasy of writing for pay and public consumption was engrained in me from then on. Still, I focused on creating programming code.

I’m not sure why but one day, a Sunday morning I think while my wife was still asleep, I started a fictional story about (guess what) a computer programmer. However, I had a hook for this story idea. I thought, why not take a detour with my lead character and have him searching the house for his car keys one day and then all of a sudden, an email arrives from an unknown correspondent telling him where to look. The logical next step is the continued exchange of messages between the programmer and the mystery writer where the unknown demon advises the programmer to kill his wife and kids. I managed to stretch the story out to forty or fifty pages but my imagination couldn’t figure out the details of the story.  My wife encouraged me to keep working on it but I was totally blocked on how to do anymore with it and like the story about the late night drug bust, it ended up lost in a folder that might still be on my computer somewhere.

Fast forward to January of 2012.

As my wife and I entered into our senior years, we often talked about our times in the Lifestyle.  There were countless wild and crazy nights, many of them told as tales to our fellow friends and acquaintances that were into our kink. She kept telling me that I should write out some of our stories before senility robbed us of our memories and finally, I sat down one Sunday morning while she was still asleep and started describing one of our experiences.

Another catalyst that played a key role was the purchase of an eBook reader from Amazon. Initially, my interest in the Kindle was to see if I could write computer applications for it.  I did some initial research into the idea once the unit arrived but I wasn’t motivated enough to actually create anything. What did happen is that I ordered digital copies of some of the books I read years before. I really enjoyed how the Kindle allowed me to re-experience those stories. For years, my voracious appetite for reading had become limited to CNN, Wikipedia, and technical programming articles. It was great to come back to fiction.

In addition, the rise of eMail and the need to write human readable documentation for my computer applications over the years had improved my writings somewhat.  I credit a former boss also because I tended to show my lack of formal education in my four-page emails where the message should have been no longer than a paragraph. He told me, use all the words necessary to say what you need to say and no more. At first, I felt like Mozart telling Emperor Joseph in the film Amadeus that my work had just the number of notes I required.  I was wrong, but it is still a skill I am working on.

Possibly the most pivotal moment of all occurred when I discovered that I could send an email document to my Kindle and one day, I sent a technical write-up I’d created to review that evening at home. Seeing my own words on the same screen where I’d just read Stephen King and other favorite authors was an epiphany.

Continually encouraged to write out some of our wild times by my wife, I finished my first written narrative on one of our Lifestyle experiences a few days later and started writing a second one, and then a third one and more.  It dawned on me that the style I’d written in was very much like a diary or journal; a collection of individual entries describing a moment in time and what occurred. It amused me to think, what if some day, someone were to find this document… I wonder what they would think about it?  That was the moment author I. M. Telling was born.

I re-read the journal entries I’d already written out although I did so from a distant perspective. The first thing I realized was how I’d glorified my wife and I. What if a man with no existing connection to the swinging lifestyle found the journal with a stack of used books at a garage sale?  At first, he would be put off and disgusted with both the husband and the wife but slowly, he would be drawn in and turned on by what he read. By the time I was done, I had a book about a reader and a writer where the reader idolizes the experiences of the writer. Needless to say, things don’t work out for the reader as he expected.

Between New Years and late March of 2012, my research on creating Kindle computer applications led me into the discovery of self-publishing. Even as late as the early 2k decade, vanity publishers welcomed the opportunity to take an unknown writer’s work to print and I realized as far back as the 70s that most of them were sharks, feeding on the frustration of authors who either didn’t have the skills or the luck to be traditionally published.

Having an actual story I was able to turn into a novel, having access to the public for virtually zero cost and without the stigma of traditional self-publishing was my perfect storm and on the last Friday of March, I published “The Ebony Letter”. By Sunday, Amazon reported two sales. I was ecstatic!

That first book was initially just filled with several true confession stories about our experiences until I added the other half of the story about where the main character is drawn into wanting to become the writer. The moment I introduced the finder of the journal and his reactions to the stories, the book became fictional. All of a sudden, it seemed okay to re-work some of the journal stories by adding or sometimes removing elements to make them a better read. I started gaining confidence that I could actually write rather than just narrate what happened one night.

Fifteen minutes after learning of that first sale on Amazon, I sat down at my computer and began writing another story based on our experiences that hadn’t been included in the first book.  I think initially, I had the idea of having a second book of nothing but the ‘lost journal entries’ that weren’t in the first book. However, from the first paragraph I felt it wasn’t necessary to adhere to any sort of real experience. “Being Serviced” is about a young married couple who are into interracial gangbangs. Events where white husbands bring their wives to experience multiple encounters with black men being the focus. Yes, my wife and I have attended parties such as this. I combined things that happened over multiple parties and includes story elements based on activities we observed as well as participated in and also purely made up material to enhance the feel of the work.

In total, the 12k words of “Being Serviced” required twelve hours to go from start to first draft and I decided to release it as a $2.99 short story rather than extend it out to a full length book. It wasn’t long before I got my first sale on it and interestingly enough, unit-wise, “Being Serviced” is my second best all-time seller.

What kinds of erotica do you write?

My preferred answer to this question is ‘all kinds’. In the nearly two years since my first release, I’ve included activities that run the gauntlet of sex beyond the marriage bed that includes interracial, gay/lesbian, cheating, sex for money, rough sex, BDSM and even more taboo subjects. However, what I don’t write is what I would call “romance erotica”. That said, I’ve surprised myself occasionally by creating relationships that have depth and purpose beyond the physical act of screwing.

Of late, my stories are starting to trend into more traditional areas where the sex is an added part of the main story. My best ever selling release is called “The Slave Factory” and it is about men and women who voluntarily submit themselves to be auctioned off as sex and bondage slaves to rich buyers. However, the sequel called “The Slave Factory: Exposed!” is better classified as an adventure/drama/thriller. I’m told the sequel is the best writing I’ve ever produced.

My editor mentioned to me one day that I have a knack for putting unexpected endings into my stories and although initially these twists were unintended, I now see that as one of my trademarks.

Why inter-racial? What extra spice does that add for you and your readers?

The answer to this is an easy one for me. When I was five-ten years old, I lived in a part of town that was all-white. Typically, the only time I saw an African American was when my mother would take me downtown on the bus to shop and usually to take in a movie at one of the downtown movies palaces of the era but with one exception.

On Saturdays, I could usually be found playing on my swings in the backyard and typically around noon, I started to hear dogs barking in the distance. I knew what that meant of course, and over the next half hour the sounds of barking dogs got louder and closer until finally, the cause of their excitement could be seen. It was the weekly garbage pickup. Of course, what was really going on was that the neighborhood dogs were protesting the noise and intrusion of their space made by the garbage men who manned the trucks. In the mid-50s to early-60s, all of them in our town were black. Of course, we used a different word for those men back then and no one thought much about it… at least not the people who I grew up with and my extended family. As they say, a spade by any other name is a N….

As a child, I interpreted the cacophony of enraged mutts to mean just one thing… that dogs hated black people.  When the first covered shopping mall was built in my town, it included a pet store with what I still refer to as a wall of puppies. I’m a bit of an animal lover so it was always one of my favorite stops whenever we visited. Imagine my concern the day I strolled into the pet store to see a black man with his wife and young child holding a young pup up in the air above them and checking him out. I thought, “Oh that poor dog! He is going to have to live with black people!”

My parents were prejudiced but they did their best not to show it or push me into believing that whites were better somehow although the message came through to a degree regardless. As I got older and had more contact with other kids my age at school, the disdain and disrespect of members of the black race became more pronounced. I more or less went along with how my peers felt because I simply never experienced contact with other races at all as I grew up.

It wasn’t until I joined the military in 1965 that I finally had real contact with black men. Prejudice and segregation was practiced by both sides despite the fact that we also had to live together. Regardless, my attitudes about race were mostly a matter of fitting in with the views of those around me… other white guys. The common wisdom boiled down to the fact that the mixing of the races was a huge taboo.

I mentioned earlier that I tend to rebel against the accepted standards. One night, I broke the taboo with a black prostitute in San Francisco… and it was bar-none the most exciting sexual encounter I’d ever had. I could, and maybe should write that out as a story sometime because the experience was just beyond anything I’d ever done before.

Now, a white man having a sexual encounter with a black woman is a degree of taboo, it is nothing compared to the taboo of a white woman allowing herself to be taken by a black man… at least for white men that is.

In “The Ebony Letter”, I included a couple of pages where the writer of the journal is commenting about sex between blacks and whites. He refers to our current era as a Golden Age for Interracial Sex. Sixty to seventy years ago, mixed-race encounters often resulted in men being hung from a tree and the woman ostracized as unfit to be around. Sixty to seventy years from now, who will care what race or color someone happens to be prominently associated with. For many of today’s twenty-somethings… that time is already here. For me, it just won’t be as exciting when race doesn’t matter any longer. Perhaps, if I live long enough, a new Golden Age of interspecies sex with aliens might be a hot topic to write about.

The above comments are why interracial is exciting for me. I can only guess that for my readers, it is either the taboo factor or the still secret desire to break it that excites them. In my short story “Getting Even in Unexpected Ways”, the driving motivation is revenge-sex.

Tell us about your experiences as an erotica author. What have the big challenges and successes been?

Well, to begin with… I would classify my experiences as an erotic author as something that was a lot of fun to do. I joke occasionally how the secret to writing lots of erotica stories is to not use all the positions in just one book. There is guy on top, girl on top, two people, three people, more genital than oral contact or vice versa, white men/black women or vice versa, old/young or both… the variations are endless and it gives the erotica writer lots of easy pages to write.

As to the challenge… well, it is the need to continue pumping out new stories. Few authors regardless of genre generate enough of a following or write well enough to earn a living without continually having a product in the new releases section to help the reader find your previous works. And the challenge to that is coming up with additional stories.

My biggest success thus far has been “The Slave Factory”. Is it successful? When I first started reading about publishing on Kindle, the advice offered to most new authors was that most books will never sell over a hundred copies. By that standard, immensely successful. My best day ever, I sold nearly 60 copies and over my best four days, I doubled the goal of reaching hundred units. I reached as high as ranked 2,373 on Amazon’s sales rank which nearly made it into the list of Top 100 Erotica. Real success? Just look at the numbers for Fifty Shades and realize that most of us will only find true success by just being surprised by how many people buy your book at all.

Do you write in other genres, too? 

These days, I’d like to think that my writings are not classifiable as a single genre. I try to include elements of humor, drama, romance, adventure… I’ve even penned a short story based on the character ODO from the TV Science Fiction series Deep Space Nine. ODO if you watched the show, was a shape shifter – able to transform his body into any shape and texture he wanted to. Dear ladies, can you imagine what ODO could do inside you?

I have written under one other pen name but so far, just one title.  I prefer to maintain isolation between that writer and I. M. Telling. The release is not erotica and I think it is one of my better and more imaginative stories and everyone I’d made sit down and read it has loved it… but it is pretty much my worst seller.

The thing is… if a story comes to mind that I’d like to write, I don’t care what the genre is.

Do the people around you know what you write? How have they reacted, or how would they react?

Yes and no… there is a quote in one of my stories, “A little perversion of the mind makes it interesting. It also means we typically lead double lives – one for those who think we’re normal, and then there is our real world.”

My wife and I have lived in a secret world of swinging and BDSM since the mid-70s and of course, my aunts and uncles, co-workers, most of them would never understand who we really are… and for us, our secret world is definitely our real world because it is where are hearts live. I have two kids (grown now) and over time, they figured out who their parents really are and they are okay with it. In fact, to a degree, I think they are pleased that we are able to be who we want to be.

I suspect that many of our so-called straight friends would also be okay with who we are behind closed (or at least slightly ajar) doors. However, to protect my day-job income which for now is necessary, I. M. Telling has no connection to me (Frank Willingham).

Just kidding… I’m not Frank Willingham either.

Tell us about your most recent titles.

Although I did a quickie/shorty in my last three releases, the main things are “The Slave Factory” and the “The Slave Factory: Exposed!” My next release will be the conclusion of the trilogy.

The subject of The Slave Factory is advertised as being BDSM although it is more sex-play that ropes and whips. My wife and I had our first exposure to the Fetish World of BDSM about four years ago and what attracted us most to is was the obvious acceptance of those in the lifestyle to one’s own personal kink.

One of the most unexpected situations we encountered was the discovery that one of the couples we’d met had no objection to the wife being bound up on a St. Andrews Cross Naked while being flogged by another man yet… sexually, the couple were totally monogamous. There is so much diversity in the world of Kink and nowhere have I ever seen a more explicit interpretation of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” than here. My most recent titles are only the beginning of what can be done in this world.

Do you have a favourite, or favourites, among your stories?

For sure… on multiple levels in fact. Of course “The Slave Factory” is a favorite because it has earned me four times as much money as #2. My release of “Big Black Cock” is a favorite because it is so over the top.

However, my third release “Brenda Bailey Cunningham’s Ankle Bracelet” will likely always be the one closest to my heart. Why? First off, highly fictional with only limited references to my real-life experiences and told from a woman’s perspective. It was a huge stretch for me to write.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a writer, my main asset is my imagination… not my writing skills. Those are starting to come along and my only regret is that it is unlikely that I’ll have the twenty years I probably need to actually become a great writer.  “Brenda”, as I affectionately refer to the book is what told me I ‘could’ someday be a good writer. Guess it was kinda like one of those first loves… in hindsight, not the best bed-partner I ever had but then… she was the first.

How do you normally go about writing an erotic story? Is there much, ahem, research involved…?

The main research I do is places… I received a review once (not a particularly favorable one at that) but the reader started by speculating that I must be a fellow Angelino because I seemed to know the LA area so well.

Guess what… last time I was in Southern California was maybe the early eighties and although I did spend most of two years there in the late 60s, it was somewhat a different place.

Sure, maybe I remembered the names of a couple of streets as a starting point but one of the things I included in the story as a background setting was a restaurant. My research was limited to ten minutes using Google and drilling down on a couple of restaurant sites and checking out there online menus.

The Internet and search engines and sites like Wikipedia can make anyone an expert on millions of subjects without putting your pants on or getting outside your apartment. In “The Slave Factory: Exposed!”, a key plot element was an FBI raid on a school where students are trained in BDSM techniques.  Not being a former FBI agent, I was pretty much at a loss on what the procedures might be that led up to the raid.

I spent a few hours over a few days clicking around various sites as well as using standards I’ve seen applied in TV shows and movies to put my raid together and overall, I think it worked.

Here is something to remember… as I’ve mentioned earlier in this review, my non-writing career was as a computer-guy and to put it bluntly, finding viable writing or seeing truthful portrayals of what a computer can do in fictional writing not going to happen. I suspect most portrayals of doctors and lawyers is just as nuts as well. Most people won’t know and I’m not writing text books. My advice, do your best and try to write something that you see as possible and most of your readers will be fine with that.

Before leaving this question, let me add that those who go out and spend years sometimes in research.., I applaud what you do but for fiction writing, it isn’t necessary.  If I know so little about a subject, I won’t bother to write about it in the first place.

And yeah… I’ve tried lots of the positions explored in my erotica novels… I hope you have as well.

Do you have any favourite erotica authors?

This is the question I least wanted to answer because I don’t read erotica. Frankly, reading about it does very little to excite me.

Writing it however… that is something else altogether. I can actually turn myself on when I write a sex scene because guess what… my imagination lets me take the scene wherever I want it to go with no limitations. My characters can climax a hundred times if I want them to as well as dance to same beat and come out the door at the same time.

I’d rather read other genres such as SyFy or horror.

There is also other aspects to why I seldom read erotica, the first being that I see the story being told differently that the writer offered it.  I envy the skills of editors, where their task is to fix the problems rather than change the story… I can’t do that and I’ve tried. If you ask me to read and critique your work, I won’t nor would you like what you got back from me if I did.

A secondary reason is simply that I prefer to not be influenced by other writers.  I don’t mind picking up another phrase for orgasm now and then but the last thing I want to read is a story I might want to write myself someday.

And finally, what can we expect to see from you soon?

That’s easy… the final volume of “The Slave Factory” Trilogy. Hopefully it will be done before the end of 2013 but my schedule has really been demanding of late and is unlikely to change soon. Volume 3: The Slave Factory: Total Power Exchange” should have been out by the middle of September at the latest.

After that… I really don’t know. I’ll just have to see what itch needs scratching.

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