Feminist Erotica 1.7 - Interview: Katrina Jackson on Writing for Yourself, Self-Publishing and Polyamorous Triads

image of Katrina Jackson for Feminist Erotica's podcast episode 7

Katrina Jackson writes the types of stories that she would want to read, you know, with fat black girls and masturbation scenes. In this episode, Karen and Princess talked with her about her writing journey from fanfiction to self-published author with a bookshelf of titles. We also commiserated on pushing from diversity as a black queer woman and by the end, we became best friends. Check Katrina out on Twitter @katrinajax and pre-order Bright Lights on Amazon!

Follow Feminist Erotica on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and email us with questions/comments/concerns at feministerotica@rebelliousmagazine.com. This episode is sponsored by Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. 

Transcript

Voiceover Goddess: Welcome to Feminist Erotica, a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women. Join Jera, Karen and Princess for stimulating interviews that explore feminist representations of desire as well as short and sweet erotic snippets read by the authors themselves. This episode is sponsored by Just the Tip, Rebellious Magazine’s inclusive sex and relationship advice column, where you’ll find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators, as well as compassionate responses to anonymous questions. Check it out at Rebelliousmagazine.com/just-the-tip.

Karen: Hello world. Welcome to another episode of the Feminist Erotica Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. I am one of your co-hosts, your illustrious co-host Karen Hawkins. I am joined by-

Princess: Another illustrious co-host, Princess McDowell.

Karen: And we are thrilled to be talking today to Kat Jackson, who is an erotica author and Kat, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself before we jump into it.

Katrina: I am a bored academic, or an overworked academic, there’s no like in-between. I’m a historian and I write erotica and erotic romance in my-, I’m going to say spare time, but that’s actually a lie. Most of the time I’m writing when I should be doing actual work and I just don’t want to. Yeah.

Princess: Fair.

Karen: Yes. I really, I really, I appreciate that so much. So why did you start writing erotica?

Katrina: I started writing fanfiction is what I started writing, and I realized I only wanted to write at that point. So I was in grad school actually, and I was burnt out, and homesick, and tired all the time. And so I started writing fanfiction, but I only wanted to write the sex. Like, or really intimate moments. Like I wasn’t interested in, like, I love the fan fic culture that’s like, you know, a 79-chapter coffee shop [inaudible]. I liked that it exists, but I’m never going to read it. And I’m certainly never going to write it. I was like the queen of the fic lit, or the sort of short vignette. And I was like, ‘Well, here is 400 words that I wrote probably while I was not paying attention in the class I was TA-ing. And it is not edited. It is poorly written.’ It’s just a mess but it’s just whatever I had. So I started writing fanfiction first, and where I realized that I was really interested in the sort of intimate connections that people have with one another, which eventually led to erotica. I also loved erotica when I was much younger as well. So I think it was a natural progression.

Karen: What kind of – if you don’t mind saying – what kind of fanfiction were you writing?

Katrina: Oh, I started writing Cold Case fanfiction. Did you ever watch that show?

Karen: Yeah!

Katrina: Yes, so I was, look okay, I was on LiveJournal. This is a mess, but I was on LiveJournal and I was, there are other fandoms, but this is the only thing that stuck. I was writing polyamorous, or like more like voyeuristic erotica between Scotty Valens, Kat (who’s played by Tracie Thoms, I can’t remember her character name) and then, you know that season she dated the white DA? Who is Jonathan LaPaglia? So it was right near the end. So whatever. So anyway, they were, I was writing those couples and then in every vignette, Scotty Valens was, like, spying on them or listening or watching them having sex somewhere around station. It was so much fun. I loved it. So I was writing other things like, you know, whatever. Everyone was writing Vampire Diaries fanfiction at the time, but I fell off of that show really quickly. So the thing that stuck was Cold Case.

Karen: I’m trying to remember? See they’re all one show, like every Law & Order, every true-, all of those shows are like one show in my head. That’s not the one with Poppy? Is Cold Case-

Karen: No, that was Without A Trace. I watched, so look I watched all of them. Cold Case was the one where they did all of the, you know, obviously the name cold cases, but they would go back really far. So, like, the 1800s or the 1910s. And so every episode had the most amazing music, all from the year that they were, the time period that they were covering. And so that’s actually part of the reason why a lot of people who never saw it can’t see it now because they couldn’t get it licensed to release it on DVD. It’s now on Roku TV, but anyway. But that was like over a decade ago that we had been – we, my dorky friends and I – have been waiting for the show to stream somewhere. But so every episode was like a cold case from various time periods. So they would jump to like, you know, the 1880s or the 1960s. I think it was set in like Philly or something like that. It was such a great show though. So, so great. It has some of my favorite tea. Like it has Tessa Thompson playing a lesbian during prohibition. It’s just a great show.

Karen: Let me write that down. Cold Case.

Princess: So how did the journey kind of transition from writing the fanfiction into writing erotica stories and self publishing?

Katrina: So when I was writing fanfiction, it was actually I found community, a website, a community of primarily black women authors writing fanfiction that centered black women or women of color. And I loved it, and I made some of my really good friends now through the website. And then when it folded, which was actually right around the time Tumblr started, we all switched from the website to Tumblr. And I started writing, again, fanfiction and things like that on Tumblr, but then I also started meeting or at least encountering self-published authors which is, I think, the first space I saw Rebekah Weatherspoon was actually her Tumblr. And I love Rebekah Weatherspoon. And so, seeing other self-published authors who were kind of in the sort of fandom spaces I was in, who were writing things that I didn’t think, that I knew I couldn’t get at like publishers, traditional publishers, that was sort of part of the push.

And then I think also realizing, so the first story I wrote, which was not erotica, and self published, I was out of grad school in a job that I’m still in that at the time I really hated because I didn’t really know what I was doing with my life. And so I wrote this story primarily to sort of see if I could do it. And then it was like, it made me happy, which was really significant because right when I published it, my cat, one of my cats at the time got sick. And so I kept trying to work on new projects as I was nursing this cat through the process of what would eventually be, I mean, I ended up having to put her down. And I was also working through a tenure track position.

So I was writing for publication as a scholar, as an academic. And then at night sometimes, or in the middle of the days or in this, you know, sort of winter and summer breaks, I would write just a little bit more on like another story or something like that. A little bit of fanfiction, whatever it was. And then, the next story I published was From Scratch and I actually published that two weeks before I put that cat to sleep. So it was kind of this thing I did to sort of cope with all this other stuff? And again, in that case, it was like, ‘Can I do this thing? Can I have this sort of series of completion when I know that I’m going to have to say goodbye to this, this pet that I love?’ Sorry to give you the downer.

Princess: No! I mean, listen. That’s the reality of it. I think it’s so interesting how people turn to writing genre fiction in order to work through the world and the things that they’re processing and dealing with. One of the interesting things that I’ve always found with talking to people and then talking to writers and when partners that I’ve had, when they don’t believe themselves to be writing, but when they sit down and actually do it, what comes out is erotica stories. And I’m always like, that feels like such an entry point for people to be able to express emotions and feelings about things. It’s just, writing erotica sexy stuff. Like it’s, that’s so! I love it. I love it so much.

Karen: So I have a million questions. I will focus on this one. So how did you go from, so when you were self publishing, when you started, you were on Tumblr and how did you kind of move? Like what kind of platforms have you used and where are you now?

Katrina: I started, when I started writing fanfiction, I was on LiveJournal, like everyone else. And then I was on Archive of Our Own, like everyone else. And I was cross-posting from AO3 to Tumblr. And then, I don’t really remember now how I realized that you could self-publish on Amazon, even though I was reading a lot of self-published romance and romantic suspense and a little bit of urban. But I mean, I figured it out. I have no idea how. I probably came across a post on Tumblr that was like, Here are the eight steps to doing it. You know, how there used to be those things. And they were incredibly useful and accurate. So I probably stumbled on something like that. And I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll try.’ And it was a mess. And my first cover was a mess. And, you know, that story still, it’s still up for sale, but I’m revising it. I mean, there’s a million things. So it was mostly just, which is why I love internet culture. I just could find a new place to go. When I usually moved, right up through Tumblr, I moved where my friends moved. So they were, you know, I was on that website and then they were on LiveJournal and then I wanted to talk to them more. And then we were all reading fanfiction on AO3. So yeah, I just kind of, you know, sort of moved around and then I ended up now on Amazon and some of my stories are still on just Amazon, and I’m moving some of them wide recently. Yeah.

Karen: So what kinds of stories do you write now? Are there genres that you’re specifically interested in?

Katrina: I mostly write-, so I have two pen names technically, or actually. Katrina Jackson is a pen name, and under that pen name, I write a little bit of everything. I write, you know, contemporary romance, mostly erotic romance so and that kind of spans a bit of things. I write a lot of polyamorous triads, a LOT of polyamorous triads. I think that’s the thing I’m most known for. A lot of queer romance, you know, outside of polyamory. All of my heroines have are, or most of my heroines are black women. And I write a lot of diverse, multi and interracial, multicultural and black romance. And then my other pen name, which I just launched a couple of months ago is Brandy Bush. And I write only erotica through Brandy Bush and it’s mostly erotic shorts, which has been really fun because I’m thinking through a lot of other interesting or other interests I have so I’m, that pen name is a little bit taboo. And I say a little bit because I don’t, I don’t write dark romance and I don’t write any of that non-con or anything like that. But the first story I published for that was The Roommate and it was about a college girl who was attracted to her college roommate’s parents. So again, same thing, I love polyamory. I love queer black girls, so here we are. And so it’s mostly sort of, ‘How do I take these kinds of taboo sort of stories, but write them in ways that are, according to my friends, like traditionally me?’ So, it’s also another way for me to only, for me to have space for only my erotica and not feel like I have to give the happily ever after of romance, which sometimes I really don’t want to write, to be fair.

Princess: I was thinking through one of the answers that you gave me before, when you said you were reading erotica from like a young age. Who were you reading way back when, and then who are you inspired by now?

Katrina: So I can give you a specific answer and a vague answer. The very first erotica I read was Anne Roquelaure, Anne Rice. Right, right? Like just terrible. I was a huge fan of her vampire series and I used to be a completionist, right? So I was like, ‘I need everything by Anne Rice!’ So then I was sneaking into the adult section and I was like, ‘Who is this person? Oh, I don’t know.’ And then I knew enough to surreptitiously check it out, right? Like I was like, ‘I can’t take this to the counter.’ So that was the first bit of erotica I read. Certainly it scarred me for life. And then after that, I was, I don’t have a lot of specific names partially because what I learned really early, like when I brought back those Anne Roquelaure books is that I shouldn’t have them. So I was reading erotica in the library, like I would just stay in the library after that. So it was like, whatever I could find, I was just sort of taking off the shelf, sandwiching between books I was supposed to have, and then I was reading them in the corner of the library. And then I found things like, you know whatever, Literotica and stuff like that as I got a little bit older, but yeah. And right now, there are lots of people I really love. Again, I love Rebekah Weatherspoon. She writes erotic romance, but she kind of straddles depending on her series. I think she’s amazing. And she’s also one of the reasons I’m writing now, period, because she was writing fat black girls and I was like, ‘Oh yes, you can do that?!’ Right? I love Tasha L. Harrison as well. I think she does, her Lust Diary series is just like dirty, and I’m like, ‘Gimme that.’ Katee Robert is great. I recently read Gifting Me to His Best Friend and I was like, ‘What is happening? I like it.’ So, yeah, I’ll read a little bit of anything. My preference though is for black authors and diverse stories, which sometimes is a little hard to find.

Karen: That leads to this next question. One of the things that’s most interesting to us, obviously, about self publishing is not just for you as an author, but for readers. How do you find authors that you like?

Katrina: At this point, I just befriend them. I feel it’s just easier. Yeah. Like I found Rebekah on Tumblr, not realizing that she wrote erotic romance and things that straddled the line between erotic romance and erotica. And then from her, it was really like looking at recommendations. So through her I found like Kit Rocha, who also writes erotic romance that is very erotic depending on the book or the series as well. And yeah, it’s a lot of recommendations. I found Tasha similarly. But I will, you know, I won’t lie. It’s not easy, even for me, even now, right? So it can be really difficult. Like, especially because I’m interested in diverse characters, and I’m not always particularly interested in interracial including white people. Like I’m very invested in looking at multicultural and interracial romances and erotica with people of color and different body types and you know, queer characters as well. What ends up happening is once you go to those Amazon, those lists, you’ll find kind of anything else. Right? I mean, Amazon does not really care what’s in that list cause it’s all about, from the standpoint of the author, it’s all about what you categorize your books as, right? So I categorize my books as erotica, but I will see books in romance that are technically erotica, right? So, cause they want to get, they want to get past that stigma. They want more people to see it, so it can be hard to find those things. Some authors do that, some do not. And then there’s just a preference, I think, for some readers, for white characters and white authors. So it can be kind of hard to find those things using those listings. So I mostly go on friend recommendations.

Princess: I feel like that’s probably how most writers really expand who they know and what they read is just by, like-, my, as a poet, my favorite poets are the people that I know. And through them is where I find all my other recommendations of people who they’re bigging up. And I feel like it’s a lot, probably very similar in a erotica space.

Katrina: It is. Yeah. Especially if, so another one of my friends who also writes erotica – his name’s Jack Hartman(sp) and he writes MM. Finding a man of color writing erotica feels impossible. And when I found him, I was like, ‘You are never getting rid of mine. You are mine.’ But yeah, like finding, he’s biracial black and white, finding someone like him in romance or erotica feels impossible some days. They exist, but it’s difficult. And he and I will have conversations, or I’ll have conversations with other friends about something they’ve read recently. And I take those recommendations to heart because I know who they are as authors, but also they know who I’m interested in or what I’m interested in reading. And that’s impossible to get from any list realistically or whether it’s Amazon-created or not.

Karen: What have your, if you want to get into it, what have your interactions been like with the larger kind of erotica writing scene? Kind of the industry, both erotica and romance, like kind of what have your, what have your experiences been like? Hm, I know.

Katrina: *laughs*

Princess: The first ominous black girl laugh is-

Katrina: I hope you keep that laugh in.

Karen: I know, right?!

*everyone laughs exaggeratedly*

Katrina: Like, and answered. Yeah. I mean, to be honest with you, I don’t engage in the erotica scene, really. There are some black indie erotica authors, but they also straddle lines as well between urban and romance, and so I engage with them in other places, but like erotica? I don’t engage for a variety of reasons. One, there is a lot of fetishization happening there, right? Whether it’s men who write erotica, like they are being sort of fetishized for being free and open and in touch with their feelings. And then it’s like, I want to say this happened recently, where a female author was exposed to be a man who had had really inappropriate conversations and DMs with their female readers. And I was like, can I keep-, and that has happened in other genres of online culture as well. And I’m just like, ‘Well, I don’t want that.’.

I also think that there is a kind of, particular persona some erotica authors want to have online, on Twitter in particular since that’s where I am wasting my days most of the time. And I don’t want it. Like, I’m not out here posting gifs of, you know, like from sexy movies or whatever like that. I’m also not out here telling you about my sex life except to tell you I don’t have one. It’s the pandemic, leave me alone. I also don’t particularly like people. And, I’m struggling. That sort of persona, that sort of push to perform a kind of sexiness just because I write erotica is really not my thing. And I think also people want to push boundaries as well in that genre, in erotica and I don’t want that. I also tend not to really post about sex or, like, sex education in particular. I’m a historian. I’m interested in race and racism and politics. And so I’m usually angry. You know, angry sex is fine, but I’m not talking about that so-

Karen: This all needs to go on a t-shirt. That whole paragraph you just said, I feel like, needs to go on a t-shirt.

Katrina: And then romance is a little bit more complicated because I write mostly erotic romance and explicitly erotic romance. I don’t write much that could be classified as contemporary romance on its own because, you know, I like my masturbation scenes. I want, like, a little bit of public sex. I want to do what I want to do. And I do think there are some people, certainly this is changing and it has been changing for a while, there are some people though, who want to sort of kind of pretend as if, you know, erotic romance, they want to pretend as if it doesn’t exist, right? So it’s like, we’re talking about, I’m not writing smut. It sort of, it comes up again and again, right? So I’m not writing porn or whatever. And I very often classify my writing as porn. Happily. Like I love it, right? Smut isn’t in my particular vocabulary, but I do think I write it. And so I sometimes feel as if the conversation around romance excludes me a little bit because I write explicit sex scenes and I write mostly erotic romance, but I think it also tends to exclude me because I’m writing primarily characters of color. So I’m really invested in writing stories about people who look like me and my friends, who are in relationships like me and my friends. I’m also really invested in writing polyamorous relationships. I’m not entirely sure how that started, but it is actually my happy place. Like I’m not polyamorous, but I love writing polyamorous relationships because, well, there are many reasons. But so sometimes I feel as if I’m sort of on the kind of outskirts of romance. And so realistically I just sort of stay back from a lot of conversations, or from a lot of communities, romance and erotica.

Princess: I feel a lot of ways about everything that you just said. And I think I feel, I think I feel ways about it because it’s so indicative of the way that us as queer black women have to kind of engage, and decide not to engage, in the industries that we are a part of in order to keep ourselves safe and still enjoy the thing that we love to do.

Katrina: Yeah. Oh man. That last part, right? So I considered just stopping, like to stop writing like six months ago. Four to six months ago. And that was partially because I felt like I was always fighting with people and I am, on the one hand, I am hypercritical. That is my journey. But on the other end, I tend to think that that critical nature can allow us to have, you know, better conversations and to do better, right. But I felt like I was fighting with everyone even to just, like for maybe like a year or so, I felt like I was fighting for people to just say, ‘Hey, name your white characters white.’ Right? Like, if I am particularly interested in reading like IR. A lot of my books have a black female character and an Asian-American man. If I’m looking for that and you, under IR which it would be or under multicultural, but you refuse to name your character, your white characters as white and so I have to get 20% into your book before I realize what’s happening. Like, that’s, first of all, a product of white supremacy, right. But also, it’s just not useful. If we’re trying to be diverse here, name everybody, right? Like, be specific. But then on the other hand, it’s like, having these kinds of conversations about diversity and what that means and what that requires us to do. One, I take that as self-reflective, but I think people took me as lecturing. I do lecture for a living, so maybe? I’ll take that on, but it’s really about me wanting to have better conversations about romance and erotica and feeling as if in the process of asking questions, of making corrections, of taking things on critically, right, for my own work, I was just always at odds with people. And it made the thing that I really loved doing, that I was doing to give myself a kind of sense of sanity in a world that felt anything but, it made it a chore. And I didn’t like that. So I pulled back in a lot of ways.

Karen: We’re glad you have re-engaged obviously, but yeah I mean. We definitely, I don’t want to speak for you Princess, but we definitely feel that. You know, we both come from journalism and how do you keep pushing into this industry you love and the thing you love, as you’re saying, when you’re Oprah in the field, ‘All my life, I had to fight.’ Like, you’re just like, come on. And it’s just the additional, it just adds so much, you know, emotional labor has become a trite phrase now, but it’s true. You are doing an extra job on top of your real job.

Katrina: Right. Right.

Princess: And the things that you’re asking for aren’t, like, earth shattering. It’s ways in which you can actually like, if people just do these small things to make it easier for people to find you, to feel connected to the work that you’re producing. Like, we know what we want. People, consumers know what they want. They want to be able to find it. And all you gotta do is a simple thing. The fact that, you know, folks want to push back on that or feel intimidated or attacked or, you know, these huge words that they use in response to black women just saying like, ‘Can you just make space for us or get out of the way?’ Like, it’s just so infuriating. I lean into my angriness because if I wasn’t mad, then I wasn’t, then I’m not here with you. Like, it’s my part and my job to be here, to show you the things that you are doing that could be improved in order to make everybody better.

Karen: Right. And I will say too, that I have a lot of friends who are really engaged in marketing, and growing their audience actively. And I have been really passive up until now for a variety of reasons, and some of them have to do with me wanting to find the audience that’s interested in the thing I’m writing, right. And so, at the end of all my books, I’ll sort of tell people to tell a friend and that has been, and so it’s like reviews are great. And I know people want to review it on GoodReads and Amazon and all of that stuff. Or they want to be reviewed by big publications. But I have literally gotten probably 95% of my audience from people just being like, ‘I read this book’ and then they’re running to tell their friends. And that, for me is really, that’s the thing that keeps me engaged primarily because the number of people who come to me and said, ‘I wanted to read polyamorous stories. I’m polyamorous,’ that like, that’s literally what I want to hear, right. Or I wanted, you know, queer black girls and here it is, right? Or I wanted whatever it was. And for me, that’s, that’s the thing that keeps me going. 

And that’s also why I sort of throw a mini tantrum about doing any kind of marketing. Cause I’m like, ‘No! I want my six readers to tell a friend each or whatever it is,’ because I think to a certain extent, I’m trying to give them what people like Rebekah gave me. Which was, ‘Oh, here’s a fat black girl, right, on the cover.’ Like not even hiding it, right. ‘Here’s a fat black girl on the cover, here’s a queer black girl being loved, right. And loved well, right.’ Here is, you know, one of my stories that I wrote because I assumed, based on all of the Twitter marketing about what romance readers like, or more importantly what they don’t like. They don’t like black female characters. They don’t like, you know, FF or Sapphic women. And I was like, ‘Okay, cool. I’m going to write James Bond, but polyamorous. And a Puerto Rican, like a sort of masculine-presenting Puerto Rican woman and her white husband, but then their, you know, dark skinned, perpetually horny, assistant.’ And I wrote that for myself because Twitter told me no one was going to read that romance and it’s too much sex, or it’s not enough sex or whatever. And the story starts off with, well, the main story starts off with her edging herself in their office. And I was like, and she’d been doing it for years, and I was like, ‘Love it.’ I was like, no, one’s going to read this, and then it became super popular. So, cause it’s like, I want to write the thing that I want to write, knowing that someone else is looking for that thing.

Karen: Where can people find that story? What is that story called? Where can people find it?

Katrina: That story is called Pink Slip, and it’s the beginning of a series called The Spies Who Love Her, which is like, it’s romantic suspense, like kind of. It’s erotic romantic suspense. And it’s really just all of my favorite things thrown into one. So, the heroine of the second book is a cam girl cause I love cam girls. And the heroine of the third full book is an erotic dancer cause I love strippers to death. So yeah, it’s really just a little bit of danger, guns, blah, blah, blah, but like a lot of sex in as many places as I can make it happen.

Karen: That is magical. So again, I do want to be respectful of your time. Where can people find your work?

Katrina: Oh, so The Spies Who Love Her series is one of my wide series. You can find that on any ebook retailer. You can find my paperback books at the robotics or on Amazon or wherever. My – I have so many books, I just realized that-

Princess: Yaas! C’mon so many books!

Katrina: I was like, where can you go? You can find my Welcome to Seaport series, which is erotic small town romance, on Amazon and Kindle unlimited. Brandy Bush’s books are on Amazon and Kindle unlimited. The Roommate is out. The Nanny is coming out at the end of the month, about a woman in a polyamorous relationship with two men who decides that she wants another baby. It’s just like a mess. Like it’s just all about like, you know, getting pregnant. Practicing, get pregnant, whatever you’re doing. So yeah, you can find me on Amazon primarily. I’m on Twitter too much if I’m being honest, but come talk to me, I’m around. My handle is @KatrinaJax. I’m on Instagram too, but like not a lot.

Karen: This has been so wonderful. I am so glad that we all met and now we’re best friends.

Katrina: We are, why not? Let’s just do it. It’s been hard to make friends! Like I’m an adult now. Once you graduate college, I just feel like it gets harder. So let’s be friends.

Princess: Let’s absolutely be friends.

Karen: Done. It is done.

Voiceover Goddess: Feminist Erotica is a podcast from Rebellious Magazine for Women hosted by Jera Brown, Princess McDowell and Karen Hawkins. If you have an idea for a future episode or want to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at the feministerotica@rebelliousmaagzine.com. Follow us on Instagram @feministeroticapodcast, on Facebook @feministerotica and on Twitter @feministerotic, and make sure you subscribe to us wherever you devour podcasts.

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Princess McDowell is a poet, writer and journalist from Dallas, Texas, and Rebellious Magazine's Special Projects Editor. She's also a cohost of the Feminist Erotica Podcast. As a writer-in-rebellion, Princess reviews graphic novels. She can be reached at princess.mcdowell@gmail.com