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Kate Sidley

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Scribes put their hand to nookie

Food was hailed as the new sex a few years back. Well, now sex is the new food. In fact, the two have a lot in common, being widespread, commonplace, frequently unremarkable, occasionally earth-shattering, necessary for our survival and everyone’s an expert.

Here in the genteel world of the South African literati, you can’t throw a pair of handcuffs without hitting someone hunched guiltily over a typewriter, trying to think up a believable and steamy sexual scenario. Coffee shops are full of would-be erotic writers muttering over their Macbook Airs: “No, but if his left hand is on her nipple, and we’ve already said he’s reached for a riding crop, then how could he stimulate the.?”

It’s more difficult than it seems, erotica. Just because you’ve had a bit of nookie in your time doesn’t mean you can fill 300 pages with hot prose.

Some of our favourite local writers have been quick to try their hand at erotica and catch the wave that was set in motion with Fifty Shades. Respected crime writer Jassy Mackenzie was first off the block. Her book Folly is already on the Kalahari bestseller list and eliciting gasps (and occasional moans) from delighted readers. Emma, her 40-year-old heroine, finds herself in deep financial trouble. To make ends meet she does what any regular person would do – opens a domination dungeon in an outbuilding in her garden. Wealthy men are soon lining up for her attentions, and among them there’s this rather nice chap .

There’s romance, humour and sex a-plenty. Having done her time talking on a phone sex line 20 years ago, Mackenzie says she had plenty of stories and that the writing of Folly was “an absolute jol”.

Still with sexy scribes, everyone is talking about the big international deals secured by South African writers Sarah Lotz, Helen Moffett and Lifestyle columnist Paige Nick. These three well-known writers, under the pseudonym Helena S Paige, are collaborating on A Girl Walks into a Bar. With just a proposal and a brief synopsis to show for themselves, these authors prompted an international bidding war. Within two months of mooting the idea, they had signed with a top agent who had sold the UK and US rights, as well as translation rights in 10 countries.

It’s a genius idea. Nick explains that the reader is in full control of her erotic choices: “At certain junctions in the story, you can make a choice. Do you stay in the bar or leave? Do you leave with the hot barman or the rich businessman? Do you change your mind and head back to the bar? Depending on what you choose, you turn to a certain page to see how your adventure continues.”

She promises that the book – due out in June – is “hugely explicit. Proper sex, but with a light touch.” She admits that writing the sex scenes was tough, and sometimes hilarious. “You want to write good sex, not a bad sex scene. We agonise over it. Is this right? Is this how it would happen? You don’t want the reader to be thinking about the author, she must be absorbed in the scene. The sex scene must be a turn-on, but it also needs to be relevant to the story and capture some emotion.”

Who knows? Maybe subversive suburban sex will turn out to be the great South African literary genre.

Kate Sidley is the Sunday Times Books Columnist


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