Interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel
by Brad Wright
Writer, blogger, editor, avowed “Sex Nerd”, Rachel Kramer Bussel, recently appeared at Powell’s Books in support of her anthology Best Sex Writing 2012. I had a chance to speak with her about a variety of topics. Among her other works is the recently released anthology Irresistable: Erotic Stories for Couples. Rachel Kramer Bussel’s blog can be found online at http://www.rachelkramerbussel.com/. It’s not all about erotica with her, she also writes for a cupcake blog at http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/.
Brad: You’re here supporting Best Sex Writing 2012 today and preparing for Best Sex Writing 2013. I can only imagine what that’s going to be about.
Rachel: It’s hard because with our lead time I can’t always be as accurate, I’m looking at Birth Control, Sandra Fluke, and Rush Limbaugh. It’s a tricky thing, some of our topics will always be timely, but some of them are specific to particular stories that year. It’s why I look for a mix of more personal stories.
Brad: It must be a difficult balance, particularly with an anthology.
Rachel: Especially with the Internet, when we’re getting our news so quickly, you can publish something in the morning and by the afternoon you have hundreds of comments. Books don’t have the same feedback schedule. I try to make the series as diverse as possible, geographically as well. I really do look for local stories, whether New York and Florida or Las Vegas. Maybe it’s about a specific town or something local that happens but that also has a broader impact.
Brad: How did you get into this field?
Rachel: I was in law school in New York; I was 20 when I started, and I really was reading a lot of erotica so I started writing a bit of my own and some personal essays, it just started from there. I wrote one story that got published and I was writing a little bit of journalism here and there. Then I was writing a column for the Village Voice, I was an editor for Penthouse Variations for seven years. All those things built from those first bits of writing, and the connections I made.
Brad: What kind of challenges are you seeing as anthology editor?
Rachel: There’s a lot of great writing on the Internet, but most of that is cut off at a particular word count, it’s able to be read in two minutes. Some of the meatier, “think-ier” pieces that I like, need to be expanded. In a book it may look too light. Or, some things that are published in light of news events, in 6 months will need to have more analysis. There’s also a lot of overlap on what writers are submitting. I will get a lot of pieces dealing with feminism and sexuality. Which are totally valid topics, but there’s a lot of other stuff happening in the culture. There’s a large segment of the population that think that sex is a private topic, that we shouldn’t be writing about it publicly, I think that kind of thinking leads to people feeling ashamed or confused. I think opening up these spaces, real life spaces and on the internet is a positive thing.
Brad: When you’re opening up for new submissions are you looking for particular writers, targeting them specifically?
Rachel: No, I mainly do that with my fiction anthologies. I’ll ask around and see if there are writers who are writing about particular topics, and what it means in the broader culture, but I also love the pieces that surprise me, that weren’t necessarily what I was looking for… I’ve been doing this for about 12 years now, sometimes I have a tendency to say that I’ve read this and that and that, but there are things that I haven’t read before. There’s always a new way of looking at things, those are the kinds of pieces that I enjoy.