Tobsha Learner is extremely diverse in her writing; playwright, author in the genres of thriller, historical romance, and of course erotica. The latter is what I want to highlight here. Her work has been dubbed ‘the thinking woman’s erotica’ and while I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a thinking woman, I do consider her stories to be a level above a lot of the steamy tales out there.
Now, I’m not usually a big fan of short stories but I found these hard to stop reading. ‘Just one more’ kept going through my mind and I found them extremely engaging. Each story provides something different and are brilliant if you aren’t a big novel reader or don’t have a lot of time but want to read something saucy. Reviews are coming soon of her three story collections but be warned, you will need a fan… and possibly some batteries 😉
Enough wittering from me, on with the irreverence!
Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
Not really, but in the winter I like to wear a rather ugly woolly beanie (with a Chelsea football emblem on it) the temperature of my head seems to be important. Once I’m in the zone, I could be anywhere.
Describe your working environment right now (desk, sofa, bathroom, etc.)
My writing studio is on the fourth floor of a beautiful Georgian building in the centre of London. It’s entirely my space and is a bit like a turret in atmosphere – I like the sense of being above, but I have had writing spaces in all sorts of strange places in the past. One was a converted laundry – not much more than a converted cupboard. The main thing is to have natural light – space isn’t that important.
How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
Long time ago now, I remember the overwhelming excitement is when you first see one of your books displayed in a shop window, the second buzz is when you see someone reading it on the train – that’s always a little disorientating – like is that name on the cover really me? I think after a while there’s a separation of identity for many authors – the writer and the private individual. Especially when you write for different genres like myself (erotica and thrillers).
Whose opinion matters most to you?
My readers – I never believe my mum anyway!
Do you get fully dressed to write?
I write during the day so yes, I also have to walk to my writing room, however I hate wearing anything too restrictive when I write so that I’m not distracted.
What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
Writing is a discipline; the most important thing is getting into the rhythm of writing four – five pages a day – whatever one’s mood. Once you have the first draft down – the whole shape the real craft is the rewriting. So I fight to get to that desk every morning, inspiration comes in many ways – I am very much an architect so the storyline and characters are worked out before I even begin – however it’s bliss when your prose just lifts you up and flies you around the room and before you know it it’s evening.
Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
A young Meryl Streep or Mads Mikkelsen – ok, he has a penis but he is the sexiest guy on screen.
What is the weirdest comment you’ve had?
‘Not a bad writer, this Tobsha bloke.’ Overheard in an audience during one of my plays in Australia, an audience member hadn’t realised the playwright was female.
What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
I’ve had fans tell me my erotica has helped them with recovering from cancer, losing their virginity, revamping their marriages etc. I’ve had the most amazing and moving letter from a guy in a top security US prison (that was historical fiction). As a playwright I’ve sat with audiences rolling in the aisles. I love hearing how I’m emotionally moved my fans in whatever way – as long as they come away changed.
What do you value most?
Community, experience, respect and sense of place.
How do you deal with negative comments?
I don’t read my reviews – you’re screwed if you believe the bad ones and you’re equally screwed if you believe the good ones. I am a deep believer in craft and the best one can do is to always address one’s weakness as a writer and attempt to improve one’s craft with each new book. I am very self-critical and this helps keep me pushing for improvement.
It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After, Everyone Dies, Or…?
I like all kinds of movies – from highbrow to lowbrow – from The Lives of Others to Rock of Ages; I guess you could describe me as as a sophisticated vulgarian.
What do you do to relax?
Go for a walk in the nearest piece of Nature I can find and if I’m in my place in California – gardening.
Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
I have a bee hive in California, but the pets I’d really like is a colony of naked mole rats – the most incredible mammal on the planet and quite likely to hold the secret to eternal youth (amongst other extraordinary possibilities) they are also the ugliest creatures on the earth –photo attached. I think you can divide humanity into two different groups – those who love naked mole rats and those who don’t – (it’s all to do with intellectual curiosity transcending first impressions!).
What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
Silence – I can’t even listen to the radio – but I do need the faint buzz of a big city.
What is your favourite type of music?
That’s difficult to say, I’m very eclectic, like classical, grew up on punk, went to school to reggae and will tolerate classical rock (hubbie use to play rock guitar).
Do you have any phobias?
Unfortunately I am recovering from a fear of flying developed suddenly ten years ago, now almost over it, thank God – my heart goes out to all who suffer from such thing – not a trivial matter. On the positive I love spiders and small ugly things (even been known to go out with a few in the past).
Do you have a party trick?
Yeah. I’m witty.
Slippers, socks or barefoot?
Barefoot always – I’m a born-again hobbit.
Pictures provided by and used with permission of Tobsha Learner