Human societies have all kinds of rules and social norms when it comes to expressing our sexualities. This is especially true for cultures (or cultural milieus) that have intricate codes of etiquette, of which I’d count the Victorian era as one. I imagine that Victorians struggled profoundly with both the existence of their desires and the expression of their desires within such a socially regimented setting, and I was interested in exploring this kind of struggle within someone who has no choice but to operate inside the system.
Or, in short: it’s great fun writing an environment that crackles with sexual tension, while everyone who lives there has to pretend that it doesn’t.
I had the good fortune of growing up in a small, sea side town that was known for its Victorian history and architecture. I worked as a tour guide for many years, leading people through the antique streets and telling the stories behind the 200-year-old buildings we passed, often while in Victorian costume. Learning Victorian history was part and parcel of living there.
So naturally, I took it all completely for granted for most of my life. It was only after moving away for school that I came to appreciate the magic of the place and the history I had learned. It was natural that, looking back, I’d want to use that knowledge and that magic in a story.
There is something inherently alluring about the Victorian age – the sexual repression, the constricting social structures, the etiquette, the elegance and emphasis on fashion. The era lends itself to the strange and erotic.
I had already used the main character of the story, Edwardian dominatrix Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester, in two other published short stories, with the aim of building up a series of tales about her adventures. I had always wanted to have a go at writing some Steampunk erotica, and she was the ideal character to use, both because of the period and because she is an over the top, comic character, which lends itself to many Steampunk tropes. Her clockwork, automaton horse provides the Steampunk element for the story. More of Lady Sally’s adventures are in ‘Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester and the Silk Merchant of Samarkand’ in Beltane Fire and ‘Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester and the Walled Garden’ in Fifty Shades of Green.
The period immediately after the English Civil War has always been my favourite. After Charles I was beheaded there was an explosion of radical political, social and religious ideas. There were movements for democratic change like The Levellers or outright communism such as The Diggers, plus a plethora of religious sects with extreme views. The Ranters, the subject of my story, were one of them. I always thought they would make a great subject for an erotica story because of their extreme sexual behaviour, and the interesting arguments they used to justify it.
I love the Victorian era — it’s a rich mine for erotic writers. The sensuality and the very blatant sexuality combine for a fantastic palette from which to draw. If I had to stick to one historic period out of all of the ones I’ve ever written, I’d stay with Victorian. There’s so much you can do with it!
I entered the steampunk scene when I was invited to a party, and my life has never been the same. I loved the freedom to create your own character and even your own world around a shared aesthetic. Steampunk indulges in the unlimited sense of wonder and freewheeling excitement that I love in genre fiction, combining it with the emotional and social constraints of the Victorian era to create an intriguing mix of infinite possibility and impossible obstacles of the heart.