Readers know that when they pick up an erotic romance, there's a good chance it may come with a heavy dose of kink. But this goes beyond just BDSM. One aspect of kinkery that is rarely explored by erotic romance writers is pony play. An act of dominance and submission, pony play is exactly what it sounds like: the submissive partner acting as a pony and the dominant partner acting as the rider/trainer. Joley Sue Burkhart is one of the few authors who has dared to explore this subject and she's here to tell us what sparked her interest in pony play and why she felt it fit perfectly into her erotic science fiction tale, Her Grace's Stable.
It's all Anne Rice's fault. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
Back in 2003 when I first started writing seriously, someone told me that if I had any interest at all in writing erotic romance and/or erotica, I had to read the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy by A. N. Roquelaure, aka Anne Rice. A very eager and naïve writer, I picked up that trilogy without a clue about what it was about.
I did a lot of blushing and OMG and really?!? I was shocked, titillated, and absolutely fascinated. I had no idea pony play even existed.
Anne Rice was really ahead of her time. Long before the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon made BDSM cool, she wrote this erotic classic in 1983 and Exit to Eden in 1985, both very erotic stories portraying shades of alternative lifestyles. Beauty was my first and only introduction to pony play for years, but it stuck in the back corner of my mind. It was that powerful.
As a character-driven writer, I really have no idea how characters "come" to me. I've taken drool-worthy pictures of my favorite actors and created heroes I think they'd be perfect to play, and I've tried all kinds of standard character sheets and building methods. But sometimes a character just walks up, sits down at my desk, and starts talking, fully developed and real and alive. Yeah, it freaks me out sometimes, but that's exactly what happened with Her Grace's Stable.
Violet and her friend started talking as clear as day at a party. I had no idea they were going to take me to the stable until she dragged me there and introduced the men of the story. I dug in my heels. I really didn't want to go. What did I know about pony play? Other than that one delicious trilogy, I hadn't seen or read anything else about it. I couldn't possibly write a believable, true to life pony character when I had zero personal experience, right?
However, Arthur and Cole had other ideas and with Violet at the whip, I had no choice but to learn what they wanted, and fast.
I think that's really the key to writing anything that's believable and real. You have to know what the character wants, the deepest, secret need that drives every action, even if it scares him — and you — to death. All the character charts in the world won't put the right emotion into the words on the page if you don't get completely into his head and see the need that makes him fear he’s completely unlovable.
Arthur's fear and rage were so real to me, like a vicious living beast inside him. I had to help him, but I couldn't without Violet's tender yet firm hand on the reins. I had to submit to the story's will as much as Arthur had to learn to submit to hers, and it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
I had to trust they knew exactly what they wanted. No matter what it was or how much it scared me. All I had to do was keep listening, keep writing, and stay true to that need. Only that need was going to get them — and me — to the end.
Because of that driving need and the resulting fear, I think the story resonates with real, honest emotion. Violet helped me find the research I needed. She removed my blinders so I could look deeper. She made me think about what the leather would smell like. How it would feel to trot around the ring. I certainly knew what the crack of the whip would feel like, because she used it to keep me on her story all the way.
And who knows. Maybe someday someone will say it’s all my fault, because Arthur or Violet or Cole haunted them as much as Beauty haunted me. I can definitely live with that.
If you’re interested in learning more about pony play, I highly recommend the Beauty trilogy. An online resource I also found helpful is Pony Play Info.
- Joley Sue Burkhart