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LB Alexander is back for another go! This time we take a very deep dive into the BDSM world: the research, the specificity, the act of writing consent and keeping characters safe.

Are you begging for more? Join us this coming Friday on Clubhouse, when L.B. and I host a live conversation on writing the steam bits! Join us at 11 am EST on the Clubhouse app.

 Connect with L.B:

IG: @lbalexanderauthor

FB: www.facebook.com/lbalexanderauthor

Website: www.lbalexander.com

Grab Swan Lake and Swan Peak on Amazon.

Transcript

Elle
L.B Alexander is back for another go on Steam Scenes. Here’s a recap of who she is. L.B. is an American author based in perpetually sunny Southern California she spent her entire life enraptured by the sheer transformative power of the written word. And in December 2018, she published her first romance novel, which I can’t believe it is her first romance novel, Swan Lake, a contemporary reimagining of the beloved ballet. Oh but it is so much more it is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. In addition to writing she is a professional marketeer, a baker, an animal lover, a tree hugger, a wanderluster and a massive art history nerd and I’ve also just found out a spin bike fan like I am. An optimist at heart aficionados of luxury and a true believer and happily ever after she strives to tell memorable passionate stories that can intrigue challenge arouse Most definitely. And most importantly, inspire. L.B. I am so glad you came back for more. Thank you so

L.B
Thank you so much for having me back. Oh, I’m so excited.

Elle
You’re my first return guest.

L.B
Whoa,

Elle
First one to return to the to the steamy scenes world. And this is going to be I guess, a little bit of a departure because we’ve kind of already done the Steam Scenes sort of thing. We’ve we’ve done the interview and the reading of the steam scene, and I know that we had been talking sort of separately and all of this stuff about you know how you wrote Swan Lake, which is a BDSM romance. And I don’t know, it was just such a great conversation. I was like, L. B. come back. Let’s try to replicate it. So this is going to be a complete departure from what we normally do. But I think it’s going to be really awesome.

L.B
I am so excited.

Elle
Um, oh, crap. You know what, there was something that I wanted to ask you before we started recording, and I didn’t ask you this. So I might edit it out depending on your response. And how you feel. So I wanted to ask if you were comfortable with me asking you if you are part of the BDSM community?

L.B
Oh, absolutely.

Elle
Oh, you are? You’re okay with answering that or you are a member?

L.B
I’m totally okay with answering. I’m not a member of the community. I’ve dabbled because like you’re curious. Yeah.

Elle
I’m like, oh my god. It’s such a TMI question. And I completely forgot to ask before we started recording,

L.B
Totally fine. Totally fine.

Elle
Okay, cuz I was very curious. Like, why did you decide? Okay, you know what, let’s backtrack for a second. I want to set up your absolutely beautiful book. So we have April and William. And April is a former ballerina who has left her professional ballet world where she was dancing in Paris, to move back to LA after a pretty severe injury. It ended her career. And it wasn’t necessarily the injury, or the injury wouldn’t have been as severe. Is this a spoiler? Can I give this up?

L.B
Oh, totally give it away.

Elle
Her injury wouldn’t have been as severe if she didn’t have an eating disorder. It really affected her body’s ability to heal. So not only is she rehabbing from this injury, she is literally rehabbing from an eating disorder. She goes to a program. And she ends up back home in LA, which is where we pick up with her just out of treatment. And, so she’s still fragile, and but she has to look for a job, she has to kind of re enter the quote unquote, real world. And she ends up hooked up with a job with this billionaire. I mean, he’s sort of like a corporate like he’s got, he’s got tentacles and every business, one of those businesses, you know, where you’re not quite sure what the person does, but they make loads of money doing it.

L.B
Exactly.

Elle
And he’s kind of like this. He’s like, gorgeous, and I don’t know, in my head, he was really forbidding. Like he was just from like a forbidding presence like big.

L.B
That’s a that’s a very good good word to describe him. I yeah, I described him as Satan in the book actually, like actually comparing him to Milton Satan in a couple of like, Satan sculptures. So yeah, that that works. Forbidding for sure.

Elle
But she is completely captivated. Like, she doesn’t fear him, which I thought was sort of like, really incredible. She’s more curious by him because there is so much in her life that she fears. There is a lot of fear and anxiety sort of, like channeling through April. But him for some reason, she doesn’t fear him really. Anyway, um, not to give up too much they embark in a relationship that brings her into this BDSM world. It is beautiful. The world you’ve created is completely decadent. I mean, it is divinely decadent. I was like, Oh, I want to go to all these places. And, but even more so the emotional journey of the two of them, but particularly, April was, oh God, just really phenomenal and really compelling and, and really beautiful and truthful and painful and cathartic. So anyway, you’ve written one of the best books I’ve ever read.

L.B
Oh my gosh, I’m Wow. Like, I don’t think my head’s gonna get through the door. This is so flattering. Thank you so much.

Elle
Okay, so that’s the setup. So what what drew like, okay, when you sat down and you said, this is the book I want to write, did you have BDSM? Where you like, and it’s gonna be a BDSM book? Or did you just kind of naturally come to that?

L.B
That’s a good question. So I started writing Swan Lake, my senior year of college. And that’s when I finished the first kind of complete draft in about three months when I was avoiding writing my thesis. And I actually got him got really interested in writing about BDSM. This isn’t very sexy, but basically because I’m like a huge nerd. So I studied neuroscience and so naturally, that involved several courses on behavior, abnormal psychology and human sexuality. And I remember just being super fascinated by you know, like the writings of like, you know, Marquis de Sade, you know, who’s that 18th century French nobleman that we get the word sadism from, you know, Sacher-Masoch, the Austrian nobleman that we get masochism, from, you know, craft, ebbing, you know, Freud, you know, all of these different writers and thinkers who were sort of looking to catalogue these different spectrums of human sexuality. And I was just super, super fascinated by this concept of, you know, some people enjoying pain and other people enjoying, you know, delivering pain. You know, some folks thriving and very disciplined, harsh structures, whereas others kind of like to be like a prison warden. So I thought that was just fascinating. Really, it blew my Catholic school girl mind. And I couldn’t get enough of it. I just thought it was just so cool. And something I just I had to learn about and ultimately write about, so. Yeah.

Elle
Did anything surprise you? I mean, like, what I guess I’m sort of like wondering, what did you have expectations? Going into this before you learned about it? Or did it and that you were like, Whoa, this is totally different than what I thought or was there like some sort of surprise? I mean, I’m sure there was there had to have been something right.

L.B
Oh, for sure. So I, to be perfectly honest, I went into BDSM research. I probably should have had some more expectations on this, but I was a complete blank slate, wide eyed 21 year old and my only knowledge was again, like what I learned in college and, like, the Rihanna song S&M like that’s it. But when I first started, like really researching BDSM outside of academia, I was definitely concerned that people who identify as submissive or masochistic, I was concerned, they would all basically be vulnerable people who were being taken advantage of by these, you know, capital D dominants, or sexual Satanists. But what I found is actually the person who’s in the submissive position that holds all of the power in these relationships. I mean, the submissive sets the terms very clear on what the dominant can and cannot do, you know, they have safe words to put a stop to things that they’re no longer enjoying themselves, like they wield a significant amount of agency, and they’re very empowered in their positions as well. So that was super surprising and refreshing, actually.

Elle
I think what struck me, like really struck me, in the book is the level of trust between William and April. That came very, almost very quickly, because, you know, it kind of it kind of has to do, right, like you’re in an intimate situation with this person who is like, literally flogging you. And so, you know, you have to, there’s a level of trust there on both sides that I found really compelling and really brave.

L.B
It is a romance novel. So we can, we can make some, a, make a few embellishments with, with how people how quickly people can, you know, sort of fall into bed with each other and literally, but, um, but yeah, trust is an absolutely essential part of, you know, these these types of relationships, and it’s something that I really wanted to try to convey on the page in a way that seemed authentic.

Elle
To backtrack that a little bit, I just want to say that the trust was earned. I do want to add that in there too. Because I think that that is an important point, between the two of them, that trust between them was actually very much earned. So, um, but, you know, you sort of got even, like, I don’t know, if I could ever sort of, like, hit that level of trust of knowing that, you know, if I said, Stop that would be like, boom, clear, clear, stop, you know, I mean, that’s really an amazing level of trust there.

L.B
It’s an amazing level of trust. And it’s, it’s pretty amazing to witness Actually, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it, um, which, which kind of goes into the, I guess, the more fun part of my research, I did actually go to a full fledged BDSM club as part of research for making Swan Lake a bit more authentic. Yeah. A very close friend of mine works as a professional dominatrix. And you’d never know, because she’s very prim and proper, very sweet. But definitely has this sort of hidden sassy side. She, um, she invited me to the club where she works, this is all pre Covid and I had the opportunity to watch a couple of scenes and it’s pretty amazing actually, how you hear a safe word and it’s like a light switches going off. Like all of a sudden, like everything stops, you know, there’s a psychological change and, you know, the person who’s, you know, maybe in this dominant role, um, you know, they immediately step out of it, you know, it’s… I hate to sort of use this comparison but it’s almost like using a command with like a dog. Like, you know, you say sit and you know, sit automatically it happens, you know, that’s very, very great training, I guess on the submissives part to the dominance so that was very refreshing to see and kind of beautiful in a way to

Elle
Yeah, I’m sure absolutely. Was the club like the club you went to like the that sort of like party scene that you drew in Swan Lake which was just absolutely divine,

L.B
So it was partially inspired by the club and partially inspired by actually a party but I went to a party. Not that I’m doing crazy things like this every weekend but um, but a friend of mine invited me to this like just as a guest you know, because we were friends this party that he was putting on for client of his. This absolutely just indulgent party at a mansion that had Japanese rope bondage and like dungeons set up I mean, it was beautiful. I didn’t participate I was really just kind of like a voyer like oh my god this is amazing. I’m kind of scared but sort of intrigued as well.

Elle
I’m actually fascinated by your friend group.

L.B
I mean, it’s LA, I’m friends. It’s classic Libra, too. I want to be friends with everybody I meet so but yeah, it was this gorgeous party at this mansion that I’m certainly never gonna be able to afford this lifetime but um, yeah, it that partially inspired the club scene that that we see in Swan Lake.

Elle
So I do kind of want to jump back when you had the the idea of this book in your head. When did you just tried to put it together with the BDSM that you were learning about.

L.B
Pretty quickly actually. Um, so when I started writing the novel, my senior year of college, um, I focused a lot more on the the psychological aspects of BDSM. And that’s always been what I’ve been most interested in is what is going on in somebody’s mind when they, you know, choose to submit to a dominant partner, or, you know, when they realize they actually enjoy feeling, you know, sensations that many of us would consider aversive. So, that came pretty quickly. You know, just because I was I was studying at the time, and I needed a creative outlet and to avoid writing my thesis. But I guess my came back to the book, it seemed that a year later, a couple of years later, he noticed started rewriting paragraphs here and there. Um, I realized that BDSM is really just a natural fit for for these characters. I mean, I don’t know about you as a writer, but um, I usually start a book with a general idea of where I want it to go. But very often, the characters surprise me and reveal something that I didn’t even anticipate. And they sort of start telling their own story. So that’s really what ended up happening with, with William and April, the more that I came back to the book and started fleshing them out and attempting to make them as as believable as possible.

Elle
So I think I’m actually think that this might be a good time to dip into the one of the scenes from the follow up book, or a novella, called Swan Peak. So you had sent a couple of excerpts, and I think that this might tie in really well, because this really does dig into the psychological aspect that I think April in particular experiences. I mean, it’s really kind of incredible how, which I loved in Swan Lake – it becomes clear in Swan Lake – that the act of being a submissive is what ultimately heals her or begins the healing process for her eating disorder. And because when we meet her when she’s in LA, she has been through this treatment program. And I don’t want to say it didn’t work, but it didn’t work. You know, she was still having a very difficult time with food, she was still purging. And it kind of gave her a high, really, you know, which was so intense to read those moments. And, and I loved how this kind of psychologically became like a real healing moment for her. And I think that this excerpt expresses it really beautifully. So to set this up, this is April Goes Down. And they are is her first time giving him oral sex. Correct?

L.B
It is yes.

Elle
And I think it’s her first time giving anybody oral sex. And she’s in this, you know, he’s in this dominant position, she has to sort of give oral sex the way he wants. And she gets a little carried away, and it’s actually really great for her. But then there, there comes this thing where he goes a little bit too deep, and sort of hits the back of her throat sets off the gag reflex. And she kind of panics about because she thinks she’s gonna vomit. Um, and so anyway. Yeah, so, Okay, here we go. I’m just gonna read it. Suck me off was the only instruction he gave. I forced myself to scoot towards him. Because if I didn’t start moving immediately and my fear would have incapacitated me in a stronger chokehold. I didn’t even give my anxious mind the liberty to think about what I was about to do. Because the reality of it all, the terror of it would have sent me running towards my safe word before I had the chance to return the hungry favor, William had so often given me. I didn’t need the experience of multiple lovers to know that William was heavily endowed. Sex with him always hurt because he was too big, forcing his power inside of me in rapturous violent thrusts that soaked my muscles in ecstasies that gushed like geysers. Pure biological defenses against his girth. I couldn’t allow myself to consider what would happen with his sex in my mouth. The possibility that he would he could suffocate me. Because if I let myself think that I was allowing fear, and not my dominant to control me. Hello.

L.B
You read that very well.

Elle
And then I want to I want to actually jump down a little bit too because this also ties in like this whole this whole section was actually less about oral sex and more about her healing, her empowerment. Um, you know, even though he kind of wouldn’t let her stop when she wanted to. It was ultimately what she needed, you know, and again, because she didn’t say the safe this like it when we’re going through her mind. She’s like, Oh, I think I should stop I think I should stop but she never utters the safe word, so she is not ready to stop. So I just want to like make that very clear. This is something that she’s still giving consent to do. And it’s more like her internal struggle with it. Um, does she want to stop should she stop? She’s not sure she wants to stop and and I think that you know, these sort of moments beautifully explained the reason why she kept going. Okay, so here we go. My mouth immediately contracted, my teeth scraping against his shaft, for that contact was enough to re-instigate the impulse for sickness. I whimpered around him, frantically gesturing that I was about to throw up—a ghastly, unspeakable shame I would stand no chance of recovering from. My torso shook as a heavy gag quaked through my chest, and to my minor relief, the heave did not result in vomit. Yet. But William was still pushing forward, beating the back of my mouth, and I cried out in alarm, desperately trying to signal that my gag reflex, the boldest expression of my illness, was not something that could be controlled by desire. On a frightened impulse, I pushed my hands against his thighs in protest. “Breathe, little swan. Keep breathing for me, and you’ll be fine, sweetheart,” he grunted. And he immediately stilled. It was only after that short pause in activity that I realized I actually had, somehow, forgotten to breathe. I’d been so focused on the feeling of him and the taste of him, and so terrified of my reactions, that I’d managed to ignore the basic functions that would keep me alive. So I just thought that this was an absolutely gorgeous example of how their roleplay has really led to her beginning to overcome this crippling disease.

L.B
Um, thank you.

Elle
And I think it’s so beautiful to look at BDSM as a form of healing, because I don’t think people do. And, you know, one of the things that I’m learning in this class that I’m taking is that sex is or the act of sex. And I think it’s any form that it takes, is at its root about healing.

L.B
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And not only is it about healing, it’s about actualization, if you really think about it, you know, expressing our sexuality. And whatever iteration that may be, whether it’s attraction, whether it’s a specific kink, you know, or even just connecting with another human being, you know, these are essential components of what it means to be a human. And with what we have in Swan Lake with April’s journey in particular is no she’s she’s been put together by doctors, you know, she’s gone to therapy she has gone to counseling for for treatment for her mental illness. But she still hasn’t achieved the the satisfaction that one gets when you’re truly actualized with another person and in a very physical way. And so she starts to explore that with William. Because that final, you know, he goes into a lot. That’s when she’s able to fully recover as a as a full actualized human being. So, yeah, sex is beautiful. Sex is absolutely healing. And I think BDSM can be the same way.

Elle
Right, right. I think I think our culture does such a disservice because there is so much shame around sex and sexuality. Which is truly unfair because it can heal all sorts of traumas and wounds. You know, we just have to be open to it.

L.B
Absolutely, absolutely. I completely agree.

Elle
So, yeah, I also wanted to sort of think about William for a bit, because, you know, he’s been through, he’s been through some shit that we learn about. He’s just been through some shit. You know, he sort of got swept up into that me too moment. He got accused by the assistant that April is replacing of naughty deeds, and of trying to coerce her into having sex. I don’t, I don’t remember, was it? Did she say he raped her? Or was it harassment? I can’t remember now/

L.B
It was harassment. Yes.

Elle
It was harassment. And, he explains that he basically it didn’t happen, um, but he kind of settled with her. So to not give, we have to force her to get dragged through court, like William is a great guy. Like, he’s a really great guy. Deep down, but he does struggle with relationships. And this is partly because of his…it’s not even desire, it’s really need his need to be in this dominant role.

L.B
Exactly. Yeah. Something that that feels perfectly natural to him, but isn’t understood by a lot of people. Well, William has a lot of shame, a lot of self shame, that April, helps them heal from because she’s, she’s sort of his perfect antithesis, you know, as much as he loves to give pain, she loves to receive it naturally. So it’s truly a mutually beneficial, you know, mutually enjoyable relationship between the two of them, where they can sort of be their, their most authentic selves, that that isn’t really, you know, understood by by other folks in their lives.

Elle
Because, you know, I’m very curious, in terms of your research into dominance and submissives. Psychologically, do sort of dominants come from that place of, like, were William kind of was in terms of, you know, having to do this thing, and not being able to find a partner to do it with? And kind of, you know, that, or was this just very specific in the fiction writer’s imagination? Or is that something that you found? I mean, it’s so hard to generalize, right?

L.B
Yeah, it is, and, you know, there, there are so many, you know, variances, and how, and, and kinks and, you know, what activities people choose to participate in, in the BDSM community. So I never deigned to, to generalize on everybody. But I, I will say that I crafted William pretty carefully. I remember having a conversation with a submissive, actually, at one of these clubs that I went to, and not only was she a sexual submissive, but she was also a lesbian. And she talked about how she sort of felt double closeted for many years, because not only did she love women, but she also particularly loved women who would want to hurt her, who would dominate her, basically. So she sort of felt like she had to come out twice, you know, once to her family and friends, you know, professional colleagues, and then a second time to romantic partner she was involved with. So I thought that was really interesting, because I’m a full believer, you know, psychology major neuroscience, that so many things about the human experience, you know, it’s not always black and white, you know, so many things exist on a spectrum. And, you know, we talked about, you know, folks who I want to make sure I phrased this very carefully. Um, if you, you know, might be attracted to opposite sex partners might be attracted to same sex partners, you know, something in between, you know, it’s not always a clean cut, you’re in one category or another. And for many people who participate in BDSM, identifying as a dominant or submissive is sort of the same way. Very often there can be a lot of shame associated with coming out and saying this is how I enjoy sex. You know, this is what feels natural to me. And this is what I like to do. And unfortunately, it’s still not really widely accepted. So that that was the experience that I wanted to try and make as authentic as possible for William. And that, you know, this isn’t an activity that he’s using as a avail for abuse, which, you know, unfortunately, especially in recent headlines is something that people do, sadly enough. BDSM is really a deeply personal, a deeply personal journey that he kind of can’t exist without because it feels natural to him.

Elle
Yeah, I kind of wanted to sort of talk about that, too, that there is a fine line between BDSM and abuse.

L.B
Yes.

Elle
You know, and I think that it’s kind of, you know, as a writer, that’s a very difficult place to straddle. Because, you know, people are complex, and people do things, you know, for their own reasons and stuff like that. But, you know, I think that there’s a little extra pressure, when you’re writing it that you want to make sure that you’re doing so in a respectful yet also safe way so that you don’t bring someone down the path that might lead to them getting hurt. You know,

L.B
Exactly.

Elle
So I’m kind of curious, like, how, I mean, obviously, research must have played an important part, but I think that there’s still I don’t know, it’s very nail bitey. How do you straddle that?

L.B
It’s definitely tough, and I will say it was probably a little bit harder in Swan Peak, because, you know, this is a follow up develops a lot shorter is a lot steamier than Swan Lake. There’s a lot happening and half as much time. I will say that, as a writer, the the single most important thing when writing about BDSM. And, you know, really just sex in general unless, you’re writing in the dubcon genre is consent. And not only consent, but it needs to be fully informed. And enthusiastic consent is one thing I’ve tried to pay extra careful attention to, and both of my books always making sure that it is crystal clear, undeniable, on the page that the heroine April wants to be a submissive, like actually wants to be there wants to participate in what’s going on. Not because William wants her to not because she feels pressured, but because she genuinely enjoys it.

Elle
I loved how there was though, this trepidation there for her, you know, sort of dip your toe and take it out, dip your toe and take it out that I thought you did really, really well. But at no point did it feel like she was being coerced. Or, or she or she wasn’t walking into something without being fully aware of, you know, what was going to happen.

L.B
Exactly. I, again, I know, it’s very easy for for BDSM to look like abuse, if you don’t have that explicit consent, you know, very clear, you know, for a for a reader especially, and I’ve come across across a number of romance books that, you know, explore BDSM but it’s not authentic BDSM in the sense that very often, one participant doesn’t actually like it, you know. It’s something that they do to please a partner, you know, which is why I know that there’s certainly a place for that in fiction, but that is not the type of book I wanted to write. Yeah, because one thing that everywhere that I researched BDSM one thing that was constantly coming up is the second that any kind of activity between, you know, a dominant and a submissive, you know, in this type of play, the second it becomes non consensual, or threatening to someone’s livelihood or abusive, it’s no longer BDSM at that point. Because the fundamental tenet of BDSM is consent and, and trust and safety. And if it crosses that point, it’s no longer BDSM it becomes something different, it becomes an abusive relationship. So yeah, I just I think it’s super, super critical to always maintain that distinction.

Elle
It’s kind of amazing to me that there are certain moments in books and romance books and not even BDSM themed, you know, tropes or genre or whatever. Where I’ll just be like, get out girl. Yeah. You know, I mean, cuz I get it like some people love the alpha asshole and you know, honestly, um, you know, part of this is, you know, that might be your fantasy that might be your kink.

L.B
Oh, for sure. And there’s nothing wrong with that either. Yeah, not to kink shame.

Elle
Because I know that, you know, some people have these fantasies that confuse the fuck out of themselves sometimes, you know, where they’re like, why am I having this fantasy? And,there are reasons that are probably too deep to go into this podcast. But you know, so so, oh, my God, I’ve completely, like completely lost the plot here. But the point, you know, so there are these alpha assholes where, you know, you start to sort of look and go, Oh, my God, what is gonna? What? I’m not comfortable with this. But never at that point did I feel that way with, with April, like, I never was, like, get out. You know, I never had that reaction. And if anything, it was like, you know, I don’t live in that BDSM world, I know a little bit about it, not a whole lot, certainly not enough to write any sort of you no book, or feel comfortable, you know, taking that on. And so when I read it, not only was I was intrigued, it definitely makes me want to, like, research it more and look at it, you know, not only, you know, intellectually and as a writer, but you know, also for myself, you know, my relationship, because I think that, well, this could this could be fun. And there was a lot going on there that was sexy as hell. There was just like a complete like, wow, wow. And just, you know, how she really psychologically, mentally, you know, came into her own, just through this act. And I just was like, Oh, wow. You know, but that was definitely all about how this was her. And this was, and this was she was able to sort of find her power through being a submissive.

L.B
Absolutely, yeah, that which is really the whole point, you know, is April, recognizing that, you know, she really comes into herself, and, you know, recognizes the most power when she’s performing in this way that that is most authentic to our true self. And, yeah, their sex scenes are a lot of fun to write.

Elle
For people who are, you know, maybe have don’t really know much about the BDSM scene, and writers that don’t really much, but maybe want to dip their toe into it, like, do you have like, what, what is the what kind of advice would you give?

L.B
Um, let’s see. So, I would say, piece of advice, number one, write what’s actually sexy to you. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something you have actually done, it could be just something you fantasize about, or something you saw, that looks really hot. But I think and I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that I tend to write sex scenes a lot better if it’s something that in some universe, I could potentially enjoy. Or at least see how it could be enjoyable, maybe for somebody else. So I think that’s important, you know, recognizing that we all have a comfort zone, and it’s okay to stay there, it’s okay to push it if you really feel compelled to, but if it’s your first time, you know, I’d say stick with within one or two deviations of what you feel comfortable with. And then expand from there. If writing BDSM I definitely encourage you know, making consent absolutely explicit on the page, unless you’re writing in dubcon, or alpha aholee you know, which is perfectly fine. It’s not as necessary there. Because those are, you know, those genres have different roles that they follow. If it’s a novel that you’re looking to write that authentically portrays BDSM then consent is very important. It has to be there.

Elle
I kind of want to jump back though to like, if you are writing alphaholes, and I know I still feel like oh, there needs to be a level of consent, especially now. You know, I’m like, even if it’s just a quick moment where, you know, you show that this is something that your the partner is okay with, in whatever the situation is, like they’re getting off on it. You know, consent verbal consent is important, I think, and more important now more than ever, but there is certainly other forms of consent that you can use as writers that because, you know, of course, nobody wants to write the book, or actually even be in the situation where, okay, Is this okay? Can we do this now? Are you okay with this?

L.B
It takes me out of it for sure, I completely agree.

Elle
But I do think it is important to have some level of, you know, if the sex is getting a little bit rough, um, you know, maybe there can be a moment where the partner says, whoa, hey, ease off a minute, and then then that the partner does ease off, and then they can sort of slowly re enter that more. I don’t know. I mean, I hate to say violent, but let’s say violent, for lack of a better word, more violent, sort of, you know, encounter a sexual encounter.

L.B
Oh, for sure. In fact, the the excerpt that you read, that you read, I think, sort of illustrates that in a way. So, you know, this is April’s first time giving oral sex and, you know, physically can’t say her safe word, if you think about it. But, um, so the way that her consent is, you know, constantly, you know, being respected is, you know, William is paying attention to her nonverbal cues, and how she’s reacting physically. So the moment where she puts her hands on his thighs, you know, that’s when he stops moving, you know, and gives her reassurance, because it’s like, okay, he can see that she started to get uncomfortable, you know, how do we back this up? Right? So, um, yeah, it doesn’t always have to be like, hey, let’s sign a consent form before we do the naughty. There’s subtle ways, you know, as a writer like that, you can, you know, inject an understanding of mutual bodily respect. So it can be as simple as a gesture, you know, making eye contact, you know, like, look for those little, little ways we communicate with other people and reflect that on page, I’d say, is a good way to make sure consent is always informed.

Elle
Um, I loved this moment. Where you sent me this little Williams Dom Drop.

L.B
Yes, yes.

Elle
What is dom drop, by the way?

L.B
So this, you know, this goes back to your earlier question, this also blew my mind. Like everything else with BDSM. So, one thing that, that a lot of people who maybe know about BDSM casually know about is this phenomenon called sub drop, which is basically, when all of these pleasure chemicals that have been infused, you know, into your body, while participating in an intense sexual scene, it is the biological phenomena, sometimes psychological as well, that happens when all of those chemicals rush out of your body. So, some people report feeling, you know, maybe a little sick, getting flu like symptoms, or just, you know, kind of feeling very, very tired. Shaking, cold, just kind of coming down from a rush, basically. Um, and what’s fascinating is, this can happen for dominants as well. And it’s called dom drop, and in which basically, you know, they’re participating in a very intense scene, you know, loving what they’re doing, getting this high out of the activity, and then it stops, and there’s a come down, there’s a crash from that high, basically. So, um, I wanted to explore that in Swan Peak, because this is also the first time that as a writer, I added William’s point of view, to the story, because up until this point, it’s been exclusively April. So it was, it was challenging, but a lot of fun to write.

Elle
I sort of see his dom drop now is a little bit less physical. And it’s way more mental and emotional. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong. Is this the place where where she said, I love you, to him.

L.B
Yes, this is right after she, as she’s told him, she used the L word. for the first time.

Elle
And it kind of it almost feels like that gave him more of the dom drop than the actual act of it. And it’s sort of he’s grappling with this a little bit. Because he feels it too. And I feel this is like kind of the the first time he’s felt it. Because as much as – and it’s sort of fascinating – as much as she’s learning from him, right. And there’s definitely this slightly unequal relationship here, at least in the beginning where he is the master, you know, he’s done this before. She’s never done this, she’s learning. She’s never given a blow job. She’s learning, you know, and he’s her teacher. She is teaching him so much as well. It’s just a lot subtler and, and so I thought that this particularly at the very end of his drop was just stunning. I’m reading now. Hold on. She’d left me physically bereft, starving, craving her, plunging aimlessly into a desolate purgatory without her. And at two a.m., it was pushing the extent of my will to resist the urge to march upstairs, shake her awake, and devour her again. But I couldn’t demand her submission. I couldn’t abuse her trust to slake my hunger for another taste of her heavenly surrender. I could only take that which she offered me freely. I’m in love, of course, she loves him.

L.B
Consent matters to William. But yeah, it’s definitely more of a more of a psychological come down, you know, because he’s also the one who’s dishing out the physical activity, you know, he’s not the receiver. The exception being, you know, obviously, the first time April gives a blow job, which is much more focused on his physical sensation than it is on hers, which is really the first time we actually sort of see a bit of a power shift between the two of them.

Elle
Yeah. That was delightful.

L.B
To see a power shift. And, you know, the, the only time actually and the books thus far that consent has really been in question, but not April’s, it’s more so Williams, because she continues the activity longer than he actually wants her to. And yeah, um, that was something that I definitely wanted to explore very, very deeply in the chapters that followed, because, in a way, she she kind of pushed him beyond his comfort zone.

Elle
I’m curious why you wanted to have her do that.

L.B
So the thing about any relationship, you know, not just BDSM is, it’s going to be messy, you know, there’s got to be a learning curve. And while you know, April enjoys being a submissive, it’s not the only thing that she is. And she’s still learning and Williams still learning how to be a dominant, because he’s never really been in a long term, exclusive committed relationship that that looks like this one. Um, I also think that male consent is something we don’t really talk about very often, because there’s kind of this, this assumption that, you know, men will always have the upper hand, and, you know, forgive me for using heteronormative terms here. But there’s this assumption that, you know, a man’s consent can never be violated. And that’s simply not true. anybody’s consent can be violated if you if you have a party, and there’s somebody who’s not respecting your boundaries, violation can occur. And I think that with April, you know, specifically being this, you know, very fragile looking, you know, former dancer who’s, you know, psychologically questionable in her own way. The assumption would be that her consent would be the one most likely to be violated. And I want to demonstrate that actually, it’s pretty easy for it to be the other way around. Um, and that that could actually be a little scary, you know, for a man who’s not used to having his his space violated. So how do you work through that? How do you how do you move on from it? How do you communicate? Um, so yeah, I, I wanted to delve into that a little bit, because, you know, the old adage is, write the kind of book that you want to read, and I haven’t read that before, so I figured, I give it a try.

Elle
I absolutely love that. Write the book you want to read. Because you know, we get told so many times, write what you know.

L.B
No. So short sighted, um, honestly, we wouldn’t have some of the greatest stories if we were only told to write what we know. I think write what you want. Really. That’s the advice that I would give. Right? Write the story that you want to tell. And if it’s something you don’t know about it, research it, you know, nothing wrong with that.

Elle
Before I forget, can you email me a list of like, a BDSM? library? Like if it’s not too much trouble?

L.B
Absolutely. Oh, you’re sure.

Elle
I have the Marquis de Sade’s writing somewhere. I’ve got to find it. I know it somewhere. But yeah, I mean, I’d love to just start a start a BDSM library, because I’m very curious now. And I kind of want to I want to dip into it a little bit more after reading your stuff. Like I’m like, Oh, this is kind of, exciting.

L.B
I have so much. In fact, I will send to you annotations. So one thing I will say right off the bat, have you read anything from William Marston?

Elle
No.

L.B
So he was a psychologist, professor at Harvard, he was one of the original inventors of the lie detector test. And under a nom de plume is the creator of Wonder Woman.

Elle
Really? I had no idea.

L.B
What is super fascinating about him. And I don’t know if you’ve ever read the original Wonder Woman comics. But there was overt BDSM themes. Very, very overt, with the tying up with the you know, I can see that some submissive characters, some dominant characters. And as a psychologist, you know, William Marston believed that there was a dominant and submissive and all of us and he went a step further and believed that society would be better with dominant women that men naturally want to submit to a loving authority. It’s absolutely fascinating. He lived a very interesting life. He and his wife, a fellow professor, they were in a polyamorous relationship with one of their lab assistants. And, you know, William died in his 50s, I want to say, of lung cancer, but his wife and their life partner, they continued to live together, raise children together, until they passed away. Think about the 90s and early 2000s perspective. Very interesting life. Um, but uh, yeah, as, as an academic, he delved very deep into BDSM. And the the natural nature of dominance and submission and people. Oh, fascinating. very controversial at the time, and that is how we got Wonder Woman.

Oh, my God, that’s so cool. I had no idea.

Yeah. It’s fascinating.

Elle
It’s great stuff. Um, so I also wanted to talk about something that we had talked about. We were just, you know, talking, right, because we’re friends.

L.B
Yes. I love her listeners.

Elle
We’re friends. And it was because of this podcast, because that’s how we got introduced. And, and we’re friends now, which is so awesome. So we were having a friend conversation about all of this stuff. And, I was talking, we were talking about aftercare, which is, again, something I knew nothing about, and I think is really not only important within the BDSM world, for obvious reasons, but I just think in general aftercare is like you don’t roll over and go to sleep.

L.B
True, definitely.

Elle
You know, and, and I think that there’s a lot that we can learn, you know, in our own relationships, as writers about looking at aftercare and what it is and how to give it and what we can learn and what it means.

L.B
Absolutely. So, so for those who might not know, aftercare, at least in the BDSM sense, it’s the attention and specific time that is dedicated to caring for submissive after a BDSM session. And it varies based on what a particular person needs. You know, if a session is highly physical, it could be the dominant partner providing a hot bubble bath or a tender massage. At the session was more like psychologically focused, then aftercare could be, you know, words of reassurance or a long discussion to dissect everything that happened, or even just cuddling and But you bring up a good point, I think in the broader sense if we think of aftercare as just processing something intense that just happened. And I think that we can, as writers, we can all learn that what goes up must always come down. intensity, anything from bodice ripping to spanking and roleplay, to, you know, being rescued by a hero and chased by villains. All of that makes for fantastic drama and tension. And you know, that’s what moves your plot forward. But it’s not sustainable. And you know, eventually that the scene is over, eventually, that energy is exhausted. And what you’re left with is an amazing opportunity. You have these characters who are processing all of that intensity that has just transpired. And so I encourage all writers to really think about the framework of aftercare as an opportunity to dig a little bit deeper into your characters psychology. You know, explore not just how they’re reacting to things around them, but but how they feel about it, you know, because, you know, romance is the genre of feelings.

Elle
I think what’s really sort of fascinating way to think about aftercare is that it really affects your pacing.

L.B
Yes, it has. Absolutely.

Elle
You know, so one of the best, my very first editor Rakia, give her a shout out. She got a day job. Damn it. No, I’ll stop. I love my editor. I adore my editor now. She’s fantastic. But like my first editor taught me so much. And I was writing urban fantasy. And I did that thing where I felt like it had to be all systems go all the time. And I never allowed the characters to step back and kind of absorb what was going on around them and have feelings about it. And it was just a constant Go go go, you know, on to the next battle, on to the next battle. And these were like literal battles because it was an urban fantasy. And she, you know, she told me to go watch Alias.

L.B
Oh, with Jennifer Garner? Okay, I’ve never seen it.

Elle
Oh go watch it. It’s really good. And I should probably do a rewatch but, you know, she said she was like, go watch Alias, they do that pacing thing masterfully. And if you’d like, go and take a look at it, and I’m actually going to take a look at it again. Oh, maybe we should we should do a whole podcast about that.

L.B
I mean, I’m down. We’re still indoors here in LA so if this is the next show, I need to binge, sign me up.

Elle
Yes, binge it for sure. Um, because you know, they actually do do this really masterfully where she is always like, you know, she’s dealing with some sort of, you know, spy thing and you know, out there kicking ass and then she needs to go back to her regular life and process not only what just happened to her as a spy, but then also have to live in the real world with the rest of us non-spies. So, you know, I think that we can think of aftercare as a form of pacing. And because it is really a way that you can let readers discover your characters. In a deeper and more meaningful way. Mm hmm. Let me see. Where’s this little bit here? So there’s an…. I don’t think this is aftercare. Exactly. The post play discussion? I mean, I guess it’s a bit.

L.B
Yeah. It counts. Absolutely.

Elle
Yeah. Um, so they, what happened before with this scene where William, he did something that sounded like he put a kid on the spot with a nineteen year old boy. Little Man?

L.B
So so this is a this is a lot of fun to write. So I’ll just say, to kind of set this up Swan Peak, um, this is a week of essentially BDSM 101 between William and April. And they are exploring a whole bunch of different scenes varying in intensity, in physical and psychological intensity. So there are some scenes that are very, very dark and gritty, very, very highly physical, and others that are kind of lighter. And I mean, in my opinion, kind of funny. Because even BDSM sex, it doesn’t always have to be the intense you know, earth shattering crying, it could also just be kind of fun and, you know, sort of silly. And this is what you’re mentioning is the the aftermath of one of the sillier scenes where basically William is away he’s on the phone with April and they they get a visitor at this this Alpine mansion that he has up in the Yukon Territory. And it is the the son of the house caretaker, you know, a 19 year old college student, and kind of seizing this opportunity Williams sort of directs April to kind of show off her body to this kid. And kind of tease him in a way and in the moment, you know, April’s very, very close to using safe word because she’s just horribly embarrassed, because she knows that this guy is looking at her, is, you know, getting excited looking at her. But what’s interesting about it, as they, you know, have their aftercare, they have this discussion where, you know, April, very, you know, without a filter, says you embarrass me, you know that this was embarrassing, and I don’t really think I like this, I don’t want to do it again. She realizes that for the first time that because in this play that they were doing this play that made her very uncomfortable. It was the first time that she thought of herself as sexy. She didn’t she didn’t think of her body in terms of her disease in terms of being anxious. She just thought of herself as turning on somebody else. And that was the thing that embarrassed her you know, not just the act of being exposed. So um, so yeah, the aftercare here is really just you know, discussing why she was embarrassed.

Elle
And she really sort of got at the beginning of the scene she really kind of goes after him a little bit you know and and you know, she’s like right here she goes You embarrassed me I asserted unafraid and unfiltered once he played at our evening meal at the kitchen bar. He had prepared steak au poivre with vegetables… Okay can I just say your food descriptions in these books are like off the charts and like, this is like the most decadent beautiful meals and you know. The irony is this woman has an eating disorder and she is just like, all of that like steak au poivre with vegetables. And, and you know, this is also like, this is like learning relearning how to eat and it’s beautiful. And it makes me so hungry.

Iindeed I did as well as the boy he responded pouring me a glass of wine. His unapologetic, honesty was disorienting. Why? Because I love it when you squirm, he answered with a smirk. And so you know, I think it’s also important to point out like, in here from six till nine each evening, we wouldn’t be sir and little Swan, we wouldn’t be boss and employee. This is where they’re on equal footing. And she can say, Hey, you know what, that thing you did, wasn’t too crazy about that. And they can sort of like really kind of unpack what had happened between them. So one quick question, though, are they spending basically like 24 hours a day minus these three hours in the dominant submissive role?

L.B
Exactly. Well, technically, they’re, they’re also outside of it. There there is a moment later on in the novella, where they they kind of butt heads with each other at I guess roughly, what one o’clock two o’clock in the morning. But yeah, the the idea here is it is a BDSM camp basically. You know, seeing if this is something that that they can do together long term, you know, so they’re, they’re exploring it very privately in a very protected space. And because this is romance, we ended with that with a happily ever after well, happily for now because that the series is continuing. But uh, yeah.

Elle
I just want to read this a little bit, because I think that this sort of brings brings it brings it into relief that the idea of the aftercare and the importance of writing it and just also really digs into April psyche that I loved, towards the end of the scene, there is, you know, they’ve sort of worked through what he did and how she felt about it. And she’s thinking: As uncomfortable as that game had been, as embarrassed as it had made me feel, not once had I thought about my illness, or how my body looked because of it. I’d completely forgotten about my visible bones, the translucency of my skin, my breaking hair, and every other physical manifestation of my sickness. For one very awkward afternoon, and for the first time, I’d thought of myself as a woman, only. As…sexy.

This is a big realization for her, having been through the first book with her and, you know, this is a really big moment for her in just this one small scene and those that these few sentences, this is huge. And you know, once again, it’s sort of like, it’s almost like he knows what she needs, you know, to help her get through this trauma that she’s been through that she’s still going through.

L.B
Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of work happening on the page in a very small amount of time. But, you know, it’s, it’s a dark novel, it’s a BDSM novel, but it has a happily ever after, you know, it has that theme of optimism. And, you know, one thing I really wanted to be careful about, and to always remember is that, you know, April wants to be a submissive, you know, and BDSM is something that is restorative for her. So, you know, that push me to look at the after effects of BDSM, and how these experiences could be beneficial, you know, in a psychological way. And sort of a common, you know, practice and many BDSM relationships is not necessarily sharing your partner, but showing off a submissive partner, you know, showing off their sexuality. And, yes, there’s the humiliation aspect, which many submissives actually enjoy. But, but there’s also the empowerment aspect of it to like, you know, look at this, this beautiful person that that I’m in a relationship with. So it’s sort of for the first time April starting to see herself the way that that William sees her.

Elle
Yeah. So yeah, it’s a beautiful moment. I’m excited to read Swan Peak. So L.B. thank you. Thank you for having me for coming back and doing this. And being my friend, giving me a starter library.

L.B
You may regret this. Because I have a lot that I’ll be sending you

Elle
Just flag what you think are like the three most important and you know, that I should start with and then I can like work my way through it. I’m really excited to start readingabout it. So I should also say that we are going to go on Clubhouse

L.B
Yes, I am excited for this

Elle
And do a room. We are I’m not entirely sure when yet because it depends. I would say after, you know, I guess after this goes out maybe a couple of days after we can get together and do a room and clubhouse. And you guys can join us and we’ll kind of pick a topic. I don’t know. It may be BDSM specific, maybe a little bit broader about one of the things I wanted to talk about, but this is a big topic, too is writing trauma.

L.B
Oh that would be a good discussion.

Elle
So um, and how and how romance BDSM or romance more generally. You know how what that looks like when we’re writing trauma?

L.B
Oh, yes.

Elle
What do you think about that? That might be a good one.

L.B
That is very compelling. And I definitely think it’s a conversation that that that needs to be had.

Elle
Oh, cool. All right. Cool. Yeah. So I think we’re gonna do that. Let’s Well, maybe we should do that in Clubhouse that sounds like it might be a good conversation.

L.B
Absolutely. Sign me up. I’m available. Excellent.

Elle
We’re indoors all the time. No vitamin D happening right now. L.B. be where can readers find you again, and I will have these in the show notes too.

L.B
readers can find me on my website at LB Alexander com and I am also on social everywhere. Instagram Facebook, at LB Alexander author. And I love interacting with folks so say hi.

Elle
Yes,

L.B
I’m nice. I promise.

Elle
And then eventually you’ll find us on Clubhouse. So L. B. thank you once again for being here. It is always so good to talk to you.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you so much for having me that this has been wonderful out. Thank you