Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Interview with Sessha Batto author of" Shinobi "and a great deal more.
Welcome, Sessha and thanks for joining me.
Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate this opportunity.
I like to begin by getting a geographical location, where were you born and raised?
I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I spent my first six years in an orphanage there before being adopted by a couple in America and moving to Detroit.
Where do you live now?
Currently I'm living in Baltimore, on the east coast of the US.
Are you in a relationship?
I've been married for twenty years, and lived with my husband for ten years before that.
You write with such a deep insight into Eastern culture. Have you ever visited Japan?
Not yet, although I've promised my teenage son a trip to Japan when he graduates from high school. It's actually been on my list of places to visit for many many years, but finances and opportunity have never coincided.
Were you always interested in writing?
I've always been interested in reading, and in making up stories and people. It's only recently that I began actually writing those stories down.
When did you write your first story and what was it about?
Well, when I was four I wrote my own illustrated book, Obediah the Panda, about a giant panda visiting the city for the first time. However, my first attempt at serious writing was two years ago.
I read in a response to a different question elsewhere that you were a very shy and bookish child, is that correct?
I was always the one sitting on the very edge of the playground with my nose in a book. I learned to read at three, and from that moment forward, books were my refuge. For years I read a book every day, and even now I still read three or four books a week.
Did you exclude yourself from groups of people as a result of the shyness?
I don't think I excluded myself particularly, but I didn't fit in, and as I grew older I really stopped trying. I always liked myself the way I was, I had no desire to change to fit other people's expectations.
Your book “Shinobi” is based on the ancient Japanese culture of the Samurai, and includes homoerotica. When did you make a decision to write in this genre?
My first introduction to the genre was actually by accident. I was looking for anime for my son on-line and stumbled on a fanfiction site. I started reading and realized, much to my surprise, that most of the stories were nothing but sexual encounters between the characters. I've never been particularly interested in traditional male/female erotica, but I found the male/male scenes much hotter and more compelling than I expected. Fast forward several years to find me unemployed for a year and bored out of my skull. Since I had no money to buy books I thought, why not try to write a book I'd like to read? So I decided to see if I could write a homoerotic story that was more than just an excuse for a series of sexual encounters. Thirty days later I had a completed first draft and I never looked back.
The book has received marvelous feedback on a couple of writing sites which I’ll include further on in the interview, for now can you tell us of any negative responses you received and how you were affected by them?
There have been plenty of negative responses, I assure you. I've been accused of perversion, lying about being female and sins against god and my fellow man since, unfortunately, there are still many many people who are offended by homosexuality. Add to that the fact that the subject matter is dark, and it can provoke very strong reactions. I have to say though, I am surprised at how few bad reviews there are, although perhaps that speaks more to 'if you have nothing good to say remain silent' than to people's actual opinions. Like any other book, it isn't to everyone's taste.
You include heavy warning labels on your erotica, yet people still seem to be shocked when they read them why is that do you think?
I know a number of people started reading assuming the content wouldn't be as strong as the warnings implied . . . they were, of course, mistaken. I always feel bad in those situations, I certainly don't want to expose anyone to anything upsetting. At the same time, I don't have much patience for people who ignore warnings and then get upset. About half of the people who complain seem to be more upset by the fact that they found it arousing. Since that is the intent, I feel good about it, even when the review is negative.
How long did “Shinobi” take to write from word 1 till final edit?
Shinobi took three months to write, another six to edit into two finished volumes and half of a third.
You have 5 other books. Listed below. Which of them is your favorite and why?
I will always love Shinobi, but at the moment I'm really enjoying working on a pair of unfinished works In the Desert of the Porcupines which is proving to be emotionally exhausting, as it explores the pain/pleasure continuum and Onna Bugeisha, which is the first book I've attempted with a major female character.
You are an artist in many senses of the word, creating marvelous book covers for others and movie trailers for other peoples work. I have personally benefited from this immense talent. Tell us more about this side of your work. Do you take on requests for covers and trailers and if so where can you be reached for a quote on costs?
I spent 25 years working as a video editor and motion graphics artist, so in many ways that is my real work, I suppose. It was only natural that I extended my skills to creating covers and trailers for my own books. In fact, one of the first things I do is create a cover, it helps me 'set' my vision for the piece.
I also do covers and trailers for Pfoxmoor Publishing and a few friends. I'm always interested in talking with people about their needs. The easiest way to get in touch is to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet me @SesshaBatto.
Where can people interested in your artistry see your work on display.
The covers and trailers I've created for myself as well as some of my favorites that I've done for other people are posted on my website http://sesshabattousai.com/.
Just check the book covers and trailer pages.
Back to the writing, tell us about the serial Blacksmith?
Blacksmith is an interesting project. I had originally planned it as a novel, but once I started I realized that it would also work nicely as an on-going project to run on my website as an extra for my readers. I've done a few serial fanfictions and really enjoyed the feedback I got on each chapter as I went. Just letting the story unfold as I go means I can tweak the direction the plot takes to tailor it to what the readers want to see happen.
Do you intend writing more of these?
One at a time is enough. I will probably always have some sort of serial project going somewhere though. It's a great way to really get the kind of in-depth reader feedback that helps me plug into what the audience will really enjoy, and to add twists to keep them on their toes.
You also run a weekly contest on Authors On Show. How did that come to be?
Lorraine Holly, the mastermind behind Authors on Show, was looking for ideas to drive traffic to the site. I suggested they run a weekly flash fiction contest after seeing how popular they were. The next thing I knew, I was posting prompts.
Do you discipline yourself with a set amount of time for each project?
Not really. My biggest downfall is having too many projects going at once. I need to concentrate on finishing one before starting the next to work most efficiently. But, when a great idea floods your brain, it's hard to ignore the urge to put it on paper.
Are your family supportive?
My family is amazingly supportive, especially since I've committed to writing pretty much full time over the last two years.
Where do you see yourself both professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Of course, I would love for this to be the year where my books take off, that's every writer's dream. My goals for the year are simpler: to finish the re-edit on my first book Strength of Will in preparation for its re-release, find a publisher for Shinobi and finish Onna Bugeisha.
Have you written in other genres?
No, not really. I love my genre, I'd much rather introduce it to a wider market. My goal is to, eventually, bring homoerotic stories to a mainstream audience.
Do you find a large publishing market for erotica exists?
There are a huge number of small and midsize presses feeding a large and steadily growing market of avid readers. What surprises me is that the major publishers aren't making more of an effort to tap into this burgeoning market, especially in the face of declining sales in general.
Your books are crafted, not simple words forming sentences, how much research have you done into Japanese culture to weave such a convincing work?
None, really. At least, not for the books in particular. My interest in Japanese culture goes back 35 years and has progressed hand in hand with my studies of battojutso and Buddhism. At this point I feel more comfortable with portraying that culture than my own, I've certainly assimilated it more thoroughly.
I found myself hearing a Japanese accent as I read, the dialogue is so convincing…how difficult is it to maintain?
Before I start writing I have an extremely clear vision of my characters, which makes their voice easy to maintain. I can hear them speaking in my head, I just mimic the speech patterns on paper.
Time to promote your sites:
http://sesshabttousai.com/ is my main website.
It includes excerpts from and links to all the other places to read my work as well as links to covers, trailers and my blog. It is the single best way to see it all in one place.
Shinobi is also available to read/comment on at both authonomy http://www.authonomy.com/books/14506/shinobi/read-book/#chapter
Reviews on Shinobi:
Hi Sessha From the opening chapter you capture the reader with the complex character of Yoshi and the ruthless Takahashi Clan. Your descriptive style is excellent, as I could visualise Yoshi both as a six year old and as a man - toned, skilled and beautiful, with an etheral quality. This book makes stark reading, but you intend it to. Every reader will have their own interpretation, depending on their life experiences and knowledge. As a mother, I reacted to Yoshi's treatment as a mother might and I felt devastated. At 35 he should have goals within his grasp, but he is driven by duty. "My own desires are unimportant" "When I am no longer needed perhaps" I could have been watching from a city apartment as this lithe sprit summons a pack of wolves and it seemed appropriate - completely believable in the setting you have created. You bring the 'background' to the reader before you introduce Sasaki and although he is depicted as ruthless and cruel, his life mirrors Yoshi's. He too is weary and bound by duty.
I am almost grateful when their paths become one - they need each other. Really good hooks at the end of the chapters, but I felt you didn't actually need them. It was compelling and disturbing enough to make me turn the pages regardless. Yoshi's vulnerability seems more pronounced after his encounter with Sasaki - he wavers and I could feel his uncertainty. This man/boy has only one friend, but from chapter three, he may as well have none. You write with such precision that despite the graphic horror unfolding before me, there was a beauty to your words. Not one sentence is wasted and I want to change Yoshi's life as I am reading. Great intrigue as the heads of clans meet with Sasaki - he takes a brave step in asking Rin to be removed and finally there is a glimmer of hope that Yoshi will be rescued. By this time I am desperate to stop reading, but of course it is too late - you know your craft well and capturing attention is effortless for you.
When Yoshi rebels my admiration for him grows even more, but he is rewarded only with self loathing. His loyalty to his clan. Healed and defiled, healed and broken - what life is this? I was quite 'upset', 'moved' by the sheer depths of depravity and the cruelty inflicted on others - but again, this is what you intended. The fact that you can hold a reader in the palm of your hand is surely a testimony to your skill. The use of dialogue is excellent - easy to follow and realistic to the storyline. So whilst I found the actual content extremely shocking, I have to rate your book as excellent. It will be interesting to read your other comments to see if others were as affected - I suspect they were. absolutely best of luck with this. Hatts Comment from Hatts - 09/05/2010 10:23:58
SHINOBI Sessha Batto I started reading Shinobi in spite of your disclaimer of the content. I am one of those who will do that even though I don't have a desire for erotica. However, I looked at the setting and the atmosphere. I've always been fascinated with what may hide beneath the surface of such pristine and disciplined people.
Then I looked at the characters, sympathizing with their humanity in spite of the paths they walk. Usually, the story is everything when I am reading. In this work of art, I was more grounded in the meticulous style of your writing. I could almost see you sitting on a bamboo mat with a pot of ink and a brush making Kanji symbols on rice paper to tell this story.
It has a ring of authenticity that slices through ordinary fiction. You wield your blade with great skill. This is so well crafted the only advice I can give you is never store your shurikens in your shorts. Thank you for your backing of A King in Time. From you that means a lot. Mary Enck
Comment from Sharahzade - 06/05/2010 22:05:52
I am familiar with (and a fan of) this genre, and I can say quite honestly that it is rare to find something quite so engaging, well written and ultimately satisfying as Shinobi. Right from the start the characterisation is deep, complex and doesn’t rely on stereotypes; Yoshi’s strength comes through despite the fact he is initially the victim, Makoto’s vulnerability is evident despite his job and Daisuke’s innocence and youth even though he becomes Kage, and the exploration of the erotic and romantic relationships between them and the other characters is wonderfully varied and in places quite beautiful.
Chapter 3 in particular is fearless, the hurt part of the hurt/comfort theme done graphically but not gratuitously, and Yoshi’s reluctant responses (and the build up of tension and trauma that causes) are very well realised. All credit for not backing down or softening that at all, but also for knowing exactly when to leave what is happening to the imagination of the reader, the worst only alluded to by the state of Yoshi when Makoto finally rescues him. The comfort part is exquisite, Yoshi not recognising Makoto to begin with is a lovely touch, and by the end of this arc I found myself completely drawn in and already rooting for a happy ending.
The introduction and portrayal of the other characters is also done well, they are strong and interesting enough in their own right to make the exploration of the other various pairings and erotic relationships possible and viable within the overall story. The plot itself is captivating and unpredictable, and the complex background world that the story is set in is vividly brought to life without bogging the story down with description. I thought that the end couple of chapters seem a bit thinner than the rest and could do with fleshing out a bit, but having started this a while ago and re-reading after the latest changes, I found the first 8 chapters are hugely improved, there is no confusion any more over who is who and no OOC dialogue.
Overall I thought this was fantastic, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the rest will be available to read at some point. It deserves to do well, thank you for writing it!
Comment from Elle Lawliette - 13/03/2010 19:04:00
and slushpile reader http://www.slushpilereader.com/index.phpoption=com_manuscripts&view=book&id=186&Itemid=5option=com_manuscripts&view=book&id=186&Itemid=5
where it has been in the top twenty for the last several months.
Since excerpts of Shinobi and my other completed works are available on my website, I thought I'd give a sneak peek into one of my works in progress.
Here, for your enjoyment, is the first chapter of In the Desert of the Porcupines. I hope everyone enjoys it.
WARNING TO ALL READERS: THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT CONTAINS HOMOEROTICA AND SHOULD BE VIEWED BY ADULTS ONLY.
He dreamt of the desert, endless expanses of emptiness, the hiss of the wind on the dunes like the insomniac porcupines in his attic, quills shshshing on the floorboards as they listlessly paced away the hours of the night. Thoughts spun in the glittering pinprick the world had closed down to. When the silken choke hold loosened, the sound of waves lapping on the desert shore deepened, thickened, into his lazy heartbeat, and the shshshing of grains of sand dancing in the taunting wind, and the quills of the porcupines skritching their way into his consciousness.
“That was very nice.” Master's praise was important and he nuzzled into the warm flesh as his body began its usual litany of complaints. But master was happy, so they were pushed to the back of his mind. An embarrassing near purr escaped his lips when that rich baritone once again addressed him. “Are you ready for more, pet?”
Truth be told, he was always ready for more. It was something master knew all too well, and the reason he found himself here. Before this, before Master and his carefully balanced games, he had almost died. No was a concept that eluded him, and the consequences had been horrific. Where everyone else saw a flaw to be exploited, master had seen the seeds of greatness.
He shifted slightly, relishing in the sticky warmth oozing down his legs, proof of Master's pleasure, proof of his devotion, proof of the bond they had forged outside of society's boundaries in the desert of the porcupines.
“Have you eaten?”
He turned and fixed his lover with a beatific grin. “Does Master wish me to eat?”
“Of course I wish you to eat. If you don't you will grow thin and pale. That would not please me.” The handsome face grew stern, thin lips quirking downward ever so slightly. “You are mine. I will not allow anyone to harm what I have claimed, even you.”
“Yes, Master.” The reverently purred response seemed to mollify his owner. He was proud to have such a generous and caring master, grateful for the heavy collar that strong hands were once more fastening around his neck.
The supple leather band was thick and wide, just tight enough to serve as a reminder that Master controlled even the air that he breathed. His thoughts slipped back to the first time those hands had touched his throat, long fingers brushing over fading bruises in a near caress.
Master had paid dearly for him. Too much, really. He was, after all, scarred, bruised and most assuredly broken. He tried to remember a time before he had made friends with pain, but thinking just confused him. As always, too many related memories swirled up at once, the hidden curse of an eiditic memory. At least, in this, the choice was easy.
Such a familiar scene, silver blade, red blood. Just the thought slowed the panic threatening to claw its way out through his skin. Rooting him, once again, firmly in the world. He studied the landscape of his inner arms, intricate crosshatched scars that seemed to shift in the low light, turning and twisting like an M.C. Escher etching.
“I will be very angry if you hurt yourself.”
“I don't need to,” he murmured, eyes never even flicking up as he traced the intricate patterns with a calloused fingertip. No explanation was given or expected. In this, as in all else, Master's wishes were law. Besides, why disobey Master? He, alone, understood what was needed, balancing the pain with pleasure, and never, ever, going too far.
The first time had been an accident, the ragged slice welling crimson until it gained critical mass, sliding in a bright, glittering stream down the pale flesh to drip, unheeded. He bent to suck at the wound, the sharp sting of pain and the taste of copper flooding his mouth, clearing his mind of the traitorous thoughts threatening to topple it.
Before long it had grown into an elaborate ritual, his favorite silver blade cleaned and prepared as every cell in his body began to thrum under the pressure. The sight of his skin parting in its dancing wake blurred the cacophony of competing thoughts, granting him a few moments peace. First the right arm. Five cuts, no more, no less. The left arm was trickier, it took years to train his weaker hand to the precision required.
When the scars became too interwoven he moved to his thighs. The deeper, sharper pain proved even more addictive, and all too soon the traces of his escape wound their way over every inch of skin easily hidden from prying eyes.
His scars are what caught the eye of his first master. Out of school, and firmly ensconced in the working world, he could no longer disappear inside an oversized sweatshirt. He wasn't aware of the way his cuff rode up, exposing his secret to the world. But he couldn't help but notice the way he was pushed up against the wall, the boss's thigh between his legs and a firm hand on his throat. The relieved acceptance that rushed through him at that moment was the closest he'd come yet to the bliss of his secret addiction.
“What are you thinking about?” Master's stern voice pulled him back from the wasteland of his memories.
“How much I adore you, Master.”
His lover laughed, a warm, husky sound that sent electric pulses dancing over his synapses. Then he found himself lifted to sit astride the welcoming lap, strong arms wrapping tightly around his chest to pull him close. The feel of the thick shaft inching its way inside him as he was pulled down to sit flush grounded him in the present, forcing his traitorous mind to concentrate solely on the sensation.
An index finger looped through the ring on his collar, pulling his head back to rest on master's shoulder. “Who do you belong to?”
“Only you, Master.”
“I'm not sure I believe you. I think you need to show me.”
His eyes popped open, locking briefly with Master's intense grey before slamming shut again. A nervous tongue flicked out to lick at his suddenly dry lips.
“Did you just look at me?” The amused tone did nothing to put him at ease. A rule had been broken, now he would be punished. Master couldn't afford to go easy on him, he was willful and needed a firm hand.
“I'm waiting for an answer.” Master's voice was firmer now, but not harsh, never harsh.
“I'm sorry, Master.” He hung his head, thoroughly ashamed by his own lack of obedience. Such a simple rule. One of the very first he'd been taught, and he still couldn't get it right.
“You're thinking when you should be trying to get back into my good graces.”
Distraction bled away, his thoughts blurring into the soft susurration of his desert, all his power and energy focused, like lightning, on this one man, this one moment. The tapestry of scars decorating his thighs came alive as muscles bunched and he slowly slid upwards, hovering for a long moment before dropping hard into Master's lap.
Fingers twisted in his collar, stopping the flow of air into his lungs. “You can do better than that, pet.”
Pinpricks of light in the darkness. The scratching of quills on a hardwood floor. He was alone in the desert of his mind, the tiny sips of air Master allowed him only enough to fuel his body, leaving his perception in the calm eye at the center of the raging sands. It was only in these moments of perfect clarity that he was ever, truly, at peace. This was Master's gift, the reason for his devotion, the chance to let go of his control and just experience, without his convoluted thoughts getting in the way.
The collar loosened imperceptibly, chapped lips parting, body struggling to fill the void his lungs had become. “I love you, Master.”
“Then why do you disobey me?”
Again the slightest loosening of the band around his throat. “Because you spoil me, Master. I need punishment.”
“No, you want punishment. You're manipulative, boy, and willful. I don't know why I bother with you.”
“No, don't say that, Master.”
He found himself being lifted up and away from the warm lap, and his mind wailed at the emptiness that filled him when that thick length retreated. Then he was dumped unceremoniously on the floor. “Perhaps I'll wait until you can behave.”
“Master, please, I'm sorry.” His tears wet the floor where he lay, but Master steadfastly ignored his pleas.
He shivered and shook on the cold floor, knowing better than to turn and look at the man who ruled his world. When a hand fisted in his hair and pulled, though, he couldn't stop the smile that tugged at his lips. “Proud of your disobedience?” Master dragged him across the room, yanking first one arm, then the other, over his head and clipping the cuffs on his wrists to the hook on the wall. “How many strokes have you earned?”
“Ten for looking without permission and ten for talking back, Master.” The muscles in his back fluttered, tensing and relaxing in waves as he tried to anticipate where the first blow would fall.
“Keep the count. If you lose your place we'll start again.”
He tensed slightly, preparing himself for the first impact. The crack of the strap on his inner thigh caught him off guard, and he barely managed to squeak out his response. “One, thank you, Master. I love you, Master.”
Time and again, the lash seemed to somehow find the place he least expected and send a trail of fire licking across his skin.
“Seventeen, Master. Thank you for my punishment, Master.” The words came automatically, his voice calmer and more certain with each count. When he shut his eyes he could see the porcupines frantically racing to nowhere while their quills bounced and rattled. The steady hiss blotted out the fears and doubts that had plagued him. How foolish to doubt Master, who always knew what he needed.
“Yes, Master. Thank you for your correction.”
Master didn't answer, carefully freeing his slave's hands before scooping him into his arms. “Enough for now. Let me get you cleaned up.” Long legs carried them into the bathroom while he stayed curled up against Master's chest.
His hair was washed, blunt nails scratching against his scalp before his eyes were shielded and it was carefully rinsed. His body was washed next, gentle hands lingering on the marks of his punishment, stroking and pinching before a wet tongue soothed the sting.
He remained unresponsive as he was dried and his teeth brushed, concentrating on the shshshing the atoms of his body made as they raced endlessly to nowhere. Dark eyes blinked in surprise as he was slipped between silken sheets.
“You please me very much, boy. You'll sleep in my bed tonight.”
“Thank you, Master. I love you, Master.”
He knew this was Master's favorite time, although he tried not to let it show, pride could lose him his hard won place. He looked his best like this, warmly pliant from their play, his satiny skin enticing in the flickering light, like a rich damask, the scarred ridges giving shape to the whole. Strong hands ran down a twitching flank, spreading muscular cheeks to gaze at the rosy pucker.
“Gods, how you tempt me.” He barely heard Master's muttered complaint. Every hair on his body stood on end when that thick cock pushed inside, filling him beyond the point of words.
Then Master's mouth was on his neck, nipping and sucking as he pounded into his willing body. A calloused hand wrapped around his hardening cock, plucking at the thick rings adorning the head before smoothing down the silky flesh, twisting the barbells studding the underside.
And he could only sigh and press back, opening himself totally to this most intimate assault. “Pinch your nipples for me.” Master's command had him twisting the heavy gold rings until they throbbed. A sharp line of pain stitched together his excitement, from neck to nipples to cock to anus, binding him as surely as any shackle.
“What do you have to say for yourself, boy?”
“Fuck me harder, please, Master.”
“Any harder and you'll be able to taste me.” Despite Master's protest he sped up the pace, roughly twisting and folding his lanky lover to achieve the deepest possible penetration.
“Please, please, may I come, Master? I'm so hard for you.”
“Not until I give you permission. Do you need your training repeated, boy?”
“No, Master.” Dark hair stuck to his cheek as his shook his head in vigorous denial.
“Are you sure?” The conversational tone was at odds with the hard thrusts steadily targeting his prostate.
“Yes, Master. Anything that pleases you, Master.”
The hands wrapping around his throat left him struggling not to come. He could feel his heart beat in his cock, see the tiny droplets splatter from the tip as the world slowed down to a crawl around him. He twisted and jerked when the hot jet of cum hit his prostate, crying out soundlessly as the world greyed out around him.
“Come for me, boy.”
The whispered command had him screaming his adoration, thrashing spastically as his seed shot over his chest and his oxygen starved brain tried to decipher which way the world was turning. “Thank you, Master.”
“Clean up your mess. Then thank me properly.”
He gratefully bent to suckle the salty trickles off Master's skin, dropping his head to swallow the soft cock and balls, laving them thoroughly with his tongue before reluctantly moving on.
“That's enough. Now get some sleep.”
“Thank you, Master.” He shut his eyes and almost immediately drifted off, unaware of the confusion now painting his lover's face. Content in the peace he had once again found, however brief the respite might be.
THE TRAILER BELOW IS FROM MY OWN BIOGRAPHY 'EMPTY CHAIRS' WRITTEN UNDER MY PEN NAME OF STACEY DANSON. IT WILL BE RELEASED BY NIGHT PUBLISHING IN FEBRUARY 2011
The Trailer was created by Sessha Battou