//Headshot of Amanda E.K. taken by ØttØ for Awakening Boutique.
Denver writer and reiki healer Amanda E.K. is set to release their first-ever book titled “The Risk it Takes to Bloom,” a collection of queer erotica stories.
The book is also a major leap forward for Q Publishing, which has existed since 1976 as OUT FRONT Magazine’s parent company. But the name will be repurposed into Q Publishing House, which was just registered by the owners of OUT FRONT, Addison Herron-Wheeler and Maggie Phillips, in the last week of January. Q Publishing will officially launch the book Feb. 19 with a special event at the Marijuana Mansion.
E.K., who is nonbinary and uses they/she/he pronouns, originally published their erotica stories as columns through OUT FRONT. Having grown up in the Evangelical Church, purity culture had them in a headlock from a young age. About four years ago, she began exploring her sexuality and gender identity after having a conversation with her husband. Since then, E.K. has used his column writing to explore his sexual fantasies.
Ms. Mayhem sat down with E.K. to learn more about the process behind the publication, their coming out story and how she broke the grasp of purity culture.
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
To start off, can you tell me a bit more about this book and the meaning behind the title?
My book is called “The Risk it Takes to Bloom,” which is taken from a quote by one of my favorite erotica writers, Anaïas Nin. Her quote is, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” She’s inspired a lot of my life and work, so I wanted to put a little Easter egg in the book that way.
[My writing] started out as a monthly column for OUT FRONT Magazine. Addison has been a good friend of mine and she knew some of my background of growing up in purity culture and the Evangelical Christian world. I had a lot of shame put on me from a very young age about sex and my body. Queerness was definitely a sin; I didn’t see [queerness] in myself for a long time because it wasn’t even an option.
Addison asked if I would write this erotica column for the magazine knowing that I’ve been processing a lot of sexual things in my writing, healing from religious trauma. She just gave me a one-word theme for each column based on that of the issue. It was very loose, and I could basically do whatever I wanted with it. It ended up being a monthly exploration of different experiences of being queer and different lifestyles. I’ve addressed polyamory, [relationships between only women], as well as some straight kink. I’ve also tapped into the mindset of gay men for a couple of them—just like how an author can try to imagine other people’s experiences in that way.
Then I proposed to Addison, “What if we put this together as a book?” And she loved it. She’d been considering doing books with OUT FRONT anyway, so it turned into the first book launch for the Q Publishing House.
How did writing these erotica columns help you process some of that religious trauma?
As a nonbinary person, I have often felt like there were a lot of masculine sides of me untapped. Writing these stories was a way for me to kind of explore that side of myself as well, which ended up being very healing and very triggering in a lot of ways throughout many of the stories. I had to call my therapist once to finish writing one of those stories—I’ve healed from a lot of this religious trauma, but these stories actually were quite triggering for me in ways I hadn’t expected. It was a very powerful process to write out all the things that I would’ve been kept from as a younger person—I would have been told that God would be mad at [me] or that [I’d] be punished.
It really has surprisingly [become a form of therapy]. It kind of just seems fluffy—I mean a lot of people, I think, probably imagine when they hear erotica that’s just like non-writing. It’s just silly writing. But it was therapeutic in ways I didn’t expect.
What was the process like getting your book ready for publication?
For the magazine, I had a word limit. In getting the stories together for the book, I’ve gone back and fleshed them out some more. It’s kind of been a “learning as we go” process with the whole team, which is really nice and collaborative. It’s felt very community oriented. We’ve all been learning together, and it’s been really a nice experience.
Are any of these stories based on your lived experiences, or are they purely fictional?
So my dad actually read all of these and thought they were all nonfiction. That was a very interesting conversation because then he tried to bring me back to Jesus. I don’t even know how he found it—He searched the internet to find my stories. He thinks that reading my fiction sex writing is how he is going to get to know me. So I got very upset with him. It was quite an ordeal because one of the stories in the collection is intentionally very blasphemous. And he’s like, “How could you write this pornography?” He literally told me I’ve hurt the whole family. I just told him, “If you think you’re hurt by what I wrote, then imagine what I experienced in the church to need to process it in that way.” I had to set him in his place, and he thought about that for a minute.
But there are definitely details—I do a lot of erotic journaling, so I went through that and pulled sentences here and there from my own journals. The experiences themselves were completely fabricated with just some real details, and I’m not going to tell you which ones. [They’re] mostly fantasies and wanting to explore the spectrum of the queer experience was my inspiration.
How did you start exploring your own queerness?
Thank you for asking. I started really acknowledging [my queerness] and exploring it about four years ago. I’m 34 now, so later in life. I brought it up to my husband—I’ve been married since I was a child basically because of Christianity, but neither of us is Christian. I told my husband, and he was like, “Cool, yeah. I get it. That’s fine.” So I just kind of started exploring crushes and allowing myself to feel crushes on girls. Then we decided to open up our marriage for me to date women and explore that. Then Addison gave me a slot in OUT FRONT to write my coming out story a couple of years ago. I came out more publicly that way. My husband and I are now full-on polyamorous.
Once you allow yourself to realize you’re on some level of the [queer] spectrum, you just keep realizing how queer you are. Now I’m at a point where I would say I’m pansexual and nonbinary, which is all very surprising. It started out just being bisexual and cisgender.
I’m still with my husband, who’s just an amazing human and has gone with the flow of all these discoveries. He’s been very supportive—It’s been a very well-supported ride. It’s not something I’ve ever discussed with my family because they just see me as a straight married girl. That’s all they’re ever going to see me as.
How do you think your stories may help other queer people?
I just hope that people find themselves in these stories—that they see themselves in these stories in ways they’ve never been represented in this genre before. I have a character who has ADHD because my husband has ADHD. Another character has trust issues. [I try to] bring mental health stuff to each of my characters and I hope that will mean something to readers.
You can find more information about E.K.’s writing and reiki practice on their website.
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