Alice Liddell: Yes, Alice Liddell was the young girl for whom Carroll wrote the story. Lewis Carroll was the penname for a man named Charles L. Dodgson.
Blushing Books: I’m sure you’re aware of the stories – rumors, really – about the relationship between Dodgson and his young friend Alice. Did those stories influence you in choosing her name as your penname?
Alice Liddell: To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of that part of the story until later. I needed a penname when my first spanking story was accepted for publication, which was in 2002. I knew I wanted to use “Alice” but couldn’t decide on a last name. It was actually my publisher at the time – Steve Richardson of C. F. Publications – who suggested “Alice Liddell,” commenting that it seemed eminently appropriate for someone about to poke her head down the figurative rabbit hole by embarking on a career in spanking writing. Curiously, there is a photo of Alice Liddell at about age ten that looks spookily similar to a photo of me at the same age.
Blushing Books: Liddell and Dodgson lived during the Victorian era, which is the setting for two of your most popular novellas, Childebride Island and The Harlot Bride. Is there something in particular about the Victorian era that appeals to you?
Alice Liddell: I love the Victorian era as a setting for all sorts of stories. Like many of our readers, I grew up reading Victorian literature and I love the language. I’ve also read probably all of the Victorian erotic memoirs. The great advantage of setting a spanking story in Victorian times is that it helps make your story believable.
Blushing Books: Because we already have it in our minds that girls then really were spanked by governesses and maids actually were birched by their employers?
Alice Liddell: Exactly. The stories I write are fantasies but I have to pull the reader in and make her or him believe that the scene I’m describing could really happen. The last thing I want the reader to think is, ‘Hey, he couldn’t really get away with that!” or “Come on, she would never let him do that to her!’ Setting a story in a socially conservative era is a device that helps establish that your character is subject to physical punishment.
Blushing Books: The 1950s in the United States would be another example of a socially conservative era.
Alice Liddell: Yes. And that’s why it’s another popular setting for spanking stories. I don’t write stories set in the fifties but I understand why others do. As an author, you have to create a setting in which a character can be spanked and no one will come charging in to stop it. The society around the character, or at least in her immediate environment, has to condone spanking.
Blushing Books: Some authors do that by creating a whole fantasy world, perhaps on another planet.
Alice Liddell: Yes they do. I personally prefer to stay on Earth, but I am very conscious of the need to set up one character with very clear authority over another. In A Teacher’s Dispatch from Japan, I used a boarding school to do that. In Childebride Island, in which I created an island where girls are trained to be a very special sort of wife, I used a school environment again, and placed it in a remote location to make the set-up more believable.
Blushing Books: Some of your stories, including Childebride Island, have age-play themes, in which a dominant male or female disciplines a consenting adult who is playing the role of a child. What is the appeal of age play to you as a writer?
Alice Liddell: To be honest, I had never heard of age play until I started writing for Bethany’s Woodshed. Bethany sent me a copy of Carolyn Faulkner’s Little Miss and suggested I try my hand at the genre, probably because she knew I liked to write stories set in Victorian times. Despite no previous exposure to age play, I found the story interesting and exciting. The timing was good in that I had just started branching out in my own reading, moving beyond the domestic and school-discipline stories I grew up on, and was exploring other genres, such as those that use a master-slave relationship to create a power imbalance between characters. As a result, I instantly recognized age play as another yet variant of the dominant-submissive dynamic. I understood it, and I liked having new themes to work with in my stories. But whereas others authors use age-play themes to express love and nurturing, for me it’s a way of exacerbating the power imbalance. And when I use age play, I take out the element of consent. An adult woman may be treated as a child in my stories, but she hasn’t explicitly agreed to it. “Safe Haven” is the only exception. In that story, a college student willing enters into the age-play relationship and finds stability, gratification and love in it.
Blushing Books: That reminds me that you have a reputation for severe writing stories. Do you think it’s deserved?
Alice Liddell: Well, let’s look at that. With the exception of one short story, The After-Hour Examination, (contained in the Decade of Discipline anthology) I don’t work in themes associated with BDSM, such as piercing or branding or severe whippings. In fact, I stay pretty much within the boundaries of traditional spanking stories, employing hand-spankings, paddling and the occasional birching. I use corner time and scolding. Even when I do move into more severe elements, such as physical restraint or anal penetration, I try to keep it within the realm of traditional discipline rather than straying into the territory we associate with modern BDSM. So I think the main reason my stories seem severe is that they are so clearly non-consensual.
Blushing Books: That’s true. Of everything you’ve written, I can only think of one short story – A Gift to Remember – that is consensual. Do you prefer to write non-consensual stories?
Alice Liddell: I absolutely do. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it doesn’t work if the woman’s got the man wrapped around her finger even as he’s spanking her. His power over her has to be absolute, and it’s his unflinching willingness and ability to exercise that power that gets me hot. He may seem cruel, and she may fight her treatment, but deep down it is exactly what she wants and needs. Readers who like my stories understand that.
Blushing Books: Can you tell us something about yourself?
Alice Liddell: Like a lot of our readers, I’m a middle-aged married woman with children. I live a very normal life that revolves around work and taking care of my family. I’m in a book group. I go to the gym every day. I also happen to live outside of the United States, and have for years.
Blushing Books: You’ve lived more than a dozen years in Asia. Has that influenced your writing?
Alice Liddell: It made me want to set spanking stories in places other than the United States and England, which is where almost all stories written in English are set. To date, I’ve published stories set in Japan (A Teacher’s Dispatch from Japan), Holland (The Sea Pilot’s Daughter, which is part of my new Decade of Discipline anthology) and China (Number One Spanking for Number Three Wife, also in the anthology). I’m working now on a novel-length story (Straits Academy) which is set in Singapore in the 1920s when it was still a British colony. Living in Asia, where most people are very concerned about how they appear to other people, has also made me more aware of the shame factor in spanking stories.
Blushing Books: Is that why your stories often include punishments administered in front of other people?
Alice Liddell: Yes. The presence of a third party or witness makes the punishment much more embarrassing and shameful. I started thinking carefully about shame after moving to Asia, but shame is very much part of our Western spanking experience, too. That’s why pants get pulled down for spankings and why girls get sent to the corner to stand with their spanked bottom on display. My mother used to scold me by saying, “Shame on you!” Shame makes the punishment harder and motivates the penitent to behave next time
Blushing Books: Some readers seem to be uncomfortable with the public punishments in your stories.
Alice Liddell: I suspect it’s harder for some readers to accept the presence of a third party when it’s a husband punishing a wife rather than, say, a headmaster chastising a student. Some readers prefer to have matters between husband and wife kept private. But for me, the humiliation factor is part of what makes a story hot. And let’s remember that what I write is fantasy: I wrote The Harlot Bride with Lucy subject to spankings in front of the household staff, but I wouldn’t really like to live like that! (Well, maybe just a little!)
But seriously, I do understand why some readers have trouble with the non-consensual nature of my stories and my harsher scenes. I understand because I have struggled greatly over the years with the same issue, trying to reconcile my strong, independent nature with my wildly submissive desires. It took me years to accept that my fantasies are just fantasies, and I don’t need to worry about what they mean or feel guilty about them. I do not in any way condone violence, nor would I ever want a man to do something to a woman without her consent. What I write is intended as fantasy and entertainment. I’d like to think it reassures readers that other people share the same sort of fantasies and desires.
Blushing Books: When writing your scenes, how do you gauge what will and won’t appeal to readers?
Alice Liddell: Readers of erotic literature, and especially spanking stories, tend to have clearly defined likes and dislikes that are highly personal. I once got an email from a reader who loves when the word “hiney” is used in a story while “ass” is such a turn off that she’ll throw out any book that uses it. What I’m saying is that it’s impossible to deliver a book that caters exactly to all customers. Fortunately, most readers have some flexibility: if they get a story that pushes, say, 8 out of 10 of their buttons, they’ll overlook the elements they don’t like. My best advice is to read the description of a story carefully before you buy it. I work very hard to make sure mine are accurate.
Blushing Books: As you know, Blushing Books recently unveiled a trailer for The Harlot Bride, and it’s really attracting viewers. The ending of that book seems to hint at a sequel. Will we be hearing more about the adventures of Lucy as she continues her new life with Lord Tazewell?
Alice Liddell: I love the trailer, thank you. And I would like to write a sequel to The Harlot Bride, and Childebride Island, too. I wish I could promise that they’ll be out soon, but I’m the world’s slowest writer and go through at least a dozen drafts and rewrites before I finish a book. So nothing happens fast.
Blushing Books: But you are working on something, right? Do you have any projects you’d like to preview for your fans?
Alice Liddell: Right now, I’m actively working on Straits Academy, which I’d like to finish by summer. That will be a full-length novel or novella, and is something new for me because it’s a mystery, but of course with lots of spanking and some age-play elements. And it’s set in a girls’ school, so much of the discipline is administered by women. But there is a male lead, and romance, and I’m expecting a happy ending for this story. I’d also like to finish Sea Pilot’s Daughter, the story set in Holland. It’s quite a bit gentler than my other stories, and is definitely a romance.