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Polly Frost author of Deep Inside

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few good reading tips. Polly Frost’s book of 10 short stories, Deep Inside, published by Tor, is in the supernatural erotica genre, but it is also satire. In this interview, Polly Frost describes her varied writing career, from writing humor for The New Yorker, to taking a stage show on the road, and co-producing a webseries. Also, if you’re interested in learning to write interesting stories, there are a lot of good writing tips in this interview, plus some solid reading tips.

In addition to her book of short stories, Deep Inside, Polly Frost has co-written and –produced the audio play “Sex Scenes”, which featured 31 actors; written and performed live readings of her stories with other actors, at the Cornelia Street Café in New York; written and toured the 17-episode show “Sex Scenes”; and co-created a webseries called The Fold, which debuts on August 4.

This interview would probably be of particular interest to people learning to write, because Polly Frost breaks down the three-act structure of one of her stories, and gives some excellent tips on writing short stories. So for an insight into the inspiring life of a writer with a real can-do attitude, read on.

READERSVOICE.COM: You were recording an audio play recently, with 31 actors, and which went for 14 hours. What was that about?

POLLY FROST: We’re still on the home stretch with that project! It’s called “Sex Scenes,” and it’s a great big thing that I co-wrote with my husband, Ray Sawhill. It’s a real audio play. It’s not an audio book with one actor reading it. It’s acted out, an audio version of a season of an HBO series. There are 17 episodes in “Sex Scenes.”

To explain: Back in 2005 we had a wonderful idea — to tell the story of a young woman film director who’s determined to make an arty and erotic mainstream movie in today’s prissy corporate movie environment. We also had the idea that it would be a blast to do it in the form of an episodic “radio play” that could be read by actors in a casual bar or lounge setting.

No staged acting, just actors on stools in front of mics, but with the actors really inhabiting their characters. So that’s what we did. We started writing episodes, working with actors, and lining up dates at bars and lounges.

Man, that was a lot of work. But it was incredibly fun too. What an adventure. We got to know many different venues around town, worked with a lot of different actors, and developed nice relationships with some regular attendees. Eventually we sort of settled in as a semi-regular attraction at the wonderful Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village.

We put on “Sex Scenes” there once a month for a couple of years. Eventually I even took “Sex Scenes” out on the road. So we’ve been working on “Sex Scenes” for three years.

When we finally rounded the story off, the question arose: What to do with all that material we wrote? We thought about publishing it as a book, or as a collection of theater pieces. But it seemed to us that the performances had been such a big part of the experience that they were key. We started thinking about audio and after looking into it, we finally decided to produce our own audio version of “Sex Scenes.” We’re nearly finished producing it as an audio play — make that audio saga!

We’re at the final mixing and sound effects stage now. We’ve been working at World Wide Audio in Tribeca with many of the actors we put the shows on with, and technically we’re in the hands of a couple of young, enthusiastic and hardworking audio engineers, Casey Zanowic and Dan Cioffi, who we’d love to work with again.

Georgia Hilton, who owns World Wide is a genius sound technician. We couldn’t have done it without the actors and the sound engineers!

Ray and I are both very high on audio, by the way. We marvel that more writers aren’t producing audio of their writing. What a great opportunity, and what a great medium.

RV: Can you give a bit of advice about how you structure a plot to keep interest up over that long a period?

PF: I’m thrilled you dared to mention the word “plot”! Ray and I love plots, stories, and hooks, and a big part of the fun of creating “Sex Scenes” was coming up with a lot of them. Because Sex Scenes is episodic — it’s really like a season of an HBO or Showtime series — we made a point of working out an overall structure, structures for each separate episode, and arcs for each one of the major characters. We built “Sex Scenes” as though it was a first season of a series show.

The other thing the two of us are maniacs about is the relationship between character and story. Action for its own sake can be a blast, of course. But we both like it best when character, action, and story work together organically. So the first thing for us is coming up with living/breathing, 3D characters and interesting and provocative situations and predicaments.

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