“Her nipples hardened like twin thread 42 millimetre drywall screws,” laughs Nina Beyers.
“I love ‘expose me like the brick work in the living room’ or ‘open me up like the floor plan’,” snorts Tom Espezel.
“Shut up and ruin my structural integrity, you naughty cowboy builders,” Nina chips in again.
The pair are revisiting their favourite lines from their scorching hot new project for mortgage broker Habito. The Road to Completion is an erotic novel inspired by the process of buying a house – inspired by the insight that 10% of couples lose their sexy spark as they go through the mortgage application process.
But the book isn’t just an ode to the joy of sex, it’s also an example of the joy of craft. To pen the tale, Nina and Tom recruited a master in the field – Rocky Flintstone, the writer behind the self-published series of middle management erotica Belinda Blinked and the mysterious inspiration behind the hit podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno.
“We are massive fans so it was kind of a dream come true when he said yes and that he loved the idea,” says Nina. “He was so open to collaborating. He had the perfect tone, because there is quite a lot of seedy, quite intense erotica out there, but he brings humour into it. it was really important for us to kind of have that like balance of humour and filth.”
Rocky’s prose is infamous for the elaborate-yet-mundane and anatomically questionable metaphors. In his tales of the assertive businesswoman Belinda, breasts hang ‘like pomegranates’ and nipples become “as large as the three-inch rivets which had held the hull of the fateful Titanic together”.
Working with such a wordsmith was an education in copy. The first lesson, was speed. “He was fast. I don't know if that's because he works fast but he'd be like, ‘yeah, cool, so I've written five chapters’. There was obviously like a lot of back and forth, but he just found it really exciting to have people paying him to write filthy things.”
The next lesson was about finding the right tone, and that words and phrases that provoke laughter in an audio context, buoyed on by the nuances of cadence can fall flat on the written page.
“We had to find the line, because what we found out about podcasts is that it is really fun but the fact that they're all talking and having a laugh together makes up for a lot of the really smutty stuff,” says Tom. “Whereas we've figured out like there were some lines that, when there’s no one to laugh at the joke, can read as really brutal.”
That idea of hitting just the right tone, being cheeky but not gratuitous also influenced the art direction. In 2019, for a similarly raunchy project, the team recruited Israeli illustrator Noma Bar to create a house buying Kama Sutra for Habito
. This year, for the Road to Completion, the rounded, distorted pop of artist Sebastian Schwamm helped bring Rocky’s words to life.
“We didn't want anything too crude, and we didn't want anything too childlike either. We wanted the human to come through. We also didn't want to Noma Bar, so we wanted to kind of have a step on from that. And we just thought Sebastian's work ticked all those boxes. His character design is so interesting like all the different proportions,” explains Nina.
The book has been published in a hard copy and is also for sale on Kindle. For the hard copy, there was lots of fun to be had playing about with the page layouts and inserting little visual gags – the barcode number is 696969, snarf, snarf. But Nina also had to wrestle with the challenges of laying out a picture book for the Kindle which, it turns out, is pretty designer unfriendly.
Of course, it’s all very well having a great idea and a finely tuned sense of craftsmanship, but if you don’t have a client that buys into it, then it’s likely that you well end up frustrated and unfulfilled. The pair are full of praise for Habito’s enthusiasm and understanding of what creativity has and can do for their brand and business.
In the end the book has not only continued Habito’s mission to shake up the mortgage category, it has also challenged the conventions of the Erotica genre. When the book when on sale on Amazon, it rocketed up the platforms Erotica chart and the playful, pop art illustrations and stylish typography stood out against the more conventional design options.
“We screenshot it amongst all the others and you’re right, there are a lot of six packs and Vaseline-lensed photography,” laughs Nina.
Perhaps, though, the biggest lesson that the pair have learned is about the joy of creativity for creativity’s sake. Rocky is someone who writes for the pleasure of it – something that can often be missed in the pressurised world of advertising and marketing.
“Finding the joy in something, usually, will lead to something good. I mean, it’s same with coming up with ideas, you can have an idea that works but if you don't enjoy working on it, it takes twice as long. And, usually, don't get as much out of it. Whereas, if there's an idea that you're excited about and it just flows then you know you're on the right track. I guess he's made a niche in essentially writing bad porn in a smart and hilarious way. I think, you know, once you find something that is really fun and just kind of gets you going, it will usually lead to something good.”
The ‘Road to Completion’ is now available to read for free on Habito’s website or to purchase from the Amazon Kindle store, with all proceeds donated to the Terrence Higgins Trust supporting their important work in HIV and sexual health.