'Why did I write erotica? Because of sexual drought!' says Linda Jaivin, scholar extraordinaire and the author best known for her first novel Eat Me, a comic erotica book about four women's sexual adventures. In the title piece, a young woman finds a fig as an unlikely toy at a supermarket. 'I'm only half-joking,' says Jaivin. 'Well, I wrote the book to amuse myself because I couldn't find the sort of erotica I liked. I wanted a female perspective.' Jaivin demands attention with her flaming hair, red bangles, double scarves and above all, her vibrancy. A witty and engaging conservationalist, she listens attentively, her head tipping back slightly, and she laughs readily, often at her own expense. At 53, she is as live a wire as she has always been. Eat Me's publication in 1995 aroused plenty of debate: some, feminists included, found the explicit and sometimes bizarre sex scenes outrageous because they blurred the line between pornography and erotica. These, of course, were pre-Sex and the City days. Eat Me attained cult status and Jaivin, talking at the Bookworm, a pub, library and the epicentre of the literary scene in Beijing, says of it now: 'It celebrates sex and gives women permission to revel in their own sexual fantasies.' Jaivin, who is now based in Sydney, lived in Beijing in the 1980s when she was China correspondent for Asiaweek magazine. She was born in a small town in Connecticut in the US to a Jewish family. While studying Asian history at Brown University in Rhode Island she became fascinated by Chinese culture. After graduating she moved to Taiwan to study Mandarin and almost a decade later followed her husband at the time, sinologist Geremie Barme, to Australia. Her latest book, A Most Immoral Woman, is a fictionalised account of the affair between two real characters: Australian George Ernest Morrison, Beijing correspondent for The Times of London and free-spirited American heiress Mae Ruth Perkins, whose relationship coincided with the Russo-Japanese war at the turn of the 20th century. The novel combines Jaivin's intense interests in sex and China. It took Jaivin several years to delve through Morrison's diaries at Sydney's Mitchell Library to piece together a picture of a complicated man who was widely recognised in his time. Although the protagonist of the novel takes pride in his sexual conquests he judges Perkins 'a most immoral woman'. 'Men tend to judge women's morality by their sexual behaviour,' says Jaivin. 'I find Perkins fascinating: she doesn't seem to care about anything - money, power, a stable relationship - but her own pleasure.' The titular heroine, with her insatiable sexual appetite, may reflect the women in Eat Me. For an historical erotica tale, however, A Most Immoral Woman is rather mild. The affair starts where the Great Wall meets the sea. Jaivin tells us that 'Perkins' soft mouth tasted of minted chocolate' but the scene closes, too quickly perhaps, with the observation that 'her hands were as cunning as her kisses'. 'Maybe it's a question of some shyness around the great man. I couldn't bring myself to describe ...' - she giggles - 'you know, his gear!' Though not all are erotica, Jaivin's six novels contain saucy details in various degrees. She doesn't wish to be labelled solely an erotic writer. 'I write different genres, but fiction is my passion,' she says. With Barme she co-edited the acclaimed New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices, but success as a creative writer didn't come easily. Before Eat Me made a splash she had written three unpublished novels. Last year, a writer's residency with the Bookworm brought Jaivin back to Beijing and re-connected her with China. Presently she is writing, in Chinese, a modern Beijing opera, an art form that she raves about. Thanks to today's celebrity-driven culture authors often find themselves the subject of public interest. Asked whether Eat Me relates anything she hasn't tried, Jaivin says: 'I have no interest in discussing my sex life in public. Readers don't have to know about that to enjoy my work. 'As I've grown older I've become more sexually adventurous. But you don't need to know the details,' she adds with a wink. Lijia Zhang is the author of the memoir Socialism is Great!