Is it contemporary romance? Is it erotic romance? Is it erotica? Who better to ask than the author herself? Anne, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. There are few authors who write romantic erotica or whatever you would call it—what would you call it? In it, the trajectory taken by its lovers Rachel and Ben is limned by sex. Their relationship moves from a very unusual one-night stand to a love affair for the ages and every step is illustrated by how they come together physically.
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Erotic romance? Contemporary romance with erotic elements? Hi, Dabney! I call Uncommon Passion erotic romance. My very first editor, Meghan Conrad, helped me clarify the difference years ago when she rejected a story idea. Through discussing to her about it I realized that, for me, a romance novel is an emotional journey with sexual consequences. The characters will have sex, usually at key turning points in the plot, to increase the conflict and heighten their emotional connection.
An erotic romance is a sexual journey with emotional consequences. The characters are on some kind of sexual journey — virgin to experienced is a favorite of mine — and at key turning points in the story, they feel something for the other character. The emotions complicate the conflict, rather than the sex complicating the conflicts.
Other than Rachel, do you have any virgin heroines? Otherwise, I do tend to write at the opposite end of the spectrum. To paraphrase an INXS song, they know what they want, and where it goes. Thea — Breath on Embers was erotic romance — was just flat-out using sex like she used music, as a way to turn the dial up to eleven and drown out her grief.
Again, YMMV. Do you think readers are more likely to define writing as erotica if it explores non-traditional relationship? Breath on Embers seems more likely to me to be labeled as erotica because it has a threesome scene. Am I off-base in thinking that?
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In my mind everything I write falls in the erotic romance category, but others may see it differently. One of the many joys of writing in this genre is that sex, love, relationships, etc. I guess I was thinking more in terms of publishing rather than my own definition. Hmmm… my definition as a writer is probably different from how readers view the book. For me, the three are distinct, each with its own emotional impact.
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How do you see them as a writer? Is one easier to write about than another? The genre packs such a wallop because each component is a powerful component of what it means to be human. Sex can be the most intimate thing you do with another human being, or it can be utterly meaningless…or worse, something a character uses as a shield. And romance…watching characters go through the mating dance, preening and fluffing their plumage and offering tokens is endlessly fascinating.
The romance elements usually blow up in some way or another. It seems so simple, right?
Take a girl to an open mic night he already knows she enjoys. He brings her flowers — a nice touch…but then the rose gets crushed by the naked blonde in his bed. Hilarious stuff. A friend of mine always wanted to write a book of deliberately bad erotica. She gave me some great examples, too.
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I wish she'd do it, especially now it's become so popular. I have read a few romance novels and I've noticed that the heroine is always a shy bookworm who is self-conscious about her body because either a her chest is too big or b she is too petite and boyish. Romance writers Do we think these are the only people that read these novels?
Great post, Ken! Those passages truly made me cringe. But her hand on his throbbing manhood soon pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. Hi Carol! Hope, haven't read 50 Shades. I've read just enough 3 paragraphs to know it's not erotic and it's not for me. Sounds like a 14 year old girl wrote it - a dumb one. I pull no punches. I do kink so I know the world. It's pretty gritty at times but always consensual. My favorite erotica line is from an old Johnny Carson skit where they had audience members and probably some of their writers write some lines: "I've never done this before, she said as she undid the buttons on his shirt with her tongue.
More than a decade ago, romance writer Catherine Coulter was doing workshops where she read examples of poorly written sex scenes. She told participants that if they couldn't imagine reading the scene out loud, then the work needed to be revised. I always thought the workshop was also an indirect message to Silhouette and Harlequin editors to do a better job. Johnny Walker -- For a book with bad sex scenes and suburban mayhem, get a copy of Naked Came the Stranger.
It was a hoax book where a group of people wrote the chapters, then one person fronted as the author "Penelope Ashe. Sorta like sitting here today watching the newsreel footage of The Hindenburg Disaster with the breathless horrified "Oh the humanity!! Ken: If you think Updike had it tough and your example was the best he could muster , imagine the big-ass headache Shakespeare must have been going thru back in the day. Jill Pinnella Corso A lot of romance heroines are readers, but I wouldn't say bookworms dominate the genre.
Jayne Krentz is a former librarian and does like smart readers for heroines.
She also likes women who have professional competency. There are certain situations that are often used as a plot basis, so lots of romances are about two people thrown together because they're competing guardians for children, or co-workers although generally the woman is an office worker, not a boss , or a one-night stand leads to pregnancy, or some crisis links the characters together a favorite ploy for many, including Rachel Lee and Stephanie Laurens.
The beautiful body that the heroine doesn't know she has is a recurring theme, but I don't think it dominates the genre. It seems more common in the low-end books. While beauty is a given for the heroine, the old Silhouette Intimate Moments line novels had a more representative cross-section of American women as heroines, for instance. There is wide variation in character types in romances, from virgin heroines and a few heroes to experienced heroines and heroes.
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The one characteristic that seems common to them is that they are good at what they do, whether it is caring for children, being loyal to their families, or working. Carole Mortimer is one notable exception. She does seem to have a lot of women in offices who aren't good at office work, but they are portrayed as having much more emotional IQ than the heroes they are matched with.