Sunday, April 22, 2007

Balls anyone?

BBC images

The first time I read Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey', I was a naive, imaginative 15 year old attending an English convent school. (rather like Catherine Morland really) Having five sisters who all had an unquenchable thirst for literature, I mentioned the book when I got home. My three older sisters started sniggering. Sister number two quoted this line:

"Such was Catherine Morland at ten. At fifteen, appearances were mending;she began to curl her hair and long for balls."

They kept sniggering and I still didn't understand. It took me quite a few years to work out why something the great Jane wrote might be misconstrued. It took me even longer to write anything that was deliberately erotic myself.

What makes a writer turn to the erotic to push the boundaries of what is considered romantic or acceptable? I know I never meant to find myself on the sharp pointy end of romance. I just slid into it by accident by challenging myself to write the best sex scenes that I could even if they were dark, a little uncomfortable and definitely outside my personal knowledge.

I have a theory that you can't force yourself to write good erotic romance. Just because the market is wanting it, doesn't mean you should write it. My sexy historicals were always a little too dark, too unconventional and not quite right for any publishers (so far, that might change) But I think those qualities made me write better erotica.

What drew you to erotic romance? What did it offer you that steamy romance didn't?
I'm also wondering how the other Crumpets arrived here? Do tell.


Kalen Hughes said...

I just slid into it by accident by challenging myself to write the best sex scenes that I could.

Me too! I had no idea when I was first writing that people would label my "hot" historicals as "erotic", but people did, so I decided to push it just a little further. LOL! I just think "If it was me, what would I do?" and then I rethink the scene, “If this was going to be the BEST SEX EVER, what would happen?” and then I write it. *grin*

Though I think I'm still in the shallow end of the erotic-pond (judging by what I've seen in the Aphrodesia line). My editor, who I share with a few of the crumpets, told me I just wasn’t “filthy” enough for Aphrodesia. LOL! Maybe that should be my tag line: Kalen Hughes, Not Quite ThatFilthy, or Just This Side of Filthy, or Verging on Filthy.

Kate Pearce said...

I'm still waiting for Amazon to deliver my copy of Lord Sin so I'll be able to see just how verging on the filthy you are Ms Kalen!

Pam Rosenthal said...

A very thought-provoking post, Kate. We're in a strange and I think unstable period in the romance biz sex-wise, and it's always easier to judge quantity than quality. It's also profoundly wrong-headed, imo. Quantity matters, but so does what I'd call immanence, a kind of ongoing buzz, even when the characters aren't "having sex yet" or "still."

Oddly, when I first started writing erotica, I always knew that this was what mattered, because back then I was writing to find out what I thought -- and I'm afraid that in some ways (luckily, hopefully, not all ways) I've figured a few things out since then.

But the imperative is to continue asking myself, "do I really think this is sexy and what about this is doing it for me?" That's got to be the point -- or point A, anyway. Point B is "do I know how to express it in words?"

And boy, sometimes it's an awfully long way from point A to point B.

meardaba said...

As a reader I was drawn to erotica because I was tired of the "same old same old" in romances (right before the paranormal boom). I wanted some spice to my story, dammit!

Now I read quite a lot of it (and you're right, people are forcing themselves to write it and failing miserably). Mostly I read it because I'm single, have a healthy sex-drive, and not willing to go trolling for cheap sex. Erotica at least lets me in on other people's fantasies while staying quitely indoors.

Celia May Hart said...

I started writing it in college when I wasn't getting any.

What? It's true.

So it's kind of a hold over from that. Plus, like Kalen, I wrote sex in my "mainstream" stories the way I'd want to experience it if I were the heroine.

That is, I wanted to know everything that happened. Don't close that bedroom door!

Of course, in sweet romance you gotta close the door.

Kalen Hughes said...

Of course, in sweet romance you gotta close the door.

Which is one of the reasons I don't write "sweet", LOL!

Colette Gale said...

I arrived here because 1) I love Bertrice Small and Anne Rice and The Story of O, and 2) I've been really ticked off at the ending of The Phantom of the Opera for so long I had to rewrite it.

I never actually intended to have the book published, or even to submit it...but I mentioned it to my agent, and she wanted to see it, and then she sold it after she read it (admitting that it totally embarrassed her).

Colette Gale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Parker said...

Just as an aside, your post reminded me of a tour guide when I was in Colonial Williamsburg. When describing the owner of a mansion, she said, "He had the largest, most elaborate balls in the county." :)

Jane Lockwood said...

I came to romance reading rather late and was frankly confused by the so-called steamy love scenes, which seemed to me for the most part riddled with cliches and confusion. I blithely wrote the love scenes I wanted to read, accompanied by the cries of you can't do that in a romance! from critique partners. Thus my first book, a Signet Regency had two light-hearted bondage scenes and some toe-sucking and stuff, because my characters were grown-ups who knew what they were doing.

And that was a breakthrough for me--I'd always thought it was a no-brainer that if you were writing about love you'd have the possibility of people having sex, or wanting it, or thinking about doing it. But to make the love scenes appropriate to the characters, setting, mood, and all those other good writer things means that you can't rely on cliches or staying in the reader's comfort zone (or your own).