Monday, September 10, 2007

The Power of Sex Talk

First, I have some thrilling news to announce. Last week, I had two sales to publishers! I will be writing a sequel to Blood Rose, and wrapping up my erotic vampire series by asking the question: Can the most dangerous vampires be redeemed by love?
And I sold on auction to Bantam/Dell in a two book deal for regency historical romance. These will be mass market, which is also really exciting for me.

Last night I saw myself on Canadian National t.v.—back in March, I taped a game show called "Test the Nation—Watch Your Language". I had a brief sound bite interview. The host asked me, "What makes a romance erotic?" Well, we were talking about language, so I pointed out that the language is frank, we don’t use euphemisms, and the stories are hot. It’s a family network and the show had an airtime of 8:00 p.m. Also, I knew the network wanted schoolchildren to watch the show. So in my answer, I had to walk a fine line. Capturing the "erotic" in erotic romance is far more complicated than blunt language, and here’s why:

I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, and our local chapter met yesterday for a wonderful workshop given by USA Today Bestseller Nancy Warren (Kensington Brava and Harlequin). She gave two excellent talks on sexual tension and on using screenwriting tips for dialogue. Nancy also quoted the scriptwriter of the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice who, when reading the book, was amazed by the blazing sexuality on every page. I watched the series on DVD again this weekend, and was impressed with how the writer portrayed that—in the "unspoken dialogue", as my husband termed it. The facial expressions revealed what the characters did not even quite understand themselves—they "fancied the pants off each other" as Nancy Warren put it. So if a story without explicit sex can be blazingly sexual, there’s obviously a lot more to it!

If the unspoken dialogue is so powerful, what can lovers actually say to each other that is more powerful than that? In my current WIP, my heroine, after years of feeling like a coward in her marriage to an abusive older husband, is widowed and meets the hero, with whom she is angry enough to be blunt. And honest. As my hero puts it—he’s never met a woman who wielded honesty with such brutality. And that’s the power of sexual banter to me—it’s those moments when desire strips away sense, and vulnerability becomes less important than joining and pleasure, and honesty is what comes out of our mouths.

Just for fun, I’ve picked out some of my favorite bits of fun sexual banter from my stories:
From Blood Rose:
"So you wouldn’t spank me in punishment."
"You are a grown man, Mr. Swift."
"Would you spank me in fun?"
A blush. He’d expected her to blush, to be a little embarrassed. Instead, Serena walked calmly to the edge of the bed and picked up the whip. She curled her fingers around the grip, weighing it. "If I were to spank your bottom, Mr. Swift, I would be tempted to do it with the flat of my hand."

From Sin:
"You plan to walk in public completely bare beneath your cloak?"
"No one would know but you," she protested.
Agony flashed across his handsome features, twisting his sensual mouth. "God, and that’s the bloody magic of it, isn’t it?"

The opening line of Black Silk (Coming April 2008):
"You spend a night allowing a woman to drip molten wax on your chest, and afterward everyone casts you as the villain."

Would other Crumpets like to share some of their favorite banter? Or if you have a favorite snippet from a beloved book, please share!


Jane Lockwood said...

Wow, congrats, Sharon, what a week! Wonderful news on the new sales.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Chiming in with the congrats. And I like your banter, which I believe follows the rules of banter quite perfectly -- expressing the lust while also sharing the understanding of it. For me what's romantic is a couple who can play both sides of the body-mind game together.

Sharon Page said...

Thanks Jane and Pam!

Re banter--as part of Nancy Warren's workshop she wanted to show a clip of the movie Sabrina, a scene where Sabrina waits at the tennis court. Nancy pointed out how perfect the setting was, as tennis is a game, and one that involves hitting the ball back and forth--as is banter.

Pam Rosenthal said...

In the "Alien 3" scene that I liked so much, Clemens points out to Ripley (post sex) that he knows perfectly well that she was distracting him from finding out what he wanted to know about her motivations. "In the nicest possible way, of course," he adds. A favorite phrase of mine. I love understatement. And I also love post-sex talk. I hate grunting Neanderthals trying to put the heroine "in her place," though I can't think of any such dialogue right now.

Other things I hate are:

1. heroes' rhapsodizing about the heroine's only just revealed naked beauty before the obligatory pre-marriage defloration in the penultimate chapter.

2. heroines' tonedeaf shellshocked responses to item 1 above "I. Never. Knew. It. Could. Be. Like. That."

3. ANY of those throbbing hero's declarations that go, "I love you COMMA HEROINE's FIRST NAME." As tho to show what a big effort it is for him to admit it.

4. Especially when item 3 above is accompanied by an audience of the hero's buddies, or perhaps all the ton within miles of London at the time, who respond by applauding.

(disclaimer: I have done item 3 myself, but I tried to put a twist onto it, like in Almost a Gentleman, where David tells Phoebe, "I love you, Phoebe Browne," when both of them and the reader know it's not her real name.)

Kate Pearce said...

Congratulations Sharon! I'll even forgive you for stealing my favorite picture :)

Pam, I now have to go and rewrite my entire book because I'm sure I have all those things you mentioned in there somewhere!

Pam Rosenthal said...

Oh gosh, I was afraid of that. But somehow I bet you don't, Kate. And then there's always the case of Janet Mullany, distant relation of one of us, who wrote rather the most excessively charming book, The Rules of Gentility, by taking a deep breath and allowing herself to be seduced by every Regency cliche she could think of. Actually, it was sort of what I did in Carrie's Story as well. Because isn't the implicit story always that we and our readers are infinitely seduce-able by the oldest lines in the book, quite as Jonathan has it in the Carrie books:

And you'll put up with the trite details, the silly redundancy of what we'll do, because I'll be showing you ways to capture that moment, again and again and again. I'll give it narrative shape, I'll keep it going, and I'll figure out the particulars as we go along... And I'll stay ahead of you. You won't have to worry about that.

Isn't that always what an erotic writer is promising her readers?

Jane Lockwood said...

Lovely quote from Carrie's Story, Pam.

I do feel compelled to point out that our distant relative was guilty as charged (#3 and 4) in Dedication. But at least she had the decency to end the book right there and then rather than have a group sentimental wallow with all characters involved (while leaving a few spares over for sequels).