Monday, December 10, 2007

The Making of An Erotic Romance Author

In my formative years, I was as naïve and innocent as can be imagined. I knew nothing about sexuality, at least until I discovered some hidden books in my parents’ house and took a look, with my best friend, at her parents’ copy of "The Joy of Sex". I wrote about this in my very first attempt at an erotic/coming-of-age story, and just for fun, I’ve posted a little of it here:

"Giggling, she promises to come right back, and runs out of the room. In an couple of minutes she's back, pulls a book out from under the loose pajama top. The Joy of Sex.

I'm disappointed. A lot of hairy men and droopy women with saggy stomachs and description of a multitude of positions. I suppose the bodies are supposed to represent reality and not an idealized person, but if I wanted reality I'd buy myself a pair of binoculars and scan the windows of my neighborhood. Books are an escape, I believe.
Anne sighs. "I want to have a boyfriend this summer."
"You want sex?"
"I don't know if I'd go that far. I think we should both meet guys."

It's not a boyfriend that I want, but something physical that I don't completely understand. Something to satisfy my restlessness, the ache within me. Someone on which to release the energy that builds up in me at times, until I feel like screaming and crushing something with my bare hands."

I’m writing erotic romance because it always intrigued me how sometimes men and women can be physically intimate, while not even willing to have a conversation. It intrigues me how the physical part of sex—the caressing, cuddling, touching—gives a sense of intimacy that maybe just isn’t there. And that fascinated me about the role sex plays in romance. I couldn’t see how you could write romance without writing the sex. Getting naked with someone, exploring them, experiencing what you’re feeling (or not), what he’s feeling—what could be more critical to love and a relationship? I wanted to peek behind the bedroom door, because, back when I was a teenager who didn’t know anything, I needed to figure this relationship stuff out.

In my books Blood Red and Blood Rose, I explored male/male relationships. I read stories written by men and found it intriguing that, as Pam mentioned on Friday, it is human nature to wonder about love and to wonder about whether he’s really into you (whether you are a he or she) and vice versa. I remember reading a story in an old-fashioned "confession" magazine. In this confession, a group of eighteen-year-olds set up house together—there are three or four couples. And pretty soon there are jealousies flaring and someone’s boyfriend fancies someone else, and people are going to bed with each other because they’ve just had their heart broken by someone else. I write menage a trois stories for my vampire series, and wonder, would it really work? People do live in successful relationships involving more than one partner. What intrigues me so much as a writer is the process of making that work.

As I was stretching my writing wings and taking that journey to learn about voice and story-telling, I took a fiction writing course at my local university with author Tom Henighan. Tom who looked at my early short stories and told me to write about what is really important to people. Their sex lives was one of the things he mentioned. And I though, yeah, that’s why I was sneaking books out of the bookcase—in the hope that I would learn about life. Maybe I should go there too.

And so an erotic romance author was born.
(Excerpt from "Brash", WIP by Sharon Page ©2007)


Pam Rosenthal said...

One of the classic and imo important backstories of hmmm, maybe the last 2-300 years (or maybe much longer) is the hidden bravery of girls, the curiosity about sex. I loved your early story snippet, Sharon. It's sort of one of my secret ambitions for girl babysitters to find my books.

Jane said...

My friend bought an old copy of "Joy of Sex" at a flea market. I remember being so disappointed that the people were not attractive and very hairy. I think the book came out in the '70's, I'm not sure exactly when. I wonder if the current sex books are more erotic. I see them for sale all the time in book clubs. The bodies on the cover are ripped and toned.

Celia May Hart said...

And don't forget "photoshopped", Jane, although I haven't really looked either.

Ok, Sharon, I do have a question for you -- I baulked at changing one of my non-erotic romances into an erotic one, because I couldn't figure out how to get them into bed together. They don't trust each other. I could make her more confident sexually, but the hero has had that blasted from him. Did I mention they don't trust each other?

So how do you get two characters into bed who don't like each other, without one of them paying for it?

I can do the "instant attraction", the "making a deal" getting togethers work, but I'm stuck on this dislike thing. (And yes, in the non-erotic version, they eventually end up in bed, because the issues are all cleared up between them).


Kate Pearce said...

very interesting post and I think you're right-some of us write to explore those deeply interesting contradictions between sex and love and lust etc etc, well I know I do-and having read some of your work, I know you do too!

Sharon Page said...

I've been acquiring intriguing sex books when they go on sale--usually lots of remaindering after Valentine's day, and they are definitely packaged much sexier. I do wish I had the legs that are on the cover of my copy of "Great Sex for Moms."

And having just had my author photo done, I've seen the amazing things Photoshop can do. My photographer pointed out that everything in magazines is touched up.

Sharon Page said...

That's an excellent question, Celia!

If you want sexy without them having sex, they can be surrounded by sex but aren't doing it themselves, i.e. they are in a brothel, looking at erotic art, or reading erotica. So there's tension and heat, but frustration on their parts.

But if you definitely want them to get into bed...
Do they not like each other because they don't trust each other? I think it's possible to be hugely physically attracted to someone you don't trust. That could, in fact, be a big part of the excitement.
It can be done with them actually paying for it if both parties don't violate the implied trust of going to bed. But there will be lots of emotional tension, stress, and worry in the aftermath. In that early book my heroine does bed someone she doesn't like, and they are sardonic with each other the entire time. Why does she do? Physical attraction but also the sense of companionship that bedding him brings.
So people who don't trust could actually go to bed quickly, to replace the emotional relationship they are too afraid to have. I think in erotic romance, the bedding comes quickly, but the trust, then love, is what builds slowly.
If each character needs intimacy but is afraid to love, this could be a compelling reason for them to have sex. I think its very powerful to have characters find pleasure together and then think--but I hate this person.

And this story sounds really interesting.