Why Erotic Romance?


I’ve seen some of the recent buzz in reader and writer circles about the erotic content of Romances and how the different heat levels are (or should be) marketed.  Don’t leave!  I wouldn’t dip even my little toe into those piranha-infested waters even if I did believe explicit content has anything to do with the quality of a story.  The only pot I like stirring anymore is the fictional kind. But, I read stories of all heat levels and the conversation has gotten me pondering. Like Flannery O’Connor said:  “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

I’ve always loved the idea that magic could be real, that if you turn over a rock or turn a corner you could find something amazing that would change your life forever.  For me as a reader, heat level is less important than magic (both literal and figurative).

I’ve written in a few genres in the past *cough* few years, under three names and for many different reasons.  I’ve written articles on sports and court decisions to pay bills, literary short stories to experiment with different ways of showing character, and more than one manuscript started out with the lofty goal of writing The Great American Novel.  Even though one school of thought insists that sex sells, period, nothing I sold before 2012 had any sex in it whatsoever.  All the steamy stories (long and short) were turned down flat by agents and publishers of all sizes and specialties across the country—even the ones who insisted they enjoyed my writing and would like to see something “more marketable” in the future.

For me, writing about the entire relationship between two (or more!) people is fun and reading about it is even more fun (not to mention easier).  I’d written about love, and some of my characters got their HEA/HFNs, but I hadn’t written a Romance before last August.  I tried once or twice but my characters revolted because I also tried to make them all straight.  But, that’s a post for another time . . . maybe June.

By the time I made it halfway through the draft of Comfort and Joy I was hooked.  Even though it deals with a pretty heavy subject (long-term emotional recovery from an assault), just knowing the guys were headed for happiness made me happy too.  Once Etopia Press offered to publish it, my conversion to the sexy-side was complete.  Instead of cutting the steamy scenes (which always managed to sneak in somehow), now I’m polishing them.

I wrote two more short novellas last fall and barring any disasters both should be released this summer, so it’s pretty safe to say I’m happy with my decision to follow my heart (yes, my heart) and continue writing Erotic Romance.  In fact, I’ve been working with one of my editors this weekend on the 9/June release (Jake’s story, hence the gorgeous trumpet pic), working on the blurb for the other summer release (Directing Traffic, formerly known as Sea Change), and polishing up a longer story for submission (CS).  As if that wasn’t enough to make studying difficult, my PNR guys sense blood in the water now that CS is almost done and their conversation off in the corner is getting louder.

What do you think?  Does the heat level in a Romance have any bearing on your decision to read it?  Would you ever be upset if a blurb or other marketing gave the wrong impression of a story’s heat rating?  Give me your $0.02 in the comments so I have something juicy to read on my next study break.

photo credit: gilles chiroleu via photopin cc

16 thoughts on “Why Erotic Romance?

  1. Interesting question…if I’m in the mood for something sexy, then yes, the heat level matters. But usually I just want a good story. If there’s hot sex in it, great, but it isn’t necessary. I love urban fantasy, for instance, and my favorite authors are Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton. One has very little erotic content, and the other is dripping with it. But now and then I want something that makes me squirm. 😀

  2. Yes it is interesting. Well done Charley for writing such an interesting post. The heat level on a romance would only affect my decision if there was no heat at all really! After that, so long as it is well written that is what matters to me.

    • I agree, Elaina. If I wanted porn I wouldn’t buy something labelled Romance, I’d buy some porn. I think that’s part of what sparked this conversation in the first place — the blurring of the line between the two.
      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. I didn’t know what erotic romance was until after I had written one. I paid no attention to heat levels and simply wrote the story the way my characters were dying to have me write it.

    I think this is what shines through in most things for me. The character connection. That can be through sex, love or friendship or any combination of the two. In a book like Stephen King’s Misery none of those really exist but it’s a fabulous story.

    The journey people take on the road to intimacy tells a lot about them. I like the long term connection erotic romance lends but grew up reading some of the best erotica writers, Anis Nin, for example and I find those stories appealing since they often give a psychological glimpse behind the sex in the rawest form.

    I couldn’t care less how steamy things get as long as the characters are revealed through the encounters.

  4. Interesting post. I’ve often wondered about the blurred lines between different heat levels –steamy, erotica, porn… I’m completely turned off by stories where the author seems to toss in sex as an embellishment, but it’s not integral to the story.

    I always try to talk to readers in the real world. I’m blessed to know many. And the consensus seems to be that readers skim over the sex unless they bought a book specifically looking for the sex.

    I’m more of a skimmer, lol. I never want to read about the mechanics of sex. But an author with a deft ability can write it beautifully–‘whispering what’s going on instead of shouting it’ focusing on the feelings, and create a stunning sex scene.

    Most important, to me–as a reader, whether the sex is there or not, is how good the story is.

    All just my personal reading preference. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Why Erotic Romance? | Anne Lange

  6. As one of the recent pirahnas can I just defend the discussion of this subject? All the discussions with which I have been involved have been very respectful of everyone’s point of view, both for more carefully targetted marketing and those who advocate a more relaxed process. We have also been respectful of other authors choices. I don’t think I’ve stepped on anyone’s toes by saying that it’s very bad marketing to label a 300 page book with one short sex scene M/M erotica. That’s false advertising – like charging someone for a hazelnut mocha with whipped cream and marshmallows and giving them a small skinny latte. Authors who normally write scorching stories are being caught out by this as well if they decide to write something bit different. Their readers expect the usual hot hot hot and complain bitterly if they don’t get it.

    I’m very glad to see that the debate is continuing.

    • I didn’t mean to imply I thought you were a piranha, Elin! That statement was about my own trepidation over contributing to the discussion, no matter how worthy a topic.

      I have to admit, though, that I was put off by more than one comment on this subject. Most were (basically) respectful, but as an ERom writer I didn’t feel my opinion would be welcome. Everyone needs to vent sometimes, and everyone deserves a safe place to do so. As an erotic author, those discussions really weren’t my place.

      I agree completely about truth in advertising. I don’t see why any publisher would fudge on the content of any book, regardless of the subject. It can’t end well for them, or the reader who buys something they really weren’t looking for.

      Hopefully, the debate will have its intended effect and some practices will change.

      • I sincerely hope so. OALS would have been marketed as erotic romance if I hadn’t put my foot down about it and how ludicrous would that have been?

        Never hesitate to express an opinion, my lovely. It’s absolutely as valid as anyone else’s and another point of view can be very valuable.

        • That would’ve been a disservice to your lovely book, for sure! I thought it was hot, but I lovelovelove UST & enjoyed shipping the hell out of half the cast. Someone else could’ve been disappointed and crossed you & your hunks off their list. Then everybody loses.

          Thanks. 🙂 I’ll keep that in mind.

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