Why Write: Erotic Romance with Jennah Scott

J.ScottReaders, today we have writer Jennah Scott here to talk about erotic romance! Jennah’s a cross-genre writer, and today she has some great things to say about why people love romance, some of the differences between erotica and erotic romance, and why we all love a good steamy scene in the books we read. Enjoy!

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I’m still pretty new when it comes to the publishing community. I’ve been seriously writing for about three years now. I self-published my first book, Making His Mark, in January and just sold Scrap Metal to Liquid Silver Books. Scrap Metal is a contemporary romance that I wrote with my critique partner and very good friend, Alexi Raymond.

What made you decide to write erotic romance?
It was a challenge. When I originally decided I wanted to pursue a career in writing I started writing YA. All of my characters were older, more along the lines of New Adult, but at the time New Adult still wasn’t accepted. Then I decided to push myself and see if I could write romance. The romance challenge turned into writing erotic romance. I wanted to know if I could bring in the physical act of sex and layer in the emotion that comes along with physical attraction. There is so much vulnerability in opening yourself up to someone like that. I wanted to show that, let my readers experience the joy and complications sex can add to a story. A romance will always have tension, but being able to experience that tension play out to pleasure adds to the development of both the characters and relationship—in my opinion.

What types of stories does erotic romance make possible? Does the addition of the classification “erotica” influence the romances you write?
I think any story idea with the right characters could be erotic romance. Certain genres, like YA, don’t allow for erotic romance, which is fine with me. Personally, I don’t want to read about teenagers getting down and dirty. That should be a time they are exploring, so I’m good keeping it behind doors. Other than that, let the creativity flow. The thing about erotic romance is that the sex enhances the story. It’s not THE story. When it’s THE story then it’s erotica. Big difference. Erotic romance has a plot, character development, and a happily ever after. Writing erotic romance, for me, allows me to write without any restrictions.

What audience do you think erotic romance attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Good question! I’m usually surprised by the people that tell me they like erotic romance. In general though, I think the audience is women in their late twenties and up. The great thing about it is that you can love any genre and find an author that writes erotic romance in that genre. So it’s not limited to contemporary. The audience doesn’t alter my writing. If I’ve got a story I want to write, I write it. More than once I’ve decided to write a story because I couldn’t find one that I wanted to read. For instance, I just finished a story whose main characters are both in the video game development industry. There aren’t a whole lot of nerdy type males in books, so I wrote one.

How does erotic romance affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
It increases the stakes. When you bring that layer into the mix it’s harder to leave and when the characters face problems the heartbreak is greater. Taking that step from a simple relationship to a more physical relationship can be a big deal. Depending on your character and their desires, there is a lot of trust building up. When that’s broken, it hurts. If I’ve written the story well enough, then my audience feels the pain and heartache.

Why do you think people love to read erotic romance?
Because you can let go of all your inhibitions. The characters do. Even if they have worries about what friends, family, etc. thinks they find a way to move past that. I think erotic romance gives readers a chance to let go of the stigma about sex and just enjoy.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
Contemporary romance is my favorite. But I’ll read almost anything. My favorite authors span across multiple genres from paranormal to historical, YA, New Adult, and everything in between. I love contemporary because I can easily relate to the locations, characters, etc. But there is something to be said about a good paranormal or fantasy that takes you into a whole new world you don’t want to leave.

Where can readers track you down?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennah_scott

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorjennahscott

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jennahscott/

Website: http://www.jennahscott.com

Thanks for stopping by, Jennah!

Why Write: Contemporary Romance with Liv Rancourt

Liv #2Today we have the lovely Liv Rancourt here to talk about contemporary romance! She’s been ’round these parts before to discuss the Southern Vampire Mysteries and steampunk (though not at the same time), so I’m always glad to have her back!

Hello, Liv, and welcome back! You’re a familiar face around these parts, but I think we’ll talk about contemporary romance instead of sexy vampires this time.

Thanks so much, Kristin. It’s great to be back, especially because your topic – writing – is something I love so much.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I was always a great reader and love telling stories, and writing down my own stories has been part of a natural progression. I write romance because of the happy endings. If I want messy, complicated drama, I’ll go work at my day job as a nurse practitioner. I also enjoy a good joke, so while my stuff isn’t slapstick romantic comedy, I do try to keep it light. I’d love to be Janet Evanovich when I grow up, you know?

Me, too! She was a big influence on the voice of Mitzy Morgan, one of my protagonists!

What made you decide to write contemporary romance?

Last year I wrote a couple short stories that (gasp!) didn’t involve vampires in any way, and found I had fun trying to work out how people love in the real world. Now I’m easing my way into contemporary novellas and novels. For me, the biggest challenge in contemporary romance is coming up with interesting conflict. I mean, you drop in a vampire, and there’s an automatic life-or-death factor. I find it harder to make the risks compelling when neither of the main characters is a potentially murderous entity and the Big Bad is a cranky boss, not an Evil Genius Who’s Trying To Take Over The World. Challenge is a good thing, though, so I’m sticking with it.

What types of stories does contemporary romance make possible?

By definition, contemporary romance stories are set after 1945. There are a number of standard tropes (friends become lovers; enemies turn into lovers; a couple gets reunited after a long separation; a marriage of necessity becomes something more) that all pose the same basic questions. Are both the heroine and the hero willing to risk opening themselves up to pain by falling in love? And when they do fall in love, do they have what it takes to keep it going, and what are they willing to do to make it work? The fun is in how you dress those ideas up. You can tweak the plot in all kinds of different ways, as long as you get at the heart of it, which is the relationship between the hero and heroine.

What audience do you think contemporary romance attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Hard question, and one I should have a better answer for. In general, romance is growing faster than any other genre in publishing, and contemporary romance is the biggest subgenre of romance. Romance readers come from all across society, and there are enough sub-subgenres in contemporary romance (gazillionaires and the women who love them, hospital/medical stories, vacation love that turns into more) that there’s pretty much something for everyone.

Given that background, I think it’s important to write what you love, because readers can tell if you’re just phoning it in. There are some basic requirements for the genre, like the ending MUST involve a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now, the love story MUST be the main storyline, and the hero CANNOT mix it up with any other woman except the heroine. There’s a safety factor at work here. If a reader chooses a novel with a half-naked guy with six-pack abs on the cover, they have certain expectations. If you vary too far from the standard framework you’ll hear about it (or you won’t because you won’t get published). But there’s a lot of room to color within the lines, and a huge audience for your work.

How does romance affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

The romance is the heart of the story, and while the stakes might not be life-or-death, like in paranormal or urban fantasy, it should feel that way for the characters. They have to be completely invested in the relationship in order for readers to be invested in them. This isn’t a place to explore the grey areas (thank you, Emmie Mears).

Why do you think people love to read romance? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

I think the majority of people who read romance do so because it’s fun. They’re not looking to dive into the existential vortex that we all know is there – that’s for black-clad twentysomethings with literary pretentions. They like knowing there’ll be a happy ending, they like living vicariously through a heroine who gets to do stuff they never would, and quite a few of them also like the naughty bits. I’m just sayin’…

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

Hmm…does she practice what she preaches? Yes! I read urban fantasy, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, and some erotic romance (don’t tell my mother). I also love mysteries, and hope someday to have the chops to write one. It’s a good thing you didn’t ask for a list of my favorite authors, because I could probably fill the whole page with it.

How can readers track you down?

I can be found on-line at my website & blog (www.livrancourt.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/liv.rancourt), or on Twitter (www.twitter.com/LivRancourt).

Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you, Kristin. It’s always fun to be here…

Why Write: Paranormal Romance with Ana Blaze

Ana BlazeOn today’s episode of Why Write, we talk to Ana Blaze about paranormal romance! This is a fun topic for me, since I write contemporary fantasy that often strays into romantic territory: paranormal romance is the flip side of the contemporary fantasy coin, I think. Be sure to check Ana out after you’ve read what she has to say!

Hello, Ana, and welcome!

Hi. Thanks for having me.

 Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I live just outside of Washington DC with my husband and three cats. When I’m not vacuuming up cat hair, I like to cook, watch TV, read and, of course, write. I write romance, both contemporary and paranormal. I’m also a teacher.

 What made you decide to write romance? Why paranormal romance in particular?

I love a happy ending. I married my best friend and I just want to give everyone that perfect happy moment. I’ve always been attracted to paranormal stories and elements so they naturally made their way into some of my writing. And, let’s be frank here, vampires are really sexy.

Haha, I definitely agree there. Vampires aren’t played out for me!

What types of stories does romance/paranormal romance make possible?

I think the paranormal element can add a lot of humor to a story and also raise the odds a bit. The characters can have incredibly bizarre obstacles to overcome before they earn their happy ending and that makes for some wonderful stories.

What audience do you think paranormal romance attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

I think the audience is clever and often led busy lives and they are looking for a little fun in their reading. They want the stakes to feel real, but they pick up the romance knowing that they will be satisfied with the ending. I think the key is writing a story that feels honest, regardless of whether it is a contemporary or paranormal romance the characters need to make choices that seem reasonable. They face obstacles, but those obstacles shouldn’t seem arbitrary. I hope to give my readers characters that they want to root for, a few giggles and steamy scene or two.

How does romance affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

Falling in love makes everything feel more intense.

Why do you think people love to read paranormal romance? How do you think the genre affects its audience?

It’s fun to escape some of the more mundane real life problems for a bit. Maybe you’re annoyed with a co-worker or stuck waiting all day for a plumber, but at least your boyfriend isn’t turning into a werewolf every full moon. You get to imagine how you would handle the crazy situations a heroine in a paranormal romance gets herself into and what you’d do if your hunky crush turned out to be an out of time Scottish Warrior. I mean who doesn’t want to at least consider that? I’ve been thinking lately about the overall message of paranormal romance, because I thinktime and again, the point is that people are people whether they are people with fangs or fur or the ability to cast spells, or your next door neighbor they share more in common than not. It’s a nice message. I think that all those stories about shifters and ghosts and guardian angels makes readers a bit more open in their own hearts.

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

I read a lot of romance myself, all subgenres and I love urban fantasy. I also read a lot of YA and NA. Basically, I like stories with quirky characters and rich worlds.

The Best Man By Ana BlazeHow can readers track you down?

You can find me online at:

http://anablaze.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AnaBlazeLove

https://twitter.com/ana_blaze

http://www.goodreads.com/AnaBlaze

My new contemporary romance novella, The Best Man, is out on April 29, 2013! You can read more about it here:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17233507-the-best-man

Thanks for stopping by and telling us a little about why you write!

Thanks again for having me.

Why Write: YA Romance with E.M. Caines

EC 0125Greetings, and happy Monday to you all! Today we have young adult (YA) writer E. M. Caines here to talk about why she writes teen romance and why people of all ages love to read YA. Once again, I learned a lot, and I think I’m going to have to write a blog post all about writers’ relationships with their audiences. You authors! Stop making me think! *shakes fist*

Okay, not really. Thinking is good for me.

For now, though, dig in and learn a little about YA Romance.

Hello, Eileen, and welcome!

Hi, Kristin! Thanks for having me. *sits down & sips coffee*

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I’m a SoCal native now living in Florida and the mom of a precocious little boy. I’m also the Retail Analyst for an global restaurant chain (yes, you read that right) in my non-writing life, so juggling life and writing can be tricky. But I know I’m not alone, so I don’t complain. (Out loud. Often.) And lest anyone think my identity is tied to geography or occupation, I’d also like to share that I enjoy fine foods, hate shopping (especially for shoes), and have a weird eye-shadow phobia.

I have one completed novel under my belt which earned me representation from Julia A. Weber, and I’m working on a companion novel now. My finished manuscript is a young adult (YA) novel that I described as a twist on the Snow White tale that picks up where the story ends and she discovers Prince Charming isn’t so charming after all. But there are no supernatural elements or anything, so the magic is entirely removed. The result is something that resembles teen chick lit: romance novels for the teen set.

You describe your work as “teen chick lit.” What made you decide to write for teens? And why teen chicks? (Teen chicks sounds totally weird out of context, LOL)

LOL Teen chicks do sound weird!

So why write for teens? Hmm… *takes another sip of coffee and ponders*

I didn’t pick the genre because of its marketability. Truth be told, I think the genre is getting a bit saturated. But I really wrote my novel for my nieces and for my son’s classmates. I know a lot of younger girls and wanted to put something on the shelves for them, something that wasn’t all about back-stabbing frenemies or falling for the quintessential bad boy. I wanted to give them characters who weren’t extraordinary, just everyday people who felt the same things they did. For my first novel, for example, I wanted to point out that bad guys don’t always show their colors right away. From what I’ve read that’s currently on the shelf, I don’t see a lot of light, fluffy romance novels for teens out there. So I just wrote what I wanted to read.

What types of stories does this genre make possible?

YA as a genre is very broad. Basically, I think anything that is written from a teen’s perspective falls into YA. As such, YA is wide open to all the subgenres: horror, suspense, fantasy, romance, etc. I know as a reader that I would LOVE to see a good YA suspense novel, but don’t look to me to write it. My plot would be thus: Girl gets threatening phone call, Girl tells her parents and goes to police, Police find and apprehend culprit. (See why I write romance?)

What audience do you think YA attracts, aside from the obvious? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a “normal” writer because I write for myself first and my nieces and son second. Anyone else who picks it up and likes it is just gravy.

But that being said, YA attracts more than just teens. (Duh.) I think a good YA book spans several age ranges. Your more advanced Middle Grade (MG) readers (8-12) will pick it up. Of course, you’ll get your teen readers, but then you’ll also have adults reading it, whether it’s a mom who is reading something her kid wants to read or someone who just thinks it looks like a good read.

I can’t speak for other writers, but it doesn’t alter my stories or characters one bit. Again, I mostly write for my myself, and then I think of my nieces. Right there, that’s a considerable age range, but I think if I can tell a story that (first) interests me in a way that (second) my nieces can relate to the characters and plot, I should attract a pretty significant size of potential readers.

How does age of the characters affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?

I don’t think I gave age much thought until I got older and had a child of my own. I try to see the world through his eyes, and it’s helped me imagine the world through my nieces’ eyes, too.

So, I write YA novels right now. (I have ideas for MG, too, but right now, I’m strictly YA.) Young Adult books should encapsulate those formative teen years. Those were the days when you had no idea what you didn’t know, and EVERYTHING WAS TRAGIC. Any deviation from the norm was tantamount to the end of the world. (Funny enough, when I’m recalling emotion as I write, I pull from my more recent memories of watching my son navigating the world at the age of 2. It’s more exaggerated at that age, but it’s not very different.)

To write my novel as New Adult (NA) would be more challenging–not impossible, but challenging. A YA character is allowed (expected) to have a degree of innocence that NA characters should have shed long ago. While NA characters still think they know everything (and make the adult in me want to slap them around), the fact that they’re a bit more jaded adds another layer to their personas and, as a result, to the plot.

It’s like the old parenting adage that my sister shares with me when I’m venting about the craziness in my household: Small children, small problems. The older the character, the bigger the stakes.

Why do you think people (even adults!) love to read YA? How do you think the genre affects that audience?

There have been so many articles on this very question!

YA appeals to adults, I think, because it takes them (us) back to a simpler time, a time before a mortgage and kids and balancing a career with some semblance of a real life. It was a time of stolen glances across the classroom and first kisses and getting goosebumpy because the guy you liked [insert desired action here]. So I think a lot of adults feel a sense of nostalgia when they read YA.

MG readers like reading YA because they can imagine what it’s like to be a bigger kid. (So sad, but so true.)

And, of course, teens like to read YA because there are characters they can relate to. And it’s always more fun to read something when you’re like, “Oh my God! I totally know what the main character is going through! It’s like the author is writing about ME!” (Which, of course the author is because, well, when you’re that age, it’s all about you, anyway.)

For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?

Oh, I read everything. No joke. My Kindle is full of all kinds of random stuff. Historical fiction, Regency romance, thrillers, crime drama mysteries, you name it.

At the moment, I’m addicted to MG books. I just started the Septimus Heap series, and I love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & Heroes of Olympus books. Of course, I’ve also just finished Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage, and I loved it so much that I’m going to have to read The Parasol Protectorate, too, now, and those are YA Steampunk. Also along that vein (though not steampunk) is Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, and I have to admit that Lisi Harrison’s Clique series and Sara Shepherd’s Pretty Little Liars series are guilty pleasures.

Why do I like reading these? They’re easy reads, and they all work to cleanse my writing palate. I like to mix things up when I read, though: I don’t like to read too much of a single genre at once. So I read Etiquette and Espionage and am now reading Magyk, and when I finish that I’ll probably pick up a Regency romance in the queue to keep myself from getting too accustomed to a single voice.

Readers, you can contact Eileen at…

My blog is NeverWordless.wordpress.com
I’m on Twitter at @emcaines
And my FB author page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/E-M-Caines/321528474630898

Thanks spending some time with us, Eileen!

Thanks again for having me!

Romance Fail #1: Lust as Plot Engine

Romance lesson the first: Lust-at-first-sight is not a convincing plot catalyst.

I’m reading a book that shall remain unnamed (but is visible on my GoodReads widget) in which man meets woman, man decides he “wants” woman, and crazy hijinks ensue. Of course there’s more to the plot than that, but that is the basis of the romantic relationship in this book.

As reader, I am expected to believe that a reasonable man, one I am presumably supposed to LIKE as a protagonist, can decide he must have a woman and then act like a gorilla in mating season until he gets her.

I am not impressed.

This is a similar flaw to “lust as chemistry” and “lust as defining character trait.” Neither of these sell me on a man or a woman as a main character. If we’re reading a love story, we need some reason to want these characters to get together. If we just wanted to scratch an itch, we’d eat a candy bar. There’s not enough conflict without some driving force behind the “want,” some desire to know or understand the other person.

Therefore I say, you need more to make a romance interesting than lust.

So speaketh Kristin.

A Little Dash of Romance

My new project is a romance.

Well, not really, because the genre “romance” inspires visions of well-muscled men wearing half-buttoned shirts and tight pants on the florid covers of paperbacks in one corner of the bookstore.

My book is also a small-scale epic fantasy, about two peoples who are at odds because of a single lie in their mutual past.

Yes, I’m writing a star-crossed love affair. But I think both my lovers will come out of it alive.

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about love stories and romance, and how those things fit into a fantasy world. This New Yorker blog post called, Is Anna Karenina a Love Story? made me start wondering what love stories in novels tell us about the novel itself. In a fantasy world, does the romance have to crystallize some part of the greater conflict? Or is it just a love story, compelling and satisfying in itself, set in a world of dragons and magic?

I’m choosing option A for my new project, largely because of the nature of my book’s conflict, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the right or the only way to do it. Every fantasy-romance is different, and I have to admit that I’ve not often thought that deeply about the love stories in the fantasy novels I love.

What are some of your favorite fantasy love stories? Why? What do the love stories say about the book as a whole or the world it creates?

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Phèdre and Joscelin in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series. Two lovers who come from completely opposite backgrounds and, through circumstance, find each other as the thing most worth saving in their lives. Joscelin may get the short end of the stick in this one.
  • Vin and Elend in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Two semi-nerdy super-heroes fall in love and save the world—sort of. I can’t say much more without spoilers!
  • Dante Valetine and Japhrimel in Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. This is a fairly typical hunter-meets-demon love story (is that a typical thing, now?) that starts out great and is pretty fraught by the end of the series. Lies and concealment inevitably take their toll on the lovers.

15 Minute Writing

Here’s a little something I wrote as a timed writing exercise, from The 4 a.m. Breakthrough by Brian Kiteley. I chose #63, Love and Chance, “a very short scene in which two people meet by accident and fall madly in love,” maximum 500 words.

I wrote 493 words in 15 minutes, and I’m while not sure I really accomplished the falling madly in love part, I think I gave these two a pretty good start down that road. It’s not great, but it’s something. Enjoy…

She set the glass on the oak bar with a meaty thunk.

“I’d like another, please,” she said. Continue reading