Previously, I addressed the pros and cons of writing spicier romances in Some Like It Hot: Erotic Levels In Fiction. I find this an especially interesting topic since I’ve written everything from sweet love stories to erotic romances, with Switching Positions being the first work that I cranked up to quite that level of sizzle.
For my own writing process, I usually know at the moment I have an idea for a novella or book just what heat level the story should have. I can’t say exactly how this happens. I suspect it’s like a chef getting an idea for a new recipe. She/he knows right away whether they’re aiming for something sweet, salty, or savory, although the nuances of the flavoring may come later.
Well, I wanted to see what other authors had to say about heat levels – the pros and cons of hotter works, their own writing process, etc. Let’s hear it for guest authors Kayelle Allen, Caitlyn Willows, and Cassandra Carr, who took time to share their thoughts!
Kayelle Allen is a multi-published author whose works include For Women Only, At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, Surrender Love, and many more. She has some fun book trailers on her site if you want to learn more. Kayelle was kind enough to comment on the original post with her take on heat levels in romance. To see all her remarks, please click on Some Like It Hot and scroll to her comment, but here are a few great points she makes:
“There are times when leaving what happens next to the reader’s imagination produces a high that’s more satisfying than the details. If your lovers have been passionate throughout the book, it doesn’t hurt to leave while they’re engaged in an activity that you can tell will lead to more. In contrast, [in] an erotica (at least one or more steps more intense than an erotic romance) leaving the reader without the details may prove more frustrating than satisfying. Marketing the book to the right genre and readers is important.” - Kayelle Allen – Blog~ Books~ Twitter~ Facebook
Excellent summary, Kayelle. Authors, like other artists, are entertainers. We have to know our audience and what they’re looking for.
Caitlyn Willows is a multi-published author whose books include To Die For (Amber Quill Press, 2011), Soleil (Loose Id, 2010), and several other tempting works. She shares her advice and perspective on striking the perfect balance between physical passion and the deeper emotions in erotic romance:
“It’s a very fine balance to find the perfect blend of story and sex when you’re writing an erotic romance. I think the market and the wealth of erotic romances out there have made these even more challenging. I’ve learned it’s very important to make sure you aren’t having sex in the story just for the sake of putting sex in there. The sex must mean something, bind the individuals, show growth, help move the story forward. Still, it is erotic and I feel it’s important for the author to go the daring route. Think outside the box of what is ‘normal’ and dare to explore what someone might fantasize about but would never do. And never forget to include the emotion of the encounter. Emotion is as breath-taking, if not more, than the act itself. It is the anticipation that draws the reader forward. These individuals are falling in love. Show it. Make the reader feel it. As an author…make yourself feel it too.” - Caitlyn Willows – http://www.caitlynwillows.com/
Some really wonderful points, Caitlyn. Authors have to be fully engaged with their characters to bring them to life both inside and outside the bedroom. Erotic romance offers a sort of open-door policy, but the key word is still romance.
Cassandra Carr is the author of Caught, coming in December 2011 from Loose Id; Talk To Me, published by Loose Id in March 2011 and named a Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews and The Romance Reviews; and the story “Circling” in Uniform Behavior (Andrews UK, Nov. 2010). She also has a really fun blog, but then I’m a sucker for anyone who’d include A Fish Called Wanda in a post. Cassandra shares her process for creating erotic romances and the advantages and disadvantages to writing spicier works:
“I didn’t ‘choose’ to write with one heat level or another, it just naturally grew out of my books. My heat level is pretty high compared to other erotic romances I’ve seen, but I didn’t go into any book with the intention of it being really spicy. Reviewers have said that although I have a lot of sex scenes in my books, they’re all necessary to the plot and show the emotional growth of the characters, so I guess I’m on the right track.
“There are a few pitfalls with writing spicier stories. First, you have to make sure the story isn’t all about the sex. At the end of the story the reader needs to believe that the two (or more) main characters have fallen in love. Sex scenes can’t be superfluous or just there to titillate the reader. The advantages of writing spicier books are that I think they’re overall a sexier read, which I personally enjoy. I also love it when an author can write a really smoking sex scene and I imagine other readers feel the same way.” - Cassandra Carr – http://www.booksbycassandracarr.com/
Again, Cassandra makes the point about love and integrating love scenes so that they’re integral to the plot. Without romance or other emotions and plotting going on, sex scenes could disintegrate into something resembling an instruction manual or sports review. Eg. “Insert tab A into slot B,” or, “He dribbles, he pivots, he surges up the line. He scores!” That sort of thing may make for a few funny lines, but that’s not exactly a fulfilling read.
So writers of erotic romance have to know their audience, connect with their readers, and give them what they want. These guest authors certainly know how to do that, and I’d like to thank them again for taking the time to share their experience and perspectives. And isn’t that what we like to see in our heroes? A man who knows his lover, connects with her (or him) – and, through her, the reader – and gives her what she wants? Sounds good to me. I think we could all benefit from a “really smoking sex scene.”