Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guest Blogger ~ Monica Burns ~ Sex, Language and Readers

Welcome to multi-published romance author, Monica Burns. First of all, let me tell you Monica’s writing is just gorgeous. It is an elegant and lush style which makes me feel as if I’m oh-so-sensually and sinfully wrapped in velvet and silks, just waiting for my perfect lover. Do yourself a favor, if you aren’t familiar with her books, yet, grab some time alone and indulge in her website. You will enjoy.
Welcome Title Magicians, welcome everyone, I invited Monica to blog with us about an important topic. I consider this is an extremely important topic simply because it affects all of us as authors, aspiring authors and readers.
How much romance, or how many love scenes are too many in a romance novel of any genre, from contemporary to shape-shifter to time travel? How many scenes are not enough? Or, more to the point of this blog, what do you want in your erotic romance, whatever your fave genres? How many sex scenes, what kind? How hawt do you want it? Is there ever too much? Sex, that is. Graphic sex, more specifically.
Do you want more plot? Do you want more expression of feeling, of love? How about the motivations of the heroine, and of the hero ~ or the heroines, heroes, however many there are, or how they are paired.
Well, Monica had an opportunity to sit down with readers and discuss what they wanted in their romance novels. So, I consider what she learned about sex and language, to be of the utmost value and importance to us all.
Once you’ve read about Monica’s experience and her conclusions, please weigh in with your own knowledge and insights. As a reader, what do you want? We authors and aspiring authors truly want to know.

Sex, Language and Readers

Quantifiable Sex

Writing sex is one of the hardest things I do as a romance writer. Why? Because sex is the most intimate of exchanges between two characters. You have to dig deep to make the scene meaningful. Lately, I find myself questioning whether or not I have too many sex scenes. I mean what is too much, and can one consider sex in romance as quantifiable?
In May, I discussed this topic with some really savvy romance readers. I think it important to note that only a couple of these readers have read my work. So I wasn’t in a fan club setting (although one can dream). Also, none of these women are writers, nor do they have a desire to write. This made their commentary free of the influences most writers have about romance in general. Inclinations such as the fear of competition some writers have, preconceived definitions of romance, craft "rules" such as GMC, character ARC etc. Listening to them exult and disdain about erotic romance and romance in general was a breath of fresh air because there were no preconceived notions. It was simply about what they liked and didn’t like about romance and erotic romance.

First off, these women LOVE sex in their books. They love ménage, m/m, m/f/m, UATW (up against the wall) sex, forced seduction, you name it and they love it. However, in our discussions they expressed extreme dissatisfaction with a lot of romance published today. They stated flat out that the erotic romance books they’ve been picking up recently seem to have sex scenes ad nauseam.

"I Would Write of Characters" — Ellen Glasgow

As a writer, I had preconceived notions as to why they were dissatisfied, but I didn’t share my opinions until after they listed their specific complaints. Their comments only reinforced my beliefs. These readers know the who, what, when and why of sex in a romance. But the most important element to them is the question of why. Without the why question being answered the book doesn’t work for them.

These women were emphatic about their need to understand what drives the characters either to have sex or what the characters are feeling during sex. All of these women stated that too often the sex in romance feels like it’s just thrown in to meet a story quota. It’s their biggest gripe with the romance genre today. They just don’t get the connection with the characters that they want.

They’re not the only ones expressing their opinions on this issue. I’ve heard similar rumblings in other reader places such as Dear Author and readers are possibly beginning to speak with their pocketbooks as well. The grapevine says Pocket Books reported their erotic romance line is slowing down (I’m sure the economy is part of that trend, but not the entire part).

Some people might say this "too much sex in romance" discontent is probably driven by authors or aspiring writers who write outside the erotic romance / erotica subgenres, but I don’t think so. Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t matter. If characterization isn’t a major component of the bedroom sex, then the sex doesn’t belong in the book. Without characterization you’ve got Part A going into Slot B, and that kind of sex is boring to read.

"Language Is Wine Upon The Lips" — Virginia Woolf

Compounding this "too much sex in romance" is the aspect of reader complaints about foul language. I applaud sex and foul language in romance when used appropriately and judiciously. For me, it MUST always be tied to the characterization. I once had a reviewer slam me for using the word cock too many times for her taste. I didn’t really agree with the reviewer, simply because the hero wasn’t a gentleman, he was a self-made man and the word cock was a part of his character. But I paid attention to what she was saying about my word choices. It occurred to me that if I overused a word it lost its impact on the reader.

There’s nothing more powerful than the F-word used at a point in the story where that’s the only word that will do. But using it every other line reduces the word’s impact. The same can be said for just about any other sexual word a writer uses. Not to mention the clinical sounding ones. Some erotic romance / erotica I read makes me wonder if the majority of women really use words like clit, clitoris, penis, etc. during sex. Sometimes I think we’ve swung from extreme purple prose to extreme clinical prose. Surely there has to be a happy medium somewhere in there. Just like characterization is integral to a sex scene, a foul word is inherent to the character and their motivations. Overusing it makes the reader go, "Enough already!"

"O, What Learning Is!" — Shakespeare

In the end, all of these rumblings don’t tell me anything I wasn’t expecting. I’ve known from the beginning that erotic romance would eventually become a saturated subgenre and that the spaghetti that sticks to the wall will be from writers who use great characterization and story lines as well as weighing every word they put on the page. Whether the gripe is "too much sex in romance" or prolific foul language in romance, I think writers can take away a great deal from these types of reader complaints. As Billie Jean King said, "It’s about learning your craft." Tennis might not be writing, but craft is craft. You need to practice it to be good.

So what do you think about sex and language in romance?

Dangerous -- 4.5 Stars, RT BOOKreviews "A pretty good read" -- Mrs. Giggles
Mirage -- Top Pick, Romantic Times BOOKreviews
P.S. Talk about exquisite and powerful cover art! Which one is your favorite?

55 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

Welcome, Monica and all our guests to Title Magic

Monica Burns said...

Thanks Savanna. Definitely interested to see what your blog readers think about sex and language in romance.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Hi Monica! Great post! I think sex is important to romance but as a writer and a reader the sex has to be meaningful. Otherwise it's just a shagfest and that gets old pretty fast.

I like to feel connected to my characters and understand their motivations for not only sex but everything else that should be going on in the novel. Like plot, character development, etc.

Terry Odell said...

As a writer, opening the book to insert a sex scene doesn't work. My characters take a long time to get to that consummation point, and when they do, they've earned it, and it's natural.

The clinical language really grates...I don't think of my body parts using their scientific terms, when I think of them at all. I usually 'feel' rather than verbalize, but it's tough to write without using words.

I asked DH how he thought of my "parts" and he said, "crotch". And he's a biologist and definitely knows all the names for all the sub-parts.

Seeing the technical terms puts me either in bio class reading a textbook again, or at the doctor's office, neither of which is particularly romantic.

For me, it has to be about the characters.

Monica Burns said...

Anitra and Terry, Thanks for commenting. Characters are first and foremost important to any sex scene I write. What I find interesting is how some people don't want to see that sex scene up front. However, I firmly believe there are times when it’s appropriate to have the sex in the initial scene. Primarily because there are times in people’s lives when they meet someone they connect with and sex is the ultimate outcome of that first meeting. I like characters that are filled with flaws, basically because I know human beings are incredibly flawed. (Stand in line behind me please. *grin*)

This distinction is one reason why I love erotic romance because I believe that when it’s well executed, the sex can be meaningful and potent. But as you both point out, it’s got to be about the characters. No ifs, ands or buts.

Terry Odell said...

I SO agree, Monica. As a lark, I thought I'd try to write a sex scene for its own sake. I started it with a woman getting undressed in a bathroom (insert sensual descriptive details, etc.), then going to the bed where "he" waited.

I sent it to a friend, who wrote a next bit from the guy in the bed's pov.

I tried to continue, but I hit a brick wall--and since I do write explicit sex scenes, I couldn't understand it, until I realized that I didn't know who the woman was, why she was there, or anything else about it. I plain and simple could NOT write a 'characterless' sex scene.

Savanna Kougar said...

Terry, I so know what you mean about having to know your characters. Or how else can you write they are feeling and experiencing, and why they are engaging in sex the way they are.

Monica Burns said...

Interesting experiment Terry, I think the more I write the harder writing in general gets. I find myself weighing every word. Some of it is second-guessing, but a lot of it is to get the best prose possible down on the screen.

What frustrates me is when I think I know my characters but they refuse to open up to me. I'll know intimate details about them, but they refuse to talk when I'm writing. Makes me want to choke them. LOL

Savanna Kougar said...

Monica, do I KNOW that feeling! Of pure frustration when my characters don't want to open up.

It's also been harder to write some of my mss or WIPs, because now I'm writing geared to what the acquiring editor thinks is good, as well as always attempting to improve my writing skills and craft.
Gee, weighing those words turns into a herd of elephants sometimes.

Monica Burns said...

Savanna, I LOVE pachyderms! Just not near my muse!! ROFL Ok, off to write at lunch time. Got a sheikh to convince to talk to me. *grin*

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Monica, thanks for being with us today. Your blog is so interesting--and confirms my own feelings. I used to read erotic romance. I loved the early Robin Schone books. But I haven't picked any ER up in a while because I found it became too much: too much explicit clinical language, and too much sex. I really need the intimacy to be rooted in emotion growing in the relationship and, for me, the sex seemed increasingly to be detached from the emotions and character growth.

I love sex in romance, but as a general rule I don't think the relationship between the main characters is developed enough to be ready for a sex scene until about half way through the book. If I pick up a book and they are already into sex in the first few pages I put it back down.

I even find I've gone back the other way to reading more of the less explicit lines. I've always loved Harlequin Romance and I find authors such as Liz Fielding deliver wonderful emotional reads with very little sex.

Something I've found myself when writing romance, is that some characters are happy to oblige with an explicit sex scene while other characters do not want to perform in public. I had a heck of a job writing love scenes for The Magic Knot as the hero is a private person.

Lynnsplanet said...

Hi Monica.

As a reader and an author, I totally agree with what the readers were saying. I want to connect with the characters and ride along with them as they glide/storm into the sex. It must fit who they are, not what you *might* think the readers want. Language, too.

I have a trilogy where the sex is almost not there in book one, all over the place in book two and in between in book three. I've had two agents and an editor tell me I would have to up the sex level of book one before they'd consider it. I'm struggling for that happy medium to please everyone with something I don't believe comes natural to the characters I've already written. ugh!


Bekki

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Helen, thanks for sharing. The whole clinical usage is way too much for me personally. Is love or passion really clinical? Sure, there are the biological hormonal occurrences going on...but, I think it's the feelings and emotions that really count.

Savanna Kougar said...

Bekki, so glad you're here! It is tough. Murder by Hair Spray is kind of in the same league. Book I is probably BookStrand level. Book II, since the heroine and hero are more involved emotionally, the heat level hits SIZZLE BURN ME UP, BABY.
Not every relationship starts off with the BIG BANG, does it?
glide/storm into sex...luv that!

Jeanne said...

Interesting blog, Monica.
One thing, though, that amazes me is expectations of readers. If a book is promoted as "erotic", then one should expect more explicit scenes than in something presented as, say, sensual.
In writing my first m/m erotic romance, I tried to differentiate between one character, a contemporary American in his early thirties and the other MC who is French and whose roots are in the past.
Brandon curses more frequently, Ron, not so much and in French, mais oui! ;~D

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Jeanne, welcome!
There is a difference in generations when it comes to cursing, or the types of words used.
While I could have a secondary character use the vernacular of today. Personally, I can't abide it for my main characters, except the villain(s), of course.
I have to admit to a secret yen to hear French curse words...though. Ooo la la...

Monica Burns said...

Helen, Curiosity begs the question. When you say you rarely read ER anymore, is that ER that’s openly declared ER (either on book spine or via a review)? I think I could make a case (with a little research) that there is a lot of ER out there; it’s just not marketed as much. *grin*

I enjoy HQ too occasionally. I finished a lovely SuperRomance by Kay Stockham this past weekend (His Perfect Woman). But as a rule I prefer steamier over sweeter. But like everyone else, the character development is essential.

I confess I winced when I read you put aside sex immediately in the beginning books because Dangerous, my current release, has a big sex scene straight up in the first few pages. LOL But it's all about what our personal tastes are and just as importantly the execution of the story.

I think there are a lot of readers/writers out there who feel just like you do. I simply want to read a book with or without sex that I can’t put down. I try to write them like that. Whether I succeed or not is up to an individual reader as it is with all books. *grin*

I'm loving this dialogue and everyone's opinions!

Monica Burns said...

Bekki,

glide/storm into the sex

ooooh LOVE that statement. And yes, I sometimes feel the need to ratchet up the sex just to please the market.

Because in truth, as it has since before the Bible, sex sells. The point though is to make the sex be meaningful. Something that's not all that easy to do.

Monica Burns said...

Jeanne,

I THOROUGHLY agree with you on reader expectations. I let a colleague read Mirage (he's a man) and he kept raving about the book. And I said, so it was better than you thought it would be.

He just sort of grinned and kept saying how good it was. Although he stated that if I took the sex out it would be better!!! ROFL You'd think a guy would LIKE the "dirty parts."

So I feel your pain!

Savanna Kougar said...

Oh, Monica, that is a scream as in being too funny -- a man who thought your novel would be better without the steamy sex scenes.
'Course, some men like their tech or thriller genres where sex and love really aren't important elements to the story.
That would be thoroughly boring to me, but not to others.
I'm a love makes the world or universe go round kinda gal.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Monica,
Thanks for blogging with us! I'm reading everyone's comments and feeling a bit scared...because I write on the other side. I keep the sex to a minimum because I'm all about the plot. And (so sorry), but I usually skip over the sex scenes so I can get to the story:)
Now, the exceptions are the ones where the sex scenes are quirky, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and the football player getting hurt in the back seat of the car:)
The bottom line for me is--does the story intrigue me?
Thanks again for blogging,
Lexie

Samantha Lucas said...

Excellent post, Monica! Thank you for sharing.

I was struggling with my own writing towards the end of last year. Specifically because I do write character driven stories, explicit ones which is why I find myself in the erotic romance genre, but it seemed like the genre was becoming more and more about how much sex you could fit in a book and how many ways could you shock a person. That holds absolutely no interest for me.

Currently I'm working on more mainstream romances because I needed the break, but I very much appreciated this look into what readers want. Again, thank you ~ Samantha

Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, glad you're here. Everyone's opinions and feelings are welcome.

Savanna Kougar said...

Samantha, great to see you here. And thank you for sharing.

Monica Burns said...

Lexie,

I think you should write what your comfortable with. M/M has been really hot in eBooks for two years now. I can't write it, wish I could because I'd be making money. BUT, I can't write something I don't feel a passion for. I think one has to have a passion for something in order to write about it.

So you keep writing on writing what you love. That's the important thing.

Monica Burns said...

Samantha I can soooo relate to being driven to write what the current trend is. Stick with what you love and it will fall into place.

Monica Burns said...

savanna,

I thought it was funny too that a guy would actually say there was too much sex in a book. ROFL But this is a man who reads a LOT and across the board. He's very intelligent and sensitive as well. What I also remember was the email I got from him two days after I gave him the ARC of Mirage to read. He'd gone to a conference and he wrote, "this book is good. Really good. I was up until 1am reading!!!" LOL That's when I knew I had him. ROFL That's one of the most wonderful feelings a writer can have is to know that you've actually hooked the reader to where they can't put the book down.

Xandra Gregory said...

This is a fascinating discussion, because I've recently seen so much that's just plain confusing and misleading, and I think a lot of it has to do with the labeling - "erotic romance" versus "romance with sizzling content" (or whatever catchy description you want to identify with the higher degree of explicitness). I've seen people turn their noses up to a book labeled "erotic romance" but rave over a book not labeled as such, yet has more explicit content (with the books being of similar general tone and such). I suspect that as soon as the sales for "erotic romance" drop off, the label will, too--but the content will be just as it always was. Appearances are everything, sometimes. :/

I think, too, that it depends on how the sex/sexual content is used in the framework of the story. I'm writing an M/M right now where there's a truckload of sex, but the characters are developing through their sexual relationship. Taking the sex out of the book would make it really flat, and much less meaningful.

But on the other hand, I don't kid myself, either. I don't believe plot has to be sacrificed for sex, or that every sex scene must be a communion of souls between the protagonists (because there are some that make awesome characterization and are really the best way to express some facet of character beyond the length and/or girth of the puple salami)

Monica Burns said...

a lot of it has to do with the labeling - "erotic romance" versus "romance with sizzling content"

What a fabulous way of putting it! It is just a label (wish I'd said that. LOL). The label may or may not go, but it's interesting to note that like the romance genre overall getting a bad rap, erotic romance/erotica also has gotten some unfair jabs as well. I think a lot of that is due to the decline of the characterization issue I mentioned in my post. It becomes a problem for ER/E writers who do work their characterization and plotting because the assumption is made that all ER/E is alike, which obviously it isn't.

I don't believe plot has to be sacrificed for sex, or that every sex scene must be a communion of souls between the protagonists

ABSOLUTELY agree! You made some wonderful points Xandra

Savanna Kougar said...

Monica, that is a good feeling as an author. And I wish I had a 'whole' lot more of it!

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Xandra, I agree, I find the confusion level rather astounding. I understand why it occurs and continues to occurr, the dynamics driving it all, but still, I really don't think it serves the readers or the authors, or aspiring authors.
In the long run, I believe, readers and all of us would appreciate the simple truth about a book's heat level -- and I don't mean by any kind of strict labelling crap. However, from what I've seen, publishers who treat reader's fairly and not just try to sell them erotic this or that, but place on the proper info about the story, will keep the reader's trust and business.
And keep all of us authors happily writing the heat level we're comfortble with, and have a true passion for.

Lynnsplanet said...

I loved coming home from work and reading the posts.

So many terrific insights. I know it helps me put things in perspective.

Thank you Savanna and Moncia for the terrific blog.

Bekki

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Great discussion about not only sex but character development in the midst of sex.

I've written very sweet novels with little or no sex and very hot and heavy novels with lots of sexual encounters. What makes the difference? The characters. I don't stick sex in just because I have nothing else to say. The sex is integral to the plot.

Some are bound by laws, traditions, the confines of the times, others are boundless in that they have few restrictions but still there is something blocking the full expression of their needs.

Juggling character, plot, and sex can get very complicated.

As a reader, I will read any and everything, no matter how much or little sex. That has nothing to do with my enjoyment because I'm into the story telling.

If an author does go into graphic sex, I want it to be hot but also emotional. I despair at slot A flap B sex. BOOOORING!

But when the sex is tied to strong motivations, dark desires, perplexing emotional needs . . . well that just sucks me right in.

Sex can't be just because it feels good. It has to have context, meaning, and from what I've read of Monica's work, she incorporates those elements perfectly.

P.S. I love the cover for Dangerous. The other reminds me of the Mummy, and that hot guy with the tattoo on his face. Mai posted a pic of him but I can't remember his name. Not like it matters--the thought is hot enough to make me want to pick that novel up!

Savanna Kougar said...

Bekki, you are so welcome.
If you or anyone else has topic suggestions, which would benefit us all, let me know, or any of us at Title Magic.
Or, if you have a topic you would like to guest blog about, or are blogging about on your site, please let me know. I'd love to continue these kind of discussions.
Thank you to Monica, and to everyone who participated.

Savanna Kougar said...

Anitra, exceptionally well said!

Xandra Gregory said...

(Anitra, the d00d from The Mummy is Oded Fehr, he is *smokin' hawt* and he shares a birthday with me :D - I <3 The Mummy - so...much...eye...candy...::drool::)

I think there's also another level of dialogue going on around erotic romance, and that is a more socialogical one--the dialogue of women's sexual fantasy. I've always believed (though I lack the academic chops to conclusively make a case that anyone will take seriously), that romance as a genre is a subtextual dialogue about women's fantasies, in addition to being a genre of literature and a mode of storytelling.

In fact, once I realized that, "oh crap almost forgot it's my day to blog at star-crossed!" I took the content of this very long and rambling comment and turned it into my blog post over there

Thanks, TitleMagic folks, for a stimulating discussion! Because otherwise, I think I might have had to blog about my backyard again, and this is a lot more interesting than blogging about my grass growing. :D

Shayla Kersten said...

Great discussion! And I'm late to the party--as usual!

I write romance with explicit sex. But romance is the primary content. If I "shut the bedroom door", I still want to have a good story. Possibly a much shorter story... *cackle* ...but one with goals, motivation and conflict, a plot and characters the reader can care about.

Monica Burns said...

I've been enjoying the responses as well. *grin*

Monica Burns said...

Juggling character, plot, and sex can get very complicated.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s why it gets harder to write the more you learn your craft. I’m finding it so tough in terms of wanting to just go with the flow and just let it all out, and yet I hold back because as a pantser I know that can drive me into a hole from which it’s almost impossible to get out of.

Example in Mirage, I lock the hero and heroine in a tomb. I wrote the scene in a blaze of typing, and then suddenly stared at the screen and went what the hell do I do now? How do I get them out of this??? It took me three or more days to figure something out, but sometimes being a pantser can be really a pain. LOL

Then there are the sex scenes where I go, OMG is this too mushy? Is this sexy enough, too sexy? Is it different? I think that’s one of the hardest things about erotic romance. You have to try to push the envelope and be different with every book so readers don’t get bored with your work, but it still has to be character driven.

from what I've read of Monica's work, she incorporates those elements perfectly.
Anitra, where did you tell me to send your check. LOL Thank you for such a lovely compliment

I love the cover for Dangerous. The other reminds me of the Mummy, and that hot guy with the tattoo on his face. Mai posted a pic of him but I can't remember his name.

You can thank Anne Cain for my lovely cover art. I adore my covers. Oded Fehr is the name you’re looking for with regard to the guy from the Mummy. He was my visual inspiration for my Mirage hero, Altair. Isn’t he simply yummy!!! *sigh*

Monica Burns said...

romance as a genre is a subtextual dialogue about women's fantasies, in addition to being a genre of literature and a mode of storytelling.

I heartily agree. Romance IMHO has always been a fantasy. I know there are people who disagree with me, primarily because their significant other is their hero and they believe they live the life of a romance. I heartily agree that romance is both empowering and yet a fantasy at the same time. I believe I can say that better than most as I’m a survivor of date rape. Romance has empowered me to believe in the possibility of a HEA despite my history. Romance books have given me strong heroines that have shown me women can overcome the odds in different situations, which has empowered me. Most importantly, writing erotic romance has given me the freedom to explore subject matters that I was afraid to address in my own personal life.

I think the most important thing of all is that a woman can pick up an erotic romance/erotica book and decide how far she’s comfortable reading. If the material starts to hit too close to home and frightens or makes a reader uncomfortable she can put the book down. That’s not possible in a real life experience.

For me, romance is a way to escape the reality of daily life where you’re struggling to find money to put gas in the tank, deciding whether to buy those bing cherries you love or just the apples you can better afford, trying not to choke the kids when they won’t do what they’re told and wanting to punch the DH when he pouts because you say you’re too tired. Romance gives me an out, just like sports for most men gives them a release. It’s all subjective. *grin*

Monica Burns said...

a plot and characters the reader can care about.

Characterization is definitely what it’s all about!

Monica Burns said...

Thank you to Monica, and to everyone who participated.
Happy to do so and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. As you can see, I’m a talker with definite opinions. *grin*

Mel Hiers said...

Ack! I missed some great conversation yesterday! Thanks for coming, Monica. :-)

Savanna Kougar said...

Monica, so true about being a pantser. There you are creating madly, typing happily...and! oops! How the heck am I getting my heroine and/or hero out of this one? But, I also think that's part of the fun and challenge for me. Not that it isn't fiercely frustrating, also.

Anne Cain has done some of the most artistically delicious cover art I've see. Your covers and Nina Pierce's cover art for her Tilling Sisters series with Liquid Silver. So romantic...*sigh*

Savanna Kougar said...

Mel, jump on in...or wade on in...I'll keep the sharks off ya...
Don't mind me, I can get pretty silly at times.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Shayla, I had fun writing a sweet mystery story romance in the style of the late 30s and early 40s with a paranormal twist.
However, usually I like the bedroom doors blown off.

Savanna Kougar said...

"(Anitra, the d00d from The Mummy is Oded Fehr, he is *smokin' hawt* and he shares a birthday with me :D - I <3 The Mummy - so...much...eye...candy...::drool::)"

Xandra, 'explicitly' well said. IMHO fantasy, or more specifically women's fantasies are the basis for romance novels. At least, that's why I began reading them at 13, and why I now write them.

See you over at Star-Crossed later.
star-crossedromance.blogspot.com

Monica Burns said...

My pleasure, Mel. I'm still subscribed, so I'll respond. *grin*

Lexie O'Neill said...

Monica,
Okay, I just realized I have read some sizzling books...only very few erotica. The labels do seem to make a difference, though.
Thanks again for blogging with us!
Lexie

Monica Burns said...

I just realized I have read some sizzling books...only very few erotica. The labels do seem to make a difference, Thanks for having me, and yes, we need to get rid of labels, but I think they might be the difference between order and chaos. LOL

Savanna Kougar said...

Hello All! On ~ star-crossedromance.blogspot.com ~ Xandra Gregory has continued this conversation brilliantly, focusing on the fantasy behind the romance novel.
And who can resist this blog title?
Erotic Romance's Slutty Reputation

Angela Guillaume said...

I think that the discussion of sex is moot if one does not consider the needs of the story. In the book I'm currently writing, there is a sex scene right in the beginning (or almost) - but the reason is natural and makes sense. The hero and heroine are madly in love and about to tie the knot in 2 days. A few months ago, a reviewer discussed my short, Mile High to Heaven, and mentioned the fact that there was too much sex. I found that interesting because my perspective was so different. There was no actual sex in the book until Chapter 5 and the entire manuscript had 6 chapters! Now, there was plenty of sexual TENSION, but not sex per se. Which leads me to the point - when the hero and heroine get to know each other, I love an author who can describe sexual tension so well that it feels at least as gratifying as when they consummate the relationship. Nothing feels better than well crafted chemistry, because this adds to the emotional connection between the characters. This way, when the sex happens, it is explosive and fulfilling. I've read some books which feel more like a series of sex scenes than a story. I'm all for spicy romance - but if all we find is the spice, without the romance, then what's the point? May as well call it erotica. I usually put those books down and regret buying them. However, there are several authors out there who are good at weaving the erotic with the emotion. My favorite is Lisa Valdez with her "Passion".

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Angela, thanks for commenting. One reason I personally love writing romance is just so I can create that fierce passionate chemistry, the sparks that ignite the world with the love of the heroine and hero. (or, whatever your choice of lead characters)
I agree totally when you say ~ "I love an author who can describe sexual tension so well that it feels at least as gratifying as when they consummate the relationship. Nothing feels better than well crafted chemistry, because this adds to the emotional connection between the characters. This way, when the sex happens, it is explosive and fulfilling." ~
I had one reviewer complain there was too much sex in one of my novels, but the hero had been deprived of the woman he loved and passionately craved for ten years. What the heck was he supposed to do? Suddenly turn into a priest, which isn't even a career path in my fantasy world, where the art of passion is considered sacred, and practiced religiously as part of the culture itself.
Actually, 'too much sex' was just kind of a surprise, since it is an erotic romance, and another reviewer had commented on the strong plot.
So, there ya go...it's in the individual eye of the beholder or reviewer.

Monica Burns said...

Angela I agree, it's pretty much about one's personal perspective. And since characterizations drive the needs of the story, it does make a difference.

I think some of the "too much sex" mindset is related to the shift in the number of books with sex versus the ones without.

Since erotic romance ripped off the bedroom doors, it does make it more difficult for some readers to find the books without sex, and I do understand their frustration. I do think there are niche markets out there for readers, and I think that's where eBooks come into play. I just wish the industry would settle one ONE standard and make a product that's inexpensive and gives the reader the feeling their holding a real book in their hand. That day will come though.

Angela Guillaume said...

Thank you Monica. And you too, Savanna. You gave readers a lot to chew on. I appreciate that.