emotion in erotic romance

Writing Erotic Romance: It’s All About The Context

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post ever since I received a nasty comment from an anonymous troll a few weeks ago. I’d just announced the release of The Virgin Billionaire and the Evil Twin, and someone left a comment that went like this: “You actually named him after a pornster?”

Yes. “Pornster” was the exact word this idiot used, and not in a positive context either. I’ll comment briefly on this “pornster” reference for a second, and then go into the post. The adult entertainment industry is now a billion dollar industry, which means someone’s looking at it, reading it, and buying it. No one admits to it. But obviously someone is doing it.

With that said, the main theme of this post is context with regard to erotic romance. The character in Virgin Billionaire and Evil Twin, Gage Weston (Luis’s twin brother), changed his name (just like Luis) when he moved to New York and reinvented himself. Gage was stuck at home, caring for elderly parents in Tennessee, watching them wither away and die. He wasn’t openly gay in Tennessee, he had no social life, and he fulfilled his obligations and put his own needs aside until his parents passed away and he was free to leave. They were already devastated enough because one of their sons, Luis, was gay, if Gage had admitted he was gay it would have killed them even sooner. And I wanted Gage to have strength of character, and yet I wanted him to appear slightly innocent, too. Which is why I named him Gage Weston. I did it with an almost satirical concept. Gage, who knows nothing about social rights or wrongs, who knows nothing about New York, thinks the name is perfect.

Unlike what the troll who commented about Gage Weston being named after a “pornster” thought, my movtivation behind his name had nothing to do with porn, porn stars, or the porn industry. It had to do with innocence, life-change, and learning how to survive in New York alone as a gay man. He wanted to reinvent himself as someone exciting, slightly dangerous, and he wanted a name that was nothing like Eddie.

In the wrong context, I can see how anyone would assume he’s named after a pornster. But that’s why making assumptions without reading a book can be dangerous. Assumptions are usually wrong. And people who assume without knowing facts, are usually either dumb or one card shy of a full deck.

No author I know does anything by accident. At least I don’t. Trust me, even when it might look like an accident, it’s on purpose. We spend much too much time figuring out our characters so no one can make stupid comments about them. If a character is named after a “pornster” then nine times out of ten the author has a valid reason for doing this. And this, once again, is one of the most important things when it comes to writing erotic romance: context, context, context. Anything taken out of context can be viewed in a different way. Just look at Anthony Weiner and his debacle. If he’d been sending those photos as a joke, it would have shed a completely different light on his situation. He would have been embarrassed, but no one would have been calling for his resignation. But because he was allegedly sending them to strange women, it become an entirely different game.

And it’s no different in erotic romance. For some, erotic romance is all about the emotion. I agree. Erotic romance is about emotion…to a certain extent. I do think that when some reviewers slam good erotic romances for lack of emotion it’s just an excuse to make them look good while writing a bad review. Like authors, they always know what they are doing. But it’s bullshit and they know it…or it’s a private matter they need to discuss with their personal therapists. For most, erotic romance is about escapism and fantasy, which has never hurt anyone. And if a character name, or a scene, is taken out of context by someone who assumes without knowing facts, it becomes something completely different.

It’s happened to me more than once. This incident with the troll is one of many I’ve experienced in the past twenty years. And I’m sure it will happen again. I’m also sure it’s going to happen to other authors who are reading this blog post right now. And the only way to be sure you’re getting it right is to think about the context with which a scene or character is written. And to think about your readers and to know what they want. In the end, only one thing matters: knowing you, as the author, got the context right for your readers.

The Difference Between a Freak Show and an Erotic Romance

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time and putting it off because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. In other words, the thoughts that run through my mind all the time when it comes to erotic romance often clash. And sometimes it’s difficult to put it all into a blog post, especially since there’s a difference between erotic romance and erotica.

But I’m going to try right now. And I’m going to start by saying that I’ve seen more definitions of erotic romance in my time than I’ve seen traffic jams on the freeway in LA. So I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with this post. I’m just posting what I think erotic romance is supposed to be. It’s just my opinion and it means nothing, and I’m also lumping erotica into this post. I know there’s a huge difference between erotica and erotic romance. But I’m speaking in general terms now, when it comes of freak shows regarding both erotica and erotic romance.

For me, one of the most important aspects of erotic romance is keeping it from becoming a freak show. And I’m not talking about porn. I’ve been blasted by some reviewers for writing porn. I’m fine with this; I respect their opinions. But everyone seems to have a different definition of porn these days. Sarah Palin thought Levi Johnston’s nude photos were porn and I thought they were basic and very tame. Poor Levi hardly showed his behind. If anything, it was a disappointment. And I just finished reading FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen, and I’m sure there are people out there who would say that some of his sex scenes are pornographic, especially those who lean to the far right. So I’m not even going near the word porn. No one will ever agree on a specific definition and I’m certainly not going to try. I’m sticking to freak show here.

And I do think there’s a difference between an erotic romance that’s a total freak show and a warm emotional story with a lot of graphic sex. Even though I have crossed lines and pushed a little more than I probably should have with regard to sex scenes in certain books, I’m always striving to make my characters normal people with normal desires who always fall in love in the end. I even base most of my characters on gay men I’ve known…gay men who were/are, in fact, involved in long term loving relationships. And I take pride in the fact that no one can say my characters are freaks, unless I purposely want them to be freaks for comic relief or to balance the story a little(the closest I’ve come to freak is with the latest book, with a character named Jeff, and even he’s tame). And if the sex scenes in any of my books were toned down and rewritten with pg ratings, there would still be a storyline and there would still be characters with emotion and love. Even the worst review I’ve ever received made a point of stating this…the reviewer hated the sex scenes, but she did say there was a solid storyline. And, though the review wasn’t great, I was glad she mentioned this, because it’s all about storyline for me.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with freak shows, or erotic romances that are freak shows. A lot of sex bloggers on the fringes of the Internet have found a niche writing about freak shows and they have quite a few followers. But, frankly, I’m not going to put a scene in any of my books where an overweight bi-sexual hero paints his crusty toenails periwinkle blue and presses them up against a sagging pierced breast that’s surrounded with fuzzy red hair. I saw an image like this on a sex blog once and I’m still having nightmares about it. If I want to lose weight, all I have to do is think about this photo and I’ll lose my appetite. And even though there are folks on the fringes who are into these creepy things, it’s simply not for me. I did get lightly into foot fetish once with a few of my characters, but only as a sideline, during a love scene, and it was never the main focus of the story.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m taking love stories about normal people and incorporating sex scenes into them, and hoping the sex scenes move the story forward. Sometimes those sex scenes are graphic, and sometimes they are very tame. Like the book I’m working on right now, the fourth in The Virgin Billionaire series, where the two main characters, Jase and Luis, make love and pretend to have “literary” sex. But it’s all in fun and I try hard to refrain from turning the characters into, once again, a freak show. I’d go into more detail about “literary” sex, but this blog is rated pg and I want to keep it that way.

I hope no one was offended by this post. I’m not casting judgement. I’m just stating the motivation behind my own work, especially since I think it’s important for authors these days to clarify themselves so they don’t get lumped into a category they didn’t want to be part of in the first place. Because when it comes down the the final word, the author is the one left standing all alone, and very rarely is there anyone, from agent to publisher, there to stand behind him.

I’m Guest Blogging at "Oh Get A Grip"

I wrote a guest post today over at “Oh Get A Grip!”

It’s about m/m erotic romance, women who write m/m erotic romance, and a comment I read where someone didn’t think there was enough “emotion” in erotic romance in general these days.

Of course most people know where I stand when it comes to women writing m/m erotic romance, and I had a few things to say about the “emotion” I’ve found in reading other m/m erotic romances.

I’m not sure how long the post will be up. But if you’re interested, you can check it out here.

Lies of Omission: Who Said There Isn’t Enough Emotion in Erotic Romance?

Those who read my blog know I rarely ever review books. But once in a while I do comment about a book I’ve read, even though it’s not a formal review. And the reason why I’m commenting about this book, LIES OF OMISSION, is mainly because I read a comment the other day on a well known romance blog where the person writing the post said she couldn’t find enough “emotion” in erotic romance, and then went on to say most of the erotic romances she’d read were not well written.

Well, this dear romance blogger should pick up a copy of LIES OF OMISSION, by Michele L. Montgomery. Because this book is filled with emotion beyond what I expected. And the mc, Trenton, is one of the most emotionally charged characters I’ve read in a long, long time. I’ve read other books by Michele before (Tony and Ryan), and I’ve enjoyed them. But I liked this one in particular because of all the emotion…not to mention the modern romance quality. And, it’s very well-written.