Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Why I Now Love Erotic Romance
Why I now love erotic romance more than ever before is because of the opportunities e-publishing has opened up for gay authors and women who write gay erotic romance. I will post more about this topic soon, but right now I'm mainly getting into why I've become an even bigger fan of all erotic romance in the past few years. I recently discovered this novel, J's Closet Volume I, by author Ryan O'Leary. I'd never heard of him until I saw him talking about his book on social media. He has no idea I'm even writing this post and mentioning him. But I went to Amazon and read the product info and I can't wait to buy the book and get started.
I first started reading erotic romance as a teenager, with a line of erotic romance novels with black and gold covers and titles that read "Him," or "Her," or "Them." These novels weren't bad, and they did cover a lot of erotic ground with regard to hetero and gay relationships, but I always found something lacking in them. At the time, there wasn't much of a selection in bookstores and you took what you could get. As you can see from the reviews I post on this blog, I have eclectic taste and I'm just as likely to read a novel like Beloved...or a novel by Anne Tyler...as I am to read a highly erotic piece by a new author I never heard of. As a reader, I'm thankful I have these choices now. I remember a time when I didn't have them.
Is there a lot of slush to sift through in erotic romance these days? I would answer that with a very hesitant "I'm not so sure." It's not hard to take any erotic romance out of context and make it funny, or make it look bad. Sex can be funny if you handle it a certain way, and you're clever enough to turn something sexy into something laughable. The reason I would answer that way is because only an idiot has the audacity to tell you what good writing is. The fact is that most novels that were considered classics fifty or sixty years ago would not get past the gatekeepers today. There's one agent out there who's always talking about "the hook," and I often wish someone would get a big meat hook and drag her off the blogsphere. That's because what is considered good writing varies from person to person, from reviewer to reviewer. It's what makes book reviews so interesting. The only time I ever step back and wonder is when I hear someone state they know, for a fact, what good writing is. It's the sure sign of either an amateur, or someone who suffers from serious narcissism. Either way, that's dangerous.
If you just take a look at the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, you'll see many varying opinions on specific aspects of the book, from the way to BDSM was handled to the way the sentences were written. I'm not a BDSM expert and I care more about how the story was told, and I think most readers who love books and stories would tend to agree with me. In other words, I never sit down with a new book and think about all the errors and flaws I'm going to find. I sit down with the intention of being taken away to another world with a story that is different from my own.
As an author of gay erotic romance who has been around for twenty years now, I used to feel stifled by the agents, gatekeepers, and editors out there who would NOT even deal with erotic gay romance...or any erotic romance. The selection for readers was limited to the tastes of a select few, and authors literally jumped at the chance to be part of short story anthologies that paid, in most cases, fifty dollars plus two free copies. I think if I ever write an autobiography, that's going to be the title..."Fifty Bucks Plus Two Free Copies." And we were thrilled to get the work.
I still see the same disdain now for gay erotic romance that I've always seen from many agents and publishers, but now it doesn't matter as much because e-publishing and self-publishing has opened so many doors for erotic romance authors they aren't depending on the personal tastes of a literary agent who may or may not like sexy books. Or, someone who supports gay equal rights but doesn't want to read about gay sex. You'd be amazed at how many want to recognize gay men, but without recognizing the fact that gay men have sex just like everyone else and we're not those sexless creatures you saw on Sex in the City.
Another thing that has changed for all erotic romance authors is the sex police isn't there to tell them what to do and how to do it. Well, they still are there, but now in a different form. They write reviews and blog posts about how much they hate too much sex and how they can spot good writing. They don't actually choose what we read, thank God. In the past, those proverbial gatekeepers regulated the sex scenes in books, a lot like censors do in films, according to their own personal tastes and what they consider either too much or over the top. And in doing this they completely ignored the fact that there are people out there who want to read about what real people do in real life in privacy, even if it's bordering outrageous. Things like ridiculous dirty talk two lovers share. Or things like hand jobs that would never have been allowed to go hand in hand, pardon the very bad pun, with a romantic scene. And this is something that happens in real life all the time when two people are in love. And what a lot of erotic romance authors are doing now is combining the real aspects with the romantic aspect. And they aren't holding back anymore.
It's going to be interesting to see how sex is treated in the New Adult genre. I truly cannot imagine a sexless New Adult book, because that's a time in life...the ages between college and early thirties...when you're supposed to be at your sexual peak. And if you're not getting good sex then, you are truly missing out on one of the best experiences of life. So how anyone could write a sexless New Adult book passes me by...especially since New Adults nowadays are getting into sex like never before.
And those who aren't into sex don't have to read it. That's a best part now, and why I now love erotic romance even more than ever. If you know a book is going to be highly erotic with a lot of sex scenes, you can pass on that book and read something completely asexual. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy, and money, and the time it took you to complain about it. I think I proved my point with Chase of a Dream when I removed all the sex scenes...7000 words from the original 60,000...and released the book in two forms, one with sex and one without. As I've stated, I did this for readers so they would have choices. There's nothing wrong with preferring romantic stories that don't have sex scenes, not by any means. But don't penalize those of us who do like that. The love and romance was still in Chase of a Dream without the sex scenes, and for those who wanted to keep it more real, the sex was there in the unabridged version as well.
And for me, that really is what erotic romance is about. It's a love story with sex, but if you take the sex out you still have the same emotion and storyline that should keep the reader interested. And when I write an erotic romance, I take that into consideration each time in case I ever do want to remove a sex scene...or tone one down. I have seen some amateurs refer to certain sex scenes in erotic romance books as porn. But since no one has been able to define porn yet, and because so many disagree on so many different definitions, it's not possible to take people like this seriously. Even in pure erotica, not erotic romance, there should be a storyline. That's what keeps it from being porn for me. And if you take the sex out of a pure erotic novel the storyline should still be able to stand alone. I often read erotic romances and imagine doing this. In almost every single case the sex scenes could be eliminated and the story would still stand alone. In fact, I've been thinking of making a new rule whenever I review an erotic book and stating this up front in case any potential readers are interested. I think that might be just as important as heat ratings are.
Although I still see a good deal of criticism about erotic romance from people who just can't wait to slam anything sexual with a reality factor, I'm glad I don't have them choosing my books for me. Because when I write an erotic romance I don't want to be censored. And when I read one I want that erotic romance to be my choice, and not someone who may or may not disagree with my sexual standards in books. I think I have mentioned this before somewhere, so I don't want to be accused of self-plagiarizing. But I remember posting about Levi Johnston's nude playgirl photos a while back, and then commenting on how Sarah Palin called his Playgirl shoot "porn." Johnston showed no full frontal nudity, all the shots were taken from the side or the back, and we didn't see any more than we would in a museum in Europe. And yet Palin thought that was porn. I'm not disagreeing with her...or anyone else who screams porn...I'm just not agreeing with her. There's difference, and that's because now I can choose for myself.
Could I have gone even deeper with this post. Of course I could have. I could have used big words no one else uses, and used a more academic approach. But then I would have bored you to death, too.