First of all, many thanks to Storm for allowing me to appear on her wonderful blog. It's a great opportunity and I hope I don't blow it.
As a former erotica turned contemporary romance writer, I've often struggled with the above conundrum. It would be easy to put in gratuitous sex scenes and slap an erotica tag on any book I've written, but without sounding like a pompous arse, that would comprise the integrity of the story. In some cases, as with The Cloud Seeker, it would be distasteful, considering the other themes of 9/11 and grief. But at The Cloud Seeker's heart is a passionate romance between two awkward people, and the sexual frustration that Max feels as he fights his feelings for Cat, the wayward woman whom everyone else thinks is a bit "odd."
And in Closer Than Blood there is also a theme of frustration and denial that eventually is resolved in a very sensual way, but I would be reluctant to stick an "erotica" tag onto the book because sex isn't the main theme. That privilege belongs to desire, which isn't the same as making like rabbits for the hell of it.
But erotica has come a long way in the last twenty years. Most of it is read by women and on the whole they expect a romantic element, imaginative sex scenes and, heaven forbid, a plot! Oh and, crucially, excellent writing. This does not mean the artsy, dusty erotica of years ago, but well-crafted and fun to read stories by any number of gifted authors. Unfortunately, only a few of them receive any credit and, gallingly, some have only become successful through clever media marketing, even though the product really isn't fit for purpose. But that's the subject for another blog post!
Women are no longer afraid to say they enjoy reading rip-roaring sex, as long as it's consensual and believable. No multiple orgasms just by looking into his baby blues. Other issues have to be tackled first. A credible plot has to develop along with the couple's relationship. The characters have to become three dimensional so the reader actually cares about them before they get down and dirty. And when they do, it has to mean something.
So you can have romance without erotica, but I'd argue that you can't have erotica without a splash of romance, because if it wasn't there, it would be porn. As an author reluctant to pigeonhole myself, I would say that my fiction is contemporary, romantic, erotic and unpredictable. Over the years the lines have begun to blur between the two genres and I'm happy to say I live in both camps. My only insistence in my own writing has to be a happy, or at least satisfying, conclusion. It is romantic fiction after all!
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