I write erotic romance. I said it. Sometimes, though I hesitate to say it aloud. Why? Am I ashamed of what I write? Nope, not at all.
I love hot romances. The hotter the better. In fact, I love to read and write stories that require asbestos gloves. The issue isn't the fact that I write romance with the heat level of a habanero pepper. It's the reaction of others when they discover it. Many people have been accepting and encouraging. I thank those individuals from the bottom of my heart. But as you know, the positive can only armor you against prejudice just so far. Negatives pierce even the thickest hide and I find on this issue I'm a bit thin skinned.
I welcome the diversity within our industry and I believe there should be romances with heat levels from sweet to erotic to meet the reading needs of all romance readers but the erotic romance market has surged in the last few years. Covers from the 80s and 90s which featured Fabio's chiseled bare chest pale in comparison to the sexy covers out there now. Likewise the prose written within the books are explicit and far more graphic than those written by earlier romance writers.
The times they have changed but some readers and writers are unhappy with the changes. They complain about the "F" bomb and call heroines sluts who embrace their sexuality in a very sexual way. I couldn't disagree with them more. If their personal morals compel them to feel that way then that's their right. They aren't required to read or write books they don't enjoy. Live and let live.
I draw the line, however, when writers make these statements publicly or suggest that books should be given arbitrary ratings. I also object when authors claim that erotic romance writers are less capable writers because they write graphic, explicit prose. I'm here to tell you, it's difficult to figure out how to keep a novel length work rolling AFTER your characters have been physically intimate. Normally, that's where you get "and they lived happily ever after." But if you're like me, you always wondered... What happened after the "happily ever after?" Erotic romances go boldly into that territory. That's one of the things I love about them. Also, I can tell you that it is a challenge to write passionate, sexy love scenes that graphically discuss the act yet don't sound like anatomy lessons. It takes a strong writer to convey the emotion behind the sex. I hope one day to be as skilled as Sylvia Day, Robin Schone, and Angela Knight. (Three of my ER heroines).
One other aspect of intolerance against erotic romance hits a bit closer to home. My day job is as a librarian, and I have not "come out" to anyone but my friends in my community about what I write. I hesitate to shout it from the rooftops because I live in a fairly conservative town where in the last year or so books have been challenged at the high school library. There's nothing to stop library patrons from challenging books in the public library, too.
On the up side, I'd join the ranks of J.K. Rowling (who is one of the most challenged authors out there). The down side is people in the community might use their lack of tolerance to try to get me fired. I don't believe my director would allow this, but it's the fear of intolerance which holds me in it's thrall like an overly seductive, yet menacing vampire. The dangerous "What if?"
This is one reason I find Dr. King and his message so inspiring. He was a man who faced far worse than I, yet he had a dream. A dream I share. A dream so many have shared since he called out to the people on the Washington Mall in 1963. It's a dream which can be applied to all forms of prejudice and intolerance wherever we may find it.
A dream where all men (and women) will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
And for me, it's a dream where all erotic romance writers will be judged not by the heat of their prose but by the content within their characters.