Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Dream

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.


  1. Great post, Francesca. I've never understood why people get so upset about books with sex in them, yet thrillers and suspense stories with evil sadistic serial killers fly to the tops of best sellers lists. What does that say about our society? Describing brutal murders is ok, but describing physical love between consenting adults isn't?

    I enjoy a good thriller now and then too, but I'd much rather read an emotional, sexy story and if includes some body-tingling sex, so much the better. :)

    I believe those people who speak against erotic romances have likely never read one. Just because the stories include some hot sex doesn't mean they don't also have character growth and an interesting plot and emotion. Prejudice tends to be very close-minded and I despair that most prejudiced people don't want to hear anything that might challenge their beliefs. All we can do it write our stories the way they need to be written and those of us who enjoy reading about the celebration of love buy them.

    You know, if I'm not in the mood for a tension-filled suspense read, I don't pick it up. If someone doesn't want to enjoy a sizzling story, just don't buy the book. Why does there have to be a problem at all?

    Enough ranting :)

  2. Really relevant topic, Francesca. I have the good fortune of being supported by a family who understands my desire to write. Though they may not read my book (just couldn't get past the fact that sister/daughter/niece wrote those sexy details ;) )they all bought it. How sweet of them.

    I agree with Natasha. I think most people criticize something without ever doing research. I had a friend who was all over the Harry Potter books and how they led children away from God, but vehemently refused to even read one. Well then how would she know?

    Romance in general seems to get such a bad wrap as just "fluff" writing and I think erotica tends to be thought of as just "porn". But again, I think those opinions come from people who haven't read it and who don't understand how hard writers work to have great stories with well rounded characters.

  3. Francesca, couldn't agree with you more, and beautifully written. Prejudice is prejudice wherever it rears its ugly gnome head. And we are all upon this Earth to live our dream and share it, to help others achieve their dreams.
    I believe one reason some people have a problem distinguishing romance erotic stories from porn is because culturally we are not mature about sex. As a species we are still immature about our true and splendid sexuality as human beings. Thanks for writing that blog. Maybe that should be sent to the RWR.

  4. I'm tired of people putting others down or discriminating against them for their tastes. When will these people learn that it takes all kinds to make the world go round? I don't hold it against anyone because they like to eat things I don't like, or because they read things I don't like to read. The list goes on. Everyone is different, and we should be thankful for that, imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same?
    I'm not even published yet and I'm already getting slammed because of what I write, not to mention what I read. I could understand someone complaining if I held them down and made them read erotic romance when they didn't like it, I'd even object to me doing that. I write what I write because I enjoy it. I hope to publish it so that others who wish to read it can enjoy it too. Nowhere in there do I want anyone who doesn't enjoy it to read it. That's not what it's about. It's about being free to be individuals, have our own likes and dislikes, and enjoy them without hurting others.
    It's such a shame that people need to put others down for their likes and dislikes to make themselves feel better.

  5. Beautifully stated, Francesca!
    I also agree with Natasha that most people who criticize erotic romance have never really read any. They simply can't stand the idea of all that sex. Fine with me-different strokes for different folks, which is a good thing! Otherwise Nora would be the only romance author published.
    I'm very fortunate that I've spent my life in California, in very liberal environments, so I haven't experienced as much judgment of what I do as many others have, although several people were quite rude to my face at the RWA conference last year after asking what I wrote. One was a well-known published author, and I was hugely disappointed in her behavior.
    For many of these people, they aren't comfortable writing sex, and they're angry that the market is demanding it. They're afraid that may mean less sales for them, or maybe they feel pressured to try and write material they don't want to write. Personally, I think there will always be a market for sweeter romances, regardless of the demand for more sexually explicit material.
    But I also think that demand is an expression of a sociological change in our culture about how women view themselves as sexual beings. It shows that we're much more comfortable seeing ourselves in that way, which is a good thing, IMO!
    What really pisses me off is when these people make judgments about who we are or even about who our heroines are because they express a healthy desire for sex. Having sex when you're not married does not make you a slut, and that's the ugly implication. If a person isn't comfortable with that, that's their choice. But how dare they cast judgment on other people?
    And if these judgmental folks read any ER, they'd discover some emotionally compelling stories, often made all the more intense because the characters have shared that intimacy.
    It seems to me that all too often the ignorant voices are the loudest.