Yes, you did read that correctly. It felt good to write it. Ironic as it may be to many people, it’s true, and I’ve only recently realized it was okay to actually state it publicly. I fell into writing erotic romance and erotica because of a contest, and a desperate need to move into the world of being professionally published after moving radically away from fan fiction. Most people know that story, so I won’t rehash it. (It’s been talked about in many interviews, and here on my blog.)
A few days ago, I stumbled across a blogwritten by the incomparable Jaid Black–she who founded the powerhouse that changed smaller publishing forever, Ellora’s Cave. In the days since reading her blog post, in which she states clearly she’s tired writing about sex, I’ve noticed a number of other authors associated with the genre have also come forward and repeated the sentiment. It’s generally followed by the statement that they are going more mainstream, so romance–yes, less raunch and roll–hell yes! Some people, and yes I am one of them, have been saying for the past couple of years that the market will swing back to more traditional books in time. You can only write so much sex before you get numb to it and it becomes tedious and a chore. The human body can only DO so many things, and I’ve read stuff that made my eyes bleed–because it’s not humanly possible to do some of this–not and survive intact, let alone beg for more. (Just a word to the wise here: Shit like this does not prove how creative you are, it proves how desperate you are to shock readers…in my experience most readers don’t like those kinds of make you cringe shocks.)
I fell into the erotica stream by accident. It was, I admit, the only avenue open to me at the time I wanted very much to get a professional publishing contract in my hands. I sometimes enjoyed writing the sexy stories, and probably still will when the story whispers to me that it’s time for everyone to get down to business, but as a rule, I’m pretty much out of the market. I was never very good at it anyway because after the first couple of years, it became such a chore. I’d often have manuscripts that were mostly written, except for the sex scenes needed to sell them… many of those books are still in the files, and still unfinished.
I grew up on Harlequin Romances. I love them to this day. They’ve grown more risqué and are blatantly sexual and sensual nowadays. What they are not, though, is filled with language that would make a sailor blush–no offense meant to sailors, of course. The characters who populate mainstream romance are passionate, sexy, driven–but they’re also emotionally engaged on levels that many erotic romances miss the mark with because the sex is getting in the way. The mechanics of sex become just that, mechanical, without your characters being emotionally engaged in what they’re doing. Moving body parts get boring, fast. I’ve had many readers write to me and tell me they love my stories but skip over the sex scenes. (Ironic, given how agonizing they have sometimes been for me to write.)
For most of the past 12-18 months I have been frozen creatively. I open files of stories I have outlined and partially written, I tinker, and then I delete. I hated everything I was writing, and hating myself for not being able to write. For the first time in my entire writing career of thirty or so years, I have missed deadlines, and misread guidelines, and promised at least three books that are still not finished. This does not sit well with me, as I pride myself on my ability to be professional and responsible. I still couldn’t finish those stories, in one of them, I wrote 10K words that flowed onto the page and were vivid and alive–I hit the first sex scene, stalled, and have never been able to get back to writing it.
Depression is a whispering demon when this happens to many writers, and it’s plagued me like the disease it is. I’ve learned to stop beating up on myself for my perceived short-comings and lack of talent. One of the biggest revelations is that I can write, and write well, IF it’s something that keeps me excited about the writing. It’s a difficult thing to write story after story, promote and interview and blog all over, knowing in your heart that you hate what you’re selling. I gave myself permission to write what I want to write again, with the help of an amazing editor and friends who have seen the torment I’ve put myself through over all this. So, for the first time in over a year, I’m writing. I did spend much of the year in hell relearning my craft, though, so even while I didn’t write, I didn’t leave it all behind. I’ve read, and read, and learned how to build a better story. Now, it’s time to put the learning to work.
I’ve created my first series, it’s in outline status at the moment, but I’m so excited about it. (I even had a professional design team create a logo for the series, which you can see here.) I’m finally moving ahead with revisions on my first mainstream sensualromance, and it’s making me giddy I’m so pleased with it now. I’ve detailed my first romance with an older couple asthe hero and heroine, and it promises to be wonderful! There are no less than seven novels pending as my creativity comes back online and confidence strengthens. If/when the story tells me it’s time to get down and dirty, I’m sure it’ll happen, but now I’m not forcing myself to make it happen. I don’t foresee a return to behind closed doors romance. I also don’t foresee the demise of erotic romances. What I do see coming is a less sex-hungry readership as the balance returns very slowly to the industry. There IS room for everyone, but for some of us, the agony of having to write sex to sell just might be coming to an end.