I remember the first time I read an erotic romance. It was OUTLAW by Susan Johnson and man, reading that book was a life altering event. It was 1995 and a friend and I were driving to Nashville for our first Romantic Times convention. It was a six hour drive and we spent most of it reading the naughty bits aloud and giggling madly.Who knew this type of fiction existed?As a writer, from that moment on I felt liberated. I loved reading sexy romances that included strong characters, ones that I could relate to, the evolution of the relationship AND what happened in the bedroom…the living room…the car…under the kitchen table…As a reader and a writer, I wanted it all.After reading OUTLAW, I devoured every Susan Johnson book I could find. Then I glommed on to Thea Devine, Bertrice Small and Linda Howard. Okay, Howard isn’t exactly erotic romance but you have to admit, her stuff is HOT!
After writing for four years, I felt free to embrace writing romance on my terms.
My first book was ONE WITH THE HUNGER but the term erotic romance hadn’t been coined yet. In those days, (it feels like a century ago!) romance was the most important aspect with regards to the erotic titles. First and foremost was the evolution of the relationship, the growing sexual awareness, the characterization, the plot – all deftly woven together into a deep, satisfying read guaranteed to please any reader who liked it HOT.
Since 2001, the sale of erotic romances has taken off like a rocket. What was once the primary domain of small presses was embraced by the New York publishers and the gold rush…or sex rush began. Every year hundreds of erotic romances are released and the readers eat them up and, in the beginning, I did as well.
Now its seven years later and I’m afraid my point of view has changed as the line between erotic romance and erotica blurred. With publishers pushing for more sex, more sex, the romance, the foundation of these novels, is falling by the wayside. Sex as a plot (I call them walking erection books) is like eating blueberry pie for dinner. It’s good the first few times and when the sugar rush is over you’ll kill for a steak.
I’m not saying that NY’s interest in erotic romance is the death knell for the genre – not at all. My point is this, with the publishers, all publishers, pushing for hotter books, there is a price to be paid for the increased level of sensuality.
One of the biggest issues facing publishing is the rising costs of producing paperbacks. We’ve all seen the price jump from 5.99 for a new book to 7.99 and up, so the publishers began putting the brakes on the word count of their books. I’m of the opinion that a novel takes as many words as it takes to tell the story properly but I’m afraid the days of an epic one hundred and twenty-five thousand word tome is long gone.
At the core the issue is this, with rising costs, restricted word counts and the increased pressure for more sex, more sex, something has to give and from what I’ve seen it’s usually the plot or characterization.
As a reader and a writer, those are the two components of a romance that aren’t expendable. When I read a book I want the relationship, the mystery, the adventure of falling in love. I want to delve into the lives of the characters and see the world from their perspective. Watching them grow as people and as a couple, to overcome the obstacles in their path while learning to combine their lives is what I live for!
This is the heart of a romance novel – the core of what drew us to these wonderful books in the first place.
While I believe every writer has a duty to write what they are called to write (meaning their creative soul), the romance is rapidly becoming secondary in many of the erotic romances on the market today. Sex without soul is empty and meaningless and this is the antithesis of what true romance novels are about.
Personally, I’d rather have a little sex with my plot rather than the other way around. J How about you?