Sunday, October 11, 2009

Writer By Accident—Erotic Romance Author By Surprise

I didn't start out to be a writer. My writing career was literally a by-product of a hoped for career as a nature and travel photographer. Even though I worked full time in Los Angeles in the television industry as a production manager, my passion was photography. My dream was to visit marvelous and interesting places, take stunning photographs, have them published, and even sold in galleries. I had a couple of minor successes with my photos appearing in magazines, but nothing of consequence. I came to realize that I had a better chance of marketing my photos if I wrote magazine articles to accompany them. That led to a few more publication acceptances.

Somewhere along the way I discovered, to my surprise, that I really enjoyed the writing process. And that's when my emphasis switched from photography to writing.

I didn't want to write the sweet, traditional romance where a chaste kiss was the answer to pent up sexual tension and desire. There is definitely a place for the sweet romance within the genre and it has lots of followers, but it wasn't right for me.

My first published romance was from Silhouette's Desire line, the most sensual line they published at that time. After having five books released from Silhouette Desire, I had my first romantic suspense published by Harlequin's Intrigue line.

I've always loved mysteries and romantic suspense seemed like a natural combination to me. Whether it's romance where the two main characters become involved with a mystery or a mystery where they become involved romantically, having the romance and mystery together ups the ante for those characters. There is more at stake for them than merely solving the crime or unraveling the puzzle. They now have an emotional investment with each other and the need to protect that growing love. It adds new elements to the story and complications that wouldn't otherwise be there.

My fifth Silhouette Desire was in the final stages of editing when I was told to add another love scene to the book. What? At this stage of the production process I'm supposed to add a love scene in a manner that doesn't make it read like something just stuck in there? As it happened, I had the perfect place to add it. In fact, that was what I had wanted to do when originally writing the book because it was a natural progression of the story. That editorial directive told me they were increasing the heat level for the line.

Even though the sensual content had been increased, I eventually became frustrated with the imposed need to use euphemisms in love scenes and polite terminology that seemed to me to be out of place for the contemporary times and not realistic to the circumstances, whether the situation was a love scene involving sex between two consenting adults or a verbal clash between two angry gang members on the tough city streets. Although hell and damn were acceptable words, they certainly weren't realistic dialogue. That's not what you hear street gangs saying, or the bad guys in a mystery. Not even what you'd hear the good guy cops saying when interrogating a bad guy. Their terminology and dialogue would be much more realistic.

And that brings us to 2005 when I discovered the eBook publishing world while attending the RWA national conference in Reno, Nevada. ePublishers pushed the envelope and didn't impose unrealistic restrictions on their authors yet they still retained the elements that made a story a romance.

Graphically writing the realism of sex is usually referred to as erotic. To some, the word erotic has an unsavory connotation like something you'd purchase under the counter in a plain brown wrapper at an adult book store. But the reality is that erotic romance has two characters working through the obstacles of a relationship, whether it's the internal conflict of emotional baggage from the past or external conflict of what's going on around them, to achieve the ultimate goal of love and happiness. The same process the writer puts the characters through in the sweet and traditional romances. Erotic romance can be part of any romance sub genre such as paranormal, fantasy, historical, etc. They all have the one ultimate goal of love and happiness.

How do things stand now in the romance industry? It appears that traditional print publishers have taken a cue from the realism of eBooks and have accepted that there is a large segment of readers who want their romance books to include erotic elements. They now have erotic romance lines offering up much of the same type of reality that ePublishers provided from the beginning.

And that's how I got from taking nature photographs to writing erotic romance. I still do photography and not all my romance writing is erotic romance. In fact, a have a romantic suspense scheduled for release in January…DÉJÀ VU from The Wild Rose Press, a NON-erotic romantic suspense that caters to my love of mysteries.

And the beat goes on…


Paris said...

I've never had a problem buying erotic books in a bookstore. In fact, I don't think the clerks ever paid that much attention. But that isn't always the case and I hate the idea that someone could be intimidated into not buying a story they wanted.

Kudos to the publishers who saw a need and filled it. I'll be looking for your romantic suspense;-)

Samantha Gentry said...

Paris: Yes, I'm with you. I hate the idea that someone could be intimidated into not buying a story they wanted, too. That's probably why ePublishing was heavy duty in the forefront of erotica romance...the internet is anonymous and impersonal in that regard. You're not face-to-face with a clerk and no one in the store can see what you're buying.

Gail Roarke said...

I've sold two erotic romances myself, and I agree that it's not what I expected to be writing. I'm a lifelong reader of SF, fantasy, mysteries, and the like and that's what I always expected to write--and I do. I also enjoy reading (and writing, as it turns out) erotica, or "smut".

As it happens, my erotica has sold first, though I'm still writing and circulating other genres. But I enjoy writing them and if people are interested in buying them, I can live with that.

Samantha Gentry said...

Gail: One thing about erotica ... it can apply and be part of any genre which lets us write in the genre we like, such as mystery, and still add the erotic elements without taking away from the mystery.

susan said...

As a reader of many years ( I am 63) I always enjoyed the erotica side of things in a book. I read the others and also enjoy them but I feel we all need some excitment in life. I depend on contests and limit buying to get my erotica books as our library doesn't carry them. I do not see anything wrong if a readers chooses this genre of book. I am not oversexed or sick to read them. Look at the murder mysteries..when a reader reads those does that put them as a killer..of course not. Thrills, excitement, hot stuff and life in general needs to be a part of life to keep the mind active and the blood flowing. ha ha Now after all is said and done..all these reasons is why I love erotica books..keep the books rolling!! susan L.

Samantha Gentry said...

Susan: You are so right ... "thrills, excitement, hot stuff, and life in general needs to be part of life to keep the mind active and the blood flowing."

Kelley said...

I wouldn't want to read a book that has been censored to make it more accessible. Writers should be able to portray characters in a realistic light, swearing and all. I am glad you found a publisher who realized this.


Samantha Gentry said...

Kelley: Yep...there's books out there for everyone, for all different types of belief and lifestyles, for every taste. I like to deal with realistic dialogue and actions for characters, at least the type of characters I create.

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to be a writer - I just never thought I would be writing m/m erotica romance!

I can remember my first story was a mystery romance. My fifth grade teacher conficated it, as it was 'too mature' for someone my age to be writing... (what can I say? I was intrigued by my aunt's pile of True Story and True Confession magazines and hid them in the hayloft, devouring everyword and being shocked at the same time!)

Growing up, my favorite books to read were cozy mysteries, historical sagas, and fantasy (really no romance what so ever.) My favorite television shows were the afternoon soap operas (I guess that's where I got my romance 'fix'), mystery movies, and Star Trek. When I wrote, it was a mixture of romance/mystery/fantasy and usually based on my orginal characters meshing with television characters. (This was in the 70's, so I had no idea what I was doing was fanfic)

In the 80's I purchased my first slash fanzine - Star Trek Kirk/Spock. And OMG! A light switch flipped on! That was my nitch! Anything I wrote after that, was m/m romance - with a touch of mystery, fantasy, or history thrown in. I was totally convinced I must have been a gay man in a previous life, because the words just flowed from me story after story...

Then, I became touched with religion, and I was forced to give up writing because my talent wasn't used to glorify God. I tried to write other things - but my heart wasn't in it. My passion is m/m romance.

About 12 years went by. Life changes. I kept fighting my muses about writing - and it took a promising gay coming out love story on a soap opera that once again, inspired me to give up my self imposed writing ban, go back to the keyboard (this time it was easy b/c it was a computer keyboard and not the typewriter!) and I have been writing male/male romance ever since...though again I started in fan fic, but as of last year, gained courage enough to go out on my own.

I made my first pitch to an editor last weekend and they are interested in two of my original stories! I am on cloud nine!

I guess we all evolve to where in lies our passion. I knew I'd be a writer - wanted to write anything but m/m romance - but in the end, the muses were right. This genre feels good, feels right, and everything just seems to flow so easily! I love what I do - and even though I may never make it big, I am doing what I love and it shows through my work and my attituded.

And I still think I must have been a gay man in a previous life!

George Allwynn

Samantha Gentry said...

George: You've had an interesting road to where your writing is today...sometimes direct and at other times a winding round about path. But in the end, we all need to write what works for us as individuals. A writer needs to be challenged so the writing doesn't become stale, but that doesn't specifically relate to the genre and/or sub genre we've chosen.

I'm not sure what or who I was in a previous life, which leads me to believe that I've had several previous lives. :)