Though erotic romance pushes boundaries, as a writer, what are YOUR boundaries when it comes to writing erotic romance?
Rules. Requests. Orders. Permission. Dominance/submission. Pain vs. pleasure. Erotic romance examines the extensive boundaries of intimate encounters that it’s hard to know where to start.
I’d never thought much about my own “rules” around writing erotic romance, largely because I’d never considered writing a book in the genre. My background is in literary fiction and creative nonfiction, and my guilty pleasure work usually centers around paranormal fiction. The first time I wrote a sex scene that would see the light of others’ eyes, I followed the interior voice of the character I’d created, without much consideration beyond what she would prefer. As I continued the series, though, I had to step back and make decisions regarding my direction and desire for the sexual components of my books.
But as Braine thoughtfully points out, we create boundaries for ourselves even in our writing without realizing it. I couldn’t have said this then, but now, having written four books in my series, I can tell you that my focus is always the exploration of sensuality and how that experience informs and shapes our lives.
For example, in my first book, Dominatrix Lux Trace has intimate encounters as part of her job. While a professional Dom doesn’t have sex with her clients, she’s privy to and part of some of their deepest fantasies. As a result, Lux embraces an open-minded view of everyone else’s sexuality…except her own. When she meets Fin MacKenzie, his fresh view of the world makes her realize how small hers has truly become.
As an erotic writer, I never want my sex scenes to exist simply to titillate. They must move the plot forward, develop the characters, show us another facet of the relationship so we can invest further into the story to see how our two lovers will address the inevitable differences and complications that crop up.
I also decided early on that while I embrace BDSM elements in my books, I want only healthy, authentic BDSM based on my own research and experience in the culture. I do not include hardcore BDSM elements (e.g. caning, bloodletting, fetish play) in my books because I write for a broad audience with many different preferences. And let’s be honest: two people (or more) in love and enjoying each other is sexy, even if you have different preferences. But I do make sure that my scenes are accurate to my understanding of the D/s relationship, and if they are not healthy at the core, those issues are addressed with gravity within the story.
I also chose early on to use language that is more delicate and sensitive to female anatomy (I avoid the more intense language often found in erotica) and to give my female and male characters normal bodies within the confines of reader expectations. That’s not to say that using more explicit language is a bad thing—far from it. But I write romance, and I want my language to fall into a softer, more romantic tone that many readers find more appealing for the romance genre. (I enjoy a little gritty erotica myself… 😉 ) And there’s nothing wrong with a hot guy and a hot girl getting it on. But attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. So I try to offer a variety of body types and descriptions that encompass the beauty of diversity. Sure, my guys have hot, muscled bodies…but they do the work to get them, too.
I also believe our flaws are part of our beauty. Sex appeal goes much deeper than six-pack abs and big breasts. We are the result of our upbringing, our genetics, our cultural heritages, our damaging events, our limitations. In the same ways we see our children and our friends through rose-colored glasses, we do the same when we fall in love. Healthy relationships form not as a result of denial of the other’s flaws, but rather in seeing the beauty created by an imperfect design.
Those are my boundaries as an erotic writer, and they challenge as much as they guide my work. When I have scenes that don’t work, or lulls in story, it’s usually because I’ve trailed away from my initial premise: sex scenes that are germane to the plotline and necessary for the characters next step in their growth.
About Ally Bishop
When you do something effortlessly and people commend you continuously, you have found your gift.
I get story. I always have. I started writing when I was 8 on a Smith Corona (the electronic kind — I’m not THAT old). I wrote stories in every spiral notebook I had. Eventually, I graduated to a Mac (yes, I’m one of THOSE people). I imagined new worlds, emotional conflicts, and HEAs while I waited at stoplights or wandered the grocery store. But here’s the thing: I didn’t just dream it up and write it down — I critiqued what I read. I knew when ideas were good, and when they stunk. I ran writing groups, judged creative contests, and eventually got two graduate degrees in writing. That’s right: I love it that much.
So here I am, years later, writing kickass heroines and devastating good guys, along with some mystery and vampires thrown in (I promise: THEY’RE COMING). And what’s really cool? I do what I love. Wanna write a success story for your life: I promise you, that’s it. Do what you love. And hopefully, you can make a living at it too. That’s the golden ticket, Charlie.
And chocolate doesn’t hurt, either…
The serious stuff:
I have an M.A. in creative writing, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing with a focus in publishing. I produce two podcasts, host one, and am a freelance editor and publicist over at Upgrade Your Story. In my free time (what is that, exactly?), I read, workout, game, and converse. I’m a high introvert despite my extroverted behaviors, so you’ll find me behind my computer most days. I’m married to the wild and brilliant Billy Crash, have two dogs who are filing to change their species designation to “human,” and can often be found wandering Manhattan in search of the perfect writing spot.
They say love doesn’t hurt. But it’s a lie. I promise you, love someone long enough, and they’ll destroy your soul.
I’ve spent my life taking care of everyone else: my family, my ex-husband, my friends. Deep down, I know I should focus on myself, but how can I when I’ve got one sister about to implode while the other battles her own guilt?
The minute I met Kai Isaac, I should’ve run in the opposite direction. His business isn’t one I want any part of, and I’ve got way too much drama in my life already. But his kiss…those eyes…the raging inferno he creates when he touches me…I can’t stay away.
Life’s reeling out of control, and he’s my only refuge from the storm. My sister Lux says trusting someone means not knowing everything about them and being okay with it…but what if not knowing the truth ruins everything?
Heat rating: Super sexy, with very light kink 😉
Tracing the Line is the third book in the Without a Trace series, but may be read as a stand-alone story.
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