It's Just Not About The Sex

Yeah yeah, I can hear you rolling your eyes from across the Atlantic. I write erotic romance so of course it IS all about the sex, right? Well, yes and no. Erotic romance of course allows a writer to tell a love story more fully, and we’ll go into that later. The story is told completely, including the sex that binds the two main characters together. Sex is very powerful, in life, in writing. In the movies, in our heads. It’s like nuclear fission. Handled well, contained, it’s a driving force of nature, able to accomplish a lot, empowering people, giving off light and heat. Handled badly, well… boom.

A number of readers have commented on the “vanilla sex” in my novels. I’m not entirely sure what is meant by that but I suppose it is that there is very little — read none — sexual experimentation in my books. No new boundaries are established, no one figures out a new position or tries out sex toys. My characters are always in a sex-toy-free zone.

There are a number of reasons for this and for my predilection for “vanilla” sex. Let me tell you, when you’re an erotic romance writer, it can be quite scary because you cannot write the love scenes in an exciting way unless they excite you. The writer is the first to get all hot and bothered at what she writes. So when you’re reading a love scene, you’re getting a disturbingly intimate peek into the writer’s head, into her fantasies and deepest secrets. A reader in Hong Kong probably has a better insight into the intimate secrets of the writer’s imagination than her best friend or even, at times, her significant other. Having said that, it will probably occur to you that I don’t employ sex toys or anything REMOTELY like bondage games or spanking or whatever in anything I write because they don’t turn me on. Au contraire.

That’s one aspect. The other aspect is that I write, almost always, about those first crazy, tumbling, breathless, mind-bending, world-altering moments when the characters are falling in love. They can hardly catch their breath, every aspect of their lives is changing. The sex is almost too intense to bear. The man, in particular, has problems controlling himself, problems he’s never had before when it was just sex, not this thing that is eating him up alive. The sex is so intense it burns them up, they shake with it. That is NOT a moment when you need sex toys to stimulate you. You’re so stimulated it’s a miracle you haven’t rocketed off to the moon. To my mind, the toys and the games and the fur handcuffs and the potions and lotions and positions are for when you’re just a little bored and need some stimulus. My men don’t need stimuli with their women, believe me. If anything, they need to be hosed down.

And so we come to the IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE SEX part. Think of a love as a pyramid. At the top, diamond-bright and diamond-sharp, is sexual desire, intense attraction. That’s usually where I start my stories, at that sharp end. But during the novel, the middle section of the pyramid is formed, and that’s romantic love. Not necessarily a melding of minds, because usually the hero and heroine are two distinctly different people, but definitely a melding of hearts. They might think differently and act differently, but their emotions are coming into alignment and they are both moving the other to the top of their priorities. They’d both make sacrifices for each other and, ultimately, would die for each other. That kind of intensity is hard to keep up without a suspense plot endangering both of them in the background. But what I’m hoping is that the reader catches glimpses of the big, solid base of the pyramid, which will form the base of the rest of their lives, and that is an attachment to each other that incorporates yet transcends the sex, which is, as the philosophers would put it, necessary yet not sufficient, for a bond that will last the rest of their lives.

You can count on my characters spending the rest of their lives together, utterly committed to each other. The first to pass away will do so with his hand in hers or vice versa. Each will be able to utterly and completely count on the other—for loyalty, for love and yes, for sex. So the intense sex at the beginning sets the ball rolling (as it were) but it will roll far, and for the rest of their lives.

(Originally published on August 21, 2007 at The Good, The Bad and The Unread)

Thank You, Erotic Romance

I feel so privileged to be able to write this stuff, you have no idea! When I started thinking about writing romances, umpedy-ump years ago, I started researching the market and the first thing I came across was walls. And doors, firmly closed, with a NO ENTRY tape across the doorway. It was amazing how many NOs there were:

  • NO sports heroes
  • NO musicians
  • NO odd jobs
  • NO odd nationalities

The list goes on and on. Together with, of course, all the bans on describing the physical side of the love affair.

Erotic romance blew all of that right out of the water, bless the readers who loved this stuff. Erotic romance just opened the whole field right up. When you have seven-foot tall, 600 year-old vampires, a football star hero seems tame.

I’ve had several editors as an erotic romance writer and not a one ever said NO to anything. The editors’ only concern was a good story, but nothing was off bounds.

For me, personally, I was able to finally just jettison (with heartfelt gratitude) that old romance cliché of The Conflict. You know the one — he’s a firefighter, she’s an arsonist, yada yada. I particularly HATED those novels where the hero despises the heroine, or, more rarely, vice versa, until on the second to the last page, where he discovers that she’s not the slut/killer of his brother/person responsible for the family bankruptcy he thought she was. I truly hate it when the hero dislikes the heroine because I figure it’s hard to get over those emotions. But that’s me. I think a man and a woman trying to live together for a lifetime generates quite enough conflict right there, thank you very much. Or if conflict there has to be, it should come from the outside world or at most a clash of moral stances, where they’re both right. Not where the hero is a dense dickhead who can’t see what’s right in front of his eyes.

So erotic romance has allowed me to write the stories I love to write. Where the hero and heroine actually like and respect each other, right from the start. They might not UNDERSTAND each other, and there might be huge obstacles along the way, but never doubt that my hero and heroine are committed to each other, and would quite literally die for each other.

(Originally published on August 21, 2007 at The Good, The Bad and The Unread)

I'm Not A Man

I cannot begin to tell you how many emails I get telling me that I am a man. (I also get tons of email speculating that I am either Shannon McKenna or Linda Howard, which is much more flattering).

I’m not a man. Trust me on this.

I’m not Shannon McKenna or Linda Howard, either. However, I think I might have a handle on some aspects of a man’s mental make-up. I got married very very late in life after many years working in a very difficult, very challenging, very hard profession that required a lot of travel alone, sometimes to fairly out-of-the-way and even dangerous places. I would never even remotely presume that I am as brave as my heroes, who are mainly soldiers or law enforcement officers, because I’m not. However, I do know what it’s like to do a hard thing for a long time and somehow I think that gives me some insight into my men.

Still, it’s fairly flattering that some feel my men are so well-described I could only be one, myself. That’s the highest form of flattery. Thanks.

I’m sooooo looking forward to chatting with you all!

Lisa Marie Rice

(Originally published on August 21, 2007 at The Good, The Bad and The Unread)