Today we’re pleased to welcome Berkley Heat author Savanna Fox to Book Country. As someone who writes both contemporary and erotic romance, she knows how to turn up the heat and write steamy love scenes. She’s currently giving away copies of her most recent erotic romance, BOUND TO BE DIRTY, so head out to her site for a chance to snag a copy!
Savanna’s here to talk about the differences in her approach to writing in the two romance subgenres.
Take it away, Savanna!
If you read romance fiction, I bet you’ve noticed that it’s getting hotter. That trend started even before Fifty Shades of Grey made BDSM erotic romance standard reading fare on subways and in airport waiting rooms.
I’ve been writing “hot” ever since 2005, though not with the level of kink found in many erotic romances. For me, it’s all about one man, one woman, and, to be honest, nothing I wouldn’t want to try myself!
The level of heat in my books varies. As Susan Fox, I write sexy contemporaries for Kensington Zebra. My Caribou Crossing series is set in a small Western town made for adventure, love, and second chances. As Savanna Fox, I write erotic romance for Berkley Heat. My Dirty Girls Book Club series, set in Vancouver, British Columbia, is about four women whose book club decides to spice things up by reading erotica. Each time they do, a member embarks on a sexy romance that in some ways parallels the story they’re reading.
For me, it’s natural to not close the bedroom door in the reader’s face. What happens during sex—and what the characters think and feel—is as important, and often more important, than what happens when they’re together outside the bedroom.
So, what’s the difference between the sex and romance in a “sexy contemporary” Caribou Crossing and in an “erotic” Dirty Girls Book Club novel?
First, it’s important to understand that sex comes out of character and story. I never just throw it in there for the sake of having another sex scene. But readers of erotic romance expect a certain amount of sex, and a certain level of explicitness and detail. They won’t feel satisfied if the heroine and hero don’t heat up the sheets—or the boardroom table (THE DIRTY GIRLS BOOK CLUB) or the hood of a truck (DARE TO BE DIRTY)—until two-thirds of the way through the book. Readers of sexy contemporary romance don’t mind if the first sex scene doesn’t occur for a while, as long as there’s sexual tension and flirtation along the way.
An erotic romance needs a premise that will get my couple together sexually quite early on. For marketing exec Georgia and hockey star Woody in THE DIRTY GIRLS BOOK CLUB, it was immediate and powerful “attraction of opposites” chemistry in the business meeting where they met (where Woody, the new figurehead for a marketing campaign, was pissed off at having to model thong underwear!). For artist city-girl Kim and rodeo star Ty in DARE TO BE DIRTY, it was a similar kind of attraction, fueled by the raw physicality of the rodeo and some sexy dancing at a Western bar.
February’s BOUND TO BE DIRTY has quite a different premise. Family practice doctor Lily and bush helicopter pilot Dax have been married to each other for ten years and are on the verge of breaking up. Then Dax finds a BDSM book on his wife’s e-reader, and it prompts him to initiate some kinky sex play in hopes that he and Lily will recover the passion and intimacy they’ve lost. (In case you’re wondering, their experimentation in bed raises issues of trust, communication, and sharing, leading both of them to examine some tough issues—and to rediscover their love and commitment, as well as to find some creative solutions to their marital problems. They earn their happy ending!)
In my erotic romances, sex is one of the first interactions that happens in the book. It’s a catalyst for each partner to examine fears, desires, and feelings for the other person as sex evolves into romance and love.
I could follow the same kind of story line in a sexy contemporary romance, but I don’t have to because there’s no pressing need for my heroine and hero to have sex early on. They can get to know each other first, maybe develop strong feelings for each other, before they have sex. So one difference between sexy contemporary and erotic romance is the story premise.
Another is the number of sex scenes and their length. There’s no formula, and of course the sex scenes have to flow out of what the characters are feeling and doing. I don’t plot out the story and sex scenes ahead of time. However, as I write an erotic romance, it’s always in the back of my mind that this is a sexually charged relationship and that to some extent, for this couple, the development of intimate romantic feelings is connected to physical intimacy. The physical act of sex breaks down defenses and emotional barriers, and eventually turns to love-making.
In an erotic romance, readers enjoy the sensual detail of sex scenes, whether the sex is slow and achingly tender or fast and driving. They like variety as well: different venues, different positions, different moods, a certain degree of kink. They want explicitness in actions and language as well as knowing what the characters are experiencing, thinking, and feeling.
That’s not to say that readers of sexy contemporaries don’t enjoy many of the same things—just not quite as much.
Fortunately for readers and authors, in romance fiction there’s a continuum in terms of level of sensuality, with something that’s sure to please each reader. At one end are the very “sweet” romances where the couple may not even kiss, and there’s no sex before marriage. At the other end—further than my novels go—are books for the adventuresome who enjoy reading about BDSM, ménage, sex with shapeshifters, and so on.
What are your preferences on that “sweet to extremely sexy” continuum? How do you feel about that open or closed bedroom door?
About Savanna Fox:
Award-winning author Savanna Fox, who also writes as Susan Fox and Susan Lyons, writes “emotionally compelling, sexy contemporary romance” (Publishers Weekly). She is published by Berkley and Kensington, and also self-publishes her work. Her writing has been excerpted as a Cosmopolitan “Red-Hot Read.” Susan is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor. http://www.savannafox.com