“What’s the difference between erotica, erotic romance, and just a really steamy romance?” As an author of all three, that’s easily the question I get asked most! Well, aside from, “When are you going to write a sequel to [insert any book featuring a really pushy hero]?”
Unfortunately, there is no single industry definition. You could ask ten different authors and editors and get ten different answers. But you’re asking me, I suppose, so I’ll give you my answer!
First, let’s separate out Erotica from the mix. An erotic story differs from an erotic romance in that it may not feature any romance. Erotica is centered around a sexual journey or episode, one that may or may not feature love or affection or a happily ever after. Erotica offers writers a lot of freedom—it can be just about any sort of story, as long as the spotlight is on the sex. Erotica is designed largely to arouse the reader, and it can deliver on that promise via a wide variety of packages (har.) It may feel like you’re reading about a room full of dynamically slapping body parts, or it could feel exquisitely intimate, with rich character development. But if people fall in love and become attached and devoted to one another by the end? That’s probably an erotic romance.
My short response to that question is to ask you another one: if you took all the love scenes out of a given sexy book, would you still have a story? If the answer is yes, you’re probably talking about a steamy Romance. In most romances, external circumstances (plot) drive the story and the couple’s evolving relationship. The sex will contribute to that evolution, but if you took all the love scenes out, the story wouldn’t collapse.
How about this other sexy book you’re holding—what if you took the plot out? Would the characters’ romantic arc still stand? If you can say yes to that question, you may be in possession of an Erotic Romance. While erotic romances have plots, they can tend to be quieter ones, because the main force driving the characters’ growth and relationship is the sex they explore together. If you take all the sex scenes out of an erotic romance and read what’s left, scene by scene, you would likely feel you were missing something, and wonder why it is these people have gotten so attached to each other. Continue reading