How Far is Far Enough … and When has it Gone Too Far?
The art of writing erotica and romance has been taken to several extremes; from eloquent to raunchy, from Austen to Sade, the topics of love, pursuit, and sex appear both in the most beautiful and the most disturbing of samples. The spectrum is wide, but surprisingly there is little that might fit their grey areas. One might write erotic romance, but just how far one takes the “sweet” versus the “erotic” will determine a book’s reception within a given genre. Moreover, elements like kink, BDSM, and even the choice of character gender, can affect market reception and the group of readers to whom a given work will appeal.
When it comes to choosing subgenres, it can be difficult to determine the most appropriate limits for a given work. This becomes particularly significant when one writes mixed-genre erotic romance, when further limits will also determine part of its genre-specific readership. For example, authors of science fiction romance must craft their writing to suit both science fiction, and the type of romance typically enjoyed by readers of science fiction. Granted, sci-fi has a broad variety of readers, so limitations might not seem like that significant of an issue here. Consider, however, my novels, Love in Space and Lust in Space—unique in nature, as they are nearly the same story, written for two very different audiences. Love in Space, a sweet space opera-style romance with not-quite explicit sex, is by far my favorite among my currently available novels, and I think overall it has been the best received. The elements can appeal to just about all fans of both science fiction and romance, and the chemistry between the characters is fun. Lust in Space, Love’s kinky and erotic evil twin, is tons of fun, but it lacks some of the heart found in Love. Could I have written a story that meshed the two, offering equal amounts of experimental kink and heart? I’m not so sure. Even if it were possible, I like having the same story available to two very different audiences (because I like writing for both).
Most authors don’t get such an exceptional chance with a novel; it is one I will likely never see again, either. The question then comes: Which subgenre fits best with what I like to write? I know that I enjoy being eclectic, but I also tend to push limits—often with great results, but sometimes with disastrous ones. I ask myself: Will the erotic romance novels I continue to write cater more to the sweet romance audience or to readers who have enjoyed my kinkier works?
I am currently working on Lust in Space 2: Pandora’s Hope, and it has been interesting to see the effect writing in two extremes has had on me. The story has heart, but it also has a decent amount of explicit sex. I decided to stay as true as possible for fans of the first Lust in Space novel, continuing the exploits of Barkeep Leah and insect-sized Jim, “unicorn” Suxie, and of course Captain and First Officer couple, Nora and Robert, while also making sure the story was fresh and exciting enough to appeal to sci-fi fans who may have read and enjoyed Love. It hasn’t lost all of its kink, although I can’t promise another ship-wide orgy. I think, considering that there will only be one incarnation of this book, I’ve found a good balance.
My question for other authors and readers of mixed-genre erotic romance: Do you consider yourself a niche writer or reader, or do you function across a wide array of subgenres? If you do cross genres, do you find it has a positive or negative impact (or both) your readership?