Friday, June 4, 2010

Writing Mixed-Genre Erotic Romance

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?


  1. I would say i'm a cross genre reader. I like different things at different times. I think it has had a positive impact on my "readership". By having something that crosses genres, it has opened my mind to other straight genre novels(does that make sense). So it's all good.

    And i must say....VERY sexy picture of you in the post. Ohlala!!! :)

  2. I write across several genres writing erotica and erotic romance- I think it's had a positive impact on my readership because some people like it hot while others like more romance and less sizzle.

    Now I have something more for everyone, also by writing both paranormals and regualr contemporary romance and erotica that really opens the field to more readers.

  3. I like mixing up genres as a writer and I like to read them as well. And I love when one of my favorite authors writers in a totally new genre because invariably what I love about their writing carries through to each one.

  4. Scott, I appreciate the readers' perspective on questions like this one--because as much as I love writing what comes natural to me, I also want to make sure I appeal to as many readers as I can. One is always better developing one's craft. ;-)

    Roxanne, I share your view (besides, if one enjoys writing several genres, one should write several genres). I have often wondered, however, if it makes me less marketable to latger publishers. It seems that most large-market entities prefer the strict niche writer, and an eclectic portfolio can sometimes be a turnoff. I hope that's not completely accurate (check out my website -- http:/ -- and you'll see that I'm all about eclectic, which (sorry, gotta quote my favorite "defective detective" for this one) is "a gift and a curse."

    Dana, it's so true that an author's voice will shine through, no matter what genre he or she writes. Have you found, as a writer, that your voice is also influenced by authors you are reading or other outside media? For example, my writing gets really weird and creepy when I'm reading Stephen King, but it will shift more to the literary side if I'm reading Virginia Woolf. Is this common among other writers?

    I read a very broad array of works, from fine literature, to plays and screenplays, to comic books. I think most genres, no matter what format they might be in, have something worthwhile, and I love the deeper things that the written word is capable of evoking.

    I'm not quite awake yet ... I need more coffee. :-)

  5. My voice is more distinct when I write what I want. When under extremely tight deadlines with constraints, the voice blurs. Voice tends to be influenced by reading choices over the years. As for cross-genre, if you're paid a decent amount to do it and have fun, woo hoo, consider yourself lucky!