on erotica – part two


So as I was saying (yeah, I know – you guys thought I forgot all about it, right? no such luck), I think romance writers create the best erotica.

Oh, man, I can feel the eyes rolling from here.

First of all, if you’ve never read several romance books (and I mean read them, cover to cover, several different authors and types) then you don’t know Jack, and please hold your comments to the end of the lecture. Thank you. πŸ™‚

Here’s my problem with a lot of modern erotica. Not enough character. Not enough sizzle between the two characters. Not enough pacing – here’s what she looks like (36-24-36), here’s what he looks like (6 pack, dreamy eyes), oh my god his cock her pussy pump pump pump. Kind of like het vid porn. Yawn.

On the other side of the scale…

My all time favourite romance book author is Elizabeth Lowell. From her, I learned probably 70% of what I put into my own stories. Or more, maybe. I discovered her when I was a teenager (at the time, she wrote for Silhouette Desire, the steamier imprint of Silhouette and Harlequin). She was incredibly prolilfic (and still is, though she’s gone mainstream fiction) with dozens of books. Took me most of a lifetime, but I own most of her older books now.

Her love scenes would last a full chapter sometimes, maybe more. But even before that, she had this incredible way of building the sexual and emotional tension between the two characters that would have you ready to scream before they even started getting close to the nasty.

Elizabeth Lowell was, in fact, a consummate artist of the tease (as with many other romance authors). To see what I mean, read this excerpt from one of my favourite Lowell books – Love Song for A Raven. Even today, reading it makes me so hot I just feel like tripping and beating Raven to the floor.

Go on. Read it. Really. Does it change your mind at all about romance books?

As a rule, I find romance authors excel at building tension between a man and a woman (pacing). They also know how to (because they’ve had to) write about sex without having to use four-letter words every single time.

(If you read my stories, you’ll notice I follow the same convention until the action gets very hot and heavy.)

And, sure, okay, I also like books like Lowell’s because the men are hard and unapologetically so, the women are independent and feisty but also just a wee bit submissive, and because I’m a sap at heart who somehow still believes after all the crap life’s thrown me that happily ever after can exist. For at least ten full minutes.

But I digress.

The true power, though, is when romance authors like Emma Holly make the leap to erotica as she did with books like Menage, The Top of Her Game and Velvet Glove. Because then we get the best of both worlds – like a goddess unleashed, she releases her kinkier side while still applying the delicious tension that she uses in her romances.

If you want to learn how to write erotica, I think you could definitely benefit from learning a little from romance authors.

Along these lines, Emma Holly has a great workshop on her site about Steaming Up Your Love Scenes. Ray Girvan also has a nice guide to erotic fiction, with lots of outside references.

If I’ve piqued your interest about Elizabeth Lowell, here are the books I most recommend (many of them have ben re-released lately):

Too Hot to Handle
Fire and Rain
Granite Man

Read the last three in order, if you’re going to read them… they’re part of a series.

What’s my point?

Oh, yes – you could learn a lot from a good old-fashioned bodice ripper, if writing erotica (or even reading it) is your thang. Go ahead, put the eye rolls aside, give ’em a try.

About the author

Vikki McKay


  • Yes – I go for that too. Romance and sex, sex and romance – they feed off each other. And then, of course, the basic story. So many of the short stories (and a majority of porn novels) have plots that are limited, shallow, badly portrayed – BORING!
    OK – I accept that there is a market for endless fucking without any pretense of a plot, but also there is a large number of people who are looking for good, literary books that provoke them into intolerable horniness.
    Write one of those and you deserve a prize.

  • I must confess that my experience with romance novels has been limited to reading the cover blurbs on Mills and Boon paperbacks as a teenager. Usually followed by tutting and raising my eyebrows in a snobbish, how-could-anyone-read-this-tripe way. Then I’d bury my nose back in the science fiction and fantasy stuff that gets treated in exactly the same way, without recognising the irony.
    I loved that excerpt though, apart from the man’s very silly name. Does anyone call their baby boy “Raven”? Anyway, I’m going to have to do some reading of those links you posted, I’m sure I could do with learning a thing or two.

  • If I’ve convinced just one person to pick up a romance book and see what there is for offer between the sheets, as it were, then I’ve succeeded. So yay me!
    And just so you guys know, Raven is the man’s *last* name. Think of it like Carter on E.R. or Rambo. Because we all know, that’s a *way* more serious name. πŸ˜‰

  • Yay Vikki!
    Anticipation is sooooo yummy!
    Its not even a separate thing, but many folks think it is. Its all one…

  • I like that there are still women like you in the world. I’m a student at a univeristy with a very large Women’s Study and Humanities department and as a man I often have to defend my own existence. For the unlucky blokes that have girlfriends they are emasculated, take the hardline that extending courtesies to women is “sexist” and say ridiculous things like “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.”
    It feels nice that men and their masculinity can be appreciated again, because I was beginning to think that was no longer the case.
    And just a point of curiosity, does a woman still appreciate a man with hair on his chest anymore, like this handsome chap?

  • Feminism, like masculism (is that a word?) can be taken too far. While I identify as feminist, because I do believe in equality, I also believe that equality allows me to like what I like and not have to make excuses for it. πŸ™‚
    Let’s face it. I don’t have a penis. You don’t have to go through the monthly fun we women do. Odds are, you’re taller than me, and have more body hair, too. Like it or not, we’re different – and I personally enjoy reveling in the differences.
    Yes, I love men with chest hair:
    I also absolutely adore Butler – particularly in Tomb Raider II. Just the yummiest, most masculine man on the planet (with the possible exception of Viggo in LOTR – but again, I digress). Rough around the edges, LOTS of body hair and stubble (sigh… let me tell you one day about my thing with stubble!), and a smartass to boot.
    Ohhh, that accent.
    OK, that’s enough. You get the idea. Yep, lots of women out there who like a man’s man and aren’t afraid to say so.
    The Malboro man doesn’t just sell smokes anymore! πŸ™‚

  • I’m a student at a univeristy with a very large Women’s Study and Humanities department and as a man I often have to defend my own existence.
    Speaking as a man, I wish guys like Frederick would quit their whining.

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