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What it's really like to write erotic fiction

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates and brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. They are The New York Times, USA Today, and #1 international bestselling authors of the Beauti...

How the romance genre is empowering women through stories about female sexuality

It may be easiest to spot cultural shifts in hindsight, but there’s no doubting the current zeitgeist surrounding female audiences. Never before have women — as readers, as viewers, as consumers — been so commercially valued. Of course, this is because women are embracing their interests — from "The Hunger Games" series to Serena Williams to Amy Schumer — and putting their dollars, social media and voices behind them.

We — two authors, Christina and Lauren — stepped right into the middle of the storm. Writing erotic romance in this day and age is a blast. Women love what they love — passionately — and it makes for an enthusiastic and dedicated readership, but it also means that we, as fangirls ourselves, are in good company. Sure, there are the frustrations of writing in a genre that is often seen as indulgent and anti-intellectual when, in fact, romance not only keeps the publishing industry afloat (it is, by far, the highest grossing genre in fiction) but also continues to push cultural ideas about what love is, who loves whom and how we treat each other.

A common criticism of romance is that it is laden with Mary-Sue tropes: stories where women will insert themselves as the female protagonist, and then end up with unrealistic expectations about love. (Let us not dwell too much on the unrealistic images portrayed in pornographic films, though, right?) Our response to such criticism is: Raise those expectations, women! Why not? In modern love stories, the woman is the buccaneer, the tycoon, the playboy or the misbehaving duke. That’s because, in modern life, women are the buccaneers, the tycoons... and whatever else they want to be. Stories about female sexuality need to catch up with current female realities.

More: Read an exclusive excerpt from Christina Lauren's Wicked Sexy Liar

And, because imagining ourselves in those worlds is half the fun of reading sexy stories, we want to write stories that feel like they might reflect our lives. We are ambitious and active; we see the word “bossy” as a compliment and if someone suggested we were “bitchy,” we might thank them for understanding that we’re here to get our job done. Writing romance — particularly spicy romance — in this day and age where we all know that smart, ambitious and groundbreaking women are openly reading romance means that we must write women who have a more active role not only in daylight, but behind closed doors, as well.

Our first book, Beautiful Bastard, featured strong-willed and capable Chloe Mills. Chloe had to work under the tutelage of the eponymous Bastard, Bennett Ryan, but in many respects was doing better at her job than he was, given the pressure of their secret — and very taboo — relationship. Playing with that trope — boss-intern office romance — and breaking out of the expected, so that even in her role she is just as smart and headstrong as he is, was as fun as the whooshing downhill of a roller coaster. We weren’t sure where they would take us around the bend, but we weren’t afraid to find out. It embraced the idea that not only are we attracted to powerful people, but also that we as women are often put in work situations where we are subordinate yet superior. These are very real circumstances that, albeit portrayed in a zanier way in the book, many professional women can relate to.

From quieter heroines Sara Dillon and Mia Holland, to our ball-busters Harlow Vega and Chloe Mills, it feels important to us that we write women we might know, women we might have been ourselves had our lives taken different turns. And it’s fun to explore moments beyond the relief of the first kiss. In modern romance, it’s no longer impossible to imagine sleeping with someone on the first date. But then what? Those are the love stories in which modern women can insert themselves. For example: I’ve put my career before anything else, and now I’m not quite sure how to handle myself in the romance world (Dark Wild Night)! Or I’ve just graduated from college, had a wild weekend in Vegas, slept with this hot French dude and... why am I wearing a wedding ring (Sweet Filthy Boy)? I’ve just had a night out with some girlfriends and met this amazing guy at a bar... and it turns out he went to college with my boss (Beautiful Stranger).

In our upcoming novel, Wicked Sexy Liar, London Hughes is a recent college graduate, who has a laid-back life, under control. She’s in no hurry to find herself — she’s not lost. London knows what she wants, and she makes no excuses about doing life on her terms. When Luke comes into the picture, London expects him to be one thing — flaky, promiscuous, unreliable — but he surprises her (and himself) with his dedication to the possibility of an Us.

London is a new kind of character for us, because she isn’t crashing through the glass ceiling. But she is holding her own life above anyone else’s, and for a 23-year-old woman, that’s something to cherish.

Girls night in sweepstakes
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