I’m an erotic romance novelist. I earn money writing the books that make you blush. When people find out, they respond in any number of ways: some are disdainful, some scandalized, some intrigued. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about what it’s really like to write what I write, so here are a few things you might not know about my life as an erotic romance writer.
I get variations on this question a lot. “So, like, do you do all the things you write about?” The question is generally coming from a place of mixed curiosity and voyeurism. Because sex is not just physical, but mental, I’m easily able to write about sex acts I haven’t done before. Don’t assume I’ve done everything I write about… but then again, don’t assume I haven’t, either. Yeah, I probably have done it. But that’s not necessarily true of all erotic romance authors, and we get sick of being asked about our sex lives. It’s even creepier when the asker then turns to my husband and gives him a “wink-wink, nudge-nudge.”
My goal when writing is to arouse the reader. This means that on a first draft, I’m looking to be as sexy as I can be for my first reader — myself — and that has some obvious physical effects. On my numerous edits and rewrites, though, the sexy feelings are gone. I’m instead looking for characterization, narrative consistency and word choice and to stop repeating the words “felt” and “sensation” so damn much.
The main characters aren’t all variations of my lovers and myself. That would seriously limit the longevity of my writing career. How many times could I write the exact same main characters before my publisher dropped me? I’m not intending to find out. It’s much more interesting to write about completely fictional people than try and replicate my friends and family on the page. I know there are authors who base characters on people in their lives, but not all of us do. Stop asking if the hero is my husband.
Very little of my research involves me asking my husband to pretend to be my main character and replicate the scene from pages 73 through 78. I have asked him to help me practice a particular bondage knot so I can accurately describe it, but that’s as far as the “sexy research” goes. Oh, and I attend kink conventions now and then, too, so those are fun “sexy research.” Most of my research is spent on far more mundane topics, though: studying the hierarchical organization and day-to-day activities of the jobs I’m writing about or doing Google Street View walkabouts of places I’ve never visited or examining IKEA floor maps, to name a few.
I write under a fake name, not because I’m embarrassed by what I write, but because I teach high school. While I teach in a very liberal and sex-positive part of the country, if I were “out” about my writing, it would be difficult for me to continue my work. There’s nothing illegal about what I write, which is fiction between consenting adults, but teachers are expected to maintain puritanical standards of moral conduct in their own personal lives. I’m a consummate professional with my students, but I always fear being “outed” and the impact of the reveal on my career.
Writing a sexy letter to a lover is fun. Writing a titillating erotic scene is fun. Writing an entire novel with character development, deliberate and arousing sex scenes and a satisfying arc and resolution is a lot of work. I can’t just sit at my keyboard and crank out a novel in an evening or two, send it off for publication and be done with it. Just because there’s sex in a book — sometimes a lot of sex — doesn’t mean the book hasn’t been deliberately crafted and painstakingly edited, draft after draft. Even though the books are a lot of work, they’re so rewarding to write. Getting a book from idea to publication is incredibly satisfying. That finished product makes all the struggle worthwhile, even if I’m not just spending my spare time practicing new sex positions. Well, maybe I am… but not for book research.
About the author: Elia Winters holds a degree in English literature and teaches at a small rural high school where she runs too many extracurricular activities. She balances her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness. In her spare time, she is equally likely to be found skiing, camping, playing tabletop games or watching Doctor Who. A writer all her life, Winters likes to dabble in many genres, but erotic romance has been one of her favorites since she first began sneaking her mother’s romance novels. She currently lives in New England with her loving husband and their odd assortment of pets. Find out more at EliaWinters.com, and follow her on Twitter @EliaWinters.
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