Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Celebrating Six Years of Romance

Last week, Total-E-Bound celebrated its sixth anniversary. Since I was one of the first authors to sign with TEB, that means I've been writing romance for six years. When I look back, I can see that I've come a long way.

Before I was contacted by Claire (the delightful founder of TEB), I considered myself an author of erotica. At that point, I had published three erotic novels plus quite a number of short stories, and I was looking for someone to buy my fourth novel, Exposure - without much success. I was feeling pretty discouraged, too, since my main publisher, Blue Moon Books, had been sold, and then sold again, to a company that appeared more embarrassed by than interested in erotic content.

When I got Claire's email, I knew nothing whatsoever about the romance genre. Unlike many of my peers, I was totally unfamiliar with Harlequin, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, and other romance stalwarts. The only romance I'd ever read was Daphne du Maurier's wonderful Frenchman's Creek, a thrilling tale of the love affair between a bored eighteenth century noblewoman and a dashing, dangerous pirate. And I didn't even know this was a romance until I started learning the romance ropes.

I think I've blogged previously about the way some romance "rules" rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't have too much of a problem with happy endings - all three of my previous novels provided at least a HFN. My difficulty was keeping my characters from running around with people other than their primary love interest. They tended to be hot-blooded individuals eager to explore their sexuality, with whomever happened to be handy. This is fine in erotica, but I learned when I published my first M/M story, Tomorrow's Gifts, that romance readers frown on that sort of promiscuous behavior. A big chunk of that story involves the interactions between the main character Michael and Thorn, the sexy Dom who seems as though he might be the one destined to fulfill Michael's unsatisfied dreams of submission. In the end, the hero chooses his long-time lover, but I got some serious thumbs down for my failure to focus only on the couple.

Another issue I had to confront was my fondness for non-alpha males. You'd never guess it from my first novel Raw Silk - Gregory Marshall is about as dominant as they come - but I really prefer nerds. Intelligence, perceptiveness and a sense of humor are far more important to me than biceps and an attitude. I like guys who wear glasses and who play chess (or Scrabble, as in my M/M tale Crossed Hearts) more than those who play wear Armani and play rugby. Now, I think I can make my beta guys just as sexy as any alpha, but not all readers agree.

Of the eight novels I've written, only two (Raw Silk and Rajasthani Moon) feature true alpha heroes. Mark in Incognito is a mild-mannered professor who just happens to have an incredibly kinky side. Rick Martell in Nasty Business is skinny and manipulative, though he does have tremendous natural sex appeal. Jorge, the shape-shifting hero of Serpent's Kiss, is the incarnation of a god, but he's gentle and unsure when it comes to love. My two M/M novels, Necessary Madness and Quarantine, deal with pairs of men with both strengths and weaknesses. None of them is the tough, gorgeous hunk romance readers seem to crave.

Speaking of glasses, I also had to learn that romance readers really want to know what characters look like. In my erotica, I often don't describe the physical attributes of the characters at all, but in romance, this just won't fly. Over the years, I've started searching for photos to help me visualize the people I'm writing about. (In fact, you can see pictures of Cecily, Pratan and Amir from Rajasthani Moon over at Allie Ritch's blog all this week - and maybe win yourself a copy of the book, if you take time to comment!)

Anyway, I think I'm finally getting the hang of this romance thing! I've discovered that I can bend some of the rules and still be forgiven. And it does seem that romance readers are becoming more flexible and broad-minded, that erotica and erotic romance are blending these days in some very interesting ways.

That's part of what keeps me enthusiastic and inspired - that, and my readers, whom I cherish. I never expected the kind of support and validation I've found in the romance community. From that perspective, it has been a great half-dozen years. I look forward to many more.

1 comment:

Kate Deveaux said...

I definitely think you got the hang of the ertoic romance thing Lisabet :). Love your books. I love a nerdy witty hero too as well as the Alpha bad boy. As a newer author to TEB it's great to hear your ground floor story!

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