Monday, September 27, 2010

My Erotic Romance Aha Moment

By Jannine Corti Petska (Guest Blogger)

--or-- Why a Story Didn’t Pan out (Blame it on my Catholic Upbringing)

Back in the 1970s, I never told anyone I loved reading historical romance novels. I couldn’t get enough of them: Woodiwiss, Lindsey, Deveraux, and others. I’d meander over to the bookstore’s romance section, praying I didn’t run into someone I knew. At the checkout, the cashier would give me that smirking look, the one that said “I know what you do behind closed doors, you naughty girl.” Once the books were in my possession, I’d hide them from the public’s eyes in all sorts of ways. I’d make a book cover out of a paper bag. Or hide the book inside a magazine. Those who didn’t read “bodice rippers” thought the romance junkies were reading pornographic material, even though love scenes didn’t really exist back then. The hero and heroine made love behind closed doors, or the sex scenes were flowery and filled with euphemisms.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and the explicit love scenes which would make your grandmother’s toes curl and her face burn hotter than a habanero pepper became the norm. Once erotic romance exploded onto the literary scene, there was no room for 1970 morals, unless you read inspirational romances. While I write sensual love scenes—and yes, sexually explicit…..through euphemisms—by no means are they graphic. And herein lies the problem with a book I started in the mid-90s.

NIGHT OF THE DRAGON is an 18th Century romance centered around the Chinese sexual arts and the hero teaching the heroine all about the joys of sex. Little did I know that writing this story entailed more than sensual love scenes. I wondered how in the hell could I pull it off without being too explicit. It wasn’t until erotic romance became popular that I realized my book was meant for this new genre—My Erotic Romance Aha Moment. It was a startling revelation that paralyzed my fingers on the keyboard.

Erotic romance shattered the boundaries of what romance books used to be, creating a fine line between beautifully written love scenes and the stark reality of the human body when having sex. Authors pushed the envelope into controversy. And I, not liking change, wasn’t ready to jump into this new arena of romance writing. Every time I sat at the computer, the words didn’t flow from my brain to my fingertips. All I kept thinking was what will my family think if I wrote words like "penis" or "clit".

While I’m definitely no prude, my Catholic upbringing had something to do with my problem. Certainly, raised Italian didn’t cause difficulties, except under certain circumstances. Italians tend to have a colorful vocabulary—very expressive. However, I was the youngest (by 14 years) of my parents’ three daughters. Basically, I was raised as an only child to older parents who retained their Old World customs. To the day my parents died, I never swore in front of them. Now you understand why, if I wrote graphic sexual language, I’d surely burn in Hell. Wouldn’t I? What if the priests and nuns discovered my secret life? Would I be able to look them in the eye and not behave guilty for what surely was a sin?

I admit, from the moment I began writing, my characters liked saying shit, damn and hell. My favorite words. But the F word as well as the C word? That’s another story. I can’t bring myself to write them out on paper or type them into a computer. They’re just words, right? The F word is quite prevalent in Italian, which many of you probably remember from the movie Grease. Vaffanculo, also known as 'affanculo and va'nculo. It had been my word of choice when I was younger and angry beyond reason. (My anti-depressants have all but struck that word from my vocabulary. Now, I don’t even like hearing it.) I have no intention of teaching you how to swear in Italian, so I’ll refrain from giving a lesson on the C word.

I’ve taken several erotic romance writing courses online. I’ve read numerous erotic romances. I even bought The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance. (you can stop snickering now) Still, NIGHT OF THE DRAGON is not written. Apparently, writing manhood, staff, rod; nether region, sheath, pleasure cove has been ingrained into my brain the first 20-30 years of reading then writing romance. I just can’t seem to leave behind the euphemistic world of love. You’re probably rolling your eyes about now. That’s okay. There are so many ways to describe a man’s……….manhood, and a woman’s…………nether region.

I take out NIGHT OF THE DRAGON now and then and quietly work my euphemistic magic. When (not if) I finish the book and rewrite it for the erotic romance genre, I’ll shout if from the rooftops. Uh…more than likely, I’ll hide in my home office. And I’ll never tell my Italian relatives that I wrote an x-rated book. When I attend church, I’ll keep my eyes downcast. They’d probably give my guilt away.

If you don’t mind reading romances with non-graphic love scenes, then be on the look out for my upcoming books. (Release dates TBA)

CHARLOTTE AND THE GYPSY (re-release of book 2 of my medieval psychic sister trilogy) from The Dark Castle Lords

LOVE’S SWEET WAGER, historical western, from The Wild Rose Press

THE LILY AND THE FALCON Book 1, Italian Medieval Series (first printing in 2000 by Kensington.), from The Wild Rose Press

SURRENDER TO HONOR. Book 2, Italian Medieval Series, from The Wild Rose Press

Currently available:

REBEL HEART, western, from HP

KNIGHT’S DESIRE, medieval short story, from DCL

CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN (book 1 of my medieval psychic sisters trilogy), from Eternal Press

*Thank you Lisabet for having me as your guest blogger today.

BIO: Multi-published romance author, Jannine Corti Petska, was born in New York but grew up in Southern California. Her parents' first language was Italian, and Jannine was raised in an Old World environment. She began writing romance novels when her three daughters were young and she was a stay-at-home mom. In-between writing and caring for her family, she tutored Italian, Spanish, German, and English as a Second Language at a local college. Although she loves placing her stories in medieval Italy, she has also written romantic tales of the cowboy in the American West as well as Romantic Suspense. Visit her website at:


Lisabet Sarai said...

Greetings, Jannine,

Welcome to Beyond Romance! I think that you really have to find your own comfort level in writing about sex. Don't worry about "the market". If you force yourself to be more explicit than feels natural, it will show in your work.


Lisa Kessler said...

Great blog Jannine!!! :)

Write for you and try not to think about your family or your church! :) Just write something you'd like to read... And keep a fan nearby for those hot and steamy scenes! LOL

Lisa :)

Kate Hofman said...

Lisa - Jannine is one of my favorite people, AND writers! Loved the story of her being raised as the only child of older parents, so she can't bring herself to write certain words.
My own opinion, if you dislike words, don't use them. There are plenty of other words available, and bear in mind that use of a string of certain words implies a paucity of vocabulary.
Write what you feel!


Jannine said...

Thank you for the welcome.

Yes, writing what doesn't feel right will sound forced.

Jannine said...

You're too funny. I'll remember the fans next time I write a steamy scene. LOL

Jannine said...

Kate! You're so kind, amica. And you know I love your opinions. lol

Susan Blexrud said...

Jannine, like you, I was born 13 years after my sister, so I also was raised essentially as an only child of older parents, i.e., I feel your pain and know exactly that of which you speak. There are words I just can't use without cringing. Sometimes I try to sneak one of those words in, but I always take it out in the next draft. LOL!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you, Mom. And it's ok if you can't bring yourself to write too explicit of love scenes! LOL. But I love reading your books. Even though I need therapy after. I love you and keep up the great work.

Jannine said...

Susan, you sure do know where I'm coming from. Maybe I'm just too old to change, lol.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jannine said...

Hey Lisa. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting, sweetie. When I do get around to writing that story, I'll make sure you get the first read. Warn your therapist beforehand. LOL Love you lots.

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