Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Romance Becomes Erotica, And Why I Care

By Gianna Bruno (Guest Blogger)

First off, many thanks to Lisabet for offering me a guest spot today. I always enjoy the interesting, thoughtful posts and lively discussions, and it’s an honor to be here.

I'm known as somewhat of a cross-genre queen, and write science fiction and urban fantasy as well as spicy paranormal romance. I'm often asked why I started writing erotic romance, and with the publication of The Journey (http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781615722488 ) on December 7, why I chose to include BDSM and ménage in a love story with an action/adventure plot.

The answers to both questions are the same. Because the story called for it. Sure, I could have watered down the sex to be less graphic and, in fact, a few beta readers suggested that I do so.

So, why did I leave it in? Other readers felt the plot supported the scenes in question, and that they were an integral part of the story. I started out to write about a woman lost in the woods who was waylaid by fairies (that came to me in a dream). I knew from the beginning the human/fairy relationship would necessitate it be erotica. But I had no idea how far the plot would twist along a dark path until the heroine, Milena, mustered the courage to accept the challenge.

A main theme of The Journey is slavery and the slave trade just before the Civil War. Milena had to take extreme measures, including the granting of sexual favors, to find and free the hero, Thomas. And he had not been fully truthful with her about his dealings, causing great heartache and anguish. Milena's actions required the use of dark magic, which was justified to protect both herself and the escaped slaves.

I could have written The Journey as a traditional paranormal fantasy, perhaps even a sensual love story, but anything less than erotica was not sufficient to ply the dark depths of humanity and explore the misery of prejudice and violence against people because of race or religious beliefs. One contest judge commented that the BDSM in the story was "disturbing" but somehow did not find the torture and murder of innocent human beings to be at issue. I am always mystified that, in any genre, graphic violence rarely triggers the same reaction as graphic sex.

I did try and remove the erotic content from Hot Chocolate Kiss, (www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781770650268) a novelette published last January by Eternal Press, and the story stopped cold. I put it back in and it has garnered five star reviews even from readers who don't traditionally read erotica.

Andrew Richardson (http://andrewjrichardson.blogspot.com) reviewed The Journey and commented, “The plot is well thought through, and enough to keep the reader gripped on its own,” and added it “rightly comes with a high heat rating. Gianna doesn’t pull any punches with this aspect, and writes the sex scenes with the same confidence as the story’s other elements. The erotic element is all in context, though, and fits seamlessly into the story.”

Why do I care? Because I want to tell the best story I can. Because my stories have deep, universal themes no matter if they are fantasy, science fiction, humor, romance, or erotica. Because I don't want to be typecast.

I've learned to trust my writer's instinct and stories the way they needs to be told, even if it means crossing into territory that I haven't previously explored. I’ve learned to trust my readers will “get it.”

My work in progress, a contemporary collection At Home With Peter and Sandra is highly erotic as well, though with a humorous tone. There are an awful lot of real life couples charting a new course and facing the same challenges as this fictional one in the suburbs of somewhere, and I want to craft something which brings that to life.

I'd love to have anyone who has read any of my stories share their thoughts. Haven't read any yet? Here's an excerpt an excerpt of The Journey.

Milena prepared a place on the floor, but before she could lie down, Hecabe's chanting and rocking began anew. Her eyes opened and stared into Milena's.

A male voice spoke. "Meet me in the forest. I have news of Thomas. Time grows short."

Milena's hands shook as she pulled on her boots and drew a cloak over her nightdress. Why had she not sought Hecabe's counsel sooner? She ran into the woods, fearing it might already be too late. Dead branches snapped under her feet. Clumps of wet snow fell from the pine boughs and landed with a thud on the sodden earth. A flock of bats flew overhead, headed for the safety of the thick forest growth.

Mist rose from the snow. Fairies materialized and swarmed around her; the furious beat of their wings raised a high-pitched whine.

Half as tall as she, they seemed fashioned out of silver strands of gossamer, clothed in cloaks of snowflake lace. Females, Milena surmised noting their firm, full breasts and silver haired pubes through the translucent garments.

The fairies surrounded Milena and guided her along the path for a good distance, until her feet were soaked and freezing.

A male fairy appeared, clad in the same lacy garments. Two heads taller than the females, his organ dangled nearly to his knees. A deep growl vibrated in Milena's ears raised a spiral of fear along her spine. He smacked his lips like a pig at the slop trough.

"I am Hamil, the guardian of the Forest Otherworld. Fear not, sister. I mean you no harm. You have prayed to the goddesses for news of your lost one who lives still. The creatures of the Otherworlds have conducted his pleas to you, over sands, oceans and through the woods. We can take you to him."

His was the same voice channeled through Hecabe, another sign the fairy spoke the truth. Thomas lived, and she had to find him.

There is a contest question posted on the header of my blog, (http://giannabruno.blogspot.com). The first reader to answer correctly HERE ON THIS SITE, wins their choice of The Journey or Hot Chocolate Kiss.

While you’re over there, scroll down to the bottom to view the trailers for both stories.

Here's wishing everyone all the greetings of the season, no matter what you celebrate!


Lisabet Sarai said...

Welcome to Beyond Romance, Gianna!

I applaud your willingness to follow where your writer's instincts lead. You can't just stuff sex into a story where it doesn't belong (without doing violence to the story) and you can't pull it out if the tale demands it.

Good luck with The Journey and Hot Chocolate Kisses, as well as your WIP.

Lisabet (also something of a cross-genre oddity)

She said...

Interesting post. I agree that graphic sex generates more negative comments than graphic violence. That's a shame. I hate violence in a story. Violence bothers me more than sex. As long as sex is not gratuitous and fits the story it can be as graphic as the author chooses. I like well written sex scenes. Violence, however, leaves me cold.

Annabeth Carew said...

I enjoyed this post, Gianna. I agree that you should take your story where it needs to go. Good for you for standing up for your characters!

I hate that graphic violence is so much more acceptable in our culture than sex. It is just so wrong.

Nina Pierce said...

I do believe the characters lead us to tell the story as it should be told. I always trust my gut instinct in that case. Sounds like you made the right decision.

Colleen said...

Is the answer to the question Salem!?!
Have not had the pleasure of reading your books yet... looking forward to it!
Happy Holidays!

Gianna Bruno said...

Hi, everyone. Wow, this is a busy time of year. I just got home from work. I'm glad to know others empathize with me.

Colleen, you're really close. Take another shot at it.

Colleen said...

Near Swampscott Forest... so I guess Swampscott!?! :)

Gianna Bruno said...

Yeah, you got it, Colleen. Email me at giannaATgiannabruno.com so I can get your prize to you right away.

Gianna Bruno said...

Hmm, talk about timely.I found this in the New York Times today. Fascinating, but disturbing nonetheless. Especially the one about the teenage girl who is a "slave" for life. This discusses the exact time period in The Journey, in Georgia.

This is exactly what I meant about how some malign romance/erotica because of sex but fail to react to far more distressing content.


Colleen said...

Thank you so much Gianna! Looking forward to reading your work... e-mail sent! Happy Holidays!!

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