By Rosalie Stanton
I have only recently become open about what I write with people who aren’t in my immediate circle. Previously, the getting-to-know-you conversations with friends, coworkers, and pretty much anyone I met consisted of a painful dance around the topic. I didn’t want to feel flushed or apologetic when I mentioned I write paranormal romance, never mind erotic romance. My genre of choice has never been a matter of shame for me—I love what I write, and I’m proud of it. But the opinion of others, particularly people who don’t know me, has long been something I’ve worried about. Be it in the way I look, the way I dress, my makeup, my hair, or my weight. I know I’m not alone in this. People—and women in particular—are guilty of overestimating the importance of a perfect stranger’s good opinion.
Granted, not caring what people think isn’t license to be an asshole. And there are some core truths in society that remain unimpeachable, no matter our small protests. One being that women are taken more seriously if their hair is flawless, their skin unblemished, their eyes painted and their lips red. Some women really enjoy this, and I don’t fault them in that one bit. However, as someone who more or less grew up a tomboy and later caved to the cultural norm of how respectable women looked, I’ve somewhat rebelled against the establishment. On the weekends, even if I’m going out, I have to really be in the mood to slap on makeup. During the week, I’m mostly sequestered to an office and out of the public eye, so my makeup is sparing and rarely touched up throughout the day. Those times when I do worry about how I look, I remind myself I shouldn’t have to. I dress well (four years working in a clothing department store gave me that), I’m friendly, my hair isn’t a mess, and I practice regular hygiene. In essence, I do everything a guy does, only I still spend more time in front of the mirror.
Admittedly, I’m at a point in life where I have nothing to lose by playing the “screw it” game. I’m happily married, and my husband is almost more of a feminist than I am. I also have achieved my professional goals—I work remotely for a publisher, in-office for an advertising agency and with people who have much more important things to worry about than how much foundation I applied that morning. On the rare occasion I get in front of clients, I do make an effort to not wear off my makeup quite so much, but those instances are few and far between.
Women are pressured by any number of variables to behave and appear certain ways. I once couldn’t fathom going to get the mail in anything less than my absolute best. My tomboy ways began to waver around the puberty point, and my obsession with my appearance instigated any number of unhealthy behaviors I have since decided were not only a waste of time, but damaging in the hands of someone else.
Appearance is one thing. Writing is something else entirely, though for many female authors, it does reside in the same school of thought where we find society’s expectations for women as a whole. Women are supposed to be passive, demure, visually pleasing, sexually stimulating but mostly virginal. Letting go of my visual hang-ups was a lot easier, in that regard, than letting go of the fear of judgment that came with every answer to the dreaded, “What do you write?” question. Romance novels, independent of erotica, have been many a punch line for many people for a long time. And when you’re the author of erotic romance, allowing someone the license to potentially judge you on a level so inherently personal is a very frightening thing.
But here’s the kicker: you can only be embarrassed if you feel you have something to be embarrassed about. Any reply you receive after you announce you write “erotic romance” is a comment on the person saying it, not you. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that since I have no shame in what I do, it was time to pony up and stop apologizing preemptively. Stop omitting the “erotic” part of “paranormal romance” or devaluing my own work by calling it smut. I don’t know about other erotic romance authors, but a lot more goes into each work than just the sex. There’s characterization, development, a grueling plot, life-or-death stakes, an emotional journey, heartbreak, healing, loss, acceptance, occasional existential questions, a blackest-of-all-black moments, and the much deserved HEA or HFN. And, yes, there are some naked sweaty scenes with characters engaging in the COMPLETELY HUMAN act of lovemaking. To call all of that smut is a disservice, and if you’re speaking specifically about my work, I consider it insulting. So imagine how pissed I was with myself for allowing my work to be branded “smut” for so long.
On Friday, my mother called my work “vampire smut” in front of someone I’d only known for five minutes.
“Actually,” I said, “I write paranormal erotic romance.”
She replied with, “Well, but it’s so much more fun to say vampire smut.”
I can be annoyed, sure…but more with myself than her. That’s what I built because I wasn’t woman enough to be loud and proud sooner than a few weeks ago. I denigrated my own work to in order to, what, save face? Avoid a blush? Why the hell should I be self-conscious? I’m damn proud of what I do.
I know this fight is only beginning. I imagine I’ll have many more moments where I’ll need to correct someone when they describe my work as “smut”…but I did the crime, so I’ll do that other thing. When something is important to you, you show up. Writing is incredibly important to me. Always has been. And I’m not apologizing anymore—not to strangers, not to my mother, and especially not to myself.
So what am I not blushing about anymore? Well, this for starters, and a whole lot more to come.
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TITLE: Lost Wages of Sin
LENGTH: Super-plus novel
GENRE: Erotic Paranormal Romance
THEME: Angels and demons, vampires
Working for Lucifer is the best job in the universe, until the day it’s not. Then you’re on your own, with Hell at your heels.
Ava, Sin of Greed, has had a rough week. The angel she planned to make a life with left her with nothing but a Dear Jane letter. Even worse, Lucifer believes she spilled Hell’s secrets to her ex, and her boss’s temper is notoriously apocalyptic.
For centuries, Dante has kept his feelings for Ava under lock-and-key. The one time he pursued something more, he nearly lost her for good. Lesson learned. However, when he hears of her planned elopement, all bets are off. Not having Ava was a reality he could have accepted. Losing her to an angel is something else entirely.
Now, Ava, once Hell’s golden child, is fleeing for her life. When her old friend Dante shows up, her first instinct is to send him packing. But Dante is more than a friend—he’s the only other man who tempted her, and his fierce loyalty challenges everything she thought she knew about him. As Ava prepares to battle the devil himself, she can’t keep from getting closer to Dante…though given what happened the last time, she doubts her heart can survive another break.
BARNES N’ NOBLE: http://bit.ly/1j7B2pC
When he couldn’t stand the silence any longer, Dante cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “Ava?”
Her head jerked up, hair flying out of her face. She blinked rapidly as though trying to remember where she was. “Yeah. Did you decide what you want?”
Dante stared at her for a moment then lowered his gaze to the burger and fries in front of him. “We already did that part.”
She blinked again and shifted her attention to her own barely-touched meal. “Oh, right.”
“So are we gonna talk about it?”
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t play dumb with me. We’re here for a reason, aren’t we? Thought you wanted to have the big talk.”
Ava sighed, picked up a fry then munched. “I don’t even know where to start.”
“How about what you were doing with one of those oversized pigeons in the first place.”
She managed to look wounded, amused and irritated at the same time. A look specific to Ava—one that told him she was still in there somewhere. “Like that’s any of your business,” she replied coolly, though her tone wasn’t sharp and her eyes weren’t narrowed. Her protest seemed more out of habit than anything else.
“Come on, love. We don’t need to dance around this. You already know I know.”
“Yeah,” she agreed softly, slumping farther into her seat. “My life just keeps getting better.”
“So what were you doing with him?” Dante cocked his head. “That winged asshole?”
“Sebastian. His name’s Sebastian.”
The possessive beast in his chest roared with anger at the name, but Dante washed it back with a mouthful of beer. It wasn’t as though he had any claim on her, despite years of trying, despite conversations that went on until dawn, despite a list of inside jokes that had no end, despite surviving the bad times and celebrating the good. And despite that one not-so-distant night when things might have changed, Ava had never been his.
He’d prepared himself for this. He’d thought he had, at least. Perhaps he should have tried to go back to sleep after he’d rubbed one out this afternoon—put some distance between his feelings and his job here.
Still, his feelings for Ava had never taken a back seat to anything, even when they should have. And since Dante wasn’t one to start sprouting sonnets, he forced himself to shove those feelings deep into the recesses of never-going-to-happen and focus on being there for her when he could.
He hadn’t lacked female companionship, either. It was one of the nightlife’s best perks. The women he chose were always warm and receptive, and likewise left his bed a satisfied customer. He hadn’t bothered developing a lasting relationship—hadn’t taken the steps those of his kind took in order to ensure the path to eternity wasn’t a lonely one.
The only woman he wanted for keeps was unavailable, and currently sat across the table with eyes so haunted he had a good mind to hitch the next ride skyward and introduce a certain angel to his fist.
“Sebastian,” he echoed at last. “Like the cartoon crab?”
Rosalie Stanton is a multi-published erotic romance author, with emphasis in paranormal and urban fantasy. A lifelong enthusiast of larger than life characters, Rosalie enjoys building worlds filled with strong heroes and heroines of all backgrounds.
Rosalie lives in Missouri with her husband. At an early age, she discovered a talent for creating worlds, which evolved into a love of words and storytelling. Rosalie graduated with a degree in English. As the granddaughter of an evangelical minister, Rosalie applied herself equally in school in the creative writing and religious studies departments, which had an interesting impact on her writing. When her attention is not engaged by writing or editing, she enjoys spending time with close friends and family.
Rosalie is represented by Tish Beaty at the L. Perkins Agency.