Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Joy (Or Not) of Writing Sex

By Victoria Chatham (Guest Blogger)

I well remember the first line I ever read that even hinted at sexual content. I was 13 and reading a very tattered paperback by flashlight under the bed sheets. I do not remember the title of the book, only that it passed from teenage hand to teenage hand with a whispered ‘very sexy, you’ll love it’. As if, in that era, any of us had any idea about sex and whether we would love it or not. I’m talking mid-50s here so yes, I’m giving my age away. Oh, and the line that my gang were so enthralled with?

Sylvia took off her nightie.

Oh, the thrill and shock of it! The very idea of unmarried people going to bed with each other was gloriously liberating and some of us even dared each other to sleep naked. What innocence. Since then I’ve read stuff that curled my toes, some of it in a good way but most of it not and has made me shake my head and think, really?

There is still some controversy surrounding erotica and the difference between it and porn. To me, the difference is in the point of view. Erotica is romance with a sexual element which has to move the story forward. If it’s gratuitous, it’s not needed. It has to touch the reader’s every sense. If it doesn’t and it’s simply a case of how many ways to insert A into B, then it’s porn.

As a writer I consider it part of learning my craft to explore other genres. Over the years I’ve read some of what is considered to be classic erotica by the Marquis de Sade, D.H. Lawrence, Colette, Flaubert and Nabokov. Think Philosophy in the Boudoir, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Claudine, Madame Bovary and Lolita. For more modern authors I’ve read Anais Nin, and latterly Sylvia Day and Madelaine Sheehan with several Black Lace Publishing titles in between.

I’ve read some very moving gay and lesbian romance written in beautiful prose, and even found with some writers it’s not so much what they do say as what they don’t that can be very erotic. Jo Goodman’s Never Love a Lawman leaves much to the imagination in such a way that you cannot mistake her meaning as does Tami Hoag in Lucky’s Lady.

But do I want to write erotica? No, not necessarily. Do I want to show my characters being in love and loving each other? Yes, I do. I think love and sex are opposite sides of the same coin. Have you ever experienced that moment when you look into a stranger’s eyes and just know that having sex with that person would be hot, heavy and likely out of this world. But would it last? Like a shooting star that crashes and burns, the answer is likely no.

What I want for my characters is what I believe many readers look for. That progression from their first meeting and trying to deny for whatever reason their growing attraction for each other to their first full sexual encounter, and then realization that for one to live without the other would be simply impossible. Then the sex is integral to the story. It is deeper, more enduring and as their love for each other grows can create more endearing characters.

Do I like writing about sex? Mostly not! I really have to get into my character’s head to be able to put the words on the page. I don’t go as far as blushing at what I write (at least, I don’t think I do) but there is still a vestige of that teenager with the flashlight. What if someone catches me? What if they don’t approve of what I’ve written? And heavens above, what would my children think?

The fact that my children are all adults shouldn’t carry any weight, but it does. It goes hand in hand with a cry from their teenage years that they would be embarrassed if their friends knew I was a writer and was I going to use a pseudonym? It was obvious that the pseudonym was meant to protect them, not me.

However, my driver’s licence says I am a grown up now, never mind what my mind says. I write what I like under my own name. I’m proud of my writing and try to show the love my characters share in many more ways than simply them having sex. Maybe writing about sex will get easier. I hope so. And there’s one fact that can’t be denied – none of us would be here without it!

His Dark Enchantress (Regency Romance) by Victoria Chatham

Her grandfather is dying and insists she marry. Emmeline Devereux is under no illusion that her marriage to Lucius, Earl of Avondale, is one of convenience. When her past catches up with her, will the truth tear them apart or strengthen their love?

And what of you, Miss Devereux, are you honest?”

Emmaline’s stomach turned upside down and she quaked in her white satin slippers. Oh, how much she wanted to tell him the truth, to trust that he would not turn away from her. But it was impossible. She steeled herself and dared to look directly into his eyes.

At this moment, my Lord, no I am not.”

Her response surprised and intrigued him but before he could question her further, a buzz of conversation stirred in the crowd. People pressed back to clear the centre of the room. Lucius stood up as they heard the murmur of anticipation.

It is the Prince Regent himself,” the chaperone whispered with awe.

Emmaline left her chair and stood beside Lucius, hoping to remain at the back of the crowd. To her horror Countess Esterhazy was forming a reception line and she quickly found herself at the forefront.

The Prince, with his entourage behind him, slowly made his way down the line. Emmaline looked down and bit her lip, hoping that he would pass by her but the Countess and the Prince Regent stopped in front of her.
Miss Devereux, delighted to make your acquaintance again.” In the ensuing silence she heard the creak of his stays as he bent towards her.

Your Royal Highness is too kind.” She dropped a deep curtsy and bowed her head.

Nonsense.” The Prince lifted her hand to his lips. “England salutes you. And how is your grandfather and your army of wounded warriors, hmm?”

As well as can be expected, your Highness,” Emmaline assured him, but the Countess had already moved on.

Escorting Miss Devereux this evening, Avondale?” the Prince asked as the Countess introduced them. “If you ain’t, I might have to snaffle this pretty little thing out from under your nose.”

There were snorts of laughter and protestations from those around them and the Prince continued down the line, a fat chuckle emanating from his lips.

Lucius took two glasses of champagne from the salver presented by a footman and gave one to a still dazed Emmaline. She took the glass without a word, but turned with everyone else when Count Esterhazy proposed a toast to the Prince.

So how come you’re acquainted with Prinny?” Lucius asked quietly once the Prince’s party moved on to take their seats in readiness for Catalani’s performance.

I met him just once at a military function when in the company of my grandfather.” Emmaline sipped on her champagne.

So why would England salute you?”

Emmaline sipped on her champagne and swallowed it slowly. Here was the core of her problem. She sipped thoughtfully on the champagne again. How could she possibly tell him anything without having to tell him all? There was no way at all. She recklessly tossed back the remainder of her champagne and placed her empty flute on a passing servant’s tray. Lucius stood close behind her. She sensed the heat in his hard muscled body. Her heart leapt, skipped a beat as he moved closer still. Her skin burnt as the backs of his fingers pressed lightly against her arm. She took a deep breath to compose herself and wished she had not drunk her champagne so quickly. Her head spun a little as she turned to Lucius.

His Highness simply referred to the work my grandfather took upon himself to repatriate wounded soldiers. You must know they were shockingly neglected.”

I have heard something of the sort, but I do believe there is more to it than that.”

Emmaline moved away a little and looked up at him. “But without calling me a liar, which would be most ungentlemanly of you, you will have to accept it will you not?”

No, minx. I will not.”

Lucius leaned in towards her. His breath on her neck made her stiffen. Little licks of heat danced down her veins, twirled her pulse into a rapid tattoo. She tried to keep her back straight and to look ahead while all she wanted was to close her eyes and drop her head onto his shoulder. How could her body betray her so? She gave herself a mental shake and lifted her chin.

I wish . . .” she began.

What do you wish, Emmaline?”

She inhaled deeply. The words must have ridden on the cloud of his breath and detached themselves in her brain for she could not possibly have heard them.

I mean, I want . . .”

What?” His lips were close to her ear. “Tell me what you want.”

He stood so close. She knew that if she leaned back she would feel the hard wall of his chest. She took a step away, but he moved beside her. She felt the firmness of his thigh against her hip. Shocked at the instant tremor this elicited in her, she moved away again. His whisper, soft and low and surely not heard by anyone but her, tickled the delicate shell of her ear.

What I want is you in my bed.”

Emmaline gasped. This was wrong. She could not have heard him correctly. She blinked and looked up at him. The longing she saw in his eyes matched the longing in her heart and nearly overturned her resolve, but she lifted her chin even more and tried to smile.

Ah, a jest to set the tone for the evening,” she said as glibly as she could

I do not jest, I assure you, but I believe we should take our seats in readiness for the performance.”

In stunned silence, Emmaline took the arm he offered her. Lucius escorted her into the already darkened drawing room in which the evening’s entertainment was to take place. He procured seats for them, just as the performer made her entrance.

Catalani’s dark eyes swept her audience and commanded immediate quiet. She held them spellbound. Her audience waited. Her rich soprano voice began to fill the room and Emmaline felt a slight pressure on her hand. She glanced down to see Lucius’ hand resting gently on hers.
Her heart soared. Her pulse thumped as the soprano’s voice effortlessly rose and fell from one octave to another. Eyes closed, Emmaline remained motionless. She prayed that Lucius would not remove his hand and revelled in the warmth that radiated through the thin kidskin barrier of her gloves.
Her mind drifted. What if there were no barriers between them? What if she could remove his coat, his shirt? What if he slipped her gown off her shoulder? She shivered with pleasure at the image of his skin against hers.

Lucius turned her hand over and she felt the light pressure of his finger as he began to prescribe lazy circles in the palm of her hand. She gasped in shocked delight and, as that exploring finger travelled to the inside of her wrist and began to caress, felt a tremor run through her body.

Lulled by the melodies that washed over her, aflame from the sensations he stirred in her, she gave in. Relished the heat that emanated from Lucius’ hand and warmed her entire body. Wished the moment could last forever.

About Victoria

Victoria Chatham was born in Clifton, one of the oldest areas in Bristol, England.

Her very first attempts at writing, in crayon on a wall, were not appreciated. Being an army brat meant being constantly on the move and her best friends were always her books. But the writing bug had bitten and her first stories were written in pencil in scrappy exercise books. Marriage, motherhood, moving and work often took precedence over her writing which is now her full time occupation.

Apart from writing, Victoria is an avid reader of anything that catches her interest, from Regency and contemporary romance to thrillers. She loves horses and dogs, daily walks and gentle yoga. Her musical tastes range from classical to jazz, pop or country and western depending on her mood and enjoys a good chick flick as much as a Die Hard type action movie. She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and the Calgary chapter of RWA. She credits both organizations for supporting and furthering her writing ambitions and thanks Books We Love Ltd for taking her under their publishing wing.


Lecia said...

Oh, I do agree with you—writing sex scenes is my least favourite part of writing romance! I much prefer creating sexual tension and emotion. Looking forward to reading more of HIS DARK ENCHANTRESS!

Suzanne Stengl said...

I’ve read His Dark Enchantress and loved it. Intrigue, action, romance, friendship – it’s all there.
I write “sweet” - no explicit sex. In fact, no sex at all. I find I like the sexual tension. As soon as the actual act occurs, there is a fall in tension. Don’t want that.
Victoria – I loved your article and your take on the sex scenes. And what a funny line about, “none of us would be here without it!”
Another line I’ve heard and agree with is, “Love is not gazing into each other’s eyes; love is standing shoulder to shoulder and gazing in the same direction.”

Victoria Chatham said...

Thanks Lecia! And I'm thrilled that His Dark Enchantress is now available in paperback.

Victoria Chatham said...

Thank you Suzanne. I so agree with your last sentence. Even in an era where women were supposed to have no brains, there were still exceptions. And the next exception will be featured in His Ocean Vixen coming next March!

Michelle Beattie said...

Those darn sex scenes! I find it gets harder and harder (no pun intended!) to write them without making them all sound the same. As you say, there are only so many ways A goes into B. For me, it's what drives them to this point that I love. Are they scared, grateful, hopeful, hopeless, lost or just found? THAT'S what I love to write and discover. Love your writing, Victoria, and whether you write sex or not, you'll always have a fan here!

Victoria Chatham said...

Michelle, you too? You've always made the sex scenes look so easy. It was one of the things I enjoyed so much about your books.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Victoria!

Welcome to Beyond Romance! I think this is your first time as my guest - I hope it's not the last. Her Dark Enchantress sounds delicious. Your excerpt really has me wondering about Emmaline's secret.

I have a reputation for pretty graphic sex scenes, but I have to admit, I also find them harder and harder to write. Age has something to do with this - the hormones just aren't flowing the way they used to - but also the fear that I'm repeating myself. I've written so many of these scenes in the last fifteen years... do I really have anything new to say?

Occasionally I will really get inspired, by personal desire. That's the key to keeping things fresh - along with being true to the characters and *their* desires.

Sheila Seabrook said...

You're right, Victoria. Sex scenes are difficult to write. Thanks for the wonderful post. Dark Enchantress was awesome!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Victoria,
Great blog. Yes, the sex scenes can be a bit of a worry for us older gals, but I am becoming more comfortable writing them, the older I get.



Jackie Larocque said...

I don't mind writing the sex scenes. I think it gives a finality to the build up. With out the sex or at least the closing of the bedroom door, the reader doesn't get completion of scene. But in romance, I believe that sex, whether hinted on or written in detail should enhance the story. I find porn or erotica almost boring as it is the story that enhances the sex. And there is just so much I can read about throbbing members. lol. As soon as I see that phrase I stop reading the book.

My mom told me that relationships are an adventure full of fun, misery, challenges, success and failures. Sex is just the bonus. That is how I look at writing about it. Sex can signify a bonus, it can also signify a bonding or reestablishment of a relationship bond. It can also be very primal in the sense that it wipes out another man or women's' sent on a partner. It can be used as domination or control. It can be used as an additive in a scene especially during war where women and men were raped during conflict, again, a primal action that under normal circumstances wouldn't happen but in a highly excited and violent occasion, is common. If you use the appropriate sex in the appropriate moment in the story, it can add great depth to characters and to the story for the reader.
Just stop the throbbing members. Gack.

Victoria Chatham said...

Thanks for inviting me Lisabet. I find it comforting that with all your experience in the genre you still have to stretch your writer's brain, so there's hope for me yet.

Victoria Chatham said...

So glad you enjoyed it Sheila. Next one will be His Ocean Vixen coming next March.

Victoria Chatham said...

There are some benefits to being a senior, and that's not only the discounts you can get at various stores! Being very much a senior and a widow I have to rely very much on memory and read lots!

Victoria Chatham said...

I so agree with your comment on throbbing members! Another phrase that makes me groan is 'and she shattered'. In one book the heroine shattered so many times I wasn't sure if, like Humpty Dumpty, she'd ever be put together again. The only reason I finished the book was to make serious notes on what not to do!

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