E L James, I am not

A few weeks ago, feeling bolder than I should, I began writing a novella for a project called City Nights for my publisher, Tirgearr. Here’s the pitch: a contemporary romance, which takes place over 24 hours and is set in a major city around the world. The books would be entitled A Night in _____. How cool is that? And only 20,000-25,000 words? Sweet. I told myself I’d have it finished in two days. Ha!

The novella takes place in a city. Well, the books I write take place in locales where I’ve lived. Otherwise, I’d have to make stuff up. Sheesh. So, I chose Anchorage, Alaska, because I’ve lived there and for folks who haven’t, it sounds exotic. If icy…

I contacted the editor for the project, Troy Lambert, and his response was classic: Anchorage, Alaska? Sure. Just a city where romance can take place. Side note: Troy is the subject of a new feature on my website called “Author Spotlight.” A brief interview with him will be posted there on Jan. 1st.

Anyway, I put my characters on a plane leaving Anchorage when bam! Mount Redoubt erupted and their flight was cancelled. Now, what to do? Why, head to the Captain Cook Hotel, of course, the swankiest hotel in Anchorage. It’s where everybody goes when their flight is cancelled, and they can drop $700 on a hotel room. In truth, it got my characters downtown where a lot of fun touristy things happen.

Now, the problem: the heat level of the book. Romance books are divided into different heat levels, depending on how much sex is in the book. My first novel, Celebration House, is considered a “sweet” romance, in that I only show the characters kissing. Here’s the criteria for determining the sex rating:

  1. Nothing but kisses,
  2. Passionate kissing,
  3. Sex but the door is closed
  4. Slightly steamy sex with some description
  5. Steamy sex with somewhat graphic description

City Nights is meant to be a genre called erotic romance. Lots and lots of sex. I had never written this type of material, so I accepted Troy’s generous offer to send me a book called, Awakening, book 1: The A-B-Cs of Sex by Scarlett Valentine. Holy buckets! This book is definitely a 5. I don’t read a lot of erotic romance, but I believe Awakening is well written. Lots of active verbs. Lots and lots of description of sexual intercourse, including, how to put this delicately? anal sex. Perhaps there was a little too much description?

Reading this novella, I realized I could never write this type of book. To begin with, I don’t think I know the subject matter well enough. I’m too tame. Awakening is a hot mole sauce. I’m more of a whipped cream.

Perhaps I could research it. A good friend of mine in Alaska gave me a book entitled, “The Guide to Getting It On.” She told me, don’t return it with sticky pages, so I didn’t return it at all. I looked up some of the activity in Awakening in my guide book and sure enough, it was there. Yikes!

But in the end – oops, an unintended reference to Awakening – sorry. My bad. Reading the novella made me realize I don’t want to write erotic romance. Someone close to me called it “literature to masturbate by.”  It’s not what I want to read and thus, not what I should be writing.

The kicker is, I really did like the two characters in my Anchorage novella. They’re funny, and although I’ve only gotten them off the plane, checked into the Captain Cook and having breakfast at Snow City Café, I really enjoyed the time I spent creating them. It made me happy. That’s probably the kind of book I should be writing.

Hands and arms inside the cart, please: Tomorrow, saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming 2014.

2 thoughts on “E L James, I am not

  1. If you are not comfortable writing about erotic sex, then don’t do it. I am a murder mystery reader so the only time I’ve ever read “erotic” books was when I was a teenager at a Catholic girls boarding school. We read by flashlight under our bed covers.


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