I asked Kelli what she saw as the biggest public misconceptions about erotica.
“I think there are millions of misconceptions about writing in general, and even more when it comes to romance and/or erotica. It’s funny, but almost everyone I meet says, ‘I want to write a book,’ but nobody actually does. Or, they may start writing, but then give up before they finish the story, because writing is not as easy as they thought it was. I’m always asked, ‘When are you going to write a real book and make a million dollars?’ I tell them that when I have a million dollars, I’ll send them a postcard from my new house in Hawaii.
“Over the years, I’ve found that some of the biggest misconceptions about erotica are: that the stories are mindless scenes of people having sex; that there’s no ‘real’ plot or characterization; and that they’re ‘easy’ to write. Other misconceptions are that the authors of erotic romances are basing the love scenes in the books on their own private lives, and that we ‘act out’ the love scenes in our books. Not true! The stories are fiction, not confessionals. And writing good romance is just as difficult and as labor-intensive as writing horror, sci fi, or mystery. (Does anyone think that murder-mystery writers kill people in real life?) Writers have vivid imaginations and we use that talent to create all sorts of interesting stories.”
Kelli doesn’t immediately start with the sex scenes in her own books, nor does the map out the sexual details that will be in the story. She outlines each book and makes notes of the scenes, the purpose for each scene, and the character development.
“The sex kinda just falls into place as I’m writing,” she told me. “When it comes down to the basics, a reader won’t sit through any story (no matter what genre) that isn’t attention-grabbing or that doesn’t have appealing, believable characters. Readers like to get to know the characters and identify with them. Without a solid base, the story will fall flat, regardless of how exciting the love scenes are.
“Once I have the story down, I let the characters have fun! When I write love scenes, I sort of stand back and let the characters do what comes natural. I generally know how far the scene will go ahead of time, but I let the characters take over and enjoy themselves. Later, when I edit/revise the story, I go back and cut anything that doesn’t work with the scene. I think love scenes have to flow naturally from the plot and the characters. I avoid just plopping them in there for the sake of spicing up a story.”
“How do you distinguish between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography?” I asked Kelli.
“I consider ‘erotica’ to be stories that explore a character’s sexual adventures and contain explicit details – but a happy-ever-after type of romance isn’t necessarily at the core of the story. An example would be Anne Rice’s Beauty books. The reader follows Beauty and the other characters through their sexual adventures, but they’re not involved in romantic relationships with each other.
“I define ‘erotic romance’ as a sexually-charged story that has romance (either M/F or same-sex) as the main focus. To me, an erotic romance needs to have an interesting plot and character development that keeps readers wondering ‘What happens next? Will the couple get together? How will the story end?’
“Erotic romance has more (and more detailed!) love scenes than a ‘traditional’ romance. And there are many different ‘heat’ levels to erotic romance. Some are tamer and only hint at what’s going on between the sheets – or as in my books, The Sexy Stranger and A Most Unusual Princess – the story builds through sexual tension as the characters tease and flirt with each other. Some erotic romances (such as A Perfect Match and Trust with Hearts) include more explicit details and let readers peek in on the sexual activities of the romantic couple, while others (A Midsummer Night’s Delights and the sequel A Midwinter Night’s Delights) are scorching hot and include toys, multiple partners and other sexual acts that might be considered ‘taboo’ to some readers.”
She thinks porn is basically just people having sex, with usually no character development, story conflict, or background details.
“The quickie definition I sometimes use is ‘The pizza guy shows up, finds half-naked horny women waiting to pounce on him, they screw, he leaves.’ It’s a one-time encounter that doesn’t aim to make readers care about who the characters are – the sole purpose is to show people screwing and… well, we all know the rest,” she said.
She’s has written many non-erotic romances, in addition to her hotter work.
“Several years ago, dozens of my 10-minute love stories appeared in the Sun. These were short & sweet love stories that didn’t even have the characters kiss! It was an excellent start to my writing career, and I had a lot of fun writing the stories,” she told me. “All of my books with Amber Quill Press are different heat levels. A Most Unusual Princess is a mild heat level 1. The Dark Lord is a level 2, and A Perfect Match, along with my newest book Four Days with Jack are a level 3s. I don’t concern myself with the heat level of a story while I’m writing it. Once I know the plot and characters I write the story that’s in my head. (And my characters run the gamut from normal everyday people, to famous people, bi-sexual people, and even paranormal creatures!). I think the biggest difference between ‘erotic’ romance love scenes and ‘traditional/straight’ love scenes is in the language, details, and intensity of the activities.”
She never actually intended to write romances of any kind, however. She started out writing horror short stories and scaring the people in her writing class.
“One day an idea for a story popped into my head and I asked my writing teacher about it,” Kelli told me. “She said, ‘That’s a romance!’ I asked her how to get rid of it and she told me to write it down. After that, another romance idea came to me, and I wrote that one down, too. Before I knew it, I was writing short romance as well as full-length novels.”
Kelli still enjoys writing in different genres, including romance, horror, and contemporary. Switching between the genres allows her to explore different plots, writing styles, and characters.
“I think it’s good to change things up every once in a while,” she said. “It keeps the writing fresh. Of course, I combined my love of romance and horror into a paranormal romance, Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover. Then I blended my odd sense of humor with my love of the strange into Beauty & the Bigfoot. It’s a quirky take on the legend of Bigfoot and was a lot of fun to write!”
Kelli told me she’s generally not embarrassed by any of the love scenes she creates; she just writes down what the characters are doing and feeling.
“After all, when I’m writing, I’m in their heads and their points of view, not my own,” she explained. “However, I had to turn off my ‘internal editor’ when I wrote some of the more intense love scenes in A Midwinter Night’s Delights and A Midsummer Night’s Delights. Some of the same-sex and group sex scenes are extremely detailed (even for me!) But you can’t worry or be concerned with ‘what people will think’ about a story or a scene, otherwise you’d never write anything.”
You can keep up with Kelli at her website, http://www.kelliwilkins.com/index.html