Carolyn’s been writing stories since she could print, admitting, “I was the geeky kid in middle and high school, carrying a notebook filled with stories.”
When she would get bored in class, she’d write, and her English teachers loved her because she was one of the few who didn’t groan when a writing assignment was handed out. She didn’t major in English in college nor did she get serious about writing until about twelve years ago, but she always wrote.
“The stories would start writing themselves in my head, from the most common objects or pictures.” She told me. “I’ve been reading romance since I was 19, and I wrote my first romance manuscript about twelve years ago. It was a mess, filled with every newbie mistake imaginable. I didn’t even have a computer! I wrote it on an electronic Smith Corona typewriter. I wasn’t an RWA member, and I had no idea how to query agents. Two years ago we had a devastating tornado in the town where I now live, and I realized first-hand how everything can change in an instant. I also realized if I was going to pursue my dream of being a published romance writer, I’d better get my butt in gear and get serious about it. I joined RWA and our local Nashville chapter, the Music City Romance Writers. I learned my craft, asked a million questions, and began to write for publication, not just for fun.”
Carolyn writes both erotic and non-erotic romance, and I asked her which was more challenging.
“My sexy romantic suspense, Haunted Heart, wouldn’t be considered erotic by most. The heat level is three but the sex scenes are toned down as compared to The Last Soul and Hunted. I don’t really find one or the other more challenging. A story is still a story. The challenge is in making it believable, and in coming up with enough conflict to sustain the story without throwing in random obstacles that seem to come out of nowhere. I hate it when I read that in a story. Makes me want to throw my Kindle across the room.”
The difference, in her mind, between erotica, erotic romance, and porn is simple.
“Erotica focuses primarily on the sexual relationship as opposed to the romantic one. There still needs to be a story – plot and conflict – but the MCs are together for a sexual relationship. Erotic romance focuses on the relationship. It’s a developing love story, like all traditional romances, where the sex scenes are more frequent, more graphic and descriptive, or a combination of both. In both erotica and erotic romance the author still needs to show the emotional connection. Pornography does not an emotional connection. Porn is just straight sex, like reading it from a how-to manual. There doesn’t need to be a relationship between the participants other than a physical one, and there doesn’t need to be a story behind the sex.”
Story is the main distinguishing mark when it comes to a good erotic story, she told me.
“Characters need conflict that can’t be overcome with a nice sit down and chat; they need goals that are believable and meaningful; and their actions need to spring from the motivation to achieve those goals. Even the sex scenes need a reason to be there. When I was writing the first draft of Hunted, Book 2 of my Seduced By A Demon series, I made the mistake of putting a sex scene in a place where the hero and heroine should have been more concerned about saving the heroine’s friends from the villain. The timing was all wrong. Sex simply for the sake of sex will pull a reader out of the story. Think of it this way. If you got a call that a loved one was in the hospital, just as you and your lover were about to make love, most people would postpone the lovemaking and rush to the hospital. That same common sense needs to be in every story I write.”
Among the authors that Carolyn believe write excellent erotic fiction are Stacey Espino, Xondra Day and Anna Karaleigh.
“Not only do they write well, but there’s an instant emotional connection to the characters in their books,” she explained. “I care about what happens to them and I understand their motivation. Their characters’ actions and words make sense, and the sex scenes are HOT and believable.”
“What are the biggest public misconceptions about erotica?” I wondered.
“That it’s porn for women. No, it’s not porn. We read erotic romance for the same reason we read any romance. We enjoy the journey of two people falling in love. Spicy sex scenes don’t make it porn. Lack of emotion and sex for the sake of sex, even when it makes no sense to the story at the time, makes it porn.”
The amount and kind of research Carolyn does depends on what she’s writing. For the first book in her Seduced by a Demon series, The Last Soul, she researched theories and fiction on succubae, because she’d never written one in a story before. Because it was set in Los Angeles, she also researched the city’s buildings, neighborhoods, and cultural events.
“For Hunted, I did some quick research on the Inglewood Park Cemetery, because that’s where the showdown between the hero, heroine and the villain takes place. In Playing for Keeps, the third book in the series, I made up a town in Ohio, but researched Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century because that’s where the heroine, Teresa, lived when she was still alive.”
“Is there a boundary between porn and erotic romance that you personally would never cross?” I asked.
“I have sexual inhibitions just like anyone, and my stories reflect them. I can’t write something that isn’t authentic for me. If it doesn’t personally turn me on, I can’t write it. It feels forced and unnatural to me. I place my characters in sexual situations that I’ve either experienced myself, or that I fantasize about. And then of course I turn up the heat! But I can’t write certain things simply because I don’t find them erotic myself.”
Some personal things you might not know about Carolyn:
~ she’s a chocoholic. Also, she loves anything dipped in batter and fried.
~ she doesn’t mind trying new foods—as long as it’s not still moving.
~ she can “absolutely” tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, saying “They have very distinct tastes. Coke is sharper, edgier. Pepsi has an underlying sweet taste to it, even in diet.”
~ her favorite letter is S—”I love the sibilance of its sound, and I like the shape. It’s easy to print and it’s really cool when stylized and dressed up.”
~ her strangest habit is biting the inside of her left cheek (never her right) when she’s nervous.
~ she plays the cello (although she admits that “play” is a relative term.)
Finally, I asked. “If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?”
“Learn to take constructive criticism. That’s the biggest obstacle I see in aspiring and new writers, and even some well-established ones. They can’t handle it when someone says, ‘try doing this instead’ or ‘you might want to consider doing this.’ We all love our work but it’s extremely difficult to look at it objectively. If you ask a writer or industry professional for help, and you’re lucky enough to get it, don’t get defensive and bitch to your friends about what they said. You not only shoot yourself in the foot, but you block any learning about how to improve your writing. Even best selling authors have critique partners, belong to critique groups, and have editors. None of us is above learning how to improve a manuscript. There’s no law that says you have to take anyone’s suggestions and apply them, but at least consider the possibility they might have something useful to offer you.”
You can keep up with Carolyn on her website, http://www.carolynrosewood.com/ .