Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Laura Kaye, whose newest erotic romance, Just Gotta Say, was released the end of September. She also has a new book scheduled to come out in February from Harlequin Nocturne Craving, In the Service of the King.
Laura has been a writer her entire life. She’s a historian by training and says, “Writing is the language of history.”
She’s published two books and lots of articles in her field.
As far as fiction, however, even though she avidly wrote fiction as a teenager, she didn’t rediscover her passion for stories until a few years ago.
“Weird but true story: I had a minor head injury on July 4, 2008, went through several weeks of severe migraine-type headaches, but once I started feeling better in August, I was overcome with the desire to write,” she explained. “I began plotting out one story, got about 20 pages written, when the story for Forever Freed slammed into my head fully formed and demanded my attention. I had the first draft of that novel, 50,000 words longer than the published version (which stands at 95K) before November. And the ideas, along with the compulsion to write, have been nonstop ever since.”
Laura told me there is definitely a difference between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.
“Erotic romance, which I write, must combine prominent romantic emotional connection with the erotic elements,” she explained. “Erotic romance is primarily romantic storytelling where the sex and eroticism are central to the plot. In erotica, the sex and eroticism are the primarily focus and romantic elements aren’t required. Erotica tells a story but doesn’t require a happy ending or even a happy-for-now ending. I would argue most erotica is written to arouse women, while most pornography is written or filmed to arouse men. (It’s interesting, for example, that Ellora’s Cave is coming out with a special Erotica for Men line, which illustrates my point.) I would argue that most pornography cares little about relationships or storytelling, which is why the filmed versions usually lack dialogue and the written versions often do little to develop characters. So, while all three have as a fundamental purpose arousing the reader or viewer, they’re quite different in terms of emotional components and storytelling function.”
If Laura is not aroused by what she’s writing, she assumes readers won’t be either.
“I think writing erotic is one of those times when, as the writer, you have to feel it; you have to believe in it in order to convey with full force to the reader. Key to truly feeling it is writing what arouses you—and that means putting yourself out there a good bit. Of course, readers will never know if what you’re writing is the result of ‘academic research’ or actual experience, but I think emotional honesty on the part of the writer is key to selling erotic storytelling.”
She approaches research for her books in a couple of different ways. She first thinks it’s important to read in the genres you write in, admitting that she’s learned a lot from other writers about how to approach storytelling and characterization. She’s not much of a plotter, so unless the story she’s writing requires world building that has to be thought out ahead of time, she tends to stop and do the research whenever she comes to something in the manuscript she needs to know. She also reads a lot of erotic romance and erotica.
“I also read and watch some porn,” she said, “totally for research purposes, y’all, seriously—right, you DO believe me, don’t you???—and find it enhances my ability to visualize and choreograph sex scenes as I’m writing them.”
“Is there a boundary between porn and erotic romance that you personally would never cross?” I wondered.
“This is a really interesting question. If it’s asking about specific acts, the answer is no. I’m a very open-minded person and, as long as it’s consensual, there’s not much I would rule out as a boundary I’d refuse to cross. I think just about anything or any type of coupling can be made erotic and arousing if done right,” she said. “However, I’m not really interested in writing straight porn that lacks emotional connection, characterization, and plot. And, to tangent just a bit, I think erotic or erotic romance writers do ourselves a disservice if we personally characterize this type of writing as porn or ‘smut’ or ‘lemons’ because, as I said before, there is a truly substantive difference.”
Laura didn’t necessarily start out to write erotica; she set out to write engaging stories about compelling characters—who just happen to have a lot of hot sex.
She laughed and said, “I don’t see myself primarily as an erotic writer, though what I write is erotic, even if it’s listed as paranormal romance or contemporary romance. Only my ménage a quatres story Just Gotta Say, which has been released by Decadent Publishing, was intentionally an erotic romance from conception.”
“If you could entertain a character from a book,” I asked, “who would it be and what would the evening be like?”
“I’m gonna stick with erotic and romance here in choosing…and my guest for the evening would be Zsadist from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I am totally in love with this tortured, bad ass, bad boy, leathered, inked, scarred vampire warrior. Phew! With Zsadist, who knows what the evening would be like? I’d imagine a bit awkward at first, since he’s not the most social adept guy, and even a little dangerous, since he’s got something of an anger-management problem, but I’d be hoping and praying the night would end along the lines of the twenty-four-hour needing session he had with Bella. (Oh, right, in my little fantasy session, she doesn’t exist…!) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to go check out Lover Awakened. Nuff said.”
Finally, I asked, “What advice do you give authors wanting to write erotica?”
“First, read widely in the genre. Second, write what arouses you and what you know, at least to start. Third, figure out what your stance on word usage is—erotic romance and erotica generally avoid the squicky euphemisms we all love to make fun of! Fourth, never feel you have to write about a practice or fetish that turns you off, because likely you won’t sell it to the reader if you do. Fifth, know that there are readers for every erotic act or fetish, so there’s an audience for whatever it is that DOES turn you on.”
You can keep up with Laura on her blog, http://laurakayeauthor.blogspot.com