Thursday, January 24, 2008

I’m not a prude…. Honest.

Been on a bit of a reading binge lately, mostly because my wonderful, and ubertalented critique partners keep handing me great books to read.
So I am in heaven.
A lot of paranormals and historicals, almost all of which have been tagged with the label, erotic, or steamy by the publishers.
One, which will remain nameless, is really well written and well plotted and I’m halfway through and it’s about as steamy as a frozen lake, which doesn’t at all detract from how much I’m enjoying it.
And clearly the publisher is just trying to drum up more sales for a really well deserving author by calling it steamy.
Another historical I’m reading has an amazing, different setting, a really unique heroine and is gripping, in all the scenes that don’t revolve around the hero and heroine lusting after each other, or having sex. Those scenes are almost laughable and seriously detract from the pacing of the book.
Feeling the same way about many of the paranormals I’ve read lately.
And hey, I love a good sex scene as much as anyone out there, but when my reaction to a book is, it would have been better without all the sex, that’s somewhat sad.
When the sex works, and it furthers character and plot, see JR Ward and Anne Stuart, then fantastic..
And I know publishers label books as erotic because steamy books sell better. Or at least that seems to be the way of things in paranormal and historical.
Why are those two genres different from romantic suspense, a genre that doesn’t seem to need the steamy label to attract readers?
Why is there a different reader expectation depending on genre? Or is it just that publishers seem to believe there is.
Or is this another trend that’s about to be oversaturated, like chick lit was four years ago.
I’m posing a question I honestly have no idea how to answer and I would love to hear if anyone knows, or has a theory.


Bonnie Staring said...

Not sure what the deal is, but I wonder when publishers will start combining inspirational, paranormal and erotica all together.

Oh. My. Gods.

Maureen McGowan said...

I have a theory... Paranormals and historicals are two genres were the men can be pure fantasy. They can behave in a way women might want men to in their sexual fantasies, but not necessarily the way they'd want their real partners to behave (or their contemporary romance heroes to behave, HQ Presents aside).

So, maybe those two genres are best if they really play up the sexual fantasy stuff. Lord knows JR Ward does this well. Her sex scenes are hot hot hot... but they matter to the stories, too.

But if, like you said, the sex is just tacked in there... It doesn't work. It doesn't feed the fantasy or help build a fast-paced interesting story.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, and Bonnie. How did you know I was working on an inspirational erotica? Maybe I need to add some paranormal elements.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I'm working on an inspirational historical erotica...

For me the problem isn't the sex, it's the complete lack of sexual tension building up to the sex.
If, as a reader, I'm not eagerly anticipating when the hero and heroine gets it on, then everything falls flat..
Or in other terms.. a lot of writers are rushing to the main event and forgetting the foreplay..
Foreplay's important, damn it.

Kimber Chin said...

Ahhhh... but you see, sex in a historical setting is art while sex in a contemporary setting is simply p**n (self edited so you don't get an influx of spam). At least that is what one of my highbrow artsie friends explained to me.

I don't know. I write what I write. Folks ask me what my spice level is and I haven't a clue. I figure someone will tell me eventually.

Maureen McGowan said...

Kimber, I think your highbrow artsie friends have a very strange view on the world and sex. ;-) But I do think one can make characters behave differently in a world that's not our current world... So easier to be a little edgy in fantasy, historical, futuristic, etc. (But Anne Stuart's doing it in contemps, right? Must read her. Too many authors, too little time.)

Or, whole new theory, kind of reversing my theory above... Maybe because it's harder to draw readers into the problems of historical or paranormal worlds, some writers find the only way to make their books interesting is to add lots of sex? That is, they fail to make their conflicts/plot points resonate with a contemporary audience, so need the padding??? That's a more depressing theory, but might explain why so many of them leave Sinead unmoved...

Kimber Chin said...

Forget strange views, Maureen, my friends are strang period (high brow or not). LOL

Okay, different angle on this. Harlequin is such a dominant factor in contemporary romance. Maybe it is because they're not rah-rah-rah about heavy on the sex (for most of their lines)?

Gosh, even I had Harlequin in mind for my first novel. That meant I cooled down the sex scenes and the language somewhat (some may say not enough).

Maureen McGowan said...

Interesting theory, Kimber... but I'm not sure I completely buy that one. I mean, Harlequin has some very steamy lines. And I think Sinead was thinking single title. Wondering why romantic suspence books aren't marketed as "steamy" when most recent historicals and paranormals are... I might have taken this off Sinead's original topic of why publishers feel they have to push the sex on the cover with some genres and not others... because it sparked something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't thinking Harlequin, because they seem to have a different approach. If sex sells, they create a line. Blaze did really well, almost from the outset, so they created Spice. I don't think they're throwing more sex at their existing lines.

I was thinking more single titles, but I like the direction this is taking..

Kimber Chin said...

Yeah, what I was thinking was that since category in contemporary is so dominant (with so many lines) that it drives what happens in single title.

Heck, Harlequin Romance is the only thing keeping the virginal heroine alive. LOL

Plus many of today's dominant authors have one or two (or more) category romances in their backlist (Nora Roberts being one). The influence is there.

Kimber Chin said...

I should say the contemporary virgin. Lots of virgins in historicals.

K J Gillenwater said...

What I don't understand is that publishers and agents have been saying for awhile now that historical romance is dead. I hear it's on the upswing now...but why is it that any new authors in historical romance I've been reading lately are just really badly done?

I would think if historicals were not 'hot' a year or two ago, shouldn't that mean the historicals they were publishing would be stellar?

I read the worst book in a new historical romance series. No sexual tension, insta-chemistry between two cardboard characters that were dull as dishwater, and the 'plot' was not interesting or tension-filled at all. I was so disappointed.

I would like more super-hot historical romance myself. But of higher quality. Any suggestions people?

Maureen McGowan said...

That kind of thing makes me crazy, too, Kristin. It does seem to go against reason.

One possible theory is if a mediocre debut in a non-hot genre follows some safe pattern within the genre? That is, the editors want the genre to rebound, hope that it will, but decide to push something safe out there to test the waters???

Who knows. Luck factors into this business so much, too. It could just be that the book that disappointed you struck some particular personal chord with the editor who bought it...

Anonymous said...

Hey Kristin,
I've felt the same way about a lot of the historicals I've picked up over the past two years.
It does seem as though editors are playing it really safe in that genre.
A couple of authors I've lived(a caveat, I've only read book from each) are Elizabeth Hoyt, great characterization and really hot, and Jade Lee, who writes Chinese set historicals.

K J Gillenwater said...

The one series I started was sort of 'original,' but the idea that could have been good was just written so really made me cringe.

I mean, I'm no published author, but I have been trying hard to eradicate the things in my writing that are considered 'unprofessional.' To the point where I can sniff out a dumped back story and telling vs. showing from a mile away.

I just would have expected better. And this is a series with 3 or 4 books in it. I don't know. Maybe I just like deeper, more engaged reading or something. I don't like to read baby food for the brain. I like some meat to my books.

But maybe there are plenty of readers who love the baby food.

Admin said...

No baby food. Especially not the organic kind that just got recalled. Heard that was a killer.

Though what is with the abundance of merry widows in historicals now? I know it's an excuse for the women to get busy on page one but I don't think a dead husband is that sexy (unless he's a ghost and looks like Patrick Swayze).

Yeah, I know, she didn't really love the dead husband, poor guy. He is dead and unloved, that makes it all better.


Kimber Chin said...

Dratted multiple identities.
That last post (Admin) was mine.

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