Judgement Call: When Writing Erotic Romance Means The End of a Beautiful Relationship. Not.

“Mr. Black,” I said one day to my husband, “if ever my work gets published, do you realize there might be some fall-out?”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like your family and my family and friends might be offended, like you or I might be judged, like people might avoid us because they’re uncomfortable…”

In the one and half years since my first erotic spicemance–Boss With Benefits–got published, my predictions have come true. With two new summer releases, Going Greek and Private Dancer, I can safely say I’m making great headway being judged. Go me!

The fact is, because I love writing stories that push male/female sexual dynamics further (deeper, harder) I expected I’d be judged because of it. Erotic, defined in Random House Webster’s Dictionary as adj.1. of sexual love. 2. arousing sexual desire.

Promoting erotic romance is not easy. The explicit scenes and raw language contained in erotic fiction rocks boats, and knocks over apple carts.

So why do it? Well, why the hell not? There is erotic romance, laughter, tenderness and hot burning passion in love stories being lived out every single day, all over the world. We meet our matches in many ways. We fall in love in different ways, and sometimes falling in love doesn’t come with a PG rating!

The most surprising twists on this journey have been the good humor of my family, friends and acquaintances. I’ve also gotten to know who I matter to, the ones who embrace not just bits and pieces of me that work for them, but the whole picture; a person who is a wife, mom, friend, neighbor…one who also happens to write wild-hot lustmances!

One neighbor sent me a note of congratulations when I made my first sale. It turns out, she’s a published writer of erotic suspense, too! It jump-started a beautiful, funny and warm friendship.

As a writer, knowing who my audience is means a lot, and if that audience doesn’t include that relation, this in-law, that friend or those acquaintances, then so be it.

Stories of authors whose family members, even their spouses, sabotaging, demeaning and degrading the author’s craft, and books, run rampant in this industry–of SO’s resentful of their mate’s achievements, or family members’ disapproval to the point where they no longer acknowledge the writer’s smallest achievements.

How about the descriptions? “Oh, you write trashy/smut novels?” (This one’s my favorite, because whenever someone comes up to me and describes books about great sex between two committed people as trashy or smut, I instantly feel bad for the poor individual that has to climb into bed with this person every night).

For writers, words are our art. We cannot stop being who we are to please a select few. People will judge for many things: skin color, background, social status, religious/political beliefs etc… There are also many books, fiction and non-fiction, that people are going to be offended by, for whatever reason.

Last spring, parents at a high school attempted to stir up a scandal about an English teacher who wrote erotic fiction under a pen name. These individuals questioned the appropriateness of this teacher even being a teacher. (As I write this, I’m trying hard to keep from laughing). An English teacher that writes fiction on her own personal time?! Can someone please tell me–were the marines called in?

Why does it seem writers would get more respect writing about nesting habits of gerbils, (no disrespect intended to those who do write about that) or ANYTHING other than great sex, love, and happily ever afters. WHY? I don’t know, but I vow to continue hacking away at my art, crafting my words into stories, and appreciating the readers and writers of this sexy category that is erotic romance/erotic fiction.

I’ll go down fighting the sexy, naughty fight, and that’s all I have to say about that.

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24 Responses to Judgement Call: When Writing Erotic Romance Means The End of a Beautiful Relationship. Not.

  1. Kelly Whitley says:

    Yep. Very accurate.Too bad the light can't shine for everything.I know a writer who didn't confess to anyone what he wrote until his parents weren't alive to discover it. That's a tragedy.The reason to write it is individual, but folks, people out there are buying it and reading it, whether they admit it or not!Keep it up, Lelani.Kelly

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  2. Heather in FL says:

    I think it's sad that people can't lighten up. I've heard that some erotic authors get questions about the specific erotic acts mentioned in their books: if they've done them, would they do them with who is writing to them, etc… ridiculous. Like an author of a serial murder series has tried out all the ways their murderer has killed people? Or the person who writes about espionage has done all that, too? It's good that a lot of people close to you haven't batted an eye. I just bought Going Greek. Can't wait to see how it is. 🙂

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  3. Pete says:

    Well said Ms Black! I couldn't agree more. Although, If I didn't agree, I probably wouldn't get unlimited refills of coffee in the morning… . :)Mr Black

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  4. booklister says:

    LOL @ Mr. BlackMrs. Black,thank you and all of the other authors out there (no matter what genre they specialize in). I was raised to know that reading anything and everything is to be allowed and encouraged. My children have been raised the same way (this has led to 4.0 GPA for both of them). I wish I had the organizational skills, the imagination and the dedication to write. Since I cannot get beyond the disjointed thoughts, I will just have to continue with work-related scribbles, and THANK YOU for bringing enjoyment to my day!I

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  5. Jane says:

    You go girl! 🙂 Ive been judged as a reader before too and I think its crazy! Im glad you have a good support system (like Mr. Black), even if it is just for the coffee! 😉 Keep writing! ~Jane~

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  6. Lelani Black says:

    Thanks so much, Kelly. You are so right. And that's the saddest story of all, when people can't just BE because of the worry of offending other people. When I wasn't published, certain people that I (felt) I knew thought it was so great I wanted to be a writer, and laughed with me when I'd tell them about my rejection letters. They knew I wrote extreme sensual stories. I felt supported…until I published. Then it was a whole 'nother ball game. You want to know who your friends and family are? Write an erotic story! Thank goodness for readers, family and friends who know to keep things real, who appreciate this sub-genre of fiction even if it's not their cup of tea, but can see the artistic piece of it that an author contributes.Heather, spot on, what you wrote. Some people just don't have a clue. I love, love, love a naughty sense of humor, I don't even mind people asking me what inspired this scene or that story. One thing I've heard that amuses me is when I hear family say they're afraid to read my work, because then they'd know what goes on in my bedroom. I'm like, so? It's all in my head, complete fiction! Ask Mr. Black. But seriously, when it starts getting disrespectful and creepy, that just doesn't fly. I hope you enjoy Going Greek!Mr. Black, I'll see you Friday 😉 Booklister, I wish I had the imagination and dedication to write, too, lol. If I spent less time social networking, I could probably write even more books. Congratulations on raising such bright kids. That is not an easy undertaking, for sure. I too hope that my kids grow up with open, non-judgmental minds, and kind hearts. They're still forbidden from reading my work till they reach age 30, though, but if they're anything like I was they'll stumble on a racy romance someday and say whoa. Nice! 🙂

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  7. Lelani Black says:

    Jane, I have the best emotional support in the world. The best spouse, family (although, I still tell my siblings, don't tell MOM!!!) Mom is this sweet little lady who'd be curious enough to want to read my work, and I'm just not ready to go there. I'm a reader, like everybody else, which is why I'm so glad that e-readers have come along. I can load up on all these wild books with crazy sexy covers and not have to ride the bus with a blanket over my head to hide what I'm reading.

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  8. books4me says:

    My mom keeps trying to give me these books about true life stories. I'm sure they're great but NOT at all what I want to read right now! Thank goodness there are people like you, Ms. Black, who are willing to keep writing the books I LOVE to read!!

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  9. Lelani Black says:

    Books4me, gotta love moms! The best thing about fiction is the vicarious thrill of going on an adventure with complete strangers, ha-ha. (Don't tell mom that 🙂 Or even, putting yourself in that character's place for that moment. But, I learn something new with every book I read, too, fiction or non-fiction. True life stories can be great, or heartbreaking, just like fiction. It's just that certain genres can guarantee an outcome that a reader wants 😉

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  10. Lelani Black says:

    For those who've commented, can you send me your e-mail address? I'm trying to draw for names to give books away and I've not been able find e-mails on a couple of you mystery scamps. I've tracked a couple of people down already. As long as people are commenting, I'll just draw a name a day for someone to receive a free copy of one of two current releases, Going Greek or Boss With Benefits. I'll draw through tomorrow (Friday). My e-mail address is lelani.black@gmail.com

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  11. Regina Paul says:

    Everything you wrote here is so true! Personally, I refuse to hide what I write, and even the people at my day job know. The only downside to that is the snickers and jokes about what I write which is sometimes difficult. I've explained that I don't write "porn" which unfortunately some people refuse to believe based on my covers and blurbs. It's hard sometimes but I'd rather be out there about what I write than keep a secret which in my mind is worse. LOL I recently wrote a blog post titled Have You Ever Been Accused of Writing Porn?

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  12. Lelani Black says:

    Regina, yes, yes, yessss!! I have. And you know what? People can call it whatever they like. Spell out the word n-i-p-p-l-e, and the porn police are on to you. Write a soft description of "moist heat" and the porn police are giving you dirty looks. We live in a society where anything that gives pleasure that involves body parts is automatically labeled porn, again, by certain individuals. This narrow-minded thinking doesn't bother me too much. If these individuals truly understood porn, they'd appreciate erotic romance for the emotional piece that porn lacks. The difference between erotic romance, erotica, and porn as women understand these subcategories, and how it relates to us as women is this: (Guys please pay close attention ;)Erotic romance–rich in physical and emotional connection, and growth. There's a sense of commitment (either a happily ever after, or a happily for now) with emphasis on the physical journey (red-hot sex) between the protagonists, or main charactersErotica–a woman exploring her sexuality in ways that may involve more than one partner, with no promise of a happily ever after, or even a happily for now, but she is/or becomes empowered, sexuallyPorn–indiscriminate, cold, anything goes, encounters are mostly one-sided favoring males, and porn doesn't end with any I love you's That said, I don't judge what or which of the above categories people prefer to read, or write (or watch), but if people are going to describe my work, or yours, Regina, they'd better do their research and get it right, damn it! 😉 Of course, other people might disagree, but the platform I'm writing from is based on what I know and understand to be true, from my perspective, and not based on what preachers say, or what politicians say, or what the opposite sex thinks. I don't like to dance around the description of body parts, either. I like the way they sound. Anyone else like the way they sound? What else are we supposed to call these things? Is sex cold and polite? How many women ask their partners, "May I touch your enlarging male appendage, sir?" How many men say, "I should wish to explore your womb, ma'am." IS THIS SEXY?? LOLThanks Regina for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I like keeping my writing separate from the office, but if my boss were ever to call me in to her office and show me one of my book covers and ask me, "Did you write this?" I'd say "Well, that depends. Did you like it?" lol

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  13. booklister says:

    LOL………""May I touch your enlarging male appendage, sir?"….just imagining the looks in response to that question.And as to the boss comment, I work for 4 male attorneys. All of whom make it a habit to pick up whichever book I have on my desk. Now, mind you, because of client traffic, these books are ALWAYS face down on my desk…….you would ROLL on the floor if you could see the reactions I get to some of the book covers! But then they ALWAYS turn the books over to read the blurb on the back….I read everything I can get my hands on so they never know what they are going to find. Have not received any complaints about my reading material yet. One lawyer has taken to borrowing books for his wife……..lol……I think he was reading them and just did not want to tell me

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  14. Lelani Black says:

    Where do you all work?? I want your jobs! Where you can have books on your desk, and have a minute to read, or eat lunch 😉 sigh… Ah yes, well…I guarantee you, if we started writing books with such stilted, silly language, someone will still call it porn because there's pleasure involved, and this is America and that's not allowed, LOL

    Like

  15. Jane says:

    Hi Leilani! I posted above, and just in case it's not too late, Im leaving my email! 🙂 Oh, and I LOVE that about ereaders too…No one but me gets to see the HOT covers of my books! 😉 ~Jane~ janewrites234@yahoo.com

    Like

  16. Lelani Black says:

    No, not too late at all, Jane. Thanks so much to you, and to everyone else who stopped by and left comments, or read the blog. Have a great weekend everyone!

    Like

  17. Mr. Black-in-Law says:

    If “these” critics read your novel and are offended by the “trashy” contents. i wonder what these critics are saying about the children book (for adults) “Go the F** to Sleep”. I read “Go the F** to Sleep” and i find it hysterical because there are days when i want to tell my kids Go the F** to Sleep!!! BTW i luv the SLJ narrated version.
    http://www.nerve.com/news/books/listen-samuel-l-jackson-narrates-go-the-fuck-to-sleep

    ~Mr. Black-in-Law~ 00/

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    • Lelani Black says:

      Oh my goodness, thanks for popping in! We played the Samuel L Jackson narrated version of Go The F** to Sleep at a dinner party, on our deck about two weeks ago. So at 11 o’clock at night, our neighbors got to listen to a bedtime story with eff bombs in it, and about 15 people laughing away. The best part about this book’s success is the book sold about 50,000 advance copies, so whatever critics are saying, it’s not stopping readers from buying and enjoying the story. As a parent, the first thing I thought of when I heard about this book was YES! Finally, someone sincere and funny being straight up about what parents who are exhausted and flustered can be thinking at bedtime, but would never say out loud themselves. And, the pictures are adorable! Here’s a good link where the reporter defends the intent of the story from people who negatively judge it:
      http://moviecitynews.com/2011/06/96643/
      In the comments section, again, JUDGEMENT from a parent commenting. This parent didn’t get the book’s appeal or success, but goes on to share how perfectly her kids slept. Give me a break! Seriously, as a parent, I’m sick of parents who judge other parents by comparing their supposed success with parenting their own kids. We are all different, with different parenting styles, with kids who march to their own beat. Here’s what I say to critics, the best thing about Go The F* to Sleep? 1. You don’t have to read it 2. You don’t have to like it 3. But any parent who “gets” or agrees with the message, honesty and humor in the story should have the right to LOL.

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  18. Ciara Knight says:

    I was unable to leave a comment about the Facebook Like page above. I can definitely see why that would be good, especially with erotic romance. I’ve been criticized by neighbors because I wrote an adult fantasy novel. There are two onscreen sex scenes but nothing erotic. Oh well, I learned why I have a pen name and believe I will keep that more to myself in the future. 😉

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    • Lelani Black says:

      Hi Ciara, this new format is driving me mad. The leave-a-comment button is at the end of all those tags on the bottom of the “Like” page article, it’s so tiny as to be annoying, ha-ha, but as the site was moved from my old blog site it may not be working quite right yet. But thank you so much for stopping by, I will put you in the drawing for the free download, as well as check out your wonderful adult fantasy novel. Pen names add a layer of privacy for sure, Ciara, and with the content of erotic/fantasy being touchy and controversial with some people, a pen name gives everyone an opt-out feature. Meaning, when people know that I write erotic under a pen name, if they don’t care for erotic, than they can stay away from my work, and stay away from me, too if I make them uncomfortable, because we erotic writers do bite! 😉 Years ago I also wrote several kids motocross articles for a local website and a national motor sports magazine, so a pen name prevents my youth articles from getting mixed up with my erotic works. But, there is definitely a reader base for what we write, and a Facebook page does help make it easy for readers to find us.

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  19. Maria D. says:

    People shouldn’t judge who you are as a person by what you choose to write about, just like they shouldn’t judge me by what I choose to read. I guess they feel threatened in some way – as if their “discomfort” with a topic matter should make it “taboo” for everyone instead of realizing that maybe they have an issue in their own life that they need to work on…..as you stated…falling in love isn’t always “PG” and I personally like to read about the whole experience and not just a small part of it.

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    • Lelani Black says:

      So very true, Maria, and there are individuals I’ve known for a long time (or thought I knew) who have stepped back from me because of what I write. But the way I see it, if my fiction is all it takes to cut me off from their affection, and if my fiction is enough to have them place judgement on me, then they can have a great life not knowing me. Family and friendship is so much more than what someone does for a living, or what their passion is, or what they like to read! The irony is some of these family and friends were big readers of bodice rippers, lol. Go figure. Thanks so much for stopping by, Maria 🙂

      Like

  20. CEBlackbooks says:

    Hi Lelani! I just came across this post and I just wanted to say I’ve been there. When someone asks what genre you write and a family member speaks out of turn and yells ‘smut!’ sarcastically, well that hurts. But I just ignored them and turned to the interested guest and corrected. I write fantasy and paranormal romance and erotic romance. The woman was excited and really interested, leaving the family member embarrassed instead of me. I do keep myself hidden for the most part because I hate conflict, but I’m getting better at letting everyone know the pride I take in my work. I’ve come to realize we can’t please everyone and if someone wants to cry in shame over a loved one’s profession of writing (happened to me!), then that’s there loss. Great post, Lelani!

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  21. Thank you so much for Tweeting this blog post Lelani! I have just recently started independently publishing erotic fiction. Until I decided to publish, I kept writing a secret from my friends and family, except for my daughter who also kept it quiet (I love telling her I’m striving hard to be the mom she’s proud to be ashamed of ;)). It wasn’t that I was ashamed of what I do or wanted to hide it, it was because I wasn’t ready to face the judgement or criticism for what I really wanted to do.

    The turning point came when I knew in my heart that erotica was a huge part of my life and I wanted to make it an even bigger part by sharing it through publishing and, hopefully, making a career out of it. The one person I did not want to disappoint in any way because of the support she had given me throughout my life, I told first. With my heart in my throat, but ready for whatever came, I told her my plans for making writing and erotica my second career – for now. When my mom’s reaction was a huge smile and ‘Where can I buy your stories?’, that was the moment I let go of any concerns of what others chose to think about what I thought, what I wrote, or what they thought of me as a person.

    My ‘secret’ is pretty much out now and I do get treated a little differently, but I hold my head high and am very proud of who I am.

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