It’s my pleasure to welcome the totally amazing Kristina Lloyd, who has stopped by on her blog tour for her latest novel, Undone. Kristina has agreed to talk about the differences between erotica and erotic romance.
The first erotic fiction story I had published began, “There was an ear in his chow mein.” That was around twenty years ago. My new novel, Undone, opens with a scream, and there’s a dead body on page six.
It’s fair to say traditional erotic romance has never been my forté. I prefer to lurk on the dark side where crimes, secrets, and seedy alleyways seep into the story. While romantic love may feature in my fiction, I’m more interested in exploring erotic obsession, conflicted sexualities, journeys of self-discovery, and the lengths to which people will go to have their desires met.
When I run writing workshops, I sometimes need to explain the difference between ‘erotica’ and ‘erotic romance’. I use broad brushstrokes and describe an over-arching category, ‘erotic fiction’, with two sub-sections. In erotic romance, the narrative is propelled by a central love story and will conclude happily with a romantic bonding, usually a monogamous pairing. In erotica, the narrative is propelled by a different journey, usually sexual; love may or may not be on the cards; and happy endings are not compulsory. Fifty Shades of Grey, I tell people, is erotic romance.
Of course, the distinctions aren’t always clear cut. Many authors, myself included, write in both sub-genres, and a degree of subjectivity is involved in deciding whether a book belongs in one camp or the other, or perhaps straddles the line between both. Additionally, how a book is marketed and positioned in bookstores affects how it is perceived. Of particular interest to me is the way many readers and writers will pledge allegiance to either erotica or erotic romance.
I don’t believe the two sub-genres are oppositional, and yet they’re often characterised as such. From the erotica corner, it’s easy to deride erotic romance as sentimental, softcore, heteronormative and reactionary; or, vice versa, for erotica to be dismissed as episodic, heartless bonking.
Neither stereotypes are true, but I feel erotica is currently the misunderstood weakling and comes off worse in terms of public perception.
Undeniably, some supporters of erotic romance define their territory by distancing it from erotica, from what it isn’t.
Totally Bound, ebook publishers of erotic romance, in their author pack, say, “What makes an Erotic Romance special is that it includes explicit sex, but also plenty of emotion and commitment. This is unlike Erotica, where the emotional commitment is absent”.
My own editor, who I’m delighted to say has totally backed my hunger to write erotic thrillers, has been guilty of falling into a similar trap. According to a recent article, “Green was keen to stress that Black Lace titles are erotic romances rather than a string of sex scenes held together by a thin plot.”
In the post-FSOG climate, many have a vested interest in promoting erotic romance and securing it from accusations of grubbiness. Erotica then gets conflated with porn and is cited as an example of what erotic romance isn’t. As a consequence, it can feel as if there are two types of erotic fiction: ‘erotic romance’ and ‘shit books’. Because porn, irrespective of your take on it, does not make a compelling narrative. Erotica is not porn.
(As a slight aside, on her website, EL James describes FSOG as ‘provocative romance’ . I’ve seen the phrase crop up elsewhere but I’ve yet to find a definition. I don’t know if it’s an emerging sub-genre or part of the EL James brand. If you know more, please comment!)
Sylvia Day, in her neat breakdown of erotic fiction’s sub-genres, correctly observes that some publishers are now marketing ‘erotica’ as ‘erotic romance’, to cash in on the recent popularity of the genre. Sylvia’s concern is that readers keen to explore erotic romance will be deterred from further investigations if they find mis-labelled erotica in their hands.
My concern is that erotica can’t reach its readership. The signal is being scrambled. Erotic romance is blocking the view. Many wonderful erotic books exist that aren’t erotic romance. I’d love to see them getting the readers they deserve.
How does this relate to the ear in his chow mein? I’m not sure, except to say I have a book out this week, Undone. It’s an erotic, kinky, psychological thriller with a focus on the growth of a D/s relationship shrouded in suspicion and mistrust. The story’s romantic, to an extent, but features few of the themes and tropes of trad erotic romance. I’m delighted to have a publisher, Black Lace, who don’t put me under pressure to write what’s selling. I’m just hoping Undone will find its way to readers eager to try something a little different.
Kristina Lloyd writes erotic fiction about sexually submissive women who like it on the dark, dirty and dangerous side. Her novels are published by Black Lace and her short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including several ‘best of’ collection, in both the UK and US. She lives in Brighton, England.
When Lana Greenwood attends a glamorous house party she finds herself tempted into a ménage à trois. But the morning after brings more than just regrets over fulfilling a fantasy one night stand. One of the men she’s spent the night with is discovered dead in the swimming pool. Accident, suicide or murder, no one is sure and Lana doesn’t know where to turn. Can she trust Sol, the other man, an ex-New Yorker with a dirty smile and a deep desire to continue their kinky game?