Friday, August 26, 2016

My Detour into Erotica

First there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of rejections from queries I sent to agents for my suspense novels. Then when I got an agent, more rejections from editors.

“Not what we’re looking for at the moment.”

“Like it but don’t love it.”

“I could put it down. Not great for a suspense novel.”

Sheesh! You want to be a writer? You’d better develop a thick skin.

I had three or four finished novels at the time. I could keep writing or try something else—a different genre, for example. Around 2009, erotica was a big deal. Stories of successful erotic romance authors were all over the romance blogs. I’d never even read erotica. Could that be my ticket to publication? How hard could writing a sexy story be?

Erotica embraces all the genres, including sub-genres and sub-sub genres—BDSM, gay, contemporary, paranormal, etc. To keep it simple, I needed to write story lines that were as close to what I’m comfortable writing as possible, only with more, um, sex. After all, would Janet Evanovich or Carl Hiaasen write political thrillers? Would John Sanford or Daniel Silva write cozy mysteries? Though I wrote suspense, my books were also character-driven. I’d concentrate more on the relationships between my characters instead of full-on twisted murderous plots.

The premise of my first effort, Sexual Persuasion, told the story of Charlotte Stone, a home furnishings store owner in Boston. The setup was easy. I’m from Boston, and at the time I owned a home furnishings store in South Carolina. Write what you know, isn’t that what some people say? I wanted to write a compelling story that made the abundance of sex natural. Okay, maybe not exactly natural but not hop-in-and-out-of-bed boring. I had read some of those.

At a museum auction, Charlotte is eyed by Alex Andros, an attractive man her lawyer girlfriend describes as the attorney/lover of a Boston mob figure. Alex saves her from an unwanted assault by an old boyfriend at the auction and makes no bones that he’s interested in Charlotte. In spite of what she knows about him, his allure is hard to ignore. Is he straight or is he gay? Should she run the other way?

When I finished the book to my satisfaction, I sent it off to a few of the best online erotic romance publishers, and Loose Id accepted it. They also accepted the next book, The Escort,
about a divorced woman buried under medical bills from her sick daughter, who takes a job as an escort for a weekend. She doesn’t realize until she meets her employer that he’s a blind war hero. Rich too. He doesn’t realize she’s not a professional, since his assistant makes all his “appointments.” The weekend turns out to be a mission to help two soldiers under our hero’s command who were hurt at the same time he was. Complications.

My third book, Dark Side Night, was published by Ellora’s Cave.
It’s a double story. One takes place in 1910, the other present day. It’s probably the most fun of the three books with protagonists over forty. There’s submission and domination, but it’s never clear who’s in control of their game of one-upmanship at any given time. There are a few surprises in this one.

All these books were fun to write but tricky too. For erotica to work, there has to be genuine chemistry between the characters so the sex has meaning. All three stories take place within a short time period, which makes it more of a challenge for readers to care for the characters, root for them, and feel their passion.

Since their publications, I’ve retained the rights to all three, redid the covers, and self-published them. (Notice I wrote them using a pseudonym.) I’m not sure they’re the kind of erotic work readers of the genre crave. My books are tame compared to some I’ve read. The more erotic, hard-core domination/submission books do far better than mine do. It was a worthy experiment and allowed me to have my books published by good publishers. I even have another almost finished that I might publish one day.

Most writers keep sex scenes “behind closed doors” because a good sensual sex scene is difficult to write. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.


Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

14 comments :

  1. Interesting piece, Polly and kudos to you for crossing genres. I've never tried writing erotica because others do it so much better than I could. When it comes to writing heart-pounding novels, I think I'll stick to thrillers :)

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    1. As I said, I don't think my foray into writing erotica is what readers want either. Also, as in suspense/thrillers, series do better than standalones in erotica, and I wrote standalones. Still, they were fun to write, but like you, I think I'll stick to what I do best. Thanks for posting, DV.

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  2. I wasn't aware you'd written under another name, or that you'd crossed genres. Kudos!

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    1. I'm full of surprises, sometimes to myself. :-)

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  3. Polly, I love this! Thanks for outlining your trip - I am approaching a similar decision, or rather, the one I'm working on now drifted into hot hot territory!

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    1. Kate, let it go and see where it takes you. You'll know if it feels right. I think it's important to try new things. Best of luck.

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  4. Not something I'd read, but erotica is one of the hottest selling genres in e-books.

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    1. Yes, some writers know how to do write erotica better than I did/do. Readers of the genre really get caught up in the stories. A good story is the key, not just a story to to write sex. There's a difference.

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  5. Polly, how important is it for the cover image to "equal" the heat level within the book? I've read romance novels that seemed pretty tame compared to the imagery, and vice versa. In both cases, I felt a little irritated. Comments?

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    1. Dani, I think the cover should be an indicator of what's inside. Lots of BDSM books have very graphic covers. That genre does very well. Two of my original covers were great, but I didn't like the third one at all. It didn't connect with the story either. I made these rather generic.

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  6. I’m so impressed you can cross genres, Polly. I’ve been known to write a sex scene in my time, but it has to be about something other than sex—some underlying conflict that has nothing to do with romance. I guess you could say I write un-erotica. :)

    VR Barkowski

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    1. That's funny, VR. Not all sex scenes are romantic. Some of mine start out as lust, but the romance follows. This is my choice to write a HEA erotic romance. However and for whatever reason they're written, they are hard to write.

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  7. This is an interesting post because genre crossing fascinates me, and the stories I've already started/completed do that if one is strict about adhering to the requirements of each category. The commonality among them is coziness, which doesn't qualify as a genre to the best of my knowledge. Typically, my books are gentle in the sense that graphic violence is kept to a minimum with occasional exceptions -- which is not to imply that the emotions are always gentle. Sex scenes appear in the form of intent, innuendo, or dialogue (internal or with another) before or after the fact. Is this boring? I hope the stories are sufficiently intriguing that the reader doesn't miss the intimate details or the spider-on-the-wall view. These are the kinds of books I like to read, so they come naturally when I write. It's all personal preference, I think.

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  8. Linda, I do think cozy has become a sub-genre of mystery, no different that noir or soft-boiled. I do think many readers don't like to read sex scenes just as many don't like to write them. In that case, they should make sure what they're reading. I've taken a lot of heat in my Polly Iyer books where I have an amorous scene. I actually told one reviewer not to read my books anymore because they all had romance mixed into the suspense/mystery. Readers read favorite authors because they know what they're getting, which is why I wrote these books under a pen name.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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