Friday, May 29, 2009
New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her novels have been published to great acclaim. A reviewer from USA Today wrote of Eloisa's very first book that she "found herself devouring the book like a dieter with a Hershey bar"; later People Magazine raved that "romance writing does not get much better than this." Her novels have repeatedly received starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal and regularly appear on the best-seller lists.
After graduating from Harvard University, Eloisa got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City. Her "double life" is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she's written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women's magazines such as More to writers' journals such as the Romance Writers' Report.
Sex After the Seventeenth Book
I know the title of this blog sounds like a depressing pamphlet that you hope not to receive from the AARP. Open it up, and you’ll find yourself deep in an article on the benefits of little blue pills and gauzy scarves thrown over lamps.
While I’m thankfully still a long way from AARP membership, I sympathize! There are times when a writer simply thinks, been there. And: I am so DONE with that! Except here comes another contract, and another hero and heroine, and they want their sex life. …I’m simply not sure that I’m up for another spell of screaming pleasure as Slot A joins Slot B.
So this blog is about how a writer renews her own interest in writing this most difficult type of scene. There are three important rules I try to remember:
A). The scene must be germane to the story—in short, the reason why the sex works for them has to grow from their individual personalities, from the growth they’ve made during the novel. No instant, perfect sex in my novels. It’s not like that in life, and it’s remarkably tedious to read on the page. One of the worst things a writer can do, imo, is suddenly drop the personalities of her two characters and morph them into shiny, moaning sex machines. Sex is the most intimate thing two people do, and therefore the most revealing. Remember that!
In my current release, This Duchess of Mine, Jemma and Elijah married years ago, only to separate and live on different continents for years. They had an OK sex life for the brief weeks they were together – but nothing to write home about. I needed to face that head on. This was sex that had backstory.
B) Remember that tenderness is as sexy as actual sex. As readers, we want to go well beyond the bedroom door. But we want it all: the wildness and the sweetness. Not to wander into tmi territory, but intimacy increases intimacy. We love our spouse more the next day, frankly. Remember that too!
Elijah and Jemma have a broken marriage – while they learn to give each other a lot of pleasure, they need to love and forgive as well. Those moments are as important as the wild boinking.
C) And finally, who says it all has to happen in bed? Or on the desk, for that matter? One thing I’ve found is that creating the setting that’s essential to an intimate act makes it more interesting for my characters, myself, and my readers.
In This Duchess of Mine, Jemma takes Elijah to a neglected, tumbled-down Roman bath. The ensuing scenes? Some of my favorites, in all seventeen books: a joy to write, and (I hope) a lot of fun to read as well. So there’s my final thing to remember – change it up!
I’ve got two questions for you: what’s your favorite unusual setting that you remember from a romance – and what’s one that you wish you’d read? Maybe someone can help me out here. I remember an Amanda Quick (or Judith Ivory?) with a huge barrel of rose petals… great fun! How about you?
Leave an answer to Eloisa's post or a general comment and be entered to win a copy of the signed hardback UK edition of Desperate Duchesses.
To learn more about Eloisa and her wonderful historicals, visit her website at www.eloisajames.com