On Taking a Sabbatical from Reading Erotica
Reading erotica can be a profound sensory experience. A good piece of erotica will leave you breathless, aroused and satisfied on emotional and physical levels. Writing erotica is much the same way. It is the yin to reading’s yang. If you write well, the very process of creating the story will take you through the gamut of sensory emotions.
Here’s the kicker. Read enough erotica and you begin to the see the formula. A female who has unfulfilled desires. That one, perfect man who can satisfy them … or vice versa. If, as a writer, you read erotica exclusively long enough, you become susceptible to becoming formulaic and falling into the “erotica flow.” That unifying language and rhythm that abounds within the genre. A florid, over-the-top way of describing things that undermines the credibility of the story if the author isn’t careful.
As I got deeper into my current work in progress, the follow up to Awakening, I began to see traces of that flow in my story. I went and re-read Awakening and saw seeds of it there. In both stories, the male lead was the “most gorgeous” man ever. In other places, the language was rife with hyperbole.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, but I don’t like to write stories that merely blend in with the genre. I like to write things that have a different take on a familiar topic. Awakening is like that. Rather than a traditional BDSM tale focusing on the sexual aspect, Awakening focuses on the emotional and psychological impetus of Dominance and submission.
The deeper I went in my new story, the more frustrated I became. Erotica is its own flavor to be sure, but it deserves good writing technique, characterization and plotting just as much as the next Tom Clancy thriller. As much as I love erotica, these hallmarks of quality writing are not always found in your average tale.
So, late one night after deleting the 2,000 words I just written in disgust, I decided to stop reading erotica for a while. I spent the next several months reading mysteries, thrillers, narrative non-fiction, basically anything that was not erotica. It was like recharging my writerly batteries and getting a fresh perspective to bring to my new work.
My writing flowed again and I, once more, felt confident that I was providing a great story, not just a good sex. There was one unexpected side-effect of my sabbatical, however. I struggled through writing the first sex scene after my return! Mainstream fiction shies away from sex. The best, most believable and sense-drenched love scenes are found in one place only … erotica. Like that, I was home. Back to my favorites: Cherise Sinclair, Eliza Gayle, Brynn Paulin and Dominique Adair.
The lesson learned for me was that to understand erotica you must read erotica, but don’t forget to keep your mind open and expose yourself to other genres. It will only help your writing and give the reader a better, more layered story to read.
Thank you so much for hosting me! It’s a pleasure to be here.
‘I feel safe here.’ She waved a hand around to encompass the bookstore. ‘You make me feel safe. Despite your attitude, I don’t believe you would hurt me.’ Claire flushed such a sweet shade of pink as she spoke, her hazel gaze roaming the store as she looked everywhere but at him.
Safe. She thought she was safe with him. That he wouldn’t hurt her. Evan sat in stunned silence for the briefest moment before a red tide of fury suffused his body. Fury at Marianne for dying and leaving him alone when she had been the centre of his life. Fury at Claire for tempting him and reviving desires that he’d believed were dead and buried with his love. Fury at himself for being so damned foolish and afraid in the face of his temptation. In that moment, he knew himself for a coward and he snapped.
‘Safe. You think you’re safe with me?’ he all but sneered at her. ‘You know nothing.’ He spit the words at Claire as he leant, forward his hands clenched into fists on his knees. She shrank away from him, pushing so far back into the leather club chair her feet no longer touched the floor. Her eyes were wide with shock and the beginnings of fear. Shame crawled over his skin and he reached for self-control, only to lose it all over again when her small, white teeth bit into her trembling lower lip.
‘Damn you!’ He slammed a fist down on the arm of his chair, causing her to jump at the violence of his action. ‘You are anything but safe with me. Every time you walk through that door all I can think about is bending you over my lap and spanking that pretty little ass until it is shiny, red, and stinging. Then fucking you from behind so that the sting feeds the orgasm I give you. I fantasise about binding you and whipping those sweet little tits, your pussy, and your ass. Marking you everywhere so that each time you look in the mirror you remember me and how I put them there, and then beg me to put more on you when they heal. I want to drench you in my come, fuck you in every goddamn hole, and make you scream until you can’t speak.’
As the words died on his lips, he dragged in a breath and took Claire in, really saw her now that the apex of his anger had passed somewhat. She was glassy-eyed and panting. The knuckles of her slim, elegant fingers were white and she gripped the arms of her chair as if her life depended on it. She looked like she was having a panic attack.
Fear and shame overrode his anger and he lurched forward, coming around and sitting on the table before her. He took her face between his palms. She was so tiny, his hands seems to swallow her up.
‘Claire.’ He spoke softly, soothingly, as he rubbed his thumb over her cheeks. ‘Claire, please. Look at me.’
She turned just a fraction, closing her eyes and refusing to look at him. Her motion brought his thumb to rest on her lower lip. Quickly, so quickly he almost missed it, she licked his thumb. It was the barest touch, but the sight of her pink tongue against his skin was more than he could take. What control remained to him was lost.
‘Damn you,’ he repeated, but this time it was the hoarse whisper of a drowning man. ‘Suck it,’ he demanded as he thrust his thumb between her full, rosy lips. She obeyed instantly, enveloping the digit in wet, velvet heat. A shudder coursed through him at the silken feel of her mouth on his skin. She sucked gently in slow draws that he felt all the way to his cock, which surged violently to life.
With his other hand he untied the bow that held the halter of her dress together and yanked the barrier from her body so that it pooled at her waist in a lake of red silk. She faltered briefly, but continued to suck on his thumb as he squeezed her breast, massaging and shaping it in his large palm. She was small, tiny even; the entire globe barely filled his palm, but his mouth watered to taste her. He pulled his thumb from her mouth and trailed damp circles around each nipple before leaning down to suck the puckered tips into his mouth. He sucked hard, eliciting a cry of pained pleasure from her as she arched into his mouth.
He squeezed and pulled, sucked and bit at her nipples furiously, his mind blank except for the driving urge to mark her, claim her. Only when they were red and swollen, jutting out from the cream of her skin, did he leave her breasts. But he was far from done with her. He yanked her hips forward and roughly pushed the skirt of her dress up to her hips. She wore a brief, black silk thong which disappeared in a savage yank as he tore it from her. The fragile elastic snapped as easily as if it were an errant thread. He dropped the offending silk to the floor and threw her legs over the arms of the chair so that she was spread and open to him.
He didn’t stop to appreciate the sight she made, though the memory would haunt him later. Her eyes were half-closed and glazed with desire. Her rosy lips were parted and damp from her tongue. Her small, tight breasts were swollen and tipped with hard, berry-red pebbles from his earlier feasting. The scarlet silk pooled at her waist, framing and showcasing her plump hips and drenched pussy. The damp curls were trimmed close, just a shade darker than the honeyed brown of her tousled hair. No, in that moment, he only took in the sandpaper dryness of his throat and the need to taste her.
This is the story of Claire Ryan and Evan Lang. 35-year-old Claire joins a local book club for romance readers in order to get over the breakdown of her 10-year relationship, there she meets book shop owner Evan, a dominant man who has never recovered from the sudden death of his submissive wife.
As their relationship develops and they embark on the path of Claire’s submission, it becomes harder and harder for Evan to keep his emotional distance. Claire is open and responsive and he wants her badly, but refuses to let himself go.
As Claire falls deeper in love with Evan, she realises that he is holding back and decides to end their relationship, forcing Evan to confront his own past and his feelings in order to save his new love.
Winner of the New Writing Competition at the Festival of Romance 2011.
Hailing from Washington, DC, Elene Sallinger first caught the writing bug in 2004 after writing and illustrating several stories for her then four-year-old daughter. Her writing career has encompassed two award-winning children’s stories, a stint as a consumer-education advocate, as well as writing her debut novel, Awakening – a novel of erotic fiction that won the New Writing Competition at the Festival of Romance 2011.