Our blog tour might have come to an official close, but this week we’re doing a special recap. And two bonus questions. I’ve been waiting to tackle a particularly important topic I saved for this final week, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea!), here we go…
Q: How important is consent during sex scenes?
Sexual consent, or in fact any kind of consent, is extremely important! We’re well past the days of women (or men) not getting a say. Both in real life and fiction. And to be clear, I’m not talking about dub-con (dubious consent for those unfamiliar with the term) here. That’s a different device that serves a purpose, but it has to be explicitly stated before a reader dives in. I consider that a kink, and I’m not here to judge. I’m talking mainstream, non-kink romance.
The genre has gone through the wringer on this subject. I know some believe consent isn’t sexy in the midst of a heated moment, but honestly, and frankly, this is a ridiculous notion. It’s born from archaic beliefs and it’s about time we move past that. I think consent is very sexy. Allowing someone control of their own body, or even mind, is common decency. The fact that there is even a question about this baffles me to no end. No matter the situation, people should have the absolute say in regards to their body.
Having an integral moment where sexual consent is given within heated moment is vital, in my opinion. For those saying it isn’t sexy, I counter with it depends how you tackle it. Whether that’s an outright question/answer, or a subtle go-ahead, it’s so important to add this element. I’ve seen sexual consent done in ways that actually add to the sexiness. Imagine that! You can actually use consent as a device to make those encounters stronger and more satisfying for the characters and your readers.
A few years ago, probably about ten, a friend of mine (a male friend, in fact, who I would class as a classic cinnamon roll/beta sort of guy who rode a big ol’ motorbike), posted THIS video on Facebook. It’s stuck with me ever since. The video was made by the British (Thames Valley) police, where they explain sexual consent using TEA. Of all things. It’s funny, because if you can understand how ludicrous it is to force a person to drink tea when they do not want tea, or are unconscious, you can understand how utterly insane it is to force someone into any kind of sexual encounter. Again, or pretty much anything they do not wish to do.
Yes, this turned ranty. That’s why I kept it for my own blog week, because it needs to be said and understood by everyone.
Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of writing romance?
Emotions and sex scenes. These are my kryptonite. Which is probably the silliest thing for a romance writer, right? These are the foundation blocks of the genre, but they always cause me trouble.
These are the two aspects I have to work the hardest at getting right, and still depend on CPs to point out what works and what’s lacking. It’s an ongoing struggle, but we all need things to challenge us and our writing. What would be the fun of it if everything was easy?
Q: How do you tackle romantic elements in your writing?
So, I’m mostly a romance writer. My first love was paranormal romance. I was a late-bloomer in terms of finding my love of books, and when I did, I ended up in the slightly older section in my search for all things vampire—definitely inspired by my love of Buffy the vampire slayer. Enter Lynsay Sands and Sherrilyn Kenyon. While their older works are perhaps a little dated by now, I devoured them, and I’d say they had a pretty big influence on my writing.
But, I was terrified of the amazing worldbuilding needed for fantasy, so when I started writing, I went for contemporary romance. For me, that’s what came naturally. Not saying it’s easy. And I struggle with it all. The. Time. But while I’ve grown from my panster roots and now plot, I generally plot the action elements ahead of drafting. The “this happens here” key beats, and layer in the romance more organically as I draft.
Probably not the smartest decision, but for now, the system is working. I find it difficult to plan out the romance ahead of time. I like my characters to grow together and for their feelings to develop as I write. Once the first draft is done, I go back and layer on more emotional depth, which can take several rounds for me. See? Not easy. It takes time to get those emotions on the page and create the perfect chemistry between your characters.
I think romance is often viewed as an easy genre to write. It has a bad reputation for this, although I cannot understand why. I’m a firm believer that every genre has pros and cons, things that are easier and things that make an author pull their hair out. No genre is “easy” to write. We just decide which one is worth it, and for me, that tends to often fall into romance. Even when I find it difficult.
Q: Melding the outer action plot and inner romance arc–fun times or cause for day drinking?
I’d say fun times most days, with the occasional day drinking hiccup.
Most often, this is the fun part. Getting that wonderful romantic tension mixed in with the action. The two feed off each other. You can bounce the action against the sexual tension. Or create outer circumstances that put your couple into a bind that elevates the romance. When you do this well, the two work in conjunction. Whether that’s in a contemporary romance, and the action comes from a meddling family. Or a suspense, and the couple are racing against time to stop the protagonist from blowing up an all-important building. Or paranormal romance/urban fantasy where they’re caught between waring species.
You get the idea. As I said in the above question, I started writing contemporary romance, but branching out into paranormal romance and romantic suspense (not to mention my current WIP—a slow burn thriller) has been so much more fun. Action and romance go hand in hand, or at least they can, and adding action lifts the romance to a whole new level. Melding the two together can be gloriously rewarding. Of course, there are days where this gets tricky, so it’s good to keep a bottle of the hard stuff on hand. Just in case.
Q: What is your favorite romance trope to read; frenemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance, fake marriage, or forbidden love?
While I really enjoy frenemies-to-lovers and forbidden love (haven’t delved much into fake marriage), I’d say second-chance is my favourite. By far. Whether reading or writing. There’s something about that detailed past that calls to me. I tend to write pretty complicated backgrounds/pasts for my characters that give them (and me) a lot of headaches in the present timeline.
In fact, I was recently ranting to today’s blog host—the lovely Janet—about this exact problem. I overcomplicate backstories and then have to figure out how to get all the details onto the page. Preferably without an info-dump or beating readers over the head with all the information.
But, I love having rich backstories to work with, layering the emotions. Like the perfect mille-feuille, with flaky puff pastry and a decadent filling—oops, I digressed. It’s possible I’m hungry, but the analogy fits. Adding an intricate backstory that works with the present events deepens the romance and the couple’s connection. When they work together, you create the ideal, delicious balance.
Q: Slow burn or insta-love?
I’m all about the slow burn! Look, an insta-attraction is always fun to read or write. I’m going to be a little different from your average romance-reader (I suspect, anyway) and say that I generally don’t buy into the insta-love. Sorry! You can totally have insta-lust, but love? That needs time. At least in my opinion.
My preference is always going to be the slow burn. Not surprising, given my love of second-chance romance. These go together really well. By having that backstory, you can slowly build up to love.
I’m mostly a romance writer, but I’m busy with a thriller at the moment (the very same WIP I ranted to Janet about with its overcomplicated backstories I mentioned above), and that will have a slow burn romance in the background. I’m very excited to torment my characters—uh, I mean draw out the romantic arc over several books. It’s really satisfying when done well, so fingers crossed it works out!
Q: What’s the UF romance trope you wish would just go away: fated mates a la shifter romance or december/may a la vampire?
Hm, this is a tricky one. I’m not sure there is a trope I would outright like to disappear. Especially since writers are always coming up with new ways to tell stories. But, it largely depends on how it’s handled. Some tropes I may not be super fond of can be written in a way that makes you fall for the story.
That said, there are some that can be problematic, no matter how unique or well written they are.
Namely, the controlling guy who He-Mans his way around the heroine, being all possessive in the name of protecting the poor damsel, and she just falls for him because—well, who knows? I find the idea of the heroine swooning for no good reason very unrealistic. Especially these days. I’ve always stated that I love alpha heroes, but this doesn’t give the guy carte blanche to be a jerk. Or controlling. There are a great many alpha heroes who are perfectly comfortable allowing their heroines to make up their own minds.
The love triangle is also a slippery slope if not portrayed well. I’ve seen the odd one work, but in general, this is a hard pass for me. Aaaaand… I’m probably forgetting a bunch of other ones and will immediately remember them when this goes live. *sighs* Forgive me.
Q: When writing fantasy/UF/paranormal romance or any genre really, how important are the romantic arcs, or how much page time do you dedicate to the romance?
As a romance writer, these arcs are pretty important, and I’ll often give them a good amount of page time. For me, that generally means about half of the story is focused on action beats and the other half go to romance beats. And I’ll admit that sounds far more organized than I usually feel. I’m a recovering panster, and I still can’t plot my romance arcs in advance. I’m working on that, but in general, I like writing the romance in a more organic way.
But it’s also very dependent on the genre/subgenre, and each of those offer an idea of how much focus the romance should have.
Fantasy would get a hint of romance, a little or a decent amount sprinkled into all the lovely worldbuilding and adventure. Urban fantasy could have a bunch more, maybe even a lot with a solid romance arc which is often spread out across the series in a slow burn. Also, I think we tend to see some side-character romances here, which I always find fun. And paranormal romance should probably have a 50/50 ratio with action and the supernatural. Or at least 40/50. Straight up romance or the many subgenres, like romantic suspense, are a whole different story. For these, the romance is integral to the plot, and without it, the entire book would crumble. A good rule of thumb is that if you had to remove the romance, what would you be left with?
And check out the rest of our series on these fantastic blogs:
K Bird Lincoln’s What I Should Have Said
Janet Walden-West’s Blog
Ken Schrader’s It’s All In My Head