U for UnderCovers: Writing the Erotic Romance

UWhen Fifty Shades of Grey crashed into the publishing world, everyone was aghast. On so many levels. Talk shows brought in therapists and psychologists— specialists on sexual abuse and relationships, and quickly labeled it mommy porn. Stuck home with my first broken ankle and nearly dead from boredom, I couldn’t resist the idea of reading something so risqué in the privacy of my own home. And thanks to the instant gratification that Amazon provides I fired up my eReader and was reading in less than five minutes. I’d never read anything like it and can’t deny it ambushed my libido in about a nanosecond.

It soon became the hot topic of conversation among my reader and writer pals. We debated and confessed: we loved it, we hated it, wanted to hate it but didn’t, wanted to love it but didn’t. The quality of the writing came up, which always annoys me. If you don’t like the writing, then stop reading. I don’t criticize other people’s writing unless they ask me to. Just like you don’t comment on someone’s clothing or haircut unless they petition you for your opinion, and even then I tread lightly. It’s different if it’s a crit partner, then the need for complete honesty is paramount, although I always bench my comments with a reminder that it’s just one person’s opinion, and other than technical errors, it’s up to the author as to whether they should take the advice to heart or not.

Conversation among my writer pals and my editor heightened. “Someone should jump on the bandwagon and write an erotic romance novel!” they all agreed. “It’s a huge new market and a great opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.” Hmm…I thought. That sounds kind of cheesy, like rushing to write a dystopian novel because of the success of The Hunger Games, or getting on the Vampire and Zombie train, it’s just felt wrong. Writing to Market is a topic of many a pitch conference, but doing it intentionally just to follow a craze seemed well, again, just wrong. We write the stories inside us, the ones we want, not one designed to please others.

But my mind started to wander. I discovered there is a whole world of books that follow the BDSM lifestyle and I began to read them. Confined to my couch, I had nothing much else to do. I’d write for some part of the day, but I was pretty much limited to reading and TV to amuse myself for months, especially after I broke my other ankle. I read a lot. And my mind wandered some more. Using my usual What if…? prompt when I went to bed at night, a story took shape. I furthered my musings, day after endless day. The debate and near-hysteria among my friends continued until one day a writer pal said to my editor (who was desperately trying to convince one of us to write such a novel) “Caryn’s the one! She can do it!” Well, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Was I insulted or pleased that I came to mind?

I soon confessed that I thought I had such a story in me and decided to give it a shot. The story came easily enough, romance not too difficult to write, but the sex scenes? Well, they were rough, and I’m not just talking about the sex. One of the trickiest parts for me is the language. I’ve written before about writing a love scene and Jenn has tackled the mechanics of writing sex, but this was on a whole new level. One of the reasons I liked FSG so much was that her language didn’t make me cringe. Some people like to talk dirty, but it’s just not me. I do have quite a potty mouth, but it doesn’t seem to find it’s way into the bedroom. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s left over from my good-girl Catholic school days, or my mother’s indoctrination about being a lady. In seventh grade she told me not to dance the twist because the Blessed Virgin Mary wouldn’t do it. It made me angry then and of course I disobeyed her, now it makes me laugh. Okay, TMI, I’ll stop.SEX

Crafting a BDSM sex scene without going too far became my aim. And, of course, my female protagonist is never going to become a wimp or a true submissive, even if she’s involved in that world for some ulterior motive as an undercover FBI agent. And so UnderCovers is finished, and in the hands of my editor, who has been incredibly enthusiastic about it’s possibility for success. We’ll see. I had a blast writing it and even if it never sees the light of day, and it remains ‘undercovers’ forever, I had a ton of fun. The only thing that still makes me uncomfortable is: do I publish under my name or use a pen name? Not sure how my sons would feel about this endeavor… Yikes!


Next Up is Heather with “V” – Living Vicariously Through Fiction


Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

8 thoughts on “U for UnderCovers: Writing the Erotic Romance”

  1. I haven’t read the book, but I belong to a community of romance authors (Romance Divas) who have been writing erotic romance (not all, but some) since before I joined the group, in 2005. They are a talented bunch of authors who write amazing books. Good luck with yours, Caryn. 🙂

  2. When I read 50 Shades… I had similar thoughts and feelings. Going by its success, it proves that there is a market for it. Wishing you the very best for UnderCovers and would love to know your thoughts on going with your real or pen name 🙂

    1. I know, I go back and forth. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve written, so I probably will just go for it. IMO people are too hung up about sex anyway. We’ll see…

  3. Yeah, 50 Shades was like the ‘gateway drug’ to erotica fiction for a lot of readers, lol. I’ve read the trilogy and I go back and forth about how I feel about it. It’s a bit too close to an abusive relationship, which is a big reading peeve of mine. But in spite of this, these books do have a draw to them-I go back and forth between thinking that it’s because it’s a good story, and that it’s like a car wreck that you know you should look away from, but can’t stop gawking… still trying to decide which one it is 🙂

    1. Same here, I go back and forth and I do feel the relationship is a little too close to abuse and way too possessive for my taste. Car wreck is a great analogy! I wonder what the movie is going to be like? That should provide enough controversy to last an entire year! People “sneaking” in, not admitting they went…it should be a real hoot!
      Thanks for writing!

  4. Caryn, an interesting journey to erotic romance. I had written my erotic romance (under Angelica French, a pen name) before FSG came out. I was hoping her success would translate to mine. So far, not true, but mine isn’t a BDSM book though there are elements. Mostly it is straight/kinky sex. I LOVE writing sex scenes. And my husband is wonderful to help with the needed “research” lol Thanks for an interesting post!

    1. Will check out your book. Is it on Amazon? Most of the erotica I’ve seen out there is hooked into the BDSM culture, which I have my own issues with. The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day was pretty good and skipped the Dom/Sub relationship. I think I liked that better than FSG. There’s also The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, which is vampires and some great kinky sex. One of the books did a love affair between two male vampires and that took me by surprise! I’ve read gay male sex before but wouldn’t say I’d go out of my way to read more, but this was one of the hottest love affairs/sex scenes that I’ve ever read.
      Thanks for writing!

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