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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Author Interview: Helen Hardt

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Helen Hardt, author of "Seduced in Seoul," available through The Wild Rose Press. Helen also has two other erotic shorts soon coming from The Wild Rose Press.
I asked Helen how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.

"This is an excellent question," she said. "I think a lot of people are confused by these terms. The question, 'what is erotic romance?' is easier answered by explaining what erotic romance ISN’T. First of all, erotic romance is not pornography. Pornography is written (or filmed) only to sexually arouse. There may be a plot, or there may not be. But there will be explicit sex, usually with more than one partner, and sometimes partners of the same sex. Erotic romance is not erotica. Erotica is sexually explicit writing which has a plot and is more literary in nature than pornography. There is often a sexual journey of sorts, and there isn’t always a happy ending.

"Erotic Romance is, at its core, romance. As in any romance, there is a well developed hero and a well developed heroine, both with goals, motivation, and conflict. There is a plot. And there are love scenes. The difference between erotic romance and traditional romance is that the love scenes are longer, more explicit, and contain graphic language. Sometimes the scenes will contain elements of alternative lifestyles, such as BDSM. But the love scenes serve a purpose other than to arouse (although sometimes they do!) or to illustrate a character’s self-discovery (although sometimes they do!) The love scenes exist to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine, and to help move the plot along to its ending, which will, of course, be a happy one. This is still romance, after all."

Helen began writing romance two years ago and didn't begin with the goal of writing erotic. She noticed, however, as she experimented with different genres that she wrote to the steamy side. "One day," she told me, "while struggling with writer's block, I decided to try writing an erotic short to clear the fog. It worked. The fog cleared, and the short became 'Seduced in Seoul.'"

Since the publication of "Seduced in Seoul," Helen has written three other erotic shorts. One of them, "Under the Moon," you can check out at The Pink Chair Diaries as a free read.

Helen's been writing stories since she was in the first grade and started her first novel, a young adult romance, in the eighth grade. "I still have the manuscript which I typed on an IBM Selectric," she said. She laughed and added, "Now I'm showing my age. In high school, I amused my friends by writing dirty stories about our teachers and students. Okay, maybe I was always meant to write erotic."

As with many people, though, Helen found that life got in the way, and she put her writing on hold while in college and law school. Later, she had children and became a stay at home mom. But once her boys were older, she decided to get back into writing.

"After completing a young adult fantasy fiction manuscript," she told me, "I picked up a romance (Nora Roberts' Morrigan's Cross) for the first time in over a decade. I got hooked, and decided to try writing romance. And here I am!"

Helen told me she found two books extremely helpful when she started out writing erotic romance: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Alison Kent, and Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Angela Knight. "In addition, probably the most helpful resource in all my writing, not just erotic, has been an online course by Margie Lawson called Empowering Characters' Emotions," Helen said. "Margie is a chaptermate of mine. If you have the chance to take any of her online courses (she offers two others, as well) run, don't walk, and take them. She's phenomenal. ECE is especially helpful for writing erotic romance. I've read so many love scenes in erotic romance that are no more than tongues thrusting, lips sucking, body parts slapping together. Without the emotion to back it up, the reader won't get those 'belly tugs' that we all live for."

On a personal note, Helen has four piercings: three in her left ear and one in her right. "I used to have five in my left and two in my right," she shared with me, "but when I finished law school and took the bar exam, I decided that was a little much, so I let three of them close. I've come close to doing the belly button, but I keep hearing that it takes six months to heal. Body piercing, to me, is sexy in the same way tattoos are sexy-- as a tasteful adornment to a body that is already beautiful. Nothing is less sexy than a body that is covered in piercings or tattoos. I personally don't care for nose, lip, or eyebrow piercings. Nipple piercings are kind of sexy, but I'm not that brave!"

When it comes to food, raw oysters are up there at the top. "They're perfect for slurping right off a tummy," she said, "and, of course, they're known as an aphrodisiac. I know a lot of people don't like them, but I absolutely love them. They're slick and salty and just wonderful."

However, her very favorite is sushi. "Yes, I love raw food," she confessed. "Salmon is my favorite, and my second favorite is Unagi, which is freshwater eel. And it's actually cooked."

On the other end of the spectrum, however, she can't eat goat cheese. "Ugh," she said. "I'm convinced it's the work of the devil."

And, on a very personal note, she shared with me that her husband can tie a cherry stem with his tongue and, yes, she does know what a lucky woman she is!

Finally, I asked Helen what advice she would give an author just starting out.

"Self-educate, self-educate, self-educate! I'm totally serious," she declared. "There is so much more to writing romance than knowing the rules of grammar and being able to put together a colorful sentence. The resources I listed above are wonderful, and there's a wealth of others available. Self-education made a huge difference in my craft. A little over a year ago, I entered my first contest...and got my humility handed to me on a platter. After getting over the initial shock and damage to my thin writer's skin, I took a good look at the judges' comments and began the education process. I did much better in my second contest, though I didn't final. The third? All three of my entries finaled. Winners will be announced next month. I attribute those finals, and the fact that I'm now published, to self-education." You can keep up with Helen on her blog,

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