Whipped Cream is pleased to have Anya Delvay, who has two books out with Samhain Publishing.
Anya said you can blame NaNoWriMo for the fact she writes erotic romance. If you aren't familiar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every year in November. During that month, writers all over the world dedicate themselves to writing a 50,000 word novel.
"About three years ago I decided to do NaNoWriMo," Anya said. "I knew I could achieve the word count because of my work schedule at the time and the speed at which I write, so I gave myself the additional challenge of ending with a halfway decent first draft. I also decided to try my hand at a Regency romance, since the two other novels I’d written were Medieval. So, on November first I started off, happy as a pig in wallow. I even had a plot in mind and the characters of the hero and heroine. I got about ten days into it and realized I absolutely hated what I had written. I hated the story, the characters, the setting, everything! It was November eleventh, and my story had stalled, big time.
"By then I had heard so much about the whole erotic romance evolution and started buying some of the books. I thought it was great women were finally feeling comfortable enough to explore their sexuality openly in this way. It never really occurred to me to write one. I mean, seriously, my DAD read my first book and I had no issues talking to him about it afterwards! It wouldn’t be the same if I wrote erotic romances. But by November fifteenth I was feeling desperate. I’m damned stubborn, and I just couldn’t give up, yet I couldn’t bear the thought of even trying to go back to the novel I’d started. Then a premise came to me, a great 'what if?' and it was perfect for an erotic romance, and I thought: why the hell not? I actually got to the 50,000 word count on November thirtieth, and had the bones for my first completed erotic romance novel. I also developed a taste for writing the hot stuff..."
"What does your family think about you writing erotic romance?" I wondered.
"Easiest part of the answer to this question is that my sister is one of my crit partners. When I wrote my first novel, my husband read the entire book and could discuss characters and everything else with me objectively. Once I started writing erotic romances and erotica, he suddenly stopped being able to give me any feedback except, 'It’s HOT!' So he’s my official sex-scene barometer," she said with a laugh. "My kids, who are all in their teens and early twenties, know what I write but haven’t read any of it, as far as I know. And if they ever do, I don’t really want to know about it. My youngest and I have a joke about him telling people I write religious tracts. My wider family has no clue what I write and I like it that way...I’d hate to be the cause of one of my old aunties spontaneously combusting!"
Whether writing historical or contemporary erotic romance, Anya feels it makes sense for part of the conflict to revolve around sex. "Then the sex has layers of meaning," she explained. "It become more complicated than simply being the culmination of attraction or love."
Anya loves writing historicals, so she's always researching something because she wants to focus on making the setting and characters believable. When I asked her about research, she waggled her eyebrows and asked, "What kind?" She declined, though, to talk about the sexual research except to confess, with a smile, that her husband is always offering himself as a Guinea pig.
For all other research, she said, "I love, love, LOVE the internet but you have to be so careful to make sure what you’re reading is accurate. If I find information that seems iffy and I can’t verify it, it’s off to the library to hit the reference books. I’ve also started an itsy-bitsy library of my own on subjects that interest me. Both my husband and son would tell you it’s already too large, since they were the ones who had to heft the boxes when we moved last year!"
Her favorite form of research, though, comes from talking to people and hearing their stories. She also enjoys people watching from a descriptive perspective, but says, "When you sit down and really listen to what others have to tell you about their lives it’s truly informative. Our pasts mold us into what we are, just as our character traits help us to either overcome that past or keep us stuck in it, so each life story gives me new insight. People are infinitely amazing in how they cope with all the…eh-hem…crap life throws at them. In the same vein I like reading biographies and watching true crime shows, but talking to people is a lot more fun!"
On a personal note, I asked Anya if she had to pierce a body part, which one she would choose. "My husband’s nose, so I can put his wedding band through it!" she said promptly. "Oh, you mean on my body??"
Anya then told me that she is a craven coward around needles, so the answer she was about to give would probably shock anyone who knows her. "It would definitely be my nipple," she declared. "I just think it looks so cool. I would have a nice gold hoop through it, with a diamond dangle." She sighed. "Ain’t gonna happen, but it would be rockin’."
I asked her why she thought body piercing was sexy.
"It can be sexy because it attracts you to areas of the body you might not necessarily pay that much close attention to," she said. "The sparkle of a belly button piercing makes you look, really LOOK, at the stomach, where before it might just be a nice expanse of skin but not much more. I’m a bit of a fuddy-duddy, so I don’t find the facial piercings very attractive, although some people can pull off a nose stud nicely. I’ve already told you how I feel about needles, so unless you want me to faint I won’t even get into a discussion on the piercing of the more sensitive areas!"
Finally, I asked Anya what advice she would give to authors who want to write erotica.
"Read widely in the genre. And don’t limit yourself to only one type of novel. Read contemporaries, historicals, fantasy, literary novels—everything, even the sub-genres you think you won’t like," she suggested. "If you have a specific publisher in mind, read their releases in particular, but I would suggest reading as much erotica as you can. While you’re reading, stop and take note of what you liked and what you didn’t, and why. If you’re turned on by it, whether physically or emotionally, you’re more likely to be able to write something similar in a convincing manner.
"Expand your sexual vocabulary. Do research into various sexual lifestyles, fantasies, fetishes and phobias. How you do that is your business, but although we’re always told, 'write what you know' it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take that advice literally! Ask yourself if you’re 100% comfortable in using the language necessary to describe the human body and sex the way you need to. I’ve seen a few manuscripts were the author falls back on euphemisms as soon as things heat up, or starts out great guns, then pulls back at the end. If you’re not completely comfortable with the subject matter, it shows in the writing."
Her most important piece of advice, however, was to any inexperienced author, no matter what they wanted to write.
"Hone your craft," she said. "Nothing, not even the hottest, best sex scene ever written can overcome shoddy writing."
You can keep up with Anya on her blog, http://anyadelvay.blogspot.com