Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Lee Rowan who writes the Royal Navy Series, among other books. The first three books of the series are being rereleased by her new publishers, Cheyenne Publishing (print) and Bristlecone Pine Press (ebook) just in time for her brand new book, Tangled Web, from Running Press, to be released next month. So, there's some exciting things going on in her part of the world.
She told me she never set out to write erotica, though. She wanted to write romantic adventure, but found "there's so much you can show about a character through how they behave in sexual situations that it just kind of evolved that way." She grinned and added, "And hey, I'm a Scorpio…"
Her research is done mostly for the facts of the time period and the details of incidents in the plot. She recently researched equine obstetrics because her heroes started bonding while one's prize mare was giving birth. She doesn't usually write really exotic sex, because her heroes tend to be pretty straightforward in how they demonstrate their affection and are more likely to be emotionally intense that elaborately kinky.
A few books that might be helpful are The Joy of Sex, The Joy of Gay Sex, The Joy of Lesbian Sex, as well as Sex in History which is useful for historical stories and also for a general perspective.
"I think it's a mistake for anyone to try to emulate another writers' style when it comes to erotica. Formula is boring – use your experience, use your imagination," she said. "Every writer has a sex drive, so that isn't something you need to look for somewhere else. Research is to get facts so you can make your story real, but as they say, the biggest sex organ is above the eyebrows."
Lee laughed when I asked how she personally distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.
"My own reaction—is it hmm, yay, ho-hum, or blergh? Erotica is sexy with a bit of plot, erotic romance is sexy with a plot and HEA or HFN (happy for now) and porn is sex, no plot, no HEA, and probably no affection," she explained. "The first two are about people having sex, the last is about sex organs. If I can't like the characters, or at least care about what happens to them…and if the characters are just fucking and don't seem to care about each other, it's probably porn in my book. I used to enjoy a bit of porn when I was younger and unattached, but now that I'm happily married I'm more interested in characterization and a good story in addition to erotic content."
The sex, in her opinion, needs to come as a natural part of the storyline, not just added in for heat. "I'm not really much good at sex for its own sake," she told me. "If it's there it should be hot, but it needs to be there for a reason. I usually run it past my wife for a second opinion—after a few rewrites even sex can get boring."
Her favorite erotic book, right now at least, is I Do!. When it comes to erotica, Lee tends to have favorite parts of various books, rather than an entire story. She likes plot-heavy novels, but for actual erotica she prefers short stories. I Do! is an anthology with some wonderful erotic stories in it, and the proceeds go to Lambda Legal.
She's written one non-erotic story, "The Captain's Courtship" in Sail Away. The heroine was of a time, culture, and character that required her to wait until she was married to have sex.
"It was slightly less challenging than writing erotic because it was easier to stay with the conversations and the setting," she said. "I find there's a fine line between erotic and comic--there are so many clichés (like the infamous 'weeping cock' – quick, hand it a tissue!) that it can be challenging to find a way to write a sex scene that's not over the top or unintentionally funny or, worse, the same sex scene you wrote six months ago."
If she could entertain any character from fiction, she told me it would end up not being an erotic night. "I'd like to have Dr. John H Watson to dinner and quiz him on all the cases he mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories, but never wrote about," she said. "Of course, if there were some interesting stories about him and Holmes in more intimate situations, I would naturally be all ears."
On a personal note, Lee is a vegetarian and her favorite foods change depending on the time of the year. In the summer, she likes garden tomatoes and corn on the cob; in winter, mashed potatoes with butter and broiled Portobello mushrooms, or waffles with maple syrup. And, she finds that string beans are best for eating off another person's stomach. "They're not sticky; they don't roll much; and properly handled they can be pretty suggestive," she said. "And they're low-call and have lots of B vitamins." She also makes a mean vegetarian French onion soup.
Lee has pierced ears because she loves earrings and hates pinch-fasteners, but she doesn't think body piercing or tattoos are sexy. "Will those perforated nostrils still seem like a good idea when you're 80?" she asked.
Finally, I asked Lee what advice she would give to new writers or writers who wanted to write erotica.
"Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, read outside your preferred genre, read nonfiction, including at least a book or two on grammar. Some, like The Transitive Vampire, Woe is I, and Eats, Shoots and Leaves, are actually funny. You may not think good English matters, but any decent editor will. And a poor editor who lets you get away with bad English is letting you make a fool of yourself in public.
"Read books that are not erotica—nonfiction can provide all sorts of plot bunnies, because before things can get erotic, your characters have to get together. I'd also suggest reading love poems—they can inspire imagery, and sometimes provide a character with an evocative quotation. Oh, and if you're writing m/m and you're f, find a gay friend who will give you feedback and tell you if your characters sound plausible."
You can keep up with Lee on her website, http://www.lee-rowan.net/