Whipped Cream is pleased to have Jamaica Layne, whose latest book The Mercenary Bride was recently released from Ravenous Romance.
I asked Jamaica how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.
"I'm actually a person that generally does not view porn negatively," she said, "and I think what constitutes erotica versus porn is mostly a matter of personal taste. In porn, there is almost no story or character development, and it's just all about the sex. In erotica, the focus is on the sex—not necessarily on romance—but there is a focus on character development and plot. Multiple partners are acceptable, and a romantic relationship does not have to develop.
"In erotic romance, the sexual relationship and plot remains focused between two people who are in love, the struggles they go through to get and stay together, and the story has a happy ending."
All of Jamaica's erotic novels are intensely plot-driven and include soap-opera-like plot twists.
"I like to keep my readers turning the pages, so I tend to have lots of 'cliffhangers' and other potboiler tactics," she explained. "Plus, this style of writing keeps me motivated, because even I want to know what happens next!"
Many of Jamaica's books have unusual settings inspired by her own life experiences. Market for Love is set in the Chicago financial industry where Jamaica started her career as a writer/editor, editing stock research publications for a major investment bank. Her Vital Signs series is set in a small-town hospital, which she has experience with from her former career as a health policy writer. She also grew up mostly in small towns. Knight Moves was inspired in part by her family who are medieval/Renaissance Faire devotees.
Jamaica began her fiction writing career trying to write straight science fiction and fantasy, as well as a little romance.
"I kept finding all these strong sexual overtones in my work," she told me. "Those overtones didn't work well in those genres, either, so my work wasn't selling. Then a rejecting editor sent me an email suggesting I focus on writing stories where sex was the main attraction (pun intended) since she felt that's where my writing was the strongest. I did, and presto---I started landing deals. Sometimes you discover what you're best at entirely by accident."
On a personal note, if Jamaica could be anyone she wanted, she would choose to be Marlene Dietrich. "She was so ahead of her time," she explained. "So sexy and so smart." However, she would want Drew Barrymore to play her if a movie were to be made of her life. "She looks sort of like me, and she's also got a very colorful romantic history."
She can't eat mashed potatoes, but she's not really sure why since she likes all other potato dishes. "Must be the texture," she concluded. She finds Pepsi to be much sweeter than Coke and she knew a girl in college who could tie a cherry stem with her tongue. "She always had lots of dates!" she confided.
Jamaica's husband is Asian, and a common practice in that culture is to not wear shoes inside. Jamaica told me that going barefoot in the house is her strangest habit. And, she has a one-year-old son, so she doesn't have a lot of free time when she's not writing, but when she does in addition to taking care of him she enjoys reading and watching television.
Some of the authors she enjoys reading include contemporary authors like Zane, Emma Holly, Dahlia Schweitzer, and Alison Tyler. She also loves "classical" erotic authors, such as Catherine Millet, Anais Nin, and D. H. Lawrence.
Her favorite erotic book, though, is 3 by Julie Hilden. "It's an erotic thriller about a couple that gets into anonymous threesomes for a thrill," she shared, "but it ultimately results in stalking, jealousy, and murder."
I asked Jamaica what research books she would recommend for writers who wanted to write erotica and what advice she had for them.
"By far the best research you can do as a writer is to read other writers. Read all the erotica books you can get your hands on. Learn from the pros. And use their work as an example to follow, while still finding your own voice. Read everything you can get your hands on, write every single day, and be very, very patient."
She feels that the biggest misconceptions about erotica is that only dirty old men read erotic books and that they are only sold in "adult" bookstores. "Quality erotica is sold in regular bookstores like Barnes & Noble," she said, "and the readership is mostly highly-educated women."
Even though she, herself, doesn't have a problem with pornography, there are lines between erotic romance and porn that she personally will not cross. "I will not write anything that is inherently degrading or causes harm," she said. "No golden showers or feces, either. No bloodsports, and definitely no rape or pedophilia. (And no reputable erotica publisher I know of will publish that sort of thing, either.)"
You can keep up with Jamaica on her blog, http://jamaicalayne.blogspot.com