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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Author Interview: Adriana Kraft

The Long and the Short of It: Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Adriana Kraft, a husband/wife writing team who are serious academics during the day. They began writing contemporary romance, but had people tell them they wrote hot sex and should try their hand at writing erotic romance. They did and found they enjoy themselves immensely trying to keep up with the antics of their characters.

They view erotic fiction as more challenging to write than "straight" romance.

"We believe erotic romance requires more plotting and looking ahead than romantic suspense. In the latter there are so many elements that propel the story it often has a trajectory of its own and we can sit back and let the characters tell and drive their own story to a large extent. With erotic romance, because more space is devoted to sex scenes we have to be very sensitive to how each sex scene helps tie together, shape, or propel story and character development. While we certainly want the readers—individuals and couples—to find our sex scenes hot and sensual, those scenes must be essential to the telling of the story. We are not writing an anthology of sex scenes."

For them, erotic romance is driven in large part by evolving relationships and character change as the romance deepens and takes unpredictable twists and turns. Sex is graphic and often quite sensual. The stories have happy endings where two or more persons end up in ongoing, committed relationships.

"Because many of our female characters are bisexual, these end relationships often include three or more persons and may or may not be exclusive, though they are mutually committed."

Erotica is different in that there's often less attention to character development and happy endings. The sex can be more graphic, sometimes less consensual, and take up more space.

"Pornography, for us, can include all of the above including romance, but usually places even less emphasis on story line and character development. Romance, happy endings and commitment are typically not a focus. And the sex is often rawer, displaying little regard for consent, mutuality and sensuality. Obviously we are describing a continuum here with blurring lines. We have certainly enjoyed 'pornographic' videos that are quite sensual and romantic and celebrate the feminine as well as the masculine and result in happy, committed endings."

For them, a good erotic romance tells a story in which the sex scenes are absolutely integral to the story line development and the growth of the characters. No scene would be included merely to titillate—it must propel the story forward.

"We also use the wetness and hardness test," they said. "If the eroticism doesn't turn us on at the fifth or sixth read then it's rewrite time."

"How do you do your research for your books?" I wondered.

"It would require a book to answer this question fully. We love to visit places where we may want to set a story—for example, we spent a week poking around the South Dakota prairie visiting historic sites, museums, and just to get a feel for the land with the idea that we'd set some books with characters who have prairie backgrounds. Another example is our visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which provides a meeting place for heroes and heroines in two books: Smoldering Passion and A Woman for Zachary. We use the internet a lot to research specific places, occupations, and even weather. In The Diary our hero and heroine dine at a restaurant in Stratford upon Avon—when they do so they select from the actual menu that is available on line. We've 'been' at the top of the Eiffel Tower looking through a 360 degree webcam recalling the lay of the city. We've each been to Paris years ago and visited the Louvre—while writing a book that is still in the pipeline, it was very helpful to 'revisit' the city just as our characters did. Much more research goes into a story than is actually reflected in a book. This is back story that gives us a better feel for the characters and makes them more believable when they appear on the page. We've learn lots about sailing, whiskey making, art and art galleries, horses, cruise ships, photography and video making and so on by visiting actual places and virtual places. Often we choose professions for our characters because we want to learn more about the professions. If we're interested in learning about something, it's much more likely that we will be able to pass that interest on to the reader. In short, it's difficult to imagine writing without having an inquisitive, research mind."

No matter whether or not it's called porn or erotica, Adriana will only write sex scenes involving consenting adults only. If it's integral to the character development or storyline, there may be a vague flashbook to a horrific experience in teen years. Other than that rare exception, all their sex scenes require permission and mutual consent.

"Characters may choose to role play such as a pirate/captive scene but they and the reader know it is a role play. Even in role play we will stay away from heavy BDSM. That is not a judgment about what others should write. Many write the darker edge of BDSM very well. It's simply not what we do. We will include light forms of BDSM such as spanking and scarves but the emphasis then is usually on playfulness. Playfulness, humor and fun are keys to most of our work. Our characters get involved in all kinds of crazy scrapes, they rise and fall as do their counterparts in real life, but most of the time they are able ultimately to reach down into themselves and find that spark of playfulness and curiosity that so often propels them toward new discoveries about themselves and their partners."

While they write together as one person, they are still individuals and have their individual likes and dislikes.

She loves a steaming latte, but cannot bring herself to eat lima beans; his favorite food is shrimp, but don't try to give him anchovies.

Finally, I asked, "If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?"

"At least half of writing involves editing and marketing, but don't let that get in the way of getting your story on paper or on the screen. Write, write, write. Listen to your characters and write some more. Let the dialogue take you where it will. You can always go back and edit or delete. Let it flow. Write about things that matter to you. If it doesn't matter to you it probably won't to the reader either. Let the characters stretch you—they often have better ideas for working through knotty plot problems than we do. We sometimes will follow the characters down a path and wonder how the hell we got here—but it works. And the converse is equally true. When we try to force a path, the characters will often balk. It just won't work. For us we've discovered the irony over and over that the characters do have the last word."

You can keep up with Adriana on their blog, http://adrianakraft.com/blog

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