I want to riff off a post of Danielle's today - not just because he paid me a huge compliment, but because it really got me thinking. Danielle was talking about his fear of romance (fictional and otherwise) and one of the things he said - Danielle's blogging style always makes me feel like I've walked into a cloud of butterflies! - was:
i recognise the things what others think is romantic..but i m not always sure what people conect to the word...for me romantic is going and hunt a huge animal and lay it in front of my sweethearts door..there..look..i killed it just for you..its still warm!
And anyway, my personal reaction to that thing that epitomises romance for him is that it's something that I wouldn't find remotely romantic. (Not just because I'm a vegetarian!) I've never really got the gift-giving and receiving part of romance, which I know most people do get. I mean, I like gifts as much as the next person, but even a hugely expensive pressie like a diamond doesn't strike me as more romantic than a kiss. Hey, I'm a cheap date.
Nor am I impressed by carefully arranged surprise trysts in perfect locations with violinists hiding around the corner ready to spring out as he suddenly drops to his knees to propose. (Public marriage proposals on TV actually strike me as uber-manipulative and creepy.) The Big Gesture does not touch my heart.
Yet I do write erotic romance. And what defines that romance for me?
It's a theme that runs through practically every erotic romance story I write: true love is characterised by a willingness to suffer and die for the beloved. Blame my Christian upbringing, I guess. If you're someone in one of my straight erotica stories, it might be a bit scary but you can be usually be guaranteed to have a fine old time. But, oh boy, you don't want to be a lead in my romantic fiction, because there you will be in for a whole world of pain.
My very first romantic story, White as any Milk: Black as any Silk features a wizard who falls for a hostile witch, and she puts him through hell:
In Divine Torment Veraine gets captured, tied up, kicked in the nuts, bitten, threatened with castration and torture, left to die of thirst on a clifftop. Oh, and he loses his job ...
In Burning Bright Veraine is smashed over the head so hard it induces months of hallucinations, put through a horrible fever, starved, assaulted by ghosts, captured and tied up, raped (but only in the first draft before it got censored...) then made to fight for his life against a superhuman opponent. Myrna is enslaved, pierced, tattooed all over, nearly drowned, and lives in constant danger of being slaughtered out of hand.
In Wildwood Ash surrenders to his worst enemy and has his blood drained for a magical ritual.
In The House of Dust the broken-hearted Ishara has to open a gate into the Land of the Dead to retrieve her lover: she's there subjected to all sorts of rough sex and humiliation.
In Bear Skin Hazel is punished for betraying Arailt by being exiled, then having to run a gauntlet of sexual challenges to get him back.
In Bound in Skin Cassandra is left penniless in central Europe, has to beg for shelter and a job from a shit-scary nobleman, then gets shot in the stomach and finally transformed into a werewolf.
In Heart of Flame the two romantic leads get variously drowned, fatally wounded (yep), tied up and threatened, nearly eaten by ghouls, betrayed, beaten up and buried in an avalanche.
Life is tough for a romantic hero or heroine of mine. And what's more none of them gets the person they really want till the HEA right at the end of the book!
Oh yeah ... did I mention the sexual frustration theme too? Very romantic.
Okay, I might be a bit worried now.
Which is all to say that at the moment I'm currently writing an erotic romance novella. I'm having a wonderful time: it is safe to say that my characters are not. Starvation, exhaustion, a shipwreck, icy rivers, torn feet, attempted rape, imprisonment, torture, massive sexual self-denial and heartbreak - See how they suffer for my pleasure!
Now that's love.