There was a pervasive theme this week in my timeline, but it’s not the first time the topic has come up.
Porn. Sex. Erotica. Erotica with plot. Romance.
There is a hierarchy here, as clear as crystal, and it says in a sinister whisper that some of these things are okay, and some are not. Sex is okay. Porn is not. Erotica with plot is okay. Erotica is not. Romance would be better. Romance with more than two people, with alternate sexualities, with different races, with a less than happy ending, though? Well… And in the end, all of these things fall under the realm of Romance, a powerful genre rendered weak in the literary world, if not by dollar signs, than by prestige. Sell millions writing porn, sex, erotica, romance, and you are still the fluffiest of the fluffy fluff. Sell a few copies of a literary fiction masterpiece and you are a real writer. You are fit for the Muse, a true artist, and therefore deserving of respect.
There are velvet ropes. There are doors with locks beyond them. There are keys hanging on the highest limbs of the trees in the courtyards beyond those doors. Somewhere in the alleyways outside of these inner sanctums, these labyrinthine halls of respect, is where I should be, peddling my wares and munching on scraps. I’m not supposed to like it out here in the dark, in the elements, as exposed as my characters in the midst of a love scene.
Yet, I do like it out here. And the customers still come. They walk out of the door and past the velvet ropes with heads held high, or jump the wall with caps pulled low in anonymity, and grab themselves a copy of one of life’s great mysteries disguised as palatable fluff. I know because I sometimes leave my vendor’s stall and become a patron, commiserating with my fellow peddlers in the dark about the highs and lows of our labor. Our labors of love, sex, porn, erotica, erotic romance…
There’s room for all of these iterations of love and sex, but when it comes to finding an audience, to setting them up for success when they pick up your work, it seems you have to choose a side. Am I safe to like? Or should you cover your Kindle when you open up a Kaia Bennett book?
When I realized there was more to publishing than just uploading a book and hitting publish, I asked myself what my brand was. Then I giggled (Me? A Brand! Haha!). Then I got serious and said, no seriously, what’s your brand, dude? As a relatively free creative spirit I circled this topic quite a bit, and as the consummate commitment-phobe, I had trouble assigning myself to one niche.
Am I a contemporary erotic romance author? All of my stories to date have taken place in present day. Am I an Interracial/Multicultural erotic author? All of my heroines to date have been Black Americans, the heroes various mixes of Irish, Scottish, Italian and Jewish American, i.e., white. But outside of the main couple there are other IR couples and same race couples. My first book features college students. My series features a heroine that goes from her early 20s to late 20s over the course of her journey. So does that make me a New Adult author?
I haven’t published a paranormal story yet, but that’s what I’m working on now. So does that make me a paranormal author? A horror author? A thriller or historical author? Am I what I have written, or what I plan to write?
I came to the conclusion that I am all of these things and none of these. The common thread in all of my works is intense, visceral eroticism/sex/porn/whatever you wanna call it. No matter what genre I imagine myself delving into sex is a constant fixture. For some, no matter how well written, it’s just porn, which means I should be ashamed of writing characters who experience sex as a spectrum from pure recreation to unification with their partner. But I don’t see any of these descriptors as bad things, any more than I see a chuckle as less acceptable than a gut laugh, or a solitary tear as less profound than hours of heart-wrenching sobs. Each serves their purpose, each reveals something about us, the characters, even me, the writer. Each can speak to the reader.
Saying I’m an erotic author is both apt and limiting, but it is the brand I can own, the truth a reader can trust. It tells you that whatever journey you go on with me, you will see not just the spectrum of human emotion for the characters I chose to focus on, but a spectrum of my characters’ sexuality. That is not to say that I will conquer every sexual choice and orientation in a way that will please everyone. The characters and my own experiences dictate that I will come up short in some ways, that I can only be one human being conquering one story at a time. The only guarantee I have is that someone will say I failed, that I won’t reach someone out there with my words, and that for them my work will be just sex, just porn. Just…
But the plan is do the best possible job I can with the stories that speak to me, and in doing so, they should find their audience. If you like my style in contemporary erotic romance, it’s possible you’ll like what I have to offer in my paranormal thriller, or my historical work. It’s possible that being an erotic author will give me the freedom to write the story that can surprise you, move you, and yes even turn you on if that’s what you’re looking for.
The point being that when it came time to think about a brand, about what to write and what to save for another pen name, the only conclusion I could come to was my readers will like it, or love it, or leave it. But they will know when they open up my book that sex in all it’s myriad forms will find its way to the surface, just like heartache, happiness, hope and fear. It will be my voice, my style in all its fluffy, Muse-fueled glory. I’d rather open another door — even if it’s just the bedroom door — than shut one. And so my first instinct when I set up this site and labeled my blog “The writing and musings of an erotic author” holds up two years and counting later. And best of all, it allows you the reader to decide what the stories mean to you. Porn. Sex. Erotica. Erotic Romance. Romance. It can be all of these, none of these, or something more. By the time it reaches your hands, it’s yours.