For this installment of The Art of Writing Erotic Romance, I’m thrilled to have international bestseller and 2015 RITA® Award winner for The Saint, Tiffany Reisz. Unless you’ve been trapped in some attic for the past decade, stuck with only reading old copies of Sweet Valley High, you’re more than likely well-acquainted with her insanely popular Original Sinners series. From the day I read The Siren (first in the series), I knew Tiffany would become one of my favorite authors. I’ve also enjoyed her novellas and erotic shorts. This woman can write sex. My oh my. And that’s why I’m honored to have her participate in my series.
Tip: For those of you desiring more Nora and Søren (who doesn’t?), I highly recommend subscribing to Tiffany’s mailing list to receive a copy of her new novella Something Nice on July 28th. She’s rather generous with sharing short stories and novellas with her mailing list subscribers.
Tiffany is masterful with words, especially naughty ones, and with weaving characters into unusual circumstances and settings. I think her own bio sums it up best: “Tiffany’s books inhabit a sexy shadowy world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other.” There’s always lots of the latter, and that’s why I love her so.
Her latest release, The Bourbon Thief, came out on June 28th. This is no light summer read. I mean you could read it by the pool, but bring lots of sunscreen because you’ll stay parked on that lounge chair all day reading. This novel haunted me, and it even visited me in my dreams. I didn’t read it fast. Instead, I treasured each page, getting lost in the story of a family’s web of lies and deceit over the course of several generations.
I won’t post any spoilers, but the twists this story makes is eye-opening. My husband asked me what was wrong several times while reading. I must’ve worried him with my “ah” and “oh” noises as I turned each page. It’s been awhile since I read something so visual, where I could jump into the pages (like that girl in a-ha’s “Take on Me” video) and see the world Tiffany painted. The Bourbon Thief could easily be a masterpiece on the silver screen. You Hollywood types out there, take notice!
Let’s start off by telling us briefly about yourself.
Hi, readers! My name is Tiffany Reisz and I’m a writer!
That’s brief, so I’ll dig a bit deeper. Did you always dream of being a writer or was it something you discovered a little later in life?
Always wanted to be a writer. Won a blue ribbon for a poem I wrote in the first grade. Been chasing those blue ribbons ever since!
Blue ribbon in first grade? Not bad. Here’s a question I’d ask a first grader: what Muppet do you most identify with?
Beaker. I meep a lot.
Beaker is an interesting choice, although he’s rather shy. I’ve hung out with you, and I wouldn’t say you’re shy. You were rather chatty (like me) when we met up in Portland.
Speaking of Portland, you live near a rather awesome city. Talk about a destination for food lovers. Those food carts downtown are worth multiple visits as is Voodoo Doughnuts. The next time I find myself at Voodoo Doughnuts, what’s my must-eat donut?
The penis shaped donut.
Oh, I saw that one. It couldn’t be missed, but it would be too large for my mouth. (That’s what she said.)
Back to books, I might be cruel by asking this, but which one book of yours is your most favorite?
Oh…hard choice. Whatever book I’m working on tends to be my favorite at the time. But overall, probably The Prince, book 3 in the Original Sinners series. Writing a book with underage male/male BDSM set in a Catholic boarding school was a dark dream come true.
You are the Queen of Dark. I love that you just go there in your writing and always with many surprises to keep us readers on our toes. And while we’re talking surprises, any new book ideas floating about?
There’s a fantasy novel I’m itching to write. Also, I want to write a historical novel set on a riverboat with a badass prostitute main character.
If anyone can write a badass prostitute, I‘d put my money on you. I spoke earlier about The Bourbon Thief. What was it like setting a story in your home state of Kentucky?
It was weird. I’d taken Kentucky for granted all my life, and when it came time to write about, I realized I didn’t actually know much about my state. I had to research Kentucky’s state capitol (Frankfort) and visit a bunch of bourbon distilleries and read about the state’s dark and complicated relationship to the slave trade and the Civil War, stuff I’d vaguely learned about in school but hadn’t retained well. By the end of the book I almost felt like a stranger in my own home. But that’s okay. I live in Oregon now. But Kentucky will always be home.
At the end of the book, you reminded readers the novel was entirely a work of fiction. I’ll tell you, it sure didn’t feel that way. It’s evident you did your research. I believed I was reading about a distillery. The book captured all my senses even though I’ve never had a sip of bourbon (what?). So much of the story seemed authentic, ripe with elements of history (slavery, class divisions), and it was not something I wanted to speed read. Well done, Ms. Reisz!
Let’s switch gears and dive into erotic-land. What’s the first erotic thing you ever read? Did it turn you on?
I read a Harlequin Presents called The Sheik’s Revenge by Emma Darcy when I was about 12 years old. I was so young I didn’t know “Emma Darcy” was a Jane Austen-inspired pen name (that author is two authors, by the way, a married Australian couple). In the book, a sheik kidnaps a virgin, takes her to his palace, and has his way with her. I’d never read an explicit sex scene before and it was eye-opening. Once a kid reads their first adult book, it’s nearly impossible to go back to kids books.
I agree. In middle school, I was damn good at skimming through my mom’s Sidney Sheldon books for every sex scene. I mentioned Sweet Valley High earlier. Well, once I read those Sidney scenes (which are probably too tame to me now), I wanted the Wakefield sisters to seize their sexuality!
Is there an erotic book that you return to time and time again because it’s just so damn filthy?
Oh yeah. The Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice. Absolutely glorious pornography.
Indeed. I read those books multiple times, especially back in college. So let’s turn from reading to writing. What made you want to write erotic fiction? Did a book, song, movie, or moment in your life inspire you?
I wrote my first sex scene at age 14. It was Forever Knight fan fiction. That’s an old Canadian TV show about a vampire who becomes a cop in order to atone for his 600 years of sins. The vampire that created him was this tall, mysterious, amoral figure in a black suit named LaCroix and I was OBSESSED with him. A little bit of him went into Søren, I think. The dark, dry sense of humor, the all black clothes, the obsession with the two younger ones he created. It’s a dynamic I’ve always loved reading and writing—the dark mysterious father figure and his pseudo-children.
I’d say that’s a definite theme I see in your writing. I’ve never heard of Forever Knight, but I think you have me sold. Canada had all the cool shows, but I guessed I missed that one while watching Degrassi.
Do you feel the erotic genre has changed in recent years? Is it more accepted? Are there any misconceptions out there that you want to set straight?
It’s definitely more accepted. RWA now has a category for Erotic Romance whereas before, a book like The Saint would have been pitted against contemporary romances like Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books simply because they were the same word length.
True. It’s nice to see it have its own category in various RWA contests that way judges expect the steamy scenes.
Do you think there’s a difference between erotica and erotic romance? If so, do you think there needs to be more of a differentiation between the genres?
Erotica is a book about human sexuality that doesn’t have a romance plot. So yeah, huge difference between erotica and erotic romance. One has romance, one doesn’t. The Story of O is erotica. By the end of the book, the heroine is abandoned by her owner and wants to kill herself. Not a romance by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a glorious work of erotica. The genres are completely different. It’s just a lot of readers and reviewers use the terms interchangeably.
Yes. Back when I was querying for an agent, it was hard to decipher when an agent said “no erotica” on their submissions page whether that included erotic romance as well.
What advice would you give someone about to write his or her first ever sex scene?
Read a whole bunch of sex scenes. Read romance novels. Read Penthouse Letters. Read classic 19th century Victorian erotica. Read it all. You need to know what works for you as a reader so you can create that as a writer. Read, read, read.
Fortunately, reading is the fun part. It’s the writing that can be difficult!
In the last feature of this blog series, I interviewed Sierra Cartwright who will be the keynote speaker at the BDSM Writers Con next month in New York City. You were the keynote speaker this past April at the BDSM Writers Con on the west coast. Can you share with us what you spoke about at the convention and any take-aways you had from attending?
I spoke about writing as alchemy, about turning the basic things of your life into gold. My keynote speech was very well-received. So glad I went. I think what I most got out of it was a renewed love for the BDSM community. So many of the attendees were women who’d longed to do kink all their lives but never had the chance or the support and finally they were able to let their hair down and experiment in a safe and welcoming environment. They were all on kink highs the last day of the conference. It was adorable.
I think erotica and erotic romance depicting BDSM has been eye-opening, especially in recent years, for readers. It’s nice to see kink normalized. From what I’ve read about the BDSM Writers Con, it seems like a great event for authors with no experience in BDSM to gain a better understanding. From what you shared, it sounds like many walked away with not only understanding but desire as well. <hehe>
When it comes to BDSM in fiction, are there stereotypes and/or depictions you’ve seen written in novels about D/s (and M/s) relationships that you want to set straight?
I rarely read erotic romance or BDSM books since I write them. And I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone what they can and can’t write. God knows my characters break every single rule of safe play there is at one point or another in the books. Fiction is fiction. These are not how-to novels. All I care about is—is the book well-written and did you make me, the reader, believe in these characters and this story? Good writing is key.
What I love about your books is that when your characters have sexy times, they always seem fresh. How do you keep from non-recycling orgasms and avoiding the usage of “moan” and “thrust” a thousand times?
You do end up using “thrust” and “moan” a thousand times. No getting around it. But I do spend a lot of time in deep thought before writing a kink scene to make sure I’m coming into the scene at a new angle. I try to let my characters lead the way. I’ll dig into their pasts for something that they need to deal with and then I’ll put them up on a St. Andrew’s Cross and let Nora or someone beat it out of them.
In recent years, we’ve seen more diverse books in this genre especially in terms of sexuality. I always desire to read more books featuring people of color and written by people of color. In erotic romance, it seems that few books feature older characters (as if your sex life is over past 35) or characters with disabilities. Have you written characters that we do not see often represented?
Both Søren and Kingsley are in their 40s and 50s during some books, and I was pleased by how well-received older characters are. Nora’s 38 by the end of The Queen and nobody was like “Ick! Too old!” Age bestows wisdom, and wisdom is very sexy to me. As for characters with disabilities, I’d love to see more writers who have disabilities writing novels with characters who reflect their lives. So many great stories out there I’d love to read. I wrote one short story in The Mistress Files with a blind heroine.
One of my best friends and former roommates is blind and she’s about the most together person I’ve ever known. So it was fun to write the character as this lady who is simply exasperated because her kinky husband is too scared to do kink with her since she’s blind. So Mistress Nora came along and tells the worried husband, “Blindfold her!” He’s blindfolded previous lovers so why not his own wife? Once he put the blindfold on his wife, it changed the game. I love when I can write Mistress Nora as “relationship therapist.” She’s very good at it. Hopefully, as people continue to demand more diverse and inclusive books from publishers, we’ll see a wider variety of author and characters represented in erotic romance.
Very true, and very important. I haven’t read your short story. I’m adding to my “must read” list.
Finally, I’ll ask you a question I ask of all the authors I interview for this series—where do you see the erotic romance genre in five to ten years?
I imagine erotic romance will still be around. I imagine we’ll see more mainstream male/male books and maybe more erotic romance mixed with other genres like fantasy/sci-fi/ and mystery. That’s my hope anyway!
That’s my hope as well. And with authors like you out there, the future of our genre looks rather bright! Thanks so much, Tiffany, for participating. I wish you continued success and more naughty reads ahead.
This wraps up this installment. Next time, I’ll be chatting with author, Rebekah Weatherspoon. The first book in her Fit series won the Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Erotica Novella.
If you’ve missed the other Erotic Romance authors featured in this series, simply click here. Please feel free to share this blog series on social media. It’s my hope that this blog series can help other erotic romance writers like myself. If you want to ensure you don’t miss the next featured author in this series, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Links are up on top.