Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Look Back At My Dirty Books (#gayerotica #amwriting #amediting)

My first publication was an MM erotic romance novel, Autumn Fire. I had read a handful of MM erotic romances before trying my hand at it. I threw together 50,000 words and submitted it to both an agent and a publisher. The agent turned me down, but she liked me, so she explained some of the difficulties with my writing. The publisher took me on, so I applied the agent’s advice when doing edits for the publisher. (The advice was pretty much just red flags about my writing style and how to make it more professional. And that agent’s advice was simply the best writing advice I had ever received. It’s completely changed the course of my writing career.)

I got decent reviews for Autumn Fire and decent sales too. However, despite the high hopes my publisher had for that book and for my followup with them, Silent Hearts, I never latched onto the sales market that other MM erotic romance authors do.

It wasn’t until years later that I finally understood that I was doing MM erotic romance wrong. While I was doing hot sex and a steamy romance, my protagonists tended to sleep around a fair bit, which is a no-no for romance. In erotic romance, we want hot sex, but only between the two male leads. And, typically, it starts off tamer and grows in intensity — like it’s a handjob first, then a blowjob, then anal. In my books, people pretty much jump right to anal.

What I had essentially done was take a fairly light gay erotica novel and framed it in the context of MM erotic romance. It was too seedy to classify as romance and too tame to classify as erotica. There were some people that loved it, though.

I began to brand my books (at least in my head) as “erotica with a touch of romance”. The stories are filthy and sex-filled, but more often than not, there’s a sweet romance that develops between two of these promiscuous men.

I’ve toyed on and off with erotic romance. My Forbidden Desires series of novellas each explore a taboo MM relationship, but in a way that better aligns with the conventions of romance. (The only people having sex are the male leads.) However, the first Forbidden Desires, Seduced By My Best Friend’s Dad, was the most favourably-received, but with reviewers calling it erotica. So… I guess I officially don’t write romance?

I’ve decided that if that’s how I’m coming across — that I write only erotica — then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop worrying about how I’m perceived and I’m going to stop being overly concerned with genre conventions, and I’m just going to write the stories I want to tell. Readers can usually tell when an author is “into” a book or not — and if I write the stories I want to tell, then that drive is going to come across on the pages and the readers will appreciate it.

Do I regret my tamer stories? Not at all. It was all a vital learning experience and there are people who loved those books. I’ve recently had the rights returned to me for Autumn Fire and Silent Hearts. I’m rewriting them and will release them through my publishing company, but the rewrites are really just to bring the writing up to my present-day standards. (There’s sooooo much passive voice.) I’m leaving the sex and the romance as-is. It was the story I wanted to tell when I wrote it, so I’m not going to change it.

So, what’s a story that could have been dirtier? Pretty much everything where I was trying to be something I’m not. However, I still made it as dirty as I could. Other than the re-releases I’ve got planned for the coming months, my next several books will be filthy.



Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is The President And The Rentboy. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press and a member of the Indie Erotica Collective. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.

10 comments:

  1. Such a familiar sound to this, Cameron.

    Screw the labels. Write what you enjoy, and what comes naturally.

    'Specially when it's dirty!

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  2. What does the romance market do with Polyamorous romance? Is there such a thing?

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    1. Garce, as others have said, there's the "ménage" genre. It has its own tropes and requirements, though, IMO. It's nearly impossible to sell ménage that involves two (or more) women, at least to a traditional erotic romance publisher (Funny phrase that). (Sad for me, because that's the kind I like to write and read). However, two men and one women is really popular. I think it plays to the fantasy of being super desired (two hot men really, really into one normal-seeming but actually extraordinary woman).

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  3. I think they call that "menage," as in "Menage au trois," but i don't know for sure that it's classified as Romance. Seems to be very popular, though.

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  4. I was wondering the same thing. I also wonder how to classify what I call the Goldilocks Plot in non-erotic novels: central character tries out different "beds" (religions, political creeds, romantic partners, locations) decides some are "too hard" and some "too soft" before finding one that is "just right." IMO a lot of promiscuity could be consistent with romance if central characters eventually choose each other exclusively.

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    1. Polyamory is fine in romance... it's a situation where you have more than two people, but the book is still focused on their relationships with one another. For instance, my book Truce of Trust, about a woman, her husband and her Master all living together.

      Menage in romance usually ends up at polyamory...that is, as a stable relationship.

      And I love the term "Goldilocks Plot". That's exactly what Raw Silk is like -- my heroine has three different lovers and really isn't sure which one (if any) she should choose. Honestly, though, that's pushing the romance tropes a lot.

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  5. Considering that "romance" as a genre can probably be traced back to Jane Austen's novels of courtship, I suppose there must be limits to the tropes. :) I'm always looking for patterns in the non-erotic novels (& even shorter fiction) I teach, and the Goldilocks Plot actually crops up a lot. There is also a pattern I call the Ironic Fulfillment of Desire: central character (esp if young or inexperienced) sets forth to seek his/her fortune. Character knows what s/he wants (fame, fortune, love, a mansion in Shangri-La), but not how to get there. Character discovers that what you want is accessible, at least to a limited degree, but it usually appears in an unexpected form, and it costs more in effort and setbacks than you planned for. Both these patterns seem to apply to a lot of romances, including Hollywood rom-coms. I guess romances are novels.

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    1. Ironic Fulfillment of Desire sounds like Damned If You Do...

      Speaking of tropes, some author in one of my Triberr tribes is promoting a book called (I kid you not): The Billionaire Shifter's Secret Baby.

      Well, at least readers know what they're getting!

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  6. I really like this post, Cameron. I've experienced some similar things myself. I finally decided, that while I also appreciate romantic elements, my sensibilities just don't match most erotic romance. It didn't feel good to try to fit myself into those tropes, partially because what I mostly want is to play with and subvert them.

    It's too early to say, however, how it's affected my career to change over mentally.

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