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Happy Endings In the Forecast For Romance-Writing Meteorologist, PART 2: Are Romance Novels Sexy?

October 27th, 2015 (02:00 pm)

At last month’s National Federation of Press Women conference, I attended a session on romance novel writing, given by Tracy Sinclare, who often writes romance novels when she isn't predicting the weather on Channel 2 in Anchorage. This article is the second in a three-part series about her romance-writing session. Click here to link to the first installment, which discussed whether romance novels are consistent with feminism.

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PART 2:
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Modern Romance Novels
Sexier Than Ever Before
Romance novelist Tracy Sinclare's session at the recent NFPW conference was officially called "Before Fifty Shades: The Enduring Appeal of Writing and Reading Romance Novels." But Sinclare admits that she is not a fan of the 2012 novel referenced in her workshop title. That novel, of course, is E.L. James's sexually explicit bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey.
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Fifty Shades was touted as a breakthrough in erotic writing. But Sinclare says that she and other writers of books the industry sometimes calls "spicy" romances are frustrated by media coverage of James's book. Eroticism in romance novels is nothing new. More than ten years before Fifty Shades, she explains, New York publishers turned down a book by Jaid Black (a pseudonym for Tina Engler) because it contained graphic sex. Publishers assumed women wanted to read books filled with euphemisms instead of explicit descriptions. Black disagreed. She insisted that many female readers wanted books with graphic scenes. She published the book herself, became successful, and according to Sinclare, “kind of started a revolution.” Nowadays, most major romance publishers offer at least one line of sexier romances, and have been doing so since long before Fifty Shades made the morning talk shows.
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Sinclare herself has written 47 books, many of them containing graphic sex scenes. But despite her prolific output, she says that, unlike James, she'll “never be on the bestseller list,” because most of her books target specific niche audiences. One recent series, for example, written under the pen name Tielle St. Clare, is what she calls “erotic gay werewolf romance.” Though her main characters in this series are male, her audience, she says, is largely female.
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“Gay men who read them think they’re a little sappy,” she admits. She believes that is because she writes about relationships with a woman’s sensibilities and ideals in mind. For example, in her books, once the main characters meet, they don’t sleep with anyone else. But when they do go to bed together, Sinclare doesn't close the curtains and leave the reader to imagine the rest. And she doesn't let her characters hide behind euphemisms.
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Sinclare didn’t always want to write. She didn’t even like to read until seventh grade, when she discovered Victoria Holt’s gothic romances and was hooked. “I remember reading during geometry class every day,” she admits. She finally convinced herself that she was being rude, and left the book in her locker instead of bringing it to class. And got in trouble for talking. After that, she went back to reading in class.
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She started writing her own novels because she couldn’t find books with all the elements she wanted to read. One of those elements was a more candid depiction of sex.
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Sinclare's earlier books deal with traditional romance-novel relationships, focusing on male-female couples. She moved to gay romance and added werewolves in order the keep the writing process interesting for her.
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Despite the graphic sex in her own books, Sinclare is quick to point out that she doesn’t like erotica, admitting that she finds such books, “kind of creepy.” The difference between erotica and erotic romance is that in romance, the focus is not just on the sex, but on the relationship. And a romance novel always has a happy ending.
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Tomorrow: Sinclare's writing career spans big changes in the publishing industry.