Kate Douglas has been writing erotic romance for the Aphrodisia imprint of Kensington Publishing* since 2006. So when Publishing Perspectives asked me to do a story on the erotica market, Kate was one of the first authors I contacted. My email interview with her about the erotic romance market was so informative that I decided to post it here, just as I did with my interview with Anne Rice.
So now I give you Part I of my Q&A with Kate Douglas, author of the sexy paranormal Wolf Tales series:
Suzy Spencer: How does erotica differ from erotic romance?
Kate Douglas: From my point of view, erotica is more the sensual journey and growth of the main protagonist which may or may not have a strong plot and doesn’t always end happily. Erotic romance, which I write, stays within the parameters of romance fiction, which means you have strong characters who eventually find a happy ending. With the more traditional romance, there were generally two main characters—a hero and a heroine. Erotic romance often mixes the dynamic. My stories tend to follow a polyamorous theme with multiple partners, often same sex relationships, and graphic encounters, but the stories also have a lot of action outside the sexual relationships and always end on a positive note. Because they’re also paranormal, I think I can get away with more extreme sexual dynamics verging on kink, without it being offensive. The caveat of “my world, my rules,” means I can establish the mores of my world and then create characters my readers connect with to the point where they’ll accept just about anything. And yes, I’m always pushing that.
SS: How has Fifty Shades of Grey changed the erotic romance market?
KD: I think that Fifty Shades has brought erotic romance out into the open, and the fact that it was BDSM (bondage, domination, and sadomasochism) themed and so successful makes publishers think that’s all that readers want, but the story I get from the readers following my various series is completely different. My stories are not BDSM themed—in fact, if anything, the main theme of my books is that love is the most powerful emotion, and it’s what matters. Yes, they love the eroticism of my books, but what keeps them coming back is that I write with a strong theme of love and acceptance. I like to say that love is love and the rest is friction…and there’s always a lot of friction, among multiple partners across racial and gender lines.
My reading demographic—at least the readers who contact me—crosses the spectrum. I have a large gay audience, a lot of African American readers of both sexes, younger readers (my standard response to fan mail from readers who identify themselves as underage, i.e. high school students, is to tell them to write back to me after they’re 18) and some who are into their 80s.
Science fiction star Anne McCaffrey, who passed away at 85 last year, was a huge fan of my Wolf Tales series. She loved the sexy stories, but really liked that I had one reoccurring “hero” who was in his sixties. Of course, I also have a lot of perfectly normal, middle-aged women who just love romances reading my stories, but the point I’m trying to make—and obviously not making all that clearly—is that, while Fifty Shades is a BDSM themed novel, it was the marketing that got it out in front of so many people who might not otherwise have read erotica or erotic romance, and if that’s the book that brought them into the genre, they might think that’s all that’s out there.
And it most certainly wasn’t the first, though it’s definitely topped everything else in sales. I definitely think it’s good for the genre as a whole. The more people who discover books that push boundaries, the more readers who will be looking for more stories outside their usual reading patterns.
When Wolf Tales, my first erotic romance, with Kensington Publishing came out in January 2006, it was one of the first romances from a mainstream publisher to break the unwritten rules of the genre. I had same sex lovers, group sex, and even relationships that some readers termed bestiality between characters who were shapeshifters**. Of course, my argument is that as long as the creature is sentient and still thinking “human” thoughts, it’s not bestiality, but the book definitely broke all the rules. The thing that kept it within the tenets of the genre is that it had a happy ending. That book is, as far as I know, now in its 11th print run, though sales haven’t even come close to Fifty Shades.