After self-publishing the erotic romance Bared to You (the first installment in the Crossfire trilogy) earlier this year and watching it become a breakout success, Penguin purchased the English rights to the series and released Bared to You in June with a 500,000-copy first print run. The book debuted at #4 on the New York Times trade paperback fiction bestseller list and, after three months, is still there, just behind the Fifty Shades trilogy!
As a reviewer who has read more than his fair share of erotica and erotic literature over the last two decades, I can honestly say that The Stranger I Married – which is set in early 19th century London and revolves around the marriage of two highly hedonistic characters (Gerard Faulkner, the sixth Marquess of Grayson, and the Lady Isabel Pelham) – was one of the most adeptly written and unadulteratedly sensual novels I have ever read.
As the nights are growing longer and colder, don’t even think about turning up the thermostat – just curl up with one of these historical romances. These are most definitely what I call "oven mitt" reads – novels with sex scenes so hot, it's no wonder the pages don't ignite in your hands!
PGA: Sylvia, first off congratulations on a fantastic year! The phenomenal success of Bared to You and its soon-to-be released sequels, Reflected in You and Entwined with You; Kensington reissuing your (vastly underappreciated) historical romances titles… Have you had time to process it all yet?
SD: No, and that’s a good thing! It would be overwhelming to focus on and I have too much to do.
PGA: Before formulating questions for this interview, I spent the weekend reading the recently reissued The Stranger I Married and Seven Years to Sin, both of which are historical romances set in early 19th century England. All I can say is “wow!” The sexual chemistry between the characters (like Gerard and Isabel in The Stranger I Married) was nothing short of incendiary. Simultaneously intense and loving and obsessive – just masterfully portrayed. It reminded me of an interview I did decades ago with legendary author Anne McCaffrey, who said the hardest thing for a writer to do successfully was write a sex scene. Do you agree? And, for you, what constitutes a good sex scene?
SD: Thank you! I’m thrilled you enjoyed Seven and Stranger, two books I personally love very much. Yes, I labor over my sex scenes. They’re so crucial to the overall story. They carry the weight of the entire book and that level of importance requires tremendous thought and time. A good sex scene emotionally resonates with a reader. Tab A into Slot B scenes are porn and they’re boring. In erotic romance, the sex scenes are so pivotal to the storyline that they couldn’t be removed without the story falling apart. We have to care about the characters to care about them making love. I have to ensure that each sex scene moves the character arcs forward, reveals something new about them, and is arousing. But I enjoy the challenge!
SD: Because they are flawed—that’s why they’re relatable. They are imperfect and make mistakes, but they’re trying to succeed and be better people, which makes it possible for us to connect to them and wish them well.
PGA: Love it or hate it, the Fifty Shades trilogy did succeed in making erotic romance and erotica more mainstream. What do you think this insatiable appetite for erotic romance and erotica says about us as a society?
SD: That the press is woefully out of touch. Erotic fiction has been a staple on bookstore shelves for many years now and a super hot seller digitally long before the introduction of the Kindle and Nook. Most of my friends are authors of erotic fiction and the majority of them are New York Times bestsellers. That no one in the press noted the number of erotic titles on the national bestsellers lists until this year is a head-scratcher to me.
PGA: Thanks, Sylvia, for taking time out of your insane schedule to answer these questions. Here’s hoping that 2013 is just as good to you as 2012!
SD: Thank you!
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.