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Friday, March 1, 2013

The Meaning of Sex

by Hanna Martine, the Duchess of Debauchery

I don't shut the door during sex. Wait. Go back a sec. I don't shut the door when I write sex or sexual situations. By definition I am a paranormal and contemporary romance author, although I have written erotic short stories that, while not necessarily romance, have an ending that skews toward the positive. I don't pull down the window shade. I don't like to leave things to the imagination, and I always favor true emotions over words used for the sole point of shocking the reader.

Put another way, you will always get the full monty with my characters. They don't call me the Duchess of Debauchery for nothin'.

I won't lie. When I write my romance novels, one of the very first things I ask myself--maybe even before the couple/characters are fully realized--is: "What do I want their sexual relationship to encompass?" Then, immediately following, I think about:
  • How does sex change them? And further, how does each sex scene change them?
  • How do the intimate scenes evolve from beginning to end?
  • What specifically do I want to accomplish by showing them getting it on?
Sexual Goals (GOOOOAAAAALL)*

I have three books out now (all with Berkley Sensation/Penguin). For this essay, I thought I'd lay out my original thoughts regarding each book's couple and their sexual journey. Without further ado ...

"No Surprise More Magical" / novella in the UNBOUND anthology 
(releasing next Tuesday, March 5, 2013!)

I'd never written a novella (20,000 words, as stipulated by my contract) before, but the most successful novellas I'd read (in my humble opinion) featured a couple that already knew each other. With the reduced word count, having a relationship whose groundwork had already been laid was paramount to the believability of the couple and the storyline as a whole.

For David and Kelsey, I wanted them to already really want each other. To already love each other and have desire sewn into their soul, but circumstances and culture had always kept them apart. In 20,000 words, they had to have a spark ... and then a FIRE.

I used to work in event planning, and I was always intrigued (and maybe a bit turned on) by empty, dark hotel corridors long after an event had ended and only the emergency lighting was on. Quite simply, I wanted David and Kelsey to get it on in a hushed and empty hotel conference room.

A TASTE OF ICE (released 12/31/12)

Hoo-ey. Well. Considering that this book is centered around Xavier, who was born in captivity and used as a sex/breeding slave from puberty until his escape, you can say that he has, um, issues.

This book had to be Xavier's story--about him healing from his traumatic childhood. About him finding the perfect, understanding woman who was not only patient enough to bring him peace, but also to be really, really hot and eager in the bedroom and to want what he wanted. If I do say so myself, these are my most favorite sex scenes I've ever written: full of equal parts angst and tenderness.

LIQUID LIES (released 7/3/12)

For Gwen and Reed, I wanted immediate attraction. A hint of danger, of fear. Then all the walls to come crashing down when the fear disappeared and they actually talked and got to know one another. Then ... the danger returns when he's hired to kidnap her.

Still, there is explosive chemistry and a lingering desire, but they are forbidden from acting on their attraction. And we all know that warning someone off something only makes them want it more, right?

*I should mention that even though I am snarky and light-hearted in these posts, my paranormal romances are quite serious. My contemporaries are what contemporaries should be: fun and flirty with real, underlying issues, but still very, very sexy. (The first contemporary, LONG SHOT, arrives October 2013, also from Berkley Sensation.)

Back in December, I wrote something for the lovely review blog Kindles & Wine about what exactly I think about when I write a love scene (get your mind out of the gutter!), entitled "It's Not About the Orgasm." CLICK HERE if you'd like to read and get a peek into a writer's process.


  1. Congratulations on your new release, Hanna! It's definitely easier when writing a novella to have the couple already have some sort of history. I've found that to be the best way of doing it, even if I don't always follow my own advice on that score. LOL.

    1. Thanks, Catherine! Oh, I tend to throw away my own advice on a daily basis. *g*

  2. YAY Hanna! So excited about your new release. :) And I agree with you and Catherine, it's so much easier and meatier for the novella when the couple already has a history. I don't know how people can do one where they don't know each other at all!

    1. I don't know how they do it either! Skill, definitely.

  3. Even with full length novels I enjoy reading about couples who knew each other in the past. Kind of like a second chance at love story. :)

    Congratulations on your new release!!!

    1. You know what I like? I like reading about people who knew each other once, then went their separate ways, grew and changed and became their own people, and STILL find their way back to each other. There's a wonderful beauty in that.

  4. Yes, Hanna!!! Congratulations on your upcoming release! I always found that a novella challenges an author in ways that a full length novel does not. It was like when I went to college and realized it was vastly harder writing a 3-5 page paper than a 25-30 page one! Even more so with romance; building the relationship, including the conflict...it takes someone really good with their craft!

  5. Congrats on your new release, Hanna! Yay! I've only written one novella (and it was kind of a "cheat" because I took something that happened in another book and told it from the hero's POV), but it is definitely different than a full length. And writing sex in either is so hard! Uh, no pun intended. ;}

    1. I don't think that's a cheat at all. I think to take a scene/plot that's already happened and make it fresh and exciting using a new POV is a challenge, and one I'm sure you tackled to the ground.

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