Today we welcome Steamypunk author Camryn Rhys.
Camryn Rhys grew up on the border of Canada and the US, and still hasn’t decided which country to call home. She splits her time between the Alberta and Montana Rocky Mountains, with friends and family in both beautiful locations. After running her own restaurant for several years and acquiring advanced degrees in writing, foodie romance seemed the only logical option. When she’s not watching the Food Network, she’s reading a romance novel, or if absolutely necessary, working as a consultant. Someone has to put really excellent food on the table.
Blending Erotic Romance & Steampunk
by Camryn Rhys
Blending genres is very careful work, because all genres have their own set of rules. As an author who sets out to blend Steampunk (the philosophical, the mechanical, the aesthetic) with a genre like erotic romance, I had to really analyze what each of these genres brings to the table.
First of all, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who don’t understand that “erotic” romance is a genre. Because many stories have “heat levels” and the word “erotic” seems to be part of a heat-level discussion, they assume that erotic romance is just another heat level.
It is not.
True erotic romance is not just “explicit” or “hotter” than “regular” romance. The arc (and art) of erotic romance centers around the nature of a love story. In the same way that “inspirational” and “sweet” are not the same genre, “erotic” and “spicy/sensual” are not the same thing. The nature of an inspirational romance is that there are two parallel plots/conflicts. One is the love story of the characters, and the other is the inspirational element. Often, the two are entwined (but they must at least be concurrent). The same is true of erotic romance.
The genre expectations of erotic romance are different. The sexual stakes will be higher than in a non-erotic romance. Characters may fall into bed sooner (although they may not) and the sex may be more extreme (although it may not). But one thing that is consistent: in erotic romance, sex is the path to love. In fact, sex is often the way characters discover they are in love. Their sexual journey leads (at least) to at least the possibility of commitment, if not the promise of it. (As opposed to erotica, where the sexual journey may or may not end in love—which is also a valid and real and different genre than erotic romance.)
So when you blend erotic romance with another genre, you have to take into account the nuance of what it means that erotic romance is a genre itself. The sexual journey (with whatever level of love you end) must still run parallel to and be intertwined with whatever other elements you’re blending. It’s my opinion that if you’re going to write erotic romance, then the “erotic” part of the journey should always be primary. Otherwise, why tell that erotic story? If the same love story could be achieved between two characters without their sexual journey bringing them to the place, why not write a sweet romance? Or at least a mainstream?
So when you blend erotic romance with another genre, there are expectations readers bring to the book that have to be fulfilled. In the same way, a genre like Steampunk has very specific expectations. Readers don’t want to walk away feeling like they could have taken the goggles off a heroine (or her corset, as the case may be) and they could as easily have had the same story.
In Airship Seduction, my most recent release (a Steampunk erotic paranormal romance—say that five times fast!), the two main characters both have some sexual hang-ups they need to work through. Sacha, because she can read minds, tends not to trust men. I can sympathize with her, because of course she can see all the things they’re thinking and feeling when she’s with them. Her sexual journey revolves around finding a man she can believe is really in love with her.
That necessarily has to happen through sex for her. Otherwise, she couldn’t really trust that he would want to be with her and only her, just the way she is.
Right alongside that journey is the one she and Javier must travel that relates to their steampunk genre. They are part of science’s war on magic. Their Steampunk journey is philosophical (anti-establishment, anti-government) and mechanical (the gadgets used against magical creatures, the gadgets that magic uses to win their war). But it’s also magical. Making all these journeys coincide is not easy. And I’m never sure that I’ve even done it justice. But I am very intentional about trying to bring all the genre elements together to make all audiences feel at home reading my book.
What about you? What do you think about blending genres?
And speaking of blending genres, don’t forget about the (Cowboys &) Corsets & Cocktails release party going on right now, for my Western erotic release, and my Steampunk erotic release. Stop by and you could win an iPad (http://camrynrhys.com/?page_id=762)! Thanks so much for having me at Steampunkapalooza! (And see my book’s acknowledgements…. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Suzanne Lazear…)
When Victorian Europe declares war on magic, Sacha Camomescro—an Empath demon with an airship—might be the only thing standing between progress and apocalypse.