As a romance writer with varying heat levels in my books and a close eye on the market, I’ve been fascinated by the recent mainstreaming of erotica, brought on primarily by the runaway success of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Whatever the collective thought on the trilogy itself, it has opened doors to a whole genre of erotic fiction that was once the preserve of the digital world. I was delighted to talk to author Caroline McCall, who forms one half of the Evie Hunter partnership with her co-writer Eileen Gormley. Making the leap from digital to mainstream print, Caroline and Eileen were snapped up by Penguin with their erotic romance, The Pleasures of Winter, which went on general release on the 1st of November.
Caroline and Eileen’s book Angels, Demons and Doms, (they spoke to writing.ie about their backgrounds and co-writing the book, read the article here) was released by leading erotica publisher, Ellora’s Cave in July 2012. I asked Caroline if Angels, Demons and Doms was the first book that they had written together. She told me: “Yes, Angels was our first co-write outing. Eileen and I run a writers group together and we have similar tastes in books. In fact, you could probably swop our bookshelves and we wouldn’t notice. We’d been talking about writing something together for a while and when an opportunity arose in March 2012, we said we’d try it for the craic. I have to confess that we were surprised when the publisher said yes. ”
For me personally, writing is a very solitary occupation fuelled by coffee and liquorice all-sorts, so I was very interested to hear more about how co-writing works. I can’t imagine writing erotic romance with anyone I didn’t know well. I asked Caroline if they had fun writing the book. She grinned, “We had lots of fun—especially when they were thrashing out the initial story, [I’m pretty sure she used the word thrashing without thinking!]. Both of us wanted to write something sexy and hot, and we found working together an opportunity to out-naughty each other. After we’d decided on the main plot line, we emailed chapters back and forth. Eileen wrote during the day, and I took over when I got home from work.”
But how does collaboration work for them in terms of the storyline? Caroline explained, “We they tend to take a character each and work on them more or less exclusively. We write a split POV in each chapter, so that the workload is pretty evenly distributed. Eileen is great on the action stuff, whereas I love the emotional, sensual parts. The sex scenes depend on whose POV the scene is set, but we do share them out. Sometimes one of them is too tired to write another orgasm, and if that happens, the other one picks up.”
It’s pretty impossible to talk about erotic romance without mentioning Fifty Shades of Grey – the runaway success of this series in mainstream print as well as digital has put erotic romance in the spotlight in the past year. And EL James isn’t the only big selling writer with Ellora’s Cave reportedly selling around 190,000 copies of the genre a month – I asked Caroline if she thought that now the genie is out of the bottle, the market for BDSM will continue to expand?
“I think the genie has been out of the bottle for quite a while. In the past erotica was ignored by mainstream publishers who saw it as a niche. Until this year, you didn’t see a lot of it on the bookshelves and women were probably shy about buying it. The advent of the e-reader is probably one of the single biggest factors in the growth of erotica. If you see a woman on the train with an e-reader and a smile on her face first thing in the morning, chances are she’s reading something naughty.”
While trends are difficult to predict, Caroline believes the influence of erotica will creep into other genres, like historical fiction for example.
The advent of e-readers has indeed changed the way and what people read. When the first Harry Potter books came out, there were different covers for the children’s and adult books markets —there’s no need to do this with ebooks, as once purchased, the covers become less important. Indeed, the shift to a plain black or grey cover with an object on has helped hugely in allowing consumers to read a book an erotic book public – without a scantily clad woman or half naked man on the cover. The Pleasures of Winter has a very tasteful feather on it, simple and understated.
Gillian Green, Editorial Director Commercial Fiction at Random House UK, Ebury Press, Black Lace and Rouge spoke about romantica – erotic fiction with strong romantic elements – at this year’s RNA Conference in England, and tagged it as a genre that is growing hugely in popularity. I asked Caroline the difference between erotic fiction, erotica and erotic romance, or whether the terms were interchangeable. She explained, “It’s a question of ‘heat’ levels. Ellora’s Cave define some of their books as romantica – romance with erotica, and felt Fifty Shades of Grey would come under the term erotic fiction.” With a laugh she concluded, “Erotica is pretty much anything else, with probably a lot less ‘story’ content.”
I don’t think there are any spoilers in revealing that Jack Winter is a Dom, so I asked Caroline how they made sure that their portrayal of the Dom/submissive relationship in The Pleasures of Winter was accurate.
Caroline told me, “We they did lots of in-depth research – there are a lot of kinky people out there. Some of your neighbours do stuff that would curl your hair! In the interests of accuracy, we spoke to Doms and subs in the BDSM community. We were really surprised at how open they were about their sexuality and their relationships. There really is a whole other world out there and we felt privileged that people let us take a peek inside it. We’ve both made new friends.”
I couldn’t let Caroline leave without giving us her top tip for writing erotica. Caroline said: “Like any other form of writing it’s a skill that can be learned, but only if you feel comfortable writing it. There is nothing as cringe worthy as a badly written sex scene. If you want to learn to write it, you have to read it first. Don’t be afraid to explore until you find a heat level that suits you.”
At the close of the interview, I asked my final question, what’s next for Evie Hunter? Caroline answered “I hope Evie has a long career! And a holiday…I so need a holiday…”
With the film and TV rights represented by Madeleine Milburn, fingers crossed the next move will be a film deal!
So what’s the story line in The Pleasures of Winter?
The Pleasures of Winter is a steamy erotic story of romantic obsession and explosive sexual chemistry for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey and Bared to You.
When reporter Abbie Marshall needs to escape Honduras, a private jet carrying a Hollywood A-lister is her only way out. She has a ride home with Irish actor Jack Winter – notorious womanizer and all round bad boy. Abbie is shaken to the core by Winter’s blazing beauty and provocative mind.
After the plane’s nose-dive into the remote rainforest forces them to fight for survival, Abbie catches tantalizing glimpses of the complicated man behind the image. And the more she sees of him, the more he touches some primal part of her that she is determined to suppress. But after a devastating encounter with Winter’s shadow side, Abbie’s detachment is shattered.
On returning to normal life, Abbie cannot forget what happened, nor ignore the shocking rumours about the star’s private life. Her struggle to make sense of her torment leads straight back to Winter, who is just as obsessed by her. But if they are to have a relationship, Abbie knows she must embrace his hidden desires … and accept her own.
No longer caring about anything but their intoxicating love affair, Abbie is drawn deeper into the dark heart of Winter – and the secret that threatens to destroy everything …
You can find The Pleasures of Winter in all good bookshops, Tescos and on Amazon, and an accompanying short story, A Touch of Winter in eBok form on Amazon. Find out more about Evie at http://www.eviehunter.com or follow Evie on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/eviehunterbooks or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eviehunterbooks