Boy, do I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this! LOL It almost always comes from men (as a matter of fact, I can’t remember one woman ever asking me this), and it’s almost always said with a wink and a smile so that I understand they’re talking about the sex scenes.
My response? Usually something along the lines of…“Since I write about murder, I hope not!” To me it’s only logical that if I can use my imagination to stalk and kill someone, I can use the same approach when it comes to a bedroom scene. That doesn’t mean I HAVE to rely solely on imagination, of course (having sex isn’t against the law, after all, and it is something most of us experience at some point in our lives), but even if I DID write strictly from experience, I’m not sure why this question is so titillating to the asker. Wouldn’t most people assume I have intimate relations with my husband if we have five children and we’re happily married?
Wouldn’t it be more unusual if we DIDN’T?
Maybe the basis for this question is really more about the romance genre and some of the myths or out-dated stereotypes attached to it, such as:
1. Romance novels are all about sex. This couldn’t be more wrong. Romance novels are no more about sex than mystery novels are about murder. In a mystery, it’s solving the puzzle that readers like. In a romance novel, it’s watching two people figure out a way to forge a lasting relationship despite all the obstacles keeping them apart. It’s about the HAPPILY EVER AFTER--not the sex.
2. Romance novels are all the same. Romance novels are no more “the same” or “written according to a formula” than mystery novels or thriller novels. There are certain conventions readers expect writers to comply with in each genre, but it’s the journey to that happy ending that readers enjoy in romance, and every journey is different. Now that the romance genre has grown and developed to the point that authors are branching out and mixing genres, there is more variety than ever (i.e. paranormal romance, romantic suspense, comedy and thriller, erotica, inspirational, and—the most recent addition—urban fantasy).
3. Reading romance novels is something to be ashamed of, a guilty pleasure. Why feel guilty about jumping into a good story when you need to relax or have to wait for hours at a doctor’s office? Some of the most touching fan mail I've ever received went something like this: “I want to thank you for writing (whichever book they’ve been reading). Your characters enveloped me in their world when I needed it most. I’ve never been through a worst time than the past year. I’ve been (fill in the blank with going through a divorce, watching my mother die, getting chemotherapy treatments, learning to walk again after a terrible accident), and it brought me joy when I needed it most. Please hurry and finish your next book. I'll be waiting for it.” These people make me proud of what I do. Romance novels promote happiness and hope and act as a testament to the age-old theme that love conquers all.
4. Anyone can write a romance. Writing romance isn’t any easier than writing any other kind of fiction, especially in this tight of a market. It is, however, the genre that sells the best by FAR (1.4 billion compared to $800,000 million for the next best-selling category, which is inspirational).
5. The people who read romance lack healthy sex lives and thus must live vicariously through fictional characters. An Info Trends study commissioned by Romance Writers of America revealed the heart of the genre’s readership is women aged 31 – 49 who are currently in a romantic relationship.
And now I’d better go. It seems I’m in the mood for more…um… research. ;-) (Thought I'd give anyone who's ever asked me whether I write from experience a little thrill.