I wrote my first romance novel last year and spent the first part of this year rewriting it. I never expected anyone to accept it because everyone knows that a writer’s first novel is the one that gets shoved in the closet. Or burnt. Sometimes people use it to line the litter-box (hey, I’ve heard stranger things).
So, I didn’t have high expectations for “The First Time is the Sweetest.” However, after I sent in my submission, Siren said yes, we’ll publish this if you fix these issues. I fixed the issues. Siren’s excellent editors found more problems and I fixed those, too. It was humbling and I learned a lot from the experience.
Finally, after reviewing more edits and making last minute changes, the book was released on August 18. I was thrilled! I didn’t expect to have that many readers (heck I didn’t expect to have any readers), not for a first book from an unknown author, but to my shock, within several days the book climbed up Siren-BookStrand’s bestseller list. It’s sitting there right now, still selling nicely, and I keep pinching myself. I’ve got bruises on my thigh because I keep thinking: you’re not pinching hard enough, seriously.
Honestly, I didn’t expect it to go anywhere at all. I hoped I’d get a few readers, make enough money to replace the Kindle my teenager lost, and keep on writing. I couldn’t be more grateful that it’s done as well as it has. Even so, the best part of this whole thing is that I get to make stuff up for a living: the crazier the story, the hotter the romance the better. I get to write about falling in love again and again. Thank you universe.
Breaking the ceiling and letting the sky in. . .
I was reading an article the other day about writing erotica, and one of the points the author mentioned is how much freedom there is in this genre. In erotica, we can put things in our stories that you never find in other fiction novels. How many straight fiction novels deal with gay relationships? Or handle polyamorous romance with grace and humor instead of confusion? I’ve read some books where LGBT issues were touched upon, but usually in a tragic manner. What about interracial marriage? When was the last time you read a book where the heroine was a bit plump (and I’m not talking about a diet self-help book)? In a way, even sci-fi and paranormal erotica do this, often by dealing with inter-species relationships and having characters that grow up feeling different from everyone else (because they’re werewolves, or witches!). This is a mirror of our own life and the issues we face with fitting in and learning when we need to be true to our inner selves, despite the pain it may cause.
Erotic novels get to play with these issues and show readers that there can be a happy ending for these relationships. It may be a strange happy ending, something you’ve never encountered before, but the ability to write about them means they’re in some way possible in reality. We can make what we imagine come true, metaphorically and emotionally. In some ways, despite the fantasy of love and fun that is so important to an erotic book, these novels are more realistic than traditional romances, because life is messy. We fall in love with the person (or people) our hearts want, not the person with the biggest paycheck or the most sedate background, or the one your family likes. These novels help push aside the barriers we as a society so often parrot because of peer pressure and fear.
A friend of mine finished my book the other day and emailed me with a note about gay marriage and how so much of what we think relies on what we know: “Just an odd thought that popped up as I read your book, that society deems what is acceptable relationships, and anything outside of that norm is immediately considered taboo. I like that your book explored a healthy relationship outside of the norm.” Unfamiliarity breeds terror, usually. The first time I ate guacamole I felt like I was eating snot! But I love it now, and I like to think that romantica authors are in the forefront of the movement to enrich our society and promote love instead of fear.
Erin M. Leaf
So I’ve been sitting here for a few hours sifting through an insane number of sites on the internet, trying to decide how, when, where to promo my book, The First Time is the Sweetest. Now, I’ve been online since 1987 (yes, I swear, even though it was before the web) and I’m used to posting in countless online forums, blogs, etc. but for some reason, the sense of once again being a newbie is unsettling me. I’m new to the romance novel world and like anything else, there’s a lot to learn. I know that I need to get my name out there, and my book out there, because really, the whole point is to connect with readers and hopefully sell my writing.
I’ve been a technical writer, editor, proofreader, documentation specialist, and sure, those jobs were interesting, but my real love is creative writing. I love to make up stories and characters and have them come alive in the pages of a novel. I’ve been pretty successful in other kinds of creative writing, but I know how long it took (a while). I told my son when he started high school last year that being a freshman would be difficult, but ultimately worth it. And I reminded him that it wouldn’t be forever, and now he’ll be going to school a sophomore in a few days. I’m trying to take my own advice. It will keep me humble.
Read an excerpt from my new romance novel! Go see:
The First Time is the Sweetest
I’m pretty excited because it’s been on BookStrand’s bestseller list for a few days now. Woo-hoo!
I’m just getting started with this whole blogging thing. Still trying to puzzle out the design, but hopefully I will have all the details ironed out very soon! Stay tuned.