I’ve gotten a couple of reviews lately that have me baffled. While the majority of the review is always positive, I keep getting comments like: You call this dark? Please. Or—this is too dark. Or—this is not true BDSM…
I’ve posted my work in a Goodreads group for Dark Romance. Or maybe it was Dark Erotica. I’d really have to go back and look. But does it really fit there? It’s not as dark as writers like Pepper Winters or Claire Thompson or Annabel Joseph. It’s dubious consent at best. There certainly isn’t any non-consent or kidnapping. There is no physical harm or rape or anything of the sort that come to my heroines. I find that repulsive personally, so you won’t be getting any of that from me in my writing. Sorry.
And yet, it certainly doesn’t fit in your regular, run-of-the-mill Romance category either. I’ve written a former blog about the genre of romance if you’d like to go back and read it. HEA—is it necessary? I argue it is, for romance is a trope that follows prescribed lines. But my writing, especially THORNE? It’s not strictly romance.
And then there’s the genre, BDSM. Yes. There are definitely elements of BDSM in my writing. Bondage, flogging, spanking, tickling, orgasm denial, punishment, humiliation, D/s…However, these days, it seems people are looking for manuals and rules that govern BDSM or you get a rash of protest. Since when did writing fiction come with so many rules? I hear it over and over again-- You have to have safe words. Where is the proper aftercare? This is abuse. BDSM is not THIS, O’Brien--
I don’t write BDSM manuals. I write works of fiction based on autobiographical elements, or what I refer to as my subconscious running the show. In other words: Don't try this at home, kids.
Sarah Wendell wrote a great article, explaining her definition of what dark romance means to her:
What exactly do people mean when they discuss a romance (or any piece of entertainment, really) being "dark?" "Light" is relatively easier to define: funny, friendly, not painfully emotional or wrenching. The opposite could be used to define "dark" romances, I suppose—serious in tone, emotionally powerful, potentially painful…a dark romance is one wherein there's going to be a happy ending eventually, but it'll hurt a bit first, for everyone involved, including me, the reader.
I completely agree with her.
I don’t write upbeat, happy-go-lucky, light tales. I don’t like to read them. I’m not going to write them. You want erotica for titillation only, I say go for it. I’m not going to knock you for it. Not at all. But I like stories. Contemporary, real-to-life stories. I like character development. I like characters I love to hate. Real. Flawed. Round characters. I like angst. I like emotion. I want to feel that flip in the pit of my stomach when I read. I want to find myself in the stories I read and write. I want to cry occasionally. I want to get aroused. The mind. In particular, a woman’s mind. That’s where it happens for me.
So, because society is making me categorize my writing, I am sticking with Dark Romance. Dark because it’s a painful, emotional journey that isn’t always “right”; and romance, because yes, with me, there will eventually be a happy ending. And erotica? You bet. Without the hot sex, life would be just well…what would it be? Nothing. Great sex. It’s what makes us feel alive, isn’t it? Okay. And maybe banana pancakes. But that's another story entirely!