Thursday, October 20, 2011
Chatting with author Colin F. Barnes
Today I’d like to welcome author Colin Barnes to my blog. I thought it might be interesting to get a male perspective on erotic romance, since most times it’s the women who are discussing it.
Colin surprised me by reading two of my erotic romances, Assassin and The Temptress…very different pieces for him to wade into the erotica waters with. I asked him a few questions and here’s what he had to say:
1) What preconceptions did you have about erotic romance before you’d actually read any?
I’m quite open minded, so I wouldn’t say I had a lot of concrete preconceptions. There are quite a lot of different flavors of erotic romance, and some seem to be more interesting than others. For example, the very romantic types make me think they are going to be quite stereotypical with the muscular alpha male being all-heroic, and the fluffy female protagonist being all weak and ‘swoony.’ For more erotic based stories, I thought it would mostly be explorations of female’s fantasies. I certainly didn’t have any overly negative preconceptions.
2) What (if any) new understanding(s) do you have now that you’ve popped your erotica cherry?
I have to be honest; I did once read an erotica book many years ago. It was a Black Lace book about a girl who got it on in graveyards. It was fun but poorly written. As for reading The Temptress and Assassin, both very different stories, I’d say that I appreciate that there is more than just the sexual element explored, especially in Assassin: we see a deep and potentially complicated relationship between the two lead characters. If you took the sex out of the story, it would still hold up as a concise narrative, so I suppose I understand that erotica needs story to support and enhance the sexual/romantic angle, as opposed to it just being there to give space between the sex scenes. Character is also important. I wasn’t expecting the characters to be particularly fleshed out and three dimensional, but was pleasantly surprised to find they were.
3) There is much debate about whether or not erotica is actually porn for women. Would you liken it to porn? Why? Why not?
Well, my own in-depth research has shown that most women do watch and enjoy pornographic material. Not usually to the same extent as men, but it isn’t uncommon. However, women being naturally more empathetic than the male species would probably be more attracted to erotic literature as opposed to dodgy graphic videos. I would call erotica porn for women, but that isn’t to denigrate erotica. It serves two purposes from what I can see: the first being that it supplies an engrossing story and interesting characters, and it stands up as a narrative piece, the second is that does provide the fantasy and sexual relief that porn does for men. I certainly don’t see that as a bad thing.
Where it differs is in the quality and thought behind it. Clearly, erotica is more than just the sex, whereas porn films/magazines is solely sex. So, erotica is an exalted form and has genuine artistic merits.
4) Is there something you think could be done better/more male-friendly?
I’m not so sure the genre has to cater for men specifically. That could potentially weaken the appeal to women if it was masculinized. I’m not one of these people who screams for equality in all things, and I have no problems with certain genres or certain titles aimed at particular demographics. If an author wanted to reach more male readers, then that would be a different issue, and I suppose the main thing that could be done would be a different cover style and blurb content.
Most covers of erotica are quite similar in that they feature a pair of semi-naked people, the man usually has muscles on top of muscles, and the woman in something silky/lacey. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it won’t attract that many men to it. So I think, if attracting more male readers was the aim, then a different approach to the cover art should be the main focus. I can’t comment on the story, as I’ve not read enough to say whether or not they won’t appeal to men.
5) I’ve been told that men are more visual than women. How do you think that plays out when reading erotica?
I’m not sure if that is true. I don’t think the differences are necessarily between being more or less visual, but in pacing. Men are more impatient than women and want to get to the point a little quicker. I’m sure most women have had that experience ;) In all seriousness, from my own personal point of view, I’m likely to be just as interested in story and character than I am in well-described visual scenes of sex. It’s all important, every element must be balanced and crafted to produce a high quality whole.
6) What impact does POV have on your reading experience when it comes to erotica?
A great deal. A male reader is going to find it more difficult to empathize and get engrossed in the story if it’s in the 1st person of a woman. It’s just too much of a jump to relate 100%. If it’s in a more distant narrative, then it’s not so much of an issue, but I’d suggest that for male readers, they are more likely to get engrossed in a book if it’s with a POV they can either relate to or are interested in. That could be a female protagonist who isn’t say an overly emotional internal character. If she is bombastic and has certain male traits, then it makes the relating to the character easier.
7) Often (always) in paranormal romance/erotica, the hero is given certain "attributes" that are very unlikely in real life. As well as the "enlarged" descriptions is the theme of hyper-stamina…what are you thoughts on this? Do you think it would be a deterrent for male readers to read such exaggerated proportions and expectations?
I've got mixed feelings about this. Part of me thinks it's not a good thing to have these exaggerated attributes as it gives some people false expectations and could potentially distort their view of reality. Similar to how the 'enlarged' physical attributes of porn stars and photoshopped magazines covers can effect expectations of viewers.
But, then another part of me thinks that the people reading these books are intelligent enough to realize it's fictional and fantasy, and it would be wrong for me to say that there should be some kind of dumbing down or rationalizing of the characters.
As for it being a deterrent for male readers, then I suppose it could be. Not through feelings of inadequacy, but through a sense of 'typicalness' it's unoriginal and expected, but then it has to be remembered that these stories aren't usually aimed at male readers.
I would however say that I think this applies to exaggerated female attributes too. It's a little stereotypical to read of tall, slim, big-busted blondes. I personally would like to read more realistic protagonists, but I'm not the typical audience.
8) In your opinion, why do you think erotic romance is so popular among the ladies?
What a question! I could put myself in real trouble with this one. I hate to presuppose someone’s motivations let alone an entire sex. But I’ll try. I think it’s a couple of things. The first is probably because they crave the romance/erotica as they aren’t getting it from their partners (or lack of partner) and want to delve into a world where they can fantasize. And secondly it’s a tribal thing. Women want to read other women; they want to relate, to sympathize. We know that women like to gossip (I believe that might even be a science fact) with each other, and reading romance is an abstracted version of that.
I’d just like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed reading both The Temptress and Assassin, and on the back of reading your books I’d definitely be interested in reading more erotica in various forms/subgenres.
Thank you for the opportunity to be a guest on your blog, it’s been fun ☺
Colin F. Barnes is a dark fiction writer from the UK specializing in Science Fiction, Horror and Thrillers. He likes to take the gritty edginess from his surroundings and personal experiences and translate them into his stories. He is currently working on an anthology of horror stories in his 'City of Hell Chronicles' setting after recently debuting with a crime anthology titled 'Killing my Boss' that he co-authored with best selling author Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.
City of Hell Chronicles
Killing My boss