Erika Almond is the author of the novella series Steamy Love Scenes. She kindly volunteered to be one of the Making Love 101 authors to share her experiences and thoughts on how she creates love when she writes. Thanks Erika!
Erika Almond’s Making Love 101:
Steamy Love Scenes is a three novella series that follows the budding romance of Miles and Josie–and the wandering penis of Josie’s best friend and one month ex-boyfriend, Riley. When you were developing the cast of characters for this series did you originally know how everyone was going to be in relation with everyone else? Was the first draft Riley similar to the final? What sort of changes occurred in the dynamic between Josie in Miles while you were getting Riley to be the right temperature?
This was my first experience in writing a series, and I didn’t even know I’d be writing a series. Based on the first story, Enjoy the Show, Ellora’s Cave offered me a three-title contract. I’d ended the first one with an offer presented and a decision unmade, hoping to continue the adventure. I didn’t really know how the characters would relate to each other beyond the romance, but I hoped I’d have the chance to find out.
First draft Riley bore no resemblance to the Riley you meet in SLS 2 and 3. I’m a big fan of the plot twist you didn’t see coming but that still makes sense. I see it most in TV series like Orange Is the New Black, where the thing you think will happen doesn’t at all, but the shocker is still completely in tune with the character.
The SLS setup at the start is a common one: girl loses boy when she finds out he’s cheated. I wanted to make that more interesting. So Riley wasn’t just a cheating boyfriend, yawn. He was Josie’s best friend. Double betrayal – okay, better. How to push that in the second one? Riley had what, in his world, was a “good reason” for cheating, and it’s one that Josie actually understands, though of course she doesn’t forgive him entirely.
Then, the ultimate challenge: make a cheating Lothario sympathetic, so readers actually like him. Believe it or not more readers now talk about Riley than they do about the hero, Miles!
And yes, Josie’s friendship with Riley did change the dynamic between her and Miles. It adds more conflict. Without Riley, Josie and Miles would be a sweet (and very hot) love story, but Riley really adds a push-pull there. He’s the extra pitcher of margaritas: tempting as all hell, though you know you’ll pay tomorrow.
In the first book Enjoy the Show the feel of the book is somewhere between a girly fantasy and raunchy wet dream. Meeting a hot babe in a movie theater and having him know all the right buttons to push, where they are and how to push them is something straight from… a romance novel? =P My first thoughts while reading it is, “Wow, that is hot!” just by the way he was touching her and how they were kissing, touching, eye contact, etc… But then I realized another thing, there is this entire public sex thing going on! I know Josie’s not a timid girl, what is the psychology of her getting it on with Miles? Is it: He’s damn fine? He is being damn sweet? It’s awfully naughty to do it in a movie theater? It’s nice to take the edge off so I don’t jump Riley’s bones? It’s great to do something a little crazy? Or damn this guy feels special and this just feels right?
Ha! The public sex thing… Yeah. The setting in the otherwise empty movie theater balcony was important because it tells you so much about Josie. She’s not a shy girl, but she’s not a wild child for the sake of it. She has a mental debate about whether she should play with Miles. It’s a public place, but it’s just the two of them. Of course she gives in – to her own desires, BTW. Miles obviously wants her (very obviously, as things get hotter), but Josie’s driving this adventure.
There’s a very important part where someone walks in on them. The actions here are telling: Josie stops – she cares about whether she’s seen by someone she or her parents know. At the same instant, Miles covers her up. He respects her. It shows Josie something about Miles. He’s a stand-up guy.
Also, this is a love story. One with explicit sex, yes, but at heart Josie goes for it with Miles because she feels something… Even if she isn’t ready to admit that.
Cabin Fever, Miles’s movie isn’t a hit but Josie thinks that he has a lot of potential that is being poorly directed. In the second novella Intermission she helps him pick a script that isn’t utterly ridiculous so he can find a part that can show him in the best light. How much of Josie’s support of Mile’s career is based in what happened to her in Art School? In any small way is she trying to vicariously find satisfaction in Miles’s success to fill the loss of her own?
You nailed it. Josie’s motivation for helping Miles pick a good script is twofold. She’s falling for him and wants the best for him, even if that means the good project she finds him will take him away from her and back to Hollywood. The other part is that she admitted defeat in art school, the only time we know of that she wasn’t the strong character we’ve met, and she doesn’t want that to happen to Miles. Again, a sign of love before she’s ready to admit it.
It’s said that you should always trust your first impression. All three novellas are from Josie’s POV and then Double Feature alternates between her and Riley. What was Miles’s first impression of Josie? What was it about the sparklers in her eyes that he liked so much?
It might have been nice to get into Miles’s head a little more, but it wasn’t really necessary because he’s so honest. I wrote him to be Josie’s opposite: She’s strong but hides a lot, he’s vulnerable but actually stronger than she is because he’s not afraid to be open about his feelings. No need for his point of view because he says what he’s thinking. He likes her, he wants her, he’s falling for her, and the whole time he realizes that there’s something standing in his way. Initially he thinks it’s Riley; in fact, it’s Josie.
What he likes about her initially is what any man likes – she looks good to him! She’s a babe, but not a skinny, overly glam Hollywood type. She’s got tattoos, wears cowgirl boots and very little makeup, and she has obvious attitude. She’s game but not easy. He likes the play of drawing her out. They have some good repartee, a little witty spoken foreplay. For Miles, Josie starts out as a nice surprise and turns out to be a jackpot – if he can figure out how to keep her.
Throughout the three novellas you have the relationship pushing and pulling between Josie and Miles. Josie forever resisting and trying to protect her heart from a repeat shattering at the hands of another unworthy male. Ironically enough she was willing to start a relationship with Riley who has been her best friend most of her life and she knows can’t be trusted to keep it in his pants. Why would Josie trust Riley in a committed relationship but not Miles, who treats her well and tells her time and again that he wants her and no one else?
This can be summed up by the old saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” For a while I’d wanted to go deeper into Josie’s reasoning for taking up with Riley, but first-person narrative can easily stray into info dump. First-person narrative is supposed to be reader getting a glimpse into someone’s mind. That someone wouldn’t have to replay their entire history because they already know it. This is part of the writing edict “show, don’t tell.” But you have to show some things.
In the right place appropriate to the story in SLS 2, we learn how Josie and Riley met, why they became best friends, and why they made a pact to make love just one time. And then Josie did a great job of putting Riley back in best friend status, though that horndog would’ve jumped at the chance for seconds.
He gets them when Josie goes through what every woman feels at some point: I haven’t found anyone special, my guy bestie has been with me forever, we adore each other… Maybe we can make it work.
Interestingly, Riley’s something of a safe bet because Josie loves him, but she’s not in love with him. With Miles she feels something that rings old alarm bells. She has little to no control over the big feelings she has for him. That’s why she wants him to “get gone,” as she puts it.
Double Feature introduces you to Riley Wanamaker. He is charmingly immoral and distressingly discounted and really isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Why did you decide to introduce his POV in the third book and give him his own storyline?
“Charmingly immoral” is the best description of Riley I’ve ever heard!! People’s descriptions of him generally involve comparisons to weasels 😉
Riley got his POV and own storyline in SLS 3: Double Feature chiefly because he became so popular. He’s the classic anti-hero who you love to hate and hate to love, but you do.
I was so glad readers wanted more of him because it gave me a chance to write deep, with surprise. How can I take a character who, when you first meet him, is a cheater – the most loathed type in romance? And then make him not only charming and entertaining but sympathetic? By the start of SLS 3, even my editor, who had been one of the weasel comparison-makers, had fallen for Riley. If that keeps up we may not have heard the last from ol’ Wily Riley…
Going hand in hand with the back and forth of Josie and Miles, in Double Feature we see that Riley has been in “love” for years with Josie’s Aunt Lucille, a woman with just as much ability to settle down with one person as he has–only to find himself played. Was this a little divine justice or just a little “don’t hate the player, hate the game”?
Very interesting question. The idea of divine justice didn’t really come to mind, though it makes sense. What I wanted was depth through reversal, both of character and of fortune. So where Riley seems a shallow dude to start, just sexing his way through Mayfield County, we find out he doesn’t sleep around for the ego-boost, he’s purely addicted to women. He loves them. All of them. And there are many.
The twist there is that the one woman who has won his heart…is exactly like him. Un-pin-downable. Lucille loves men as much as Riley loves women, and she sees this truth about both of them. His feelings are so strong and naïve in their sex scene my heart breaks for him.
The time that passes within the series is incredibly short but when writing novellas you can’t exactly write a condensed epic novel. Do you ever feel like you are rushing a story or rushing a relationship when you are dealing with such a limited amount of time? Do you feel that there is more romance if it happens in a whirlwind?
Time in this series was so important. The whole story, spanning over one short and two novellas, takes place within a week. That was designed to force Josie to confront something that had been holding her back for years and was more recently leading to really bad choices that would have negative impact. Wham – see things for what they are. In romance I do love a whirlwind love affair, but in this case the effect was more for the heroine’s psychology. Josie thinks of herself as a strong woman. Fine, let’s see how strong she is when we turn her life upside down in a space of days. It’s a plot device known as “Writers Are Evil.”
Is it ever hard for you to write a hot and steamy sex scene? Do you ever write it and then think to yourself, “God, I hope no one I know reads that!”?
Great question! I don’t know about other erotica authors but I adore writing sex scenes. It’s so much more challenging than people think. I want to find different words for body parts so they’re not repeats of the predictable ones. They have to fit the character; a shy girl won’t use coarse descriptions. And how to describe an orgasm? And then not make it sound cinematically ridiculous? Or, when attempts at those two things fail, end up with one short sentence describing what should be an earth- and emotion-shattering climax, after pages of epic lovemaking?
The most important part in writing sex scenes is that the tone be appropriate to where the characters are emotionally. In SLS 1, the sex is playful. Josie and Miles are like the teenagers she recalls in the beginning, exploring each other in this forbidden setting. In SLS 2, there’s more play, and more weight. Boundaries are being pushed, mostly emotional. By SLS 3, it’s full on physical tied with emotional. Miles wants Josie’s entire body, mostly her heart, and he’s giving her everything he’s got.
Having said all of that, my mother asks to read everything I write. I was less bashful about showing her this because the extremely hot sex makes sense in context of the extremely hot emotions. And I know the sex scenes must be very hot because friends who read the series now look at me differently. Like I’ve secretly been a spy or something all this time. No, I never think “God, I hope no one I know reads that.” I think, I hope they like it.
If you were to review your own books what would you have to say about them? Tell me what you feel are the strong part and the weak parts about your novellas and in hindsight is there anything that you might have changed.
Oy, the self-critique! What I like is that Josie is strong without being a bitch. Miles is a good guy but not boring-good. I like that they’re witty without being harmfully sarcastic. I like that Riley is incredibly knowledgeable about sex but so very naïve about emotions, and I like that he’s naïve and not stupid.
What I don’t like is something behind the scenes. I wish I’d had the confidence to make this a novel from the start. This is my first time writing erotic romance. I’m glad it was so successful that I was asked to do a three-part series. I think it works very well as three separate titles. But I was really biting my nails about trying this. Josie is who I wanted to be in this game. I put all my fear into her, turned it into strength, and set her stomping down a path to a new life. That worked out pretty well 😉
What is the ultimate love story ever told as far as you are concerned?
The ultimate love story ever told is the one where a person makes a dream a reality. The odds are usually against people in their endeavors, and that makes victory all the sweeter. I don’t care what the results are. I am absolutely besotted by dreamers who do.
Thanks for being part of Making Love 101!
Thank YOU. This was the best!!
Erika Almond’s Bio:
Erika Almond is the author of the STEAMY LOVE SCENES series, published by Ellora’s Cave. In her past lives, she ran the freelance gamut from writing about rock stars to making cocktails for exotic dancers – sometimes both in the same day. She’s a big fan of Bettie Page, Vampirella, Stephen King’s On Writing, Anais Nin’s diaries, kettle corn, cats, her beloved husband, and reading naughty books in public places.
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Erika Almond’s Books:
Steamy Love Scenes Series:
Enjoy The Show Synopsis:
After finding out her boyfriend’s been unfaithful, Josie heads to her town’s movie theater to cool off from the summer’s heat and her blazing temper. She has no idea how steamy things are about to get. When hot and handsome actor Miles sits next to her in the empty balcony, he and Josie make their own X-rated film. But more than clothing is shed during their risqué matinee, and Josie may find her drama being re-scripted as a love story—if she’ll let Miles be her new leading man.
Josie’s still rocked by her risqué matinee with hot movie star Miles but her no-account ex Riley is causing her grief. Once she squares him away, Josie arranges for a special midnight show with Miles before he leaves for Hollywood. But Miles isn’t ready to cut Josie out of his picture just yet. He enlists her to help him pick out his next script and the two act out a very sexy scene of their own. Josie might just be a good time in the intermission between movie projects for Miles but she wonders if she’d like to be the star of his show.
Double Feature Synopsis:
Josie’s sexy ex Riley is back, this time with his heart (and other parts of his body) set on winning the only woman who can match his skill and desires in the bedroom. But hot movie star Miles wants to convince Josie to be his leading lady with an elaborate claiming ritual guaranteed to get a triple-X rating. Secrets playing out behind the scenes could have Josie strutting a red carpet to true love—or falling back into the arms of the man who first rocked her world.
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