Beth Kery has authored over forty steamy erotic romance novels that range from historical to paranormal fiction. Her stories have been picked up by a variety of publishing houses including Kensington and Harlequin. Books like Wicked Burn, a foray into the wildly passionate encounters of two neighboring strangers, deliver compelling plot twists and turns. Others, such as Bound to You, (which she wrote under the name Bethany Kane) focus on the thrill of submitting to desire over the course of a single night.
The International Business Times on had to chance to ask Kery about her distinguished career, the business of erotic romance, and why women desire more graphic material.
Describe your journey to becoming an author.
I'm a big reader of all genres, and I've always liked romance. Of all the genres I read, I thought I could write romance. Early on, I tried to get published at places like Harlequin, but I didn't have an agent. Things went slowly and came to a halt. (I do write for Harlequin Special Edition now, but went back to it once I'd become established as an author). In 2007 I was first published at Ellora's Cave, which is a publisher that's been a real maverick, both in the erotic romance and ebook publishing arena. In 2008, I wrote Wicked Burn. Laura Bradford, my agent, liked it and signed me. She sold it very quickly to Leis Pederson at Berkley. I've been writing several books a year since then.
I do think of it in one term: erotic romance. Erotic romance is a different genre than strict erotica, which doesn't necessarily have the hallmarks of a romance, such as the happily ever after.
I was drawn to the sexier writers--Johanna Lindsey, Linda Howard, and Sandra Brown. I always wished it was sexier, though. Don't get me wrong, these authors are masters of sexual tension, and the sex scenes are very well done and exciting but I still wanted more. I also liked some erotic romance, and was glad that publishing houses like Ellora's Cave had started serving up more explicit material. Other publishers, such as Samhain, also began putting quality erotic romance on the market, and then the New York publishers began to do so, as well. I guess I sort of longed for the classic, quality stuff like Sandra Brown could dish out--the incredible sexual tension, the conflict, the characterization, the HEA--but with no limits on sexual content. That's what I wanted to read, so that's what I wrote.
You're said that you started writing erotic romance because the genre was lacking. Did you feel that women needed material that was a little more graphic?
I think the market has proven they want it. Historically, there was a mistaken belief that women needed things to be flowery and vague when it came to sexual content. One only has to look at the literature historically, however, to see the dark veins of sexuality beneath the surface. For instance, I always thought the obsession in regency era romance with men keeping dark secrets in their gothic mansions, the virgin discovering them, etc.-'The Mysteries of Udolpho and Jane Eyre both offer subliminal suggestions of sexuality. As the centuries progressed, women's literature and romance became more and more graphic with every decade. I'll never forget when I first read the printed word 'c--k' in a romance-in Sandra Brown's Slow Heat in Heaven. It really struck me, not only as sexy but honest.
In general, I think that as women feel more comfortable with their sexual needs, fantasies and identity, the more demand there's going to be for explicit sexual content.
Your books, such as Wicked Burn have very rich plots that can be difficult to find in erotic romance. Where do you derive inspiration for your character's back stories?
Oh, many different places. I have a doctorate in the behavioral sciences, so I find people to be a never ending source of fascinating conflict, emotions and stories. I get ideas from newspapers, biographies and observation. Sometimes an entire book is based around a core vision that just pops into my head. For Wicked Burn, since you mentioned it, I often observe people in high rise residents living two separate lives while divided only by thin walls. I wondered what it'd be like if two strangers just crashed into one another one night--tore through all those symbolic barriers that keep us separate as human beings. In this case, the propelling force was intense sexual need, but also the human need to touch and be touched, to leave the shell of determined loneliness. The rest of the story evolved from that original vision.
Could you describe how you've managed to sustain a career as an erotic romance writer? Do you think it takes a level of being business savvy?
It takes a lot of business savvy. It's a constant trade-off between creating a product (writing) and marketing that product and yourself as an author through social media, blogging, conventions, etc. The publishing industry is in such a flux right now with the growing popularity of ebooks, new technology for reading, self-publishing...it's a challenge, but a necessity for a writer to stay abreast of changes and trends.
As for sustaining a career, it comes from continual hard work and a true love and passion for writing. If I didn't have the latter, I'd never be able to keep up the former day in and day out. Also, in regard to erotic romance, it's helped that I've been willing to diversify in regard to where I published and market exposure. Having several publishers--both traditional and small, and some that are ebook focused--have helped me to negotiate an ever-changing industry.
How would you say the erotic romance market has changed in the last few years (maybe in the last few months as sales of the genre are skyrocketing!)?
Publishers have become a lot savvier about how they market their books, re-examining price points, offering more free books to stimulate series sales, and trying out new publishing models. There is also a wider range of available erotic romance, everything from sensual to blazing to more fetish/kink oriented stuff. Also, mainstream romance has become hotter. Readers are demanding spicier stuff, even when it's not an erotic romance.
Followers of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon often mistakenly believe that the erotic romance craze began with that publication, but the trend has been going on for a while. What Fifty Shades did, I think, is hurtle the phenomenon into the mainstream. Small publishers that specialize in erotic romance have been successful and growing for fifteen plus years now, and in the past decade, New York publishers recognized the market and many started their own erotic romance lines like Heat (Berkley) and Aphrodisia (Kensington) and Spice (Harlequin). Authors like Jaci Burton, Maya Banks, Shayla Black and Shiloh Walker had established successful careers in the field well before the publishing juggernaut of Fifty Shades of Grey.
What has the boom in erotic romance sales meant for you and your work?
It's been wonderful. Personally, it's given me more opportunities to sell my work and get exposure with a whole new audience. My backlist of books like Wicked Burn, Sweet Restraint, Explosive and Release have picked up quite a bit this year. People are talking a lot more about erotic romance, sexuality and books in general, which is always a good thing.