Is your romance novel too steamy? - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
February 15, 2021

Romance novels often get a bad reputation as being nothing more than tawdry scenes linked to each other by a cookie cutter plot. But as any romance reader knows, sex is just one portion of a beautiful and intricate romance novel. And in some romance novels, sex is missing altogether from the pages.

In our Feb. 12 episode of First Draft Friday, I spoke with fellow romance author Bron Whitley about heat levels in novels and how she so brilliantly adds sizzle without steam.

Watch the full episode above. Here are some of the highlights from our chat.

Heat levels vary by subgenre

Bron writes Christian and Clean & Wholesome romances under her Vivi Holt pen name. With those subgenres, love scenes only occur after marriage, and always off the page. The reader can understand that the characters will or did have sex, but any acts are not described, with the scene simply “fading to black.”

Here’s Vivi Holt’s author page on BingeBooks to give you a flavor of her writings.

A few of the Clean and Wholesome Romances from Vivi Holt.

I write Contemporary Romance and Erotic Romance, where sex scenes range from steamy to explicit. In the video chat, we discuss trends in romance and how sexual levels have changed over time. Today, contemporary romances often contain one to two detailed sex scenes, and that standard holds true for the majority of other romance subgenres.

Tips for writing love scenes

If you do write contemporary to erotic romance novels, you may be interested in a few tips I shared at the end of our chat. Here are five tips to writing a sizzling sex scene.

Tip #1: Use all five senses

You want your reader to be IN the scene as much as possible, and you can heighten that experience by using all of your characters’ senses. For example….

What do they hear? Pants, moans, bed rattling, sheets rustling,

What can they see? This is your opportunity to describe the glean of sweat on his muscular chest, or the drugged look in his eyes.

What do they smell? The jasmine scent of her shampoo, or the smell of the fire that is crackling in the hearth.

What about touch? I won’t go too graphic here, but this is the easiest of the bunch to describe. They should be touching each other constantly, but don’t just describe what their fingertips feel. You can point out the scrape of his teeth or the soft silk of the sheets against her back, or the cool blow of the air conditioner as it comes to life.

Tip #2: It’s OK to be clumsy and natural

Sex isn’t always glorious perfection, and that’s OK! Your characters can get tangled in the sheets, get a cramp or need to get a sip of water mid-coitus. They can laugh and talk during the act. If anything, the more realistic, the better.

Tip #3: Use dialogue

Sex shouldn’t be a silent act. Communication is a great way to keep the scene realistic and bring the characters closer together. You don’t want to have long conversations about tomorrow’s gardening plans, but it’s a great idea to have the hero check on the heroine, tell her how beautiful she is and let them communicate what a good time they’re having.

For more tips and to see our full conversation (which is really interesting, especially if you ever want to write clean romance!), check out the video above.

Want to see more First Draft Friday chats? Visit our entire library here.

Transcript of our conversation

Alessandra: Hi everyone. We are live. This is First Draft Friday. I’m Alessandra Torre with Authors AI, and I’m so excited today to be talking all about heat levels and romance. This is the perfect topic for Valentine’s day, which is just a few days away. And I’m here today with Bron Whitley who you’ll recognize some of her pen names in a minute as we dive into this discussion. But as I said, we’re going to be talking all about romance levels and heat levels. So we’re going to dive into a little bit more of what that means, but first Bron, do you want to just introduce yourself to the audience?

Bron: Yes. Hi everyone. I’m so honored to be here and get to talk about romance novels. How good is that? My name is Bron Whitley. I have two pen names Vivi Holt, and Llily Mirren, both take on a bit of romance. One’s a romance pen name and one is a women’s fiction pen name. And I live in Australia, as you can tell by the accent, no doubt, in Brisbane. And it’s eight o’clock on Saturday morning here, so I’m up bright and early with all of you, which is awesome.

Alessandra: I love that. So, you’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day earlier than the rest of us.

Bron: We do. We celebrate everything earlier.

Alessandra: Yeah. Hey guys, and if you’re watching us live either on YouTube or Facebook, or if you’re watching the recording later, but if you’re watching live, please feel free to ask us questions as we go. We’ll be taking questions from the audience as we move along. So don’t be shy, feel free to chime in if you have any questions or comments, or if you have any advice for other people who are watching as we move through this discussion. So Bron, can you clarify; I know you said you write in the women’s section, so which is your women’s section pen name?

Bron: Lilly Mirren is my women’s fiction pen name and that’s my new pen name. I started out with Vivi Holt about four years ago. Actually, it’s maybe five years now. And that I started out writing Christian romance under Vivi Holt, so that’s where I began about five years ago. And that was my main pen name until about a year ago.

Alessandra: Okay. And you write Christian romance and do you also write sweet and wholesome?

Bron: Yeah, I also write clean and wholesome romance undergrad Vivi Holt. I started out in Christian romance then I sort of went back and forth. So I’ve got a bit of both under the Vivi Holz pen name and they go together well because they’re basically the same readers a lot of the time.

Alessandra: And for those of you who don’t know, I normally come in as the CEO of Authors AI, but I’m also a romance author. So the genres I write in are typically contemporary romance and erotic romance. So between the two of us, I think we’re really covering the entire scope of love. Yes, so the first thing I would like talk about is how heat levels vary. So when you look at romance, there are dozens of subgenres probably. But at least, probably I’d say around 10 main subgenres of romance and heat levels can vary depending on which sub-genre you write in. And it’s one of those things it’s really important that you stick to whatever heat level is appropriate. You can always go cleaner, but if you go dirtier you really risk alienating readers. And I didn’t realize exactly the extent of this until I was watching a presentation at RWA a few years ago. And it was talking about how to write clean and wholesome. And even things that I wouldn’t think of just like if a couple leans in together too much, too early, the editor was talking about how their traditional editor was saying, “Whoa, Whoa, we’re not ready for that yet.” So I would love to know when you’re looking at Christian or sweet and wholesome, what are the lines that you need to kind of stay within and what is or isn’t allowed in those genres?

Bron: Yeah. Well, you raise a really interesting point because I think if you talking about the traditional publishing industry, the lines are very strict as far as what lines you can cross and what lines you can’t cross. And so, I know in the traditional industry, if you’re trying to pitch say, for example, to the Harlequin love-inspired line, which I have a few books with them; they really have very strict ideas about what can be included in that, and so you would have to keep things very clean. But if you’re an Indeed, which most of my books are Indeed, you can kind of play around with it a bit more. However, there are still rules that your readers don’t want you to break. So for example, in Christian and clean and wholesome romance, you wouldn’t describe a sex scene for example, but you can have characters that have sex, but they should be married and you don’t describe it.

So you could have closed door fade to black, it’s often called. I have those in my books. I have closed on faded black, the characters are always married. And that’s fine, but then you’ve also got to be careful, even in the scenes where you’re amping up the tension. And see, the romance readers of all kinds, they want to have the sizzle, they want to have the tension, they want the romance, they want to feel the attraction, so you’ve got to. It’s this fine line. It’s really quite a difficult thing to do to write clean and wholesome romance because you’ve got to provide the sizzle without the steam. And so, it’s this balancing act of, you know, you want your characters to be attracted to each other. You want them to continue to grow in their intimacy levels, but you can’t have anything that’s too salacious. You can’t really describe body parts and things like that. And you wouldn’t talk a lot about those kinds of things, but you can talk about the kiss and a touch on the arm and that sort of thing… embracing, so yeah, it’s quite the juggle to get that happening. But your readers really also want to experience that chemistry, and so if you don’t have any of that in there, you’re going to lose the readers as well.

Alessandra: I think it would be fantastic training for anyone who writes any level of romance. It’d be a great challenge or way to improve our skills because it is so easy for someone who writes in a genre like I do to get lazy. Because we don’t necessarily have… we should be still creating the emotional connection, but it’s easier to accelerate their intimacy levels through physical acts than it is to really build on and build, like you said, the sizzle or that chemistry. It’s a lot harder to do that without having any real interactions. So I love… it makes me want to… I recently wrote a book that was completely clean, a love story that was completely clean, and I liked it. I liked going through that process and writing in a different way. So, Bron just did a great job of explaining what is permissible in clean and in Christian. I’m saying sweet, is sweet romance the same thing as clean and wholesome or is sweet one step naughtier?

Bron: Well those of us who write in clean and wholesome consider sweet to do the same thing, but there are a lot of steamy authors who’ve called their books sweet because they think it has a sweet storyline, so then it confuses people a little bit. So we just stick… even though none of us really liked the term clean and wholesome, this bizarre thing that Amazon, or I don’t know who did it.

Alessandra: But if you use the word sweet in your marketing, you could be making readers believe that your book is clean and wholesome.

Bron: Absolutely. You’ll get some dings for that one, yeah.

Alessandra: So that’s good to know. So if you move out of clean and wholesome and you do start moving, so normally then the next thing is like contemporary romance. And contemporary romance normally does have sex; it doesn’t have to have sex, you can wait until the characters married. But when it does have sex, it’s been interesting because you have what you just mentioned, traditional publishing, and traditionally, contemporary romances would be almost fade to black. They could be a little more on the steamy side, definitely. But for the most part, you weren’t going into any type of explicit detail at all with the sex scenes. Well, then you have this wave of indies coming in, right. And indies kind of made their own rules and created their own thing. And contemporary romance, especially after Fifty Shades of Grey, became much, much more sexualized. And nowadays, if you see a contemporary romance bestseller, the chances of it having explicit sex in it is high.

Bron: Very high, yeah.

Alessandra: Yeah, as not having it. So recently, I was talking to some authors and they were really wanting us to somehow as Bench books, which is a partner of authors AI to have a new romance category, that’s like steamy that was in between clean and wholesome and in between what is now contemporary romance and erotic romance. It’s steamy, but isn’t explicit. And I do think that is a niche; it doesn’t have a clearly defined sub-genre, but you can certainly decide if you’re in contemporary romance what side of the spectrum you want to go in. And then you have erotic romance, and then you have a erotica. So to clarify the difference, erotic romance normally would be what contemporary romance has almost become, which is a love story with explicit sex scenes.

And by explicit, I’m referring to them graphic descriptions of body parts and acts that dives in deep. So a sex scene would be four to five pages long. I’d say three to 5,000 words, it could be 10. I wouldn’t say that’d be it… three to 5,000 words I would say is it, you know, it could be 1500 to 5,000 words for a sex scene. But erotic romance is different from erotica in that the plot line is still the main focus. So you still have a strong plot line, but it is sprinkled with these sex scenes. And then erotica, the sex is really the focus of the story, and the plot line is just sort of there to move them from one scene to another. So we aren’t really going to be talking about erotica or really erotic romance today. We’re really going to focus more on the main, more popular things. Though erotic romance has really blossomed in popularity after Fifty Shades of Grey; we’re now starting to see that pendulum swing more towards kind of a middle ground.

But in terms of what is genre expectations, again, contemporary romance can really run the gamut. But if you have heavy amount of sex scenes, I would market my book as erotic romance versus contemporary, so, that’s to anyone listening. And Stephanie asks, who’s watching us from YouTube, asked a great question. She said what about language and swearing? Or expressing attraction?” So let’s first address language and swearing in a clean and wholesome book. How do you handle that?

Bron: That’s a good question. In clean and wholesome, that would include language. You really can’t use bad language in a clean and wholesome book or Christian book. I would even steer away from saying, “Oh God,” or, “Oh, hell” or any of that sort of stuff. You don’t have to, like that would still be considered clean and wholesome. You could put “damn” or “hell” or any of that in there. And as an Ozzy, you know, I’m used to saying that, that’s kind of just normal part of our language. But I’ve learnt the hard way that Americans consider those to be swear words as well. I don’t use any of that in my books just because I really just don’t want to upset readers. And when they come into a genre, there’s almost a feeling… I feel safe in the clean and wholesome category; I can read anything in here.

And I’ve had this happen before where I’ve picked something up in that category or in the Christian category and I’ve read the book and thought, “Hang on. It was a really good book, but that’s the wrong category. It’s not supposed to be in that category.” And even though if I’d picked that book up in a different category, I would have enjoyed it and left a good review. I was just appointed because I was expecting something and I was given something else, and I think that’s what you have to be careful of. It’s not so much about, oh, you know, I should be able to use my artistic license however I like. It’s just about managing what the reader’s expectations are and what you deliver on those expectations. And even if you write a great book, if you put in some swear words and they’re not expecting that, they’re going to be disappointed and upset about that. And so, I would just steer, if you’re going to try and brand yourself for clean and wholesome, just steer clear of any bad language at all. My characters, I’ll just say things like he swore beneath his breath, or he cursed, or she, you know, that sort of thing.

And so, my characters… because I’ve seen all her say things like, well, you know, your characters should have normal reactions. Well, yeah, of course they do. And they also have sex, but I just don’t describe it on the page because my readers don’t want to read that. And that’s all it’s about. It’s just the reader expectation of what kind of escape, you know, a romance novel is, .you have to think about why do people read the things that they read? You know, these are our customers, why are they reading these things? It’s for a feeling. They’re reading these things for feeling so and different genres will provoke different feelings. So for example, someone who’s reading, a clean and wholesome romance, they’re looking for that feeling of falling in love. And they’re looking for a happily ever after and everything works out in the end. And they’re wanting to escape from the stress of their life and they’re wanting something really nice and sweet that makes them feel good.

So that’s really different too. If somebody is looking to read a thriller; that’s a completely different thing; it’s a different feeling you’re going for. Now, I’ll read all different genres and, but I will pick up different books from different genres based on what I’m feeling like at the moment and the feeling that I’m wanting. Like, if I’m really stressed, I’m not going to pick up a thriller. Or if I’ve had a really bad day, I’m not going to go for something that’s going to have a lot of Gore in it or something like that. And what we noticed last year during 2020, with everything that’s going on, there was a lot of people picking up the really happy light fun books because they wanted that feeling. So, that’s what you just sort of have to remember when you’re writing things. If you’re not sure about the rules, just say, well, what’s the feeling that the readers are looking for and how can I deliver that the best way possible.

Alessandra: And I think it’s also like when you think about in terms of TV shows, like if you’re watching Big Bang Theory and suddenly there’s a hot and heavy sex scene, that’s out of place there.

Bron: And you’re looking around to see if the kid’s in the room.

Alessandra: If they had chosen a different show, you know, so I think it makes a big difference. It doesn’t mean that the reader is offended by that content, it doesn’t mean that the reader maybe wouldn’t like read that in different thing, but if you’re marketing and if you’re going after that audience, then you need to deliver what they are wanting. I love that. Jessica said… Oh wait, I want to finish Stephanie’s question and make sure we got to it, and so, the same with expressing attraction in a clean and wholesome. I’m not sure if she’s asking about language and swearing or, but the question is what about expressing attraction in a clean and wholesome. Are there attractions normally more to personalities or they are attracted and you are describing physical characteristics in some sorts?

Bron: Yeah. So when you’re expressing attraction, it would be a similar sort of thing; you just wouldn’t make it quite so edgy. You can talk about how they’re beautiful, how they’re handsome, or they’ve broad shoulders and the way their muscles on his arm moves or anything like that, but the main thing with expressing attraction in a clean and wholesome romance is all emotional intimacy. So as the book progresses, you’ve got the physical attraction there, but it doesn’t even have to be there from the beginning. I mean, there’s all those different tropes of instant attraction, and you can do that in clean and wholesome too, or it can be something that grows and builds over time or just happens suddenly towards the end when they have a realization.

But what you’re doing throughout the whole book is you’re growing their emotional intimacy. And that’s the main emphasis in a clean and wholesome or Christian romance is how do you build that emotional intimacy? How can you put things into the story that throw them together that make them rely on each other or that bring some sort of revelation about how good that other person is or how kind they are. It’s kind of like, Pride and Prejudice is a really good example of this where there’s no touching, there’s no sort of sexual intimacy or anything like that, but you know, you’re going along in the story and you can see the emotional intimacy kind of growing. And then you have this moment of realization where Elizabeth realizes that Darcy has done all this stuff behind the scenes that nobody else knows about that supported her family in ways she didn’t understand. And just this sudden revelation of how good he is, you know, that’s a great moment. And so, you can do things like that.

There’s just lots of different ways, but just to sort of… the characters sort of grow in their understanding and realization that the other person is this wonderful person, and they can rely on them and they’ve done something thoughtful for them that they didn’t realize, or they’ve sacrificed something for them; just ways to kind of grow that affection and love towards each other, more than the physical intimacy. And you even would possibly have things in there to sort of keep them physically a part at times, so because you don’t want to accelerate that too fast. And so, a lot of authors love the interruption right before they’re about to kiss that sort of thing in there.

Alessandra: I love that. All right, Jessica said, if a writer has a 1500 to 5,000 word explicit sex scene in their contemporary romance, would you suggest going the traditional route or indie? I would go, whichever route is better for you in whichever route you would go on. I would completely ignore the fact that it has that explicit scene because if you do want to go traditional, and that’s your goal; the editor can very easily say, “We love this book, but we want to take out all the sex scenes.” And the sex scenes aren’t, as long as you communicate that you’re open to edits and you’re open to changes; that’s not going to keep that editor from acquiring that book, or at least continuing the conversation with you. So, I wouldn’t be concerned about that. And again, contemporary romance, even traditional contemporary romance nowadays often has sex scenes.

Christina Lauren is a great example. If you ever read any of their books, they oftentimes do have sex scenes in their books. Sometimes they don’t, but it’s a great example of a traditional novel. So I would go whichever route is best for you and not worry about that. Richly who’s also… our YouTube audiences is pop and say, I love this. Ridgely said, “Would a clean wholesome story, more likely be third person, point of view? And could third person serve as a barrier between character and reader to tone things down?

Bron: Not necessarily. So I think clean and wholesome can be fast person, they can be present, they can be past; any of those things. You can write every kind of tropes as well, that’s included in contemporary romance, I often go and read the top contemporary romances so that I can look at the tropes that they’re using and how they’re doing it and how they branding and all that sort of stuff. And then, you just take that and you make it into a clean and wholesome story. So you know, we have the same sorts of tropes. You know, the fake relationship trope is big in contemporary and in clean and awesome, and in Christian, and in historical, and in contemporary, I mean, it’s everywhere. You can really take tropes; you can take whatever tense you want to write in. It’s all good in clean and wholesome. Readers love finding a new book or a new author that’s done something really well. And it doesn’t matter what tense it’s in or whether you go back and forth between two main POV’s or you have one main POV. Any of those things are fine. If it’s a good book and it’s well written and they love the characters and the romance is sort of heartwarming and swoony, they’re going to love it.

Alessandra: Is there a genre norm? Are most of them first person, or are most of them third person?

Bron: I’d say most of them. Just like with everything, a third person past; I’d say probably more as you get closer to the YA kind of… and that’s the other thing, there’s a lot of YA in clean and wholesome as well, vice versa, and that they’d be more first-person probably in the YA kind of portion of clean and wholesome. I’m a reader and I love both, so I know a lot of readers love both. I know some feel very strongly, but look, I’ve heard it from a lot of authors, “Oh, don’t write in first person, it’s horrible. I can’t stand it.” But then, some of the top books selling our first person, sorry, I don’t know that you should really pay attention to what other authors are saying so much as look at the market, look how what’s selling, look at what readers are going for.

And it’s interesting because I started in clean and wholesome when the category began on Amazon, so that was probably four-ish years ago or five years ago. When I started, I used to get number one in clean and wholesome all the time and free book because it was new. And now, it’s such a booming category; if you’re not in the top 100 on Amazon, you won’t get number one in planet wholesome. And it used to be, five years ago, you could get number one in clean and wholesome by being in the top 1000. So it’s grown so much, it’s so much more competitive now, and there’s every different kind of sub-genre in there you can imagine. It’s getting a little bit crowded as far as sub-genres, and I’ve heard people complain a little bit about that because everything that’s clean and wholesome is in the one category that you’ve got historical, you’ve got women’s fiction, you’ve got YA and contemporary romance, and everything is in that one, even like suspense and all sorts of things are all in that one clean and wholesome category. So, it’s getting pretty crowded and competitive.

Alessandra: So we’ve got a lot more questions and I also have a lot more for us to cover. So we’re going to try to move, we’re going to try to get to as many questions, don’t hold back the questions please. We’re going to go into first the do’s and don’ts, any do’s or don’ts that authors should be aware of when writing romance scenes. So I think we covered some of this with clean and wholesome, obviously, now no swearing, no graphic descriptions and fade to black. They can have sex, but they need to be married and it needs to fade to black or off page. Are there any other do’s or don’ts in terms of clean sweet Christian?

Bron: Well, there’s not really… I can’t think of any off the top of my head that are definite don’ts, except I would just say if you just be aware of your audience. So, like for example, paranormal, there’s some people that try to sort of break into clean paranormal, and I’d say you’ll have sort of a hard time because a lot of the clean and wholesome readers are Christian, and so they’re not necessarily going to pick up a paranormal. That doesn’t mean it won’t sell, but including things like that, you might get some blow back from readers. And they don’t want to have really kind of horrible characters. I’ve gotten bad reviews because my characters are lying. So, you know, when you do the fake relationship, you always got to have some lies between them, otherwise, it doesn’t really work. And so, I’d get bad reviews for those sometimes.

There are some people who don’t like that, the characters lied, but I don’t worry too much about that. I see that there’s a question there about alcohol. Yeah, my characters drink alcohol. That’s fine. It’s not a problem. You wouldn’t necessarily have your Christian characters drinking a lot, but I don’t know. I don’t think I include alcohol in my Christian ones, but I don’t see a problem and clean and wholesome. It’s really more just about, again, as I said, how the reader feels when they read the book and that’s fine. I don’t know, I don’t think that would be an issue.

Alessandra: And on my side, there are rules of romance. So I broke the first rule with my first book, which is the hero should never… once he meets the heroine, shouldn’t sleep with another woman. And I didn’t know that rule, so I just broke it with, you know, huge disregard, so that’s a rule that I always keep in mind. Doesn’t mean you can’t break the rule, but that is something that readers don’t like.

Bron: That would be the same. The same rules that apply to all romance also apply to clean and wholesome. So you’ve got to have a happily ever after or happily for now, at least. And yes, you can’t have cheating. Your main characters really can’t be expressing attraction to other characters than the one that they’re going to end up with. I’ve definitely had a love triangle in one of my books where, and I love those, I love, love triangles, but a lot of people don’t like them, but you’ve got to be careful about how much you express that attraction for the one that they’re not going to end up with without giving away who they’re going to end up with, so that’s a tricky one.

Alessandra: It is a tricky one. Yeah, and I wasn’t sure how much love triangles existed. But I guess they could, as long as you don’t describe things. And then, before we move to the final questions, I did want to share a few tips for writing love scenes because since I emailed all you guys and promise some tips; I want to be sure to share it. So my personal list of tips is one; when you are writing love scenes and whether they are explicit or non-explicit… so, you can write a cleaner love scene that doesn’t use super graphic language, and doesn’t go into raunchy detail. And I say raunchy with all the love and the respect because I’ve written all sorts of raunchy scenes, or you can go really filthy with your sex scenes. So you can have explicit sex scenes and also, still decide how far you want to go.

But one tip is to use all five senses, so you know, describe sounds, and not maybe smells, I wouldn’t go too heavy into smells, but sounds and textures and things like that when you’re describing your scene. It’s also okay to be clumsy or non-perfect and natural in the scene. You know, they don’t have to both be all-star lovers. You know, you can get tangled in a heat. Somebody can fall off the bed, you can have a headboard and you guys start laughing during the scene. So, it’s okay to not have perfect interactions and its okay honestly, to not have enjoyable interactions if you’re open and you’re discussing those as a character or at least discussing it with the reader. Using dialogue is my third tip. So, you don’t want a completely silent love scene where there’s no communication the entire time.

So it doesn’t have to be a long drawn out conversation in the middle of the act, but by all means, feel free to have communication during that act. And you don’t have to describe everything if you’re describing from one thing or to another, whether it’s in terms of actions or whether it’s in terms of physical descriptions or how something feels; it can feel very, like you’re just going down a laundry list of actions. So I like to mix it up between actions and emotions and thoughts that the characters are having and senses that they’re experiencing. So, you know, kind of different to all three buckets as you go, so it doesn’t feel repetitive. And it doesn’t have to be long. Like if you’re not feeling it, cut that may be short, like, there’s no need for you to harp on and on with a sex scene.

And then last but not least keep track of the body parts because once my editor said, the heroin has an extra leg here because she had legs in multiple places and we counted them and she had three legs. So yes, just keep track of what’s going on in your scene to make sure that it makes sense and that you haven’t wandered into paranormal territory. So those are my tips on love scenes, and if you have a few more minutes Bron, we’ll try to knock out a few more of these questions and then we’ll sign off.

Bron: Yeah, sure

Alessandra: Margaret asks what the typical length is for a clean romance.

Alessandra: So a lot of my clean romances are anywhere between sort of 50 and 70,000 words. Look, I don’t think that you should worry about what other people are writing necessarily. 50,000 to 60,000 words lets you release frequently, and at that time I was releasing about a book a month, which I did for a few years and I don’t do that anymore. So, if you want to write that quickly, then you probably will write things a little bit shorter. Now, I prefer to write books that are more 80, 90,000 words, and last year I only released four books and made the most money that I’ve ever made as an author. So, I actually personally think longer is better. I think readers love long books, and I think, you know, especially if you’re in Kindle unlimited, that’s an awesome thing, but it’s really about branding.

I guess I would suggest anyone who’s considering starting is just brand yourself. So do you write 50,000 word books; then do that consistently. Do you write longer books; then do that consistently. And I think that you get into trouble when you sort of all over the place and your readers don’t really know what to expect, and then you might have attracted short read readers, which I had a lot of. And then, you write something long and they’re like, “I can’t read that during my lunch break so I’m not going to pick that up.” So it’s really just about being consistent, I think.

Alessandra: Yeah. And for me, Margaret, in contemporary and erotic romance, it can be anywhere from 50,000 to 120,000 words is genre norms. Me, I normally right around 70,000 words, 70 to 80,000 words, but I’ve written 55,000 word novels and I’ve written 120,000 word novels, but for me, normally it’s 70 to 80,000 words. And I agree with everything Bron just said about… some books need more time, some books don’t. It’s hard to… I wouldn’t try to fit into a genre norm in romance because the genre norm can be so big. T Papa said, “Is there a formula as to the line between regular romance and erotica as far as sex scenes?” And I would say regular romance; the sex scenes are fairly clean. If you’re not writing sweet and wholesome, if you’re writing contemporary, the sex scenes are fairly clean, not as explicit, not as detailed; not as long and there aren’t as many of them. So there might be one to two scenes in a book and you’re not getting really in depth with those. And it’s up to you whether you want to have them or don’t have them; that’s up to you, but if you can be consistent among your novels, that helps because then readers know what to expect. Okay. And Facebook users said you write under Lilly and Vivi, is it Vivi?

Bron: Yeah, Vivi.

Alessandra: How do you decide whether to write your next book as one or the other?

Bron: Great question. Lilly Mirren is a women’s fiction pen name so I don’t write romance under that pen name. However, all of my women’s fiction books have an arc, a romance arc in them. But the difference is that it’s not the main or central arc, so there’s a lot of other storylines going on in that other main storylines or you know, there’s a variety of different things. It’s usually a variety of characters. But in a romance, the main focus of the book is the romance itself, which is not the case for my Lilly Mirren books. I haven’t written anything under Vivi Holt in probably a year and a half. I’ve been entirely focusing on my Lilly Mirren pen name. Even though it does have a theme of romance, it’s not a romance because that’s not the central thing.

Alessandra: So the plot or the book dictates which pen name; it’s either this sort of a novel or this sort of novel. Alright, thank you guys so much for watching. We are wrapping it up. Thank you so much for being here today, Bron, I had so much fun chatting romance with you. I always love to talk romance and thank you so much for the great questions from the audience. If you are watching us on YouTube or listening on a podcast, please subscribe. And please like and interact with the post on Facebook also. This is Author’s AI. If you aren’t familiar with authors AI, we have a fantastic artificial intelligence editor named Marlowe who would love to read your book and almost immediately give her feedback. So if you’re interested in that, please visit We have free plans available. You can try Marlowe out and see what she thinks of your work in progress or your published novel. And if you’re interested in reading Bron’s writing; you can visit her website at

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