Literary Agent Laura Zats with Red Sofa Literary Agency in the Twin Cities will facilitate a Hot Nights Critique Workshop for Milwaukee Chapter WisRWA on Saturday, February 18th from 9am to 11:30. Bring up to three pages of your love/sex scene—from sweet to scorching—to share with the group. Laura will give some feedback and we’ll chat about what makes for a great romance. Hey, it’s what makes the world go ‘round.
Jennifer Rupp, area contact for the Milwaukee area, interviewed Laura in advance to find out what makes her literary mind tick when it comes to love scenes.
J: What do you think makes a sex scene hot?
L: For me, I love to see a really seamless combination of the mental and the physical–it’s the only way to really understand the passion of the characters as a reader. Having lots of the characters thoughts interjected isn’t quite what I mean–instead, I mean the emotions, awareness of what the sex might change, or awareness of how unexpected it is. Awareness of what the other person might be thinking. It takes the fact that a character might be wrapped up in the physical sensations and amplifies it, makes it more than just physics and mechanics.
J: Is there anything you consider taboo?
L: Not a ton, honestly. I’m 100% supporting of kink as long as it’s accurately and consensually portrayed! In fact, it even makes things more fun in a lot of scenes!
J: Do you make a distinction between a love scene and a sex scene?
L: I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a difference! Since I represent books with a high heat level, no, I don’t distinguish a difference for my list. It’s kind of all the same thing. But now that I’m chewing on it, I think I view “love scenes” as more emotional expressions–declarations of love, a first, passionate kiss. Sex is, well, sex. It definitely (and often is) an expression of emotion, but there’s chemistry and a level of communication that is added on top of that emotional output that I find really interesting, which is why my books have more of those.
J: What kinds of phrases or euphemisms make you weary?
L: Velvet-wrapped steel! No one wants a fuzzy penis. That’s mostly it for the male side of the spectrum (although I do think “length” is overused), unless a writer gets too flowery or too crude. For women, I HATE when they mewl, purr, or do anything that likens them to a housecat. I’m also not a huge fan of natural imagery for the vagina–flowers, caves, etc.
J: What kinds of settings or devices are over or under used? i.e. shower scenes, candles, etc.
L: I don’t think I’ve read a candle scene in months, so I can’t say I’m sick of them, but they’re definitely cliche–I think a more modern version of this one is a fireplace. I love a good shower scene–there’s something wonderfully utilitarian about it–but I definitely see too many hot tub scenes. You get overheated too easily and water is a terrible lubricant! I don’t see as much oral sex as you would think, especially not to completion, which is a shame, because it has some fun power dynamics an author can play with. I would love to see more clearly-narrated protection (so many condoms just disappear or just never existed at all), and would love to see women bringing their one-night-stands home, rather than always having to make them do the walk of shame. Abs, too, are definitely over-represented, as are blue/green/gray eyes.
- Young Adult — Fiction, especially contemporary. I love funny and gritty, especially when the two go together. Interested in geekery, retellings, innovative storytelling, and authentic voices. Please no paranormal romance, contemporary romance, dystopia, Chosen One plotlines, or didacticism.
- Middle Grade — Fiction, especially contemporary. Prefers smart, literary writing disguised as adventures. Looking for books that are heavy with STEM and will appeal to girls and boys.
- Science Fiction/Fantasy — Must pass either the Mako Mori or Bechdel tests. Love non-traditional settings, fast-paced storytelling, anthropological elements, and smart humor. Please no high fantasy.
- Romance/Erotica — Especially contemporary. Must be feminist, have verbal consent throughout, and feature an independent, smart heroine. Please no vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, or mermaids.
- Wish list for every genre and category: feminism, diversity (in all forms), unconventional storytelling techniques, and voice-driven narratives.
by: Jennifer Rupp
Jennifer Rupp is the Area Contact for Milwaukee Chapter of WisRWA. She writes under the name of Jennifer Trethewey. Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency in New York represents her Highland House historical romance series. Jennifer has placed in the SOLA Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, Indiana’s Golden Opportunity Contest, and WisRWA’s Fab Five Contest. She’s a member of Wisconsin RWA, a PRO member of RWA, Red Oak Writing Studio, and Wisconsin Writers Association.