Deb Erika Wonders Who Can Take the Heat?

In our house, “heat” can refer to many subjects.

First, there’s the weather. (We live in North Carolina. Yep. Enough said.)

Then there’s the food. (My husband is, as I’ve said many times before on this blog, a native New Orleanian who refuses to dilute his spices for anyone—so over the years I have felt the burn of a yummy hot dish like this:)

or this:

Then, of course, there’s the writing.

In this era of 50 Shades of Grey, a writer—especially one who tends to fade out her love scenes like a soap opera director—might find herself in a bit of a fix (ahem, paging Deb Linda!). Does the reading public no longer have any taste for subtler flavors? Do we writers all have to snap off the tops of our own personal bottles of Tabasco sauce and shake vigorously to stay in the game?

Which brings me to the question:

When it comes to heat in novels, how hot is too hot?

Well, I think we can all agree there is no one right answer here. It depends. Everyone’s tastes are different—which is why it is so glorious that we have so many genres—and writers—to choose from. And like all things, only you can determine your comfort level, either as reader or writer.

For me, I tend to fall into the less-is-more category. When it comes to the big reveal, I like to leave the curtains drawn a bit. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have or want heat in my novels! Not at all! Rather, I have come to the realization that writing steamy in-the-thick-of-it scenes is not nearly as easy it looks.

What do you all think? Do you prefer the heat in your romantic plotlines to be mild (think those thermometers on salsa jars) or do you like it cranked up to scalding?

18 Replies to “Deb Erika Wonders Who Can Take the Heat?”

  1. First of all, that top picture has me drooling and it’s barely 9am.
    But on to your question. Er. My mom reads this, so I’m going to say I like my romance to be very chaste and a kiss on the cheek is as much as I can handle.
    No, really – I like steamy. Really steamy. BUT it has to have great plot, character development and tension to make it really sizzle.

    1. Joanne, thanks for being the first to take the plunge on this subject! (And Deb Mom Marcia, I’m expecting your thoughts on this too, my dear!)

      And sorry for the early morning drool–when I post these in the evening, I forget how–and when!–they will appear at breakfast time 😉

  2. Erika, your Husband and mine would make great eating buddies the hotter the better (I am talking about food).
    We have had both those wonderful dishes made by a wonderful (no longer with us)born and bread New Orleanian.
    Let’s see how hot is hot (and by the way Joanne right a kiss on the cheek)I like a good book to be steamy but has to has good story with a good plot so that you want to sit with it until 3 in the morning to finish it.
    On the other hand Erika, sometimes less is better, I have started many books and left them due to the fact that they have no character and to much scalding. (even for the Deb Bubby Marcia).

    1. Oh good morning, DM Marcia! Are you still recovering from all the festivities and excitement from Joanne’s launch week for SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE? (We are around here–it was a great week, wasn’t it?) And it’s just the beginning! (we may not be mediums here but we know Lilah and her friends are heading up, up, up!)

      Now back to the heat factor…PLOT! YES! You hit the point perfectly–so many things (romantic and otherwise) seem gratuitous if they aren’t backed by a strong plot or reason. I”m with you–heat only goes so far without plot (Just wait till you read Deb Linda’s IN A FIX, Marcia–she’s a master at managing BOTH!)

  3. Erika I am so looking forward to reading Deb Linda’s IN A FIX.

    Yes I am over the top this week, and so looking forward to Sat. What kind of cupcakes do you like?

    What are Deb Linda’s favourite cupcakes? Stay tuned for pictures on Monday (right Joanne)

    1. Oh! You mean I didn’t miss the cupcakes?? I thought they were part of last week’s parties–oh now I’m REALLY jealous!

      When it comes to cupcakes, I’m a simple girl. I like vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting. BUT I can’t wait to see pics of the assortment Joanne has planned. I’m always up for finding new food loves! 😉

      1. No, you didn’t miss the cupcakes. Yet. Our local launch is this Saturday. and yes, there will be pictures. Once I recover, that is. I envision a photo of me stuffing my face with cupcakes – perfect for Guilty Pleasures Week!

  4. That food looks amazing — still haven’t made the LITTLE GALE gumbo, and I need to do that! When it comes to romance, I tend to be on the less-is-more side too…. except I’m having an inner conflict right now as I’m writing a pretty sexy mystery. And the demands of the plot are definitely challenging my less-is-more tendency.

    1. Julia, I want to say we broached this topic (one of a zillion!) when we met for coffee in Maine–it’s a very tough one–I think as writers we are often torn between wanting to challenge ourselves and staying in our comfort zones–I know we here at the Ball will be anxious to hear how you resolve this subject in your mystery!

  5. Such an interesting topic. I really like the Fifty Shades books, just as an example here, but I wasn’t reading them for, or particularly into, the sexy parts of the book. I was intrigued by the characters relationship which certainly evolved from their sexual relationship, but at some point when I felt the sex scenes were happening just for the sake of having more sex scenes I felt they were taking away from the books as a whole. Sure I’ll take some quality heat in a novel now and then, but I always primarily want to be reading a GOOD book and it seems the less-is-more philosophy produces better books. I will also add that material can be steamy without being over the top explicit. Sometimes really explicit stuff just sounds silly, but that’s totally going to depend on each person. I LOVE spicy food though, that I know for sure! 😉

    1. Hi Sara! I’m so glad you came over to share your thoughts! It is interesting how one book can put us outside our normal comfort zones–I’m sure there are lots of people reading that series who wouldn’t normally every pick up a book of that genre but it has drawn SUCH a big audience. I love that you point out how often really explicit stuff can sound silly, which is why I really believe it is such a skill to write it well–I applaud those who can!

      And yes! I’m with you on the spicy food (NOW I am–what can I say? My husband has won me over! 😉 )

  6. Oh, my gosh, that all looks so yummy. Alas, I am a food heat wuss — if it’s too spicy, I choke. Literally. Everyone in my family has become a food taster for me, and will warn me if spice levels reach fatal levels for me. *grin*

    1. Oh, Linda–I laughed out loud at the choking part (well, you know what I mean!;))–I’m glad you warned me so when we all meet and have our kugel/gumbo feast I’ll make sure to cool yours off 😉

  7. Hi Erika,
    Being originally from New Orleans, I can stand a bit of heat ~
    both in my food and the novels I read! As a yet-to-be-published
    writer, I also know how difficult it is to actually *write* those
    steamy scenes in a sexy yet believable manner, and keep it as an integral
    part of the plot and character development.

    Someone who’s very good at the convincing sex scenes in her
    romantic novels is Jenny Crusie. I’d like to write like her, when I
    grow up! 😉

    Will be thinking of you and your hubby when I make shrimp etouffe’ Friday!

    1. Hi Lynn! It’s so great to see you back at the Ball! Shrimp etouffee!! Oh, how I love that dish! My MOST favorite is crawfish etouffee but here we can’t get crawfish as readily so I’ve consoled myself with shrimp 😉

      PS–I’ve heard only great things about Jenny Cruise–I really need to get one of her books already!!

  8. Erika, I love crawfish any ol’ way, when I can get good ones! Think my
    all-time fave is still crawfish bisque(memories of my youth)–what a chore to make (boules or
    balls are much easier) but oh so good! And I can eat my own weight up
    in crabmeat, like the Jimmy Buffett song~ hell, I just love seafood!

    And, your writing. You know I loved Little Gale Gumbo and I’m looking forward
    to reading your latest. You really *must* read Crusie, and can probably
    chalk it up to “research”!

    I always enjoy visiting the Debs when I can, even if I don’t always comment.
    Am here in spirit and a fan of all of y’all. xoxo

    1. Lynn, you are such a dear–thank you for saying such kind things.

      And knowing you’re making etouffee this week has me thinking I may just have to plead with my husband to make some here (not that it takes much to convince the man! 😉 )

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