Love, Compassion and the Psychology of Erotic Romance With Best-Selling Author Beth Kery
If you like your erotic stories on the smart side, you must read a Beth Kery book. I was fortunate enough to meet Beth at the RT Booklovers Convention. She’s as nice as she is prolific with her writing. She has more than thirty books and novellas, in eleven languages and has landed on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists – more than once.
Many of her contemporary novels contain BDSM elements, and you can count on a lot of heart, steamy couplings and very interesting plot lines. Her unique ideas for careers, personality traits and the creative endeavors of her characters are one of my favorite parts of Beth’s work. (BTW, she also has paranormal and historical titles.)
Beth graciously answered some questions for LadySmut (below).
Welcome, Beth! Of all the book genres you could write, why erotic romance?
The seemingly simple answer to that is that although I read in all genres, I thought I could write romance. I think there is something with my voice—which is always hard to define for a writer or reader—which works for romance. As for erotic romance, I like reading it. So it was a matter of liking the genre as a reader, and wanting to try and write it.
One of the many joys I receive when reading your books, are the unique angles, plot points or character traits. In ‘When I’m with You’, heroine Elise had a brilliant idea of a five star, alcohol-free restaurant. In ‘Since I saw You,’ Kam created a luxury watch (before Apple!). The father of heroes Ian & Lucien was “addicted to paternity.” (I’m putting that last one nicely.) Where do you get your ideas?
Thank you! I get my ideas everywhere. Travel. Work history. Reading. The news. My very smart husband, who knows the business world in and out. I was a clinical psychologist in my other life, and I had a specialty in medical/health psychology. So between the business world (thank you, hub), medicine and psychology (which helps so much with characterization, motivation and relational issues), I have a lot of bases covered. 🙂 So . . . yes, I actually did biofeedback with patients regularly, so I incorporated that idea into Kam’s watch. As a psychologist, I know how people struggle with socialization and going out to nice restaurants when they are recovering substance users, because the triggers are everywhere: thus Elise’s restaurant. And unfortunately, although rare, there is such a thing as serial reproductionists. Ugh.
Your stories also always have wonderful emotional depth. Does your Ph.D. in behavior sciences help with that? And could you tell us anything about how that’s helped?
I get people pretty well. I like to figure out what makes them tick. I know from experience that we all struggle with issues. None of us is immune. I think maybe one characteristic that I get from my background in psychology that helps me as a writer is that I consider all those flaws or shortcomings, like being emotionally closed off or struggling with intimacy, with a degree of compassion. That’s important, because that’s what essentially happens in a romance: the hero and heroine’s development as individuals, and eventually as a couple, comes from the compassion they have for one another that stems from love. Love and compassion redeems them, in a way. An author has to feel with her characters, just as a psychologist has to empathize with her patients’ struggles.
Where did the idea for your latest release, Glimmer, come from? What is your favorite aspect of Alice and Dylan’s story?
Oh, I can’t answer that about the origin idea without giving away a major plot twist! Suffice it to say my research began with one of the most famous cases in criminal history. I also would have to say I wanted to do a sort of rags to riches, Cinderella story.
My favorite aspect of Alice and Dylan’s story has to be that when you go back and re-read it, so many little clues and hints abound. It’s a richer story on a second read, which I love. There’s a sense of layering and richness to it. You just don’t realize until the second time around how perfect and fated these two people are for each other.
Did you write this book with a series in your mind? Or did the idea evolve naturally?
Well, it’s really not a series. After Glimmer, there is a sequel: Glow. This story had such a huge arc to it that I knew I’d shortchange the story by trying to cut it down for one book. The good news is that Glimmer doesn’t have a terrible cliffhanger ending, though. It ends at a satisfying point for Dylan and Alice’s relationship, while giving the reader the impression there is more mystery and more of their story to be told.
I can attest to that. I wanted more from Alice and Dylan after finishing Glimmer!
How does a book start for you? A conversation between characters? A plot idea? Or do you just start typing and see what shows up?
Every book has had a different inspiration. For Sweet Restraint, I remember I had a very vivid vision of a man breaking into a house and finding a woman’s jewelry box. Instead of robbing her, though, he takes what he knows to be a fake emerald and replaces it with the priceless original. Then he leaves without her ever knowing. Why did he do that? I wondered. The ‘why’ is what became the story.
Editorial note: See what I mean by those unique plot lines?
Sometimes, like for Glimmer, it began with a plot idea that I researched extensively. I’m an urbanite, so the inspiration for Wicked Burn was living in high rises, and becoming fascinated by the concept of all these people living separate lives just inches apart from each other. What would happen if they collided one night?
I’m working on another serial now called Make Me, which originates from a favorite trope of mine: a couple with some kind of childhood history or shared trauma, making them know one another in intimate ways that eludes other people. So again, every book is different.
Your covers are always so sophisticated. Do you have much input on them?
I always give input, and the Berkley art department and my editor have been great about working with my ideas. I’m not an artist, though, so sometimes my ideas just won’t work either artistically or logistically. Thank you in regard to the sophistication. That is important to me. I want them to be elegant and sexy at once. There have been a few times when I’ve wailed if a piece of jewelry looks especially cheap or gaudy, and I’m like, “This is supposed to represent a billionaire’s rare gift to the love of his life?” 🙂 But Berkley has actually been great about working with me when possible on those occasions, and making changes. With very few exceptions, I love my covers.
What is your definition of erotic romance versus steamy romance?
Well, it’s been an increasingly hard definition to make. I’d say the use of graphic terms for body parts, longer, more detailed sex scenes, and a focus on sex and the evolving sexual relationship as a major part of the story are major aspects of the definition.
For me, though, it’s not an important definition to make. The reason being, I’ve learned everyone has a different definition. What one person thinks is outrageously erotic another thinks is mild. I’ve had people call my books BDSM themed. Others say it’s hot contemporary romance versus erotic. It all depends upon the reader and her mindset and expectations. I’ve had people blush and say they’d never let their mother read my Harlequin Special Editions, so. . . . point made. 🙂
Do you have a favorite writing “moment?” Perhaps something just came together or a character you love just appeared (or anything at all)?
Hmm, there are probably several. Recently, I absolutely adored Alice from Glimmer. She’s so rough around the edges and defensive, and yet so earnest, funny and strong. I didn’t have many specifics for her character in mind when I started writing, just the plot. She came alive for me on page one though. She was one of those characters that as an author, you start to become half-convinced really exists out there in some alternate universe. I was just the means by which her story was told.
What is next for you, writing wise? What can we look forward to?
As I mentioned, I’m working on a new serial called Make Me. It’s been really rewarding, but this one has been emotionally taxing on me. It’s about a man and a woman who encounter each other in Lake Tahoe accidentally. He remembers her poignantly, because of a childhood trauma they endured together that changed his life forever, but she doesn’t recall him.
The serials are very challenging for me in general, because I think of each portion episodically, like a small story arc that belongs to a larger whole, but has to stand on its own. Both these characters are very layered and complex. Because of his childhood experience with the heroine, the hero struggles with some of his sexual preferences that he never had to question before, so that’s been some interesting and rich writing territory.
What is exciting you right now?
I would have to say a combination of writing this serial (Make Me) while in the actual setting of the book, beautiful Lake Tahoe. We bought a vacation home, and this is my first summer spent here. It’s breathtaking every day, and wonderful to be able to incorporate what I see and experience here in Tahoe into the book.
Is there anything you’d like to tell readers that I haven’t asked?
I’d tell them thank you for reading. And thanks so much for asking me over to LadySmut! It was a pleasure to meet you at RT this year.
Thank you for stopping by today, Beth!
Find Beth’s books here on her Amazon page. Or click on any of the book covers above.