Contemporary Romance, Popular Tropes, and Creating Audiobooks: An Interview with Emerald Baynton

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The romance genre is the best genre. Just hands-down, the best. And this genre gets so much shade both from people inside of the book community and outside of it. A romance is only deemed “important” if you throw in some artsy-fartsy concept like magical realism and call it literary fiction. Romance readers read more voraciously than any other genre. Stats from the Romance Writers of America show that 31% of Romance readers are nearly constantly reading a romance novel. Meaning they finish one and then dive right into the next one. 

I have seen so many nasty things said about romance readers. Many of the most disparaging statements have to do with the readers’ age or (presumed) lack of sex life. For whatever reason, there is a good deal of hostility generated by the idea of old or sexually-undesirable women enjoying something romantic/sexual privately. Like, how dare an old or unattractive woman still have very human sexual urges while privately reading a paperback novel. How dare she. The absolute gall. 

There is evidence to support the notion that readers of traditional romance, meaning mass market paperback sales, are older. Romance Writers of America reports that the majority of the American market is aged 30-54. 

But also, so what? 

You can probably tell that people getting up in arms because old or sexually-undesirable women feel horny privately, in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anybody, upsets me. I’m not sure why people should feel so offended by it. Is anybody up in arms over old or ugly guys watching porn? I guess there is No Fap and there are religious groups, but they come at it in a more ‘hey guys, this is bad for you’ sort of way and aren’t acting appalled and disgusted that undesirable guys are horny in the first place. 

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I believe the romance genre has its flaws. I believe it could be improved. I’m also completely open to discussing tropes and criticizing specific elements of romance novels. But that’s not the sort of criticism I’m referring to here. The most vocal critics of the romance genre aren’t concerned about particular tropes or hoping to improve the genre. They just hate the idea of old or ugly women being horny. That’s all. They mock and laugh at women for enjoying something that caters to that particular subset of emotions-the craving for romantic and sexual intimacy. It’s like if women aren’t being horny in a way that can be consumed by men, then that horny-ness shouldn’t exist at all. As if women have no right to the very human experience of being sexual, unless men can benefit from it. And if the woman holds no appeal for men, well, the world doesn’t want her to go off privately and take care of those urges in a way that is a nuisance to absolutely no one. Nope, that would make too much sense.The world despises her for being sexual in a way that is autonomous and wholly for herself. 

All of that is to say, I love the romance genre and screw anybody who looks down on romance readers. 

Because I love romance so much and I plan to unapologetically defend this genre for all of time, I’m always happy to talk to other romance writers, learn from them, and hear about their experiences writing within this timeless (and consistently out-selling literary fiction) genre.

I had the privilege of interviewing Emerald Baynton, an indie author of contemporary romance and erotica, blogger, mom, and craft enthusiast. 

I read her contemporary romance ‘Language of Love.’ She was kind enough to give me an ARC of the newly-released audiobook edition. I’ve written about the book on this blog several times, and the book was discussed in my 2020 Yearly Wrap-Up video with indie author Emily Hurricane. 

I’ve also read the first book in her ‘Discovering Desires’ series. This is a series of five contemporary erotic shorts, written under her pen name Lucy Luscious. 

Emerald has a knack for writing realistic characters and when she picks a trope, she really nails it. The tropes she chooses aren’t always my personal favorites, but I can say her execution of those tropes is flawless. She’s definitely a writer who knows her genre conventions. 

Without further ado, my interview with Emerald Baynton!

Hello Emerald! To start us out, would you mind introducing yourself to my readers and telling us a little about your work?

Hi! I’m Emerald, no that’s not a pen name haha, lots of people think it is. I’m really terrible at these “talk about yourself things” fair warning. 

I’m a homeschooling mom of two, though my kids are getting pretty big now. I don’t have to worry about writing around babies or anything. I love to craft and make stuff, a dedicated craft room was at the top of my list when we bought our house. 

And I write stuff which I guess we’ll talk more about further down. 

That’s awesome that you homeschool. Although I imagine trying to write with kids, even if they aren’t babies, must be challenging at times.

What are some of your favorite craft projects? Anything neat you are working on now?

There’s definitely times, especially with my 11 year old son’s uncanny ability to do his own thing all day and then suddenly need all my attention what I sit down to work haha.

As for craft projects, I do a lot of sewing. I make clothes for my kids. I like that I can customize the sizes and they can pick out patterns. In the past I’ve made custom embroidered baby things, bibs and burp cloths. And I crochet stuffed toys A LOT. My son has an entire collection of mini amigurumi stuffies that live on his desk. I’ve even sold a few on Etsy from time to time. Currently I’m working on a drawstring handbag for my 18 year old daughter. She loved the one I made myself so much she asked me to make her one too.

So, you have two pen names, is that right? Lucy Luscious for erotic shorts on amazon and then Ruby Kiss for longer works of romance? 

How do you handle branding and marketing for two different pen names? 

Which pen name do you prefer writing under?

I do yes, and I actually have another one for short horror stories, and I plan to publish my sci fi fantasy stuff under my own name if I ever finish them. 

What I’m actually trying to do is build the brand around my actual name and have the pen names shoot off that. So my website is called Emerald’s Creations, my Facebook and Twitter author stuff are under my real name and then I list my pen names, so it’s a little different than how most people do it cuz it’s not a secret which names I write under. 

I don’t really have a preference. Longer romances are nice cuz I can really get into the meat of a story but my best performing stuff is my series of short eroticas following one couple which started out as an experiment but I actually ended up really enjoying it. 

That’s quite an eclectic collection of genres you write in. Is it difficult moving between romance, horror and sci-fi fantasy? Which of those is the most challenging? Can you tell us anything about the SFF projects you have in the works?

No, I don’t find it difficult at all. I actually really like having a variety of projects in different genres otherwise I get bored and burnt out trying to do the same thing over and over. The sci fi stuff is the most challenging because there is a lot more invention involved than contemporary romance that takes place in the real world. But I also love world building even though it is occasionally overwhelming worrying about getting it right.

I’m currently working on a sci fi called Submerged. It was inspired by one of the prompts for Wattpad’s ONC contest but I ended up dropping out of the contest and I’m adapting the idea into a novel. It’s about end stage climate change and a team of 5 characters trying a last ditch effort to save what’s left of the human race. I have really strong feelings about climate change, so this project is very important to me.

It looks like for both erotica and romance you write contemporaries. What steered you towards contemporary romance and erotica? Do you think you’ll ever try out any other sub-genres?

I think I chose contemporary because that’s what I tend to read romance wise, but I would love to try something like historical with princes and princesses. I started with erotica as a kind of dip my toes in the self publishing world thing and then wrote Language of Love after I got over the initial nerves. 

It makes sense to write contemporaries if that’s what you like to read. Although I’d definitely be up to check it out if you decide to write some historical. I write historical time travel myself. I like 12th and 13th centuries best. If you dip your toes into historical any idea which country or time period you’ll be focused on?

Ooo I’m going to have to read some of those! If I do get around to doing some historical I would definitely go with Ireland. My family is Irish-Canadian. My mom was born in Ireland and I’ve been a few times. I have tons of family there and my ancestors and family history is Irish on both sides, my dad is first generation Canadian, actually the first in his family to be born here. So I have always wanted an excuse to do more research into Irish history and I would love to write something set there. I’m not sure which time period, I guess I would have to do some reading to decide. Definitely something with Druids.

I’m Irish too! What a coincidence 😀 My family immigrated to America three generations ago. I grew up doing Irish Step dancing and everything. I think I’d die to see some medieval Irish romance. I didn’t even know I needed that in my life until you put the idea in my head. That’s the time period the Druids are from, right? Medieval?

Well now I definitely have to write one! Druids are one of those things that weave in and out of Irish history, it’s hard to pinpoint since so much of the history was lost due to different wars and conquering and stuff. But a quick search tells me that the earliest recordings date all the way back to the 3rd century BCE so there’s a ton of room to write in different time periods. I smell research in my future.

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What are some of your favorite romance and erotica tropes? Do you have any tropes you love but haven’t yet written? What are your least favorite romance/erotica tropes?

I don’t actually read a ton of romance and erotica myself, but I’m a sucker for a good chick lit rom com like the Shopaholic series or The Flatshare. In most of my stuff I try to write progressive stories with strong leading ladies. I don’t really have any tropes I’m dying to write that I haven’t. 

Funny story about my least favourite tropes, I’m not a fan of the most popular ones like alpha males, shy virgins etc. But when I started my latest series I decided to try and write all those tropes I didn’t like and they ended up being my most popular books and I actually like the characters now, more than I thought I would. 

I think I read one of the Shopaholic books. Christmas Shopaholic is one of those books right? With a character named Becky? The book was a fun read, but the main character made me a little crazy lol I felt bad for her poor husband. I didn’t make it to the end. I think I DNF’d at 80%. Want to spoil the ending for me? 

Maybe I missed that one! Now I’m going to have to go look because I don’t remember a Christmas one, but yes that’s the series. Becky is the main character and her long suffering husband Luke haha. She is a little crazy but I find them hilarious and I’m a big fan of Sophie Kinsella’s writing style. She has a few other stand alone contemporaries that are also pretty good.

And gosh, Becky “she is a little crazy” is right. I read the book like “My GOD! Why is she making everything so difficult!” Such second-hand stress from her ridiculous misadventures. Just one of the stressful situations she got into in the Christmas book was she wanted to get this fancy piece of luggage for her husband for Christmas. It was a prize being given away in a raffle at this billiards club. She tried to join the club just to enter the raffle. They told her women weren’t allowed to join. She got all in a feminist huff and this old guy at the club agreed with her and he went to bat for her to get her a time to speak her piece to the committee and argue why women should be allowed to join. The whole thing was sooo cringey and stressful. She knew nothing about billiards and here she was giving this whole speech, while this poor old guy is going out on a limb for her, and she didn’t give a single crud about anything except entering the raffle to win the trunk. I was just…..Becky….STAHP….go home and relax and get your husband a tie or something. 

OMG, I had to google because I really did not remember that scene with Becky and I discovered the book you’re talking about is the newest one and I haven’t read that yet! So yay, now I have a new one to read lol.

Anyway, enough about the stress this fictional woman gave me XD

Who are some of your other favorite writers? Any that are particularly influential on your own writing style?

I will also read basically anything by Jenny Trout, her Boss series of bdsm/erotic romance just finished with the 8th book and they are fantastic. I love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I discovered those when the show first started and there were 7? I think? Books out. I read them all over the course of like 4 days and didn’t do anything else except read and cry haha.

I also love some good Stephen King, one of the first books I read as a kid that wasn’t like “for kids” (re: Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps etc) was Needful Things when I was around 13, probably not the best fare for a kid but I loved it.

As far as being influential on my writing style, I have this horrible fear that I will accidentally adopt another author’s voice when I am writing, so I try really hard to not be influenced by other people but Stephen Kings On Writing was very instructional and Jenny Trout did an hilarious series of recaps on the 50 Shades series that I learned so much about what not to do from reading those.

To get back to your tropes answer….hold up hold up….is the shy virgin a popular trope? That’s what I write and I feel like nobody likes it. 

Oh wait! I just realized, you mean for the woman to be the shy virgin? Yeah….I’m not a fan myself. I like it swapped though. Shy virgin men. They’re cute. But I can’t relate to the “good girl” character myself and just bored of reading the same character that I can’t relate to over and over again. 

I personally would also rather read a shy dude than a shy virgin girl, it drives me nuts and my first several eroticas I went out of my way to have experienced female characters. But, unfortunately I found doing my Desires series that the shy virgin girl is what gets the most attention.

If you ever decide to write a shy virgin man instead, I’ll eat that up! Although, I’ll tell you from my own experience, it doesn’t seem to be a trope that’s super popular with women (pretty much only male weebs read my books-I may be the only romance author who can say that lmao). I definitely can’t shade you for using a trope that works.

Why do you think the shy virgin woman is so popular a trope? It seems pretty weird that the untouched woman is so highly fetishized in a genre dominated by women. Exceedingly so, considering we have horny women reading smut and projecting themselves onto naive, sexually-inexperienced women. It’s odd. It seems like women are ashamed of being sexual and can’t enjoy the story unless they are projecting themselves onto someone untouched and innocent. But that’s my theory. Any thoughts? 

I wish I had the answer to this question because I find it super unrealistic but I think it is wrapped up in out dated ideas of purity and all that but also the idea that one man can be so sexual and amazing that he just unlocks this part of a woman she didn’t know existed. Which again, unrealistic but it seems to be idea behind pretty much all the books in that trope.

I think you’re right on the money, it’s our internalized misogyny coming out that drives women to enjoy books like that, even though the vast majority of us are not pure and virginal. Although an interesting side note, on reader communities I often see women asking for romance/erotica that is not the shy virgin trope, that they are bored of them and would like something more realistic but in my experience when you write that stuff it doesn’t get read so? I have so many questions, maybe we need to do a giant reader poll or something to find out why.

What does your ideal fictional man look like? What can we expect from the heroes in your stories?

Is it cheesy if I describe my husband here? Haha. I don’t really have an ideal fictional man hmm. I tend to go for the smart guy characters rather than the traditional leading man who’s clearly supposed to be the favourite. The leading man in my book Language of Love is probably what I would most like to read in a romance book. Kind and understanding supportive type guys. However, like I said above with my latest series the main guy is nice enough but very different from that so I can’t promise consistency lol. 

What advice would you give to others hoping to publish amazon or erotica on amazon? What have been some of the greatest challenges with that?

Get yourself a best friend that’s already self published and have them hold your hand through the process lmao. But seriously the best advice is if you’re thinking about doing it go for it, read the help pages on amazon and join author groups for support, there’s tons of free resources available to help you get started. 

You recently released your first audiobook. Can you tell us a little about that?

Sure! It was pretty easy actually. The ACX website links to your amazon account and makes it super simple to add your book and start taking auditions. There’s lot of options to narrow down the kind of narrator you’re looking for, more options than I even considered when I started out. 

I did have some serious nerves/second hand embarrassment listening to my own work read out loud by someone else, but I have been informed that that is silly. 

 I also get weirdly nervous listening to my smut read aloud for narrator auditions. I just sit and cringe the entire time lol I’ve been holding off choosing a narrator for my alien femdom smut for that reason. Every time I try to listen to the auditions, I just want to die of embarrassment. Any tips on pushing through anyway and choosing the best narrator?

I listened to them while doing something else, like baking bread or doing dishes. Stuff that was pretty mindless but enough to distract me from the cringing embarrassment. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who is super embarrassed listening to their own stuff read back. It also helps if you have someone else who actively listens to audiobooks, I don’t so at first I had no idea what I was even listening for aside from getting the right voice for my characters. So getting feedback from some other people, Emily [Hurricane] listened to all my auditions and my husband did too, was really helpful and gave me a break from cringing.

I definitely also recommend listening to the whole book when it’s done. I made the mistake of just listening to the beginning of several chapters and key scenes once the book was done and assuming it was all just as good. Then I found out later from readers that there were some quality control issues I had missed, so as hard as it is, make the time to power through the whole thing before you approve the audio.

Do you use any other serial sites outside of wattpad? Are you still an active user of wattpad? What do you think of the changes they’d made over the past couple of years? 

I am not on any other serial sites, although I have applied to Radish once and I’ll probably apply again or try out Kindle Vella when it becomes available in Canada. However I’m really terrible at serializing, the pressure sets off my anxiety disorder so anything I did serialize I would have to actually be finished writing before I started posting it. I’m not active on Wattpad really at all, I have a few friends on there that I follow and I have some chapters/excerpts from books but that’s it, so I don’t really have an opinion on any of the changes that have happened.

And if we could end on some fun questions: Do you have a favorite band or musical artist? What’s your favorite movie? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Ahh these are the hardest questions. Well the music and movies ones are haha. I like lots of different music, I don’t really have a favourite artist. If I had to pick a favourite style I am totally unashamed of my love of pop music and love ballads. I love to sing so those are right up my alley.

The first movie that comes to mind that I could watch over and over and over again would be Braveheart, I have it completely memorized at this point and I will still watch it. But also Star Wars, all the Marvel movies, basically go to the nerd section of any streaming service and that’s where I’ll be.

If I could travel anywhere I would go to Olduvai Gorge in Africa. Before I decided writing was it for me, I went to school for Anthropology and it will always hold a special place in my heart, even though doing it as a career became unrealistic. Olduvai Gorge is where some of the first and largest collections of early human fossils were found, think cradle of civilization type stuff.

I would love to just stand in that spot where it all began for humankind.

That’s it for my interview with Emerald Baynton! Be sure to check out her work if you love contemporary romance and erotica.

The Discovering Desires series

The Language of Love on Audible and in ebook and print

Check out Emerald’s blog for awesome spotlights on wattpad writers and other indie writers.

And the other places you can find this cool lady

Twitter | Instagram | facebook | Goodreads

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