Author Interview Series: SE White
From Nevada, USA, SE White writes historical romance set in the wild western part of her world and erotic romance under the pen name, Lili Draguer.
Thank you for joining me SE. Can you tell me the difference between the two genres in which you write?
The historical romance I write as SE White generally includes sex, whereas the erotic romance written as Lili Draguer includes LOTS of sex.
Why did you choose to write erotic romance?
It’s something I genuinely enjoy reading and I’m excited by the possibilities. It’s fascinating to follow along with the twists and turns of the human heart and I appreciate the fact that it includes a happy ending (which is generally sadly lacking in real life. As are all the orgasms.) In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a fierce advocate for romance as a genre. Wasn’t it Lovecraft who said fear is the oldest and strongest emotion? I’d say love edges into the next oldest and strongest spot. And erotic romance, in particular, is considered a lowest common denominator genre. It’s overlooked by gatekeepers, which means I have an incredible amount of freedom as an author. I can write any plot my muse can conceive. I can set it any time, in any place, with any combination of characters or sexual preferences. Anything goes. There are hardly any guidelines hemming me in.
So do you get to read a lot of erotic fiction in the name of research?
Yes, I read a lot of other erotic & romance authors and pay attention to a lot of movies & shows. Most everything contains some sort of romance, you know? A lot of the time I’m trading critique reading or reviews with other small publisher authors, but I also have some go-to favourites like Kylie Scott, Kresley Cole, Tiffany Roberts, and Ruby Dixon.
I read other genres too. Right now I’m participating in a read along of The Stand, by Stephen King, in #thestandalong on Instagram. The Stand is hands-down my favourite apocalypse novel ever and I’m so excited to be re-reading it with a bunch of newbies. They have no idea what’s coming and I love it, in an evil way.
What other writing do you do?
Beyond the novels, I run my blog, write for the website Books Rock My World where I trash tropes in grand style, and submit short stories to everywhere that might take them. So far only one short has been accepted and it earned me an Honourable Mention in the 2018 Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.
You’ve published two novels as Lili Draguer, through the small publisher eXtasy Books. Are you planning to publish your SE White novels?
As SE I’m querying my historical romances and getting shot down by rejections every time I pop my head over the edge of the trenches. It’s like a particularly gruesome game of whack-a-mole. I’m the vermin.
What advice would give other authors in the romance genre?
Join the Romance Writers Association (RWA). I always have first readers available, and it’s because the RWA encourages members to sign up for the critique partner program and provide their email so other members can approach them to ask for beta reading. Literally thousands of other authors who write in my genre and have concrete, helpful things to say. It’s one of the best perks of joining. I hear the other associations (like SFWA, MWA) have a more informal beta reader thing going, as well. So if you can, think about joining your genre association.
Can you tell me about your latest release?
Step Into Love, by my pen name Lili Draguer, is a used-to-be-stepbrothers romance between Asher, 18 and Colton, 21. Colton has bipolar disorder and feels pretty unlovable most of the time, which is why Asher is determined to show him how worthy of love he is. There’s revenge jogging and “accidental” nudity and a big showdown with Colton’s bigoted father who doesn’t approve of Asher or their relationship. Colton is going to have to find the belief inside himself to accept how much Asher loves him and the fact that he doesn’t have to let his father’s view of the world define him. Step Into Love released June 22, 2018.
For an early draft of my latest novel and my first to be released, I included a sex scene which I struggled at first trying to figure out how to pitch the level of description. Eventually the scene got cut as unnecessary, instead I built up other scenes to show the growing relationship between the two characters.
How do you pitch the level when describing sex?
That is a really good question. Romance has some unstated but very clear assumptions on how graphic the sex will be. As a reader I know what to expect before I open the book, just based on the blurb. Different genres of romance have a different expected amount. Historical western romance is generally cleaner than regency romance, for example, even though they’re both historical. After some feedback from my beta readers, I toned down any explicit scenes in my historical western romances because they weren’t anticipating it in the plot and it threw them off. Which made me a little grumpy, because miners and farmers have sex too. But you can’t argue with reader expectations! I’m going to guess that every genre has an unspoken idea of how much sex or romance goes in the plot.
In general a romance publishing house has rules about how explicit they want things and it’s pretty clear in their submission guidelines. eXtasy Books asks us to rate our own work on their “flame” system, from pretty clean up to explicit and hardcore.
If you’re self-publishing and don’t have a set of house rules, the level of sexy times is up to you but you still have to think about what readers will tolerate. There are usually keywords authors use in their biographies to let readers know what to expect. Saying you write “steamy” romance is WAY different than “sweet”. As to how much, it’s always a good guideline to think about a sex scene and ask “is this developing/changing my characters in some way? Or is it only here because it’s been two chapters without any sex?” Even in erotic, the sex needs to be there for the plot. Readers can spot the difference!
Thanks so much for such a great question. I think I feel a blog post coming on!
Can you tell me how you market your novels?
I have a marketing plan and call it “Google the hell out of author marketing strategies and try absolutely everything that fits in my budget”. Catchy. So far I’ve determined: Facebook ads is a waste of $$. Allauthor.com is well worth signing up for, just for the media they provide you as a featured author. Other bloggers and authors are priceless (witness GJ allowing this interview!) Nothing paid really replaces word of mouth, so it behooves you to get out there on the social media of your choice and forge a network. And you can’t do everything, all at once. If it’s a choice between being on every social platform ever and picking two/three to really focus on, go for the focus.
I have submitted both of my Lili Draguer books to various bloggers who review romance books. I really recommend following other bloggers, interacting with their posts, and checking out whether or not they accept books for review. I’d say I have about a 40% acceptance rate, because I always check carefully to make sure the blogger wants my kind of book before I approach them. That would be my tip for you. Find your genre bloggers, check out their reviews, and follow their submission guidelines. Other authors are a fabulous resource.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the next book as Lili, which will be a Super villain falling for a Sidekick.
Thank you SE for taking the time to talk with me today and providing great insight into your genre. I wish you luck with your new novel and hope you find success with your SE White works too. Please keep in touch! You can keep up with SE via her blog. I recommend you take a look at her useful list of writer’s resources.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon. I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or work in the industry and you’ve got an interesting story to tell, drop me a line on email@example.com