A friend who is fairly new to writing erotic romance recently asked me what the difference was between erotica and erotic romance as she had a professor who declared my friend's work was erotica. Personally, I think it depends on each person’s viewpoint. But why does one person write erotica and another erotic romance?
This is what I said when I gave a talk earlier in the year about becoming a writer in this genre:
What is the difference is between erotic romance, erotica and porn? Well, the publisher's criteria for erotic romance is that romance must be 70% of the story (I've no idea how they work that out!), it must have a ‘happily ever after’ (HEA) and there must be no adultery, although you can have threesomes, foursomes and more but everyone in that relationship has to consent to it. The heroes have to be noble and honest – which I find a little bit cheesy myself. And it must have a strong storyline. So where does the eroticism come in - let me read what it says on my publisher’s website: the sex must be explicit with no flowery language. In other words the emphasis is on the romantic relationship but with explicit sex scenes (this genre has been described as Mills &Boon with sex).
Erotica does not have to have an HEA, or even romance, there can certainly be adultery but it must still have a good plot. The emphasis therefore is on the sexual relationship as the plot, rather than a romance with explicit sex scenes. So what attracts them to each other, what leads up to this point, what are the circumstances in which they are attracted, eg, the plot?
Porn is simply sex scenes for titillation with no plot or emotional involvement!?!
However, the lines for each type of story are very blurred and often depend on your state of mind. When a friend first read one of my stories she described it as 'soft porn' to another friend. I was a little annoyed. What about the romance, which was after all 70% of the story! But then I thought back to the first time I had read an erotic romance and I clearly remember exclaiming to myself that this was pure porn. As I read more and got used to it I could ascertain differences in types of story. I prefer to read erotic romance to erotica (although I am not averse to reading erotica) and erotic romance rather than erotica is certainly what I prefer to write. The advantage writing in this genre, whether it be erotic romance or erotica, is that you can still write in a variety of genres as you can have erotic romances in space, fantasy, historical stories and so on.
Of course, this is just my interpretation so feel free to leave a comment with your own viewpoints!