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How, exactly, do you do research for a Romance Novel?

Think about that question. Go ahead. I’ll give you a few minutes….

There are a thousand ways I can can answer it. Sarcastically, humbly, physiologically, literally…but you get it.

Author Jill Shalvis was recently asked this question in an interview and she did a pretty good job answering it. Because what, exactly, are people wanting to know when they ask that research question? We all have a pretty good idea. They don’t want to know how you got your info about being a master chef, the FBI, corporate raiding, or anything else that’s in your story. They want to know  how you did your research on…how you came to know about the…wait for it… SEX.

This is what the average lay person ( no pun!! Well…maybe) thinks a romance book really is. A sex novel. A book strife with page after page of position changes, body noises, multiple loud orgasms, and descriptions of unmentionable private body parts. The kinds most people don’t discuss aloud. But they do read about them. Frequently, if the romance novel selling stats are to be believed.

I’ve tried to answer this question as off handedly as I can when asked it. I really don’t know what people expect as an answer. Maybe they think I’ve visited a brothel and watched (Eeew!) the going’s on. Maybe then think I’m a secret porn video watcher, hidden in my bedroom, the lights and blinds drawn, the tv sound muted, just watching and categorizing what’s happening on the screen. Again, eeew! Maybe they think my husband and I are wild and crazy “swingers,” (Eeew, squared!) Whatever people think or believe, here’s the truth according to me, so therefore, here’s MY truth.

I’ve been a romance reader since my 20’s. I  like every kind of romance from sweet ( no sex) to sensual ( a little) to NC17( one step down from Erotica.) My research, for lack of a better word, has been done by reading the genre and getting to know the books and authors who write them.  And P.S. I am married and have had a child so I think I know how  the act is accomplished.

Sex is sex. It’s not hard ( insert pun), nor is it brain surgery. It’s a natural, beautiful expression of love, commitment, and basic biology. We need sex for propagation of the species, folks. We haven’t evolved into a species that reproduces its young in test tubes yet – please, God, that never happens.

What the book buying public has to be made aware of with regards to romance novels is that they are not about the sex. That is just a small component of the story. Romance novels are about the emotions of two people falling in love, the challenges they face along the way to their happily ever after, surviving those challenges and spending their lives together.  They are stories of commitment, emotional growth, self discovery, and yes, they have some variant of sex in them because they are about people and people have sex!

So the next time you meet an author who happens to write in the romance genre, DO NOT ask them how they do their research unless you are referring to how they learned to handle guns, rappel down a mountainside, drive a speedboat while being chased or came to understand survival training. Or anything else related to the story other than the sex question.

You can, simply, ask this: “So, what’s your book about?”

Believe me, the author will tell.


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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, love, research, Romance, Romance Books, RWA