In light of the Spooky Season, and one of my recent projects (a.k.a. A sadistic bastard I absolutely love) an old question that I’ve yet to find a satisfactory answer to has risen from the mists of eternal quandaries:
“What is Dark Erotica?”
There are a multitude of definitions out there, and each appears to be subject to personal interpretation. I learned the hard way while reviewing for a friend’s company, that Dark Erotica can also be a story without a happy ending. I’m glad I read the book, though, because it opened up a whole new avenue of options for my characters I’d never considered before. That doesn’t keep the hopeless romantic in my core from shirking in silent bafflement as to why anyone in their right mind would want to read a romance novel that doesn’t guarantee that priceless, ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. (Even if the happily ever after is drenched in blood and bits of gray matter – it’s still what the reader was hoping for, dammit!)
To further confuse the issue, Dark Erotica has been haphazardly tossed into the same category as Erotic Horror – which, in my opinion, is like comparing Charmed with the new American Horror Story: Coven. Just because they both have to do with witchcraft, does not mean they completely correlate. Erotic Horror seems much more black and white. It’s a scary ass book with explicitly detailed sex, typically of a villainous, taboo nature (i.e. rape, incest, abduction, forced seduction, etc.). Dark Erotica, on the other hand, covers the entire spectrum of what people view as ‘dark,’ It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with horror or taboo topics.
So, in trying to categorize some of my own works that are both erotic-romance and dark in nature, which genre am I supposed to be choosing? More importantly, which genre will my publisher list it under and do they take into consideration the possibility of alienating some readers by labeling it Dark Erotica? Would you, as a reader, buy a book that may or may not be too dark for your taste? Or that might not even have a happy ending?
I confess, I don’t mind the cautionary label of ‘Dark’ being tossed at my books – life is dark, even without the supernatural elements plugged in and I like to make my stories as realistically fictional as possible (I know, I’m my own worst contradiction). I just can’t help feeling a little concerned that many readers might be enduring the same head-scratching uncertainty I do when it comes to the genre and its murky classification. But, who knows? Maybe I’m the only one still in the dark about the Dark.