Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rewriting romance with bay area BDSM author, Riley Murphy

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 8:58 AM

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Tampa Bay area writer Riley Murphy has not so much swept romance readers off their feet as she has dominated them into delightful submission. The success she expected to take three years has taken nine months. She recently won the Ellora's Cave 2012 SuperStar Award and her first book, Reclaimed Surrender, is a 2013 Epic eBook Award finalist. The holiday romance novel she co-wrote, Full of Possibilities, is set to be released this November and the third book in her "Surrender" series, Required Surrender, is expected to come out on the first of the year. While I've only corresponded with Riley through email, this interview was enough for her to make me blush — and to start searching for photos of her online. It's safe to say she knows a thing or two about the art of seducing with words alone.

Most romance novels start at the beginning of a relationship, before time and monotony erode a couple's sex life. However, your first novel, Reclaimed Surrender, begins with a troubled couple. Considering that BDSM and role playing are often tools couples experiment with in an effort to re-energize their sex lives, do you think we will see more BDSM romance novels structured around couples reclaiming the passion they lost?

My answer would be absolutely, because we already have. There have been a number of great stories recently published that convey this theme of 'rekindling' the waning passion in a marriage. In Reclaimed Surrender, it's not only the passion that needs to be rediscovered, but the couple's lifestyle that needs an overhaul as well. A BDSM lifestyle is not just sex alone. The philosophies and tenets that oftentimes are adhered to reach far beyond the bedroom. Things that have to do with mutual respect and caring for oneself, so you can properly care for the betterment of your partner and their ultimate happiness. As my hero says in Reclaimed:

"I vow to calmly pull down your defenses without anger or judgment to take my girl's hand. To bring her out and be her champion as she safely explores every facet of herself. I promise."

Think about it. If this was all about sex, how long would mere physical gratification sustain anyone's happiness?

In BDSM themed romance novels, is it at all important to convince audiences that the submissive partner is actually exercising control by surrendering to the dominant partner?

I tend to think that there's no universal "right" answer to the D/s dynamic and which party ultimately holds said control. Just as no individual is the same as another, neither are their relationships. So, to answer your question, no. In Reclaimed Surrender and Reluctant Surrender I made sure my Dom heroes believed it was the submissive who was in control. By doing so, hopefully the reader believed it too. But in my soon-to-be released book, Required Surrender, my hero Dom doesn't believe this and he makes a very sensible and thought provoking argument as to why he doesn't. Here again I'm hoping the reader will understand his reasoning because as I said, there is no right or wrong in my mind.

How different is this power exchange from the dynamic of a headstrong heroine allowing herself to be seduced by a dominant, alpha male?

To me, the difference between the concept of a power exchange between a BDSM couple in romance and a headstrong heroine being seduced by her alpha hero is honesty. It's a deep down to the core admitting the "why" she's doing something. It's a conscious act of acceptance in a power exchange. She goes into it with her eyes wide open and armed with a level of predetermined expectations that have previously been discussed. Now, with a heroine simply being seduced by her alpha? There's expectations all right. Hers, and she has to hope her hero gets them right. To my way of thinking this is the old real life equivalent of a guy saying, "I don’t know what you want, tell me." And his woman answering, "If I have to tell you, what's the point?" Bottom line difference? Communication. Honest communication. Verbal communication. Not throwing off body language in the hopes your guy is not only going to read it, but he's going to respond to it correctly. My Doms don't leave that kind of thing up to chance. Here's what my hero tells his heroine in Reluctant Surrender when they're discussing what's normal in a relationship:

"My normal is as follows. I like to spank, suck, fuck, cherish, challenge, discipline, correct, entice and control my woman. You may think that seems demeaning. I know you like that word, but I'm smart enough to know there's no honor in degrading a girl who thinks she's worthless. I make sure my woman knows her value because I don't do all these things to her, I do them for her. There's a vast difference between the two."

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In many ways, male Doms fit the standard mold of romance heroes: they are powerful, confident and have natural charm. Could you write a successful romance novel in which the woman is the Dom and the man is a shy, frail character who wants to be submissive to the female character?

Nope. That said, there is a market for it, and it certainly can be done beautifully, but I'm not the author to write it.

In the same way many people fear porn imprints men with unrealistic expectations of women and sex, is there any fear that romance stories create unrealistic expectations of men?

Actually, I'm not one of those people who fears that kind of thing, so this is a tough question for me. I believe that anything, even something that stirred an unrealistic expectation, is a positive thing as it opens an avenue for people to have a dialogue about something they ordinarily wouldn't have discussed. Women are notorious for not saying exactly what's on their minds. Worse, a woman will admit to only half of what she's really thinking, hoping her guy will connect the dots to all she left unsaid. If I have any fear of expectations being unrealistic it's this one.

Romance heroes often start out as confident, unconventional men who can have sex with virtually any woman. By the story's end, these men are usually tamed by the heroine's "magical vagina," which makes them want to give up their bachelorhood and dedicate themselves to the owner of said vagina. Do you think this theme holds true in BDSM romance novels? How important is it for the lead characters to have a "supernatural connection" that makes the male character want to settle down with his "soul mate" forever, as opposed to a fling that burns bright for a time, then burns out? Is the end goal in romance always a monogamous, long-term relationship?

Okay, I've been totally polite up until this point, but I have to ask it. Who are you? These are great questions. And I'm LMAO over the "magical vagina." *sigh* If only that were true. Women would rule the world. As far as a BDSM hero being pussy whipped by the end — I think that's the theme you're going for here — I'd have to say no. Again, with a BDSM romance, the kind I write at any rate, it's not all about the sex, therefore the magic "V" holds second place behind deeper individual needs. The fact that the hero and heroine have gone into a relationship with their eyes wide opened and they are ready to trust and be trusted is the key element to not only their happiness, but future success as a couple.

I believe, and this bleeds greatly into my stories, that if your partner sees through to the "true" you, your authentic self, and accepts you for all that you are and everything you will never be, you become unique to them. Irreplaceable. This is what constitutes a "soul mate" to me. You say "supernatural connection." I say a lot of hard work. It isn't easy being completely honest and open with another person. There's always the fear of being judged or rejected, but imagine if you did open yourself up. You laid out all your strengths and every one of your weaknesses for your partner to see and he/she looks at them and says, "Beautiful. Here's mine. Don't we make a great team?" Imagine how you'd feel then. If I were equating my kind of romance to just sex, monogamy would only get in the way. I don't though. Romance to me is much deeper than a physical joining. It's a kind of sharing that's not always pretty, but it's effective if an individual wants to grow and expand their life experiences. Here's what one of my heroes has to say about a long-term relationship:

"First off, I'd say, with real love there is no happily ever after. There are going to be fights and struggles, triumphs and accolades. A real man knows this. He also knows that it's not about what he gets from his woman. It's about what he gives her. His loyalty and protection so she can trust him to see the real her without judgment."

In Reluctant Surrender, Ethan's nickname is "The Hypnotist" due to his powers of seduction. A form of hypnosis, neuro linguistic programming is a common tactic in the pickup community, as well as in BDSM. In its most basic form, the Dom teaches the sub to associate pleasure with certain words, or commands, so that when he utters these magical words, the sub experiences a kind of Pavlovian response. As a basic example, many of us have conditioned, emotional responses to terms our culture labels as "dirty words." Are there any words, phrases, or images that you repeatedly employ to trigger an erotic response in your readers?

No, but dang, there will be now! Thanks for the tip.

What are the key elements that make for a hot erotic scene in a BDSM themed romance novel? How does this differ from successful erotic scenes in more traditional romance stories?

I think in a BDSM setting the "hot erotic" comes from the anticipation as well as the eventual act. There's usually always a plan, a build-up to the ensuing scene or there should be, because a Dom is expected to maintain control. Whereas with hot "vanilla" erotica, the sex may just happen. It could be a mistake or even a forced persuasion type deal … these kind of things you wouldn't find in a BDSM setting that I write about because the participant/couple's hard/soft limits have already been discussed and determined. Safety is the key for me and by that I'm not only talking about physical wellbeing, but emotional as well.

In the first chapter of Reluctant Surrender, the female character, Colin, repeatedly attempts to rebuff Ethan's advances even though she actually desires him. Some people believe this strategy of "token resistance" is employed by women on potential suitors for a few reasons: 1.) To prove that the female has a high social value equal or superior to the potential mate. 2.) To demonstrate that she is not "easy." 3.) As a test to see if the male is competent and confident enough to work passed these initial objections. 4.) To ensure that the male desires her enough to work for her affection. Do you think playing hard-to-get is a standard mating strategy for humans? If not, why do you think this initial resistance by headstrong women is such a common aspect of romance stories?

And I thought I was going to escape this interview without going all Freud-deep here, but then you ask these questions and I find myself pulling out my rounded spectacles and growing a beard. I tend to believe that our natural instincts come into play when we're attracted to someone. In the case of a guy meets girl and there's a mutual attraction, I think it's a woman's natural instinct to show, via body language and actions, that she's capable of being a viable candidate for him. Capable is the operative word here because the harsh reality is that a cave guy would likely walk right by Ms. Meek to her polar opposite. I see him dragging the resident she-devil by the hair into his den. Why? Because his instincts are telling him that the she-devil would be more capable of not only bearing but, taking care of their hellion cubs in times of strife. I know that sounds weird, but I'm thinking instinct here and add to that the thousands of years of conditioning to counter those natural instincts and what do we have? I figure the leftover is a bastardized version of these basic draws. This would explain the young boy in the playground, poking and taunting the girl he secretly likes, subconsciously forcing her to become combative, and too, it would also explain why a grown woman finds the need to initially resist a man's overt advances at times.

As to why this is such a common aspect in romantic stories? I imagine, just like the caveman that steps by Ms. Meek to land his she-devil, it's the thrill of the hunt. The seemingly unattainable being attained. I mean, without that immediate internal conflict why would a reader invest their time reading? You'd only have external conflicts drawing two people closer together and where's the fun in that? Actually, where's the substance?

I’d rather think about the caveman and the she-devil scenario. He wants her because she's strong and capable and she wants him (come on, we all know it) because he's strong enough to handle her. That's the coming together part of a relationship. The sustaining the substance part of their joining comes from balancing their other needs. Fortunately, in romance, that last part happens during their HEA (happily ever after) time, when the book is over, and that segue into the future doesn't make it on the pages of my books. It's a good thing, too, because from a writing standpoint it's hard to make that kind of "ordinary" interesting. Just saying …

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Check out Riley Murphy's BDSM themed romance novels, Reclaimed Surrender and Reluctant Surrencer on her Ellora's Cave author page, AuthorRileyMurphy.com. The third novel in her "Surrender" series, Required Surrender, is due to be released the first of the year. Riley also co-wrote a contemporary holiday romance novel, Full of Possibilities, with Christine Bell, due to come out in November through Entangled Publishing.

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