Interview with Julie Elizabeth Leto

SR: How would you define erotica?

Julie: I don't write erotica, so I think I'm the wrong person to give a definition. However, from what I've read, I'd define erotica as literature that focuses on the sexual pleasure of the protagonist, with little to no attention on the emotional aspects of intimacy or relationships. It can be sensually written, but the connection between the lovers is physical, sexual and in some cases, rather cold.

SR: How would you define erotic romance?

Julie: Erotic romance employs some of the trademarks of erotica--the rawer, more explicit description of sexuality--and melds it with the conventions of romance. The intimacy. The emotions. The happily ever after. Again, it is usally written with more sensual language than some erotica and all porn.

SR: How would you define sensual romance?

Julie: This is romance where the sensuality of the characters is fully explored. And not just in the act of making love, but in perhaps a scene where they dance, or share an ice cream sundae, or take a swim together. The love scenes don't have to be explicit, but they are usually very clearly drawn.

SR: What are the differences in writing for Blaze and Temptation?

Julie: I think each author who writes for both lines will answer this differently. For me, I'm using Blaze as a way to stretch my wings in terms of storyline. Yes, my Blazes will all have a premise that is closely tied to the sexuality of the characters (as do my Temptations), but the Blazes will usually have villains and characters with more depth.

This is a direct result of the lengthened word count. Also, because the sexuality in my Blazes usually includes a very edgy idea (voyeurism, exhibitionism), the characters must have more depth to keep them sympathetic. Frankly, this is where a lot of erotica fails for me. You have all this kinky sex and the characters are just going through the actions with little emotion.

SR: How does the new Blaze line differ from Harlequin Blaze / Heat?

Julie: You mean Temptation Blaze or Temptation Heat? For me, I'm keeping a lighter tone in my Temptation Heats, much more similar to how I wrote for Temptation Blaze. I really enjoy the light, quick-paced story you get in a short contemporary! As for sensuality, I'd actually qualify some of my Temptation Blazes as erotic romance and some as sensual romance, depending on the story. However, my Blazes have, to date, all been erotic romance.

SR: Could you tell us a little bit about your August Blaze, EXPOSED?

Julie: EXPOSED is the first book in the Sexy City Nights series, which is based on the premise of a woman (or a man) exploring her or his sexuality with a city as their "prop." The characters in the books are inspired by an unnamed magazine that has done a spread featuring their city. EXPOSED is set in San Francisco and my heroine, Ariana Karas, finds the magazine on a cable car on her way back to work. She's about to start her first vacation in eight years and the magazine gives her an idea of what she wants to do with her time off! She wants to do all these sexy things with Max Forrester, a customer at her restaurant that she's had the hots for. Unfortunately, he's getting married in the morning. She doesn't know that, however. She's been told he was the best man.

But when she meets up with him, he's in no condition to tell her the truth. Someone has slipped something into his drink that makes him focus only on his desires and his memory is foggy, like the San Francisco night. They make love in the fog and the next morning, not only does he learn he's been left at the altar, but their outdoor lovemaking has been captured on film. This starts a story where Ariana and Max explore their sexual attraction while they investigate who drugged him and who is following them. And why.

SR: With EXPOSED you push some of the lines of traditional romance. How far can we expect the Blaze line to go?

Julie: Again, this will be up to the individual authors and editors. The lines will be pushed--and in some cases, shoved! That's okay. I'd say the Blaze line will go as far as the stories dictate. I, for one, have no intention of pulling back and so far, no one has objected to anything I've written since my first book, SEDUCING SULLIVAN.

SR: You've mentioned that you've read a lot of the Blaze books. Could you tell us a little bit about what we have to look forward to and what boundaries will be tested?

Julie: You'll have stories about sex slaves, bondage, superclubs (hotels that cater to the sexual needs of clients), exhibitionism, voyeurism, sex therapy and crimes based on erotic literature. You'll have heroes who are hired as male prostitutes and heroines with extensive sexual pasts. You'll see deeper explorations of masturbation and sexual play, including role playing and the use of toys and props. More than anything, the characters in these stories are comfortable with their sexuality moreso than I've read in any other category line. Makes for very interesting reading!

SR: What do you think makes a book erotic? Is it characters, situation, or something else?

Julie:Mainly, the characters, but the situation is almost equal. Even though the Blazes will have more plot in them, nearly all are character driven. As I said above, the characters are more comfortable and more curious about their sexuality. Put them in a sexually charged situation and BAM, you've got something erotic going on.

SR: Would you consider the new Blaze line erotic romance or sensual romance?

Julie: Both, depending on the author. However, most of the ones I've read would qualify as erotic, definitely. There will always be a range, and frankly, one woman's erotic is another woman's sensual. Both readers and writers have different knowledge bases, different thresholds and comfort zones. I think they're will be something for everyone, so long as everyone likes their romance REALLY hot!

SR: How do you feel being one of the launch authors of the new line?

Julie: Lucky as hell. Thrilled. Humbled. Did I say lucky? I'm obviously the new kid on the block, having only 5 books behind me and here I am with romance powerhouses Vicki Lewis Thompson, Jo Leigh and Stephanie Bond! Placing my book in the launch is a direct result of my starting the Sexy City Nights series, but in a lot of ways, it makes sense that I'd be somewhere in the first few months. Authors like me who started their careers in Temptation Blaze--authors like Janelle Denison and Carly Phillips--will all be in the first dozen releases. I'm really, really excited!

SR: Recently we've seen a lot of new lines devoted to sizzle and spice, like Red Sage, Brava, and now Blaze, to name a few. What do you think about this trend towards hotter romance?

Julie: I think it's great...but we can't lose track that some authors have been writing the hot stuff for a long time. I, personally, have been influenced by authors like Virginia Henley! The new lines, however, have helped readers find what they want. Branding, is what it's called, I think. Red Sage did it first, a small press. Then the big publishers followed suit. For Harlequin, I think seeing the phenomenal success of the Temptation Blazes, which was not planned as a monthly series until it took off, helped them make the decision to devote a whole line to the hot stuff.

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