You know that saying, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first?” Well, when it comes to writing romance novels, I have a little secret: I write the sex scenes first.
For my first course, I would like crème brûlée.
It’s not because they’re the most fun (although they really are). It’s because sex scenes (good ones, anyway) are often major turning points in the plot of a romance. I think of them as turning points for the story, the moments when things change, often irrevocably, between the couple. After they fall into bed (or onto the kitchen table, or against the wall…), things start moving in a new direction, and there’s no turning around.
I’m not a “plotter”—I don’t plot my books in advance. I get to know the characters for 10,000 words or so first, and it’s not until I understand them inside and out that I know what’s going to happen to them. As soon as I have an idea of what that plot will look like, I make sure my laptop screen has it’s privacy filter on, and I sit down and write the sex scenes. Once I know where those turning points are, I can see the twisted path between them, and the winding road to the happily-ever-after.
Here’s a snippet from the very first scene I wrote featuring the hero and heroine of Twisted Miracles. When I started writing it, I knew everything about Cass and Shane—their secret fears, their desires, their flaws, their complicated past together. What I didn’t know was how they were ever going to overcome the obstacles between them. By the time I finished writing the scene that begins below, Cass and Shane were farther apart than ever—but I knew how to get them closer. Which meant I had more scenes to write.
(To understand this scene, you need to know that Cass and Shane are telepaths and “converters,” meaning they can convert energy from one form to another using their minds.)
I went out the back door and crossed the small patio to the abandoned exterior kitchen. It was leftover from the 1840s, and Lionel was using it as a storage shed. I leaned against its small chimney and watched as all the lights in the house went off. The building next door was dark, too. A cool front was moving in, and I wrapped my arms around myself against the first bite of fall as I walked to the fence, looking over it into the neighbors’ backyard. The grass there hadn’t been cut in a while.
“Aren’t you cold?”
I whipped my head around, but I already knew it was Shane. He was standing on the back porch. He’d changed into track pants and a dark T-shirt, and I noticed, not for the first time, that he’d bulked up in the years I’d been away. His feet were bare.
“It’s not so bad,” I said.
“Why’re you standing out here in the dark?”
“I’m not tired. Still wound up after the party, I guess.”
“Yeah, I figured.” He stepped off the porch and crossed the patio to stand next to me. The dim light cast shadows under his cheekbones, and I tried to force my attention to the brick wall, the patio table, anything but him.
“What do you mean by that?” I’d meant to sound casual, teasing, but the words came off defensive.
“Just that I know you don’t like being reminded of what you left behind.” He moved to face me, and I took a step back, rubbing my hands together in the chilly air.
“Here,” he said, taking my hands in his and drawing them forward. Soft warmth radiated from his palms, and my fingers tingled from the sudden heat.
“I can do that myself.”
“Then why don’t you?” His deep voice echoed in my head as if it were the only sound in the universe. Fear and desire built in my chest, making me tremble.
“Get out of my head.” I tried to pull away, but he held on.
“Why? What are you afraid of?”
The question brought up a barrage of memories—his lips against my shoulder, how I’d felt snapping the rope when we’d stolen the boat, the touch of his mind when we’d held hands out on the water. I shook my head as if I were chasing off flies.
Shane stepped closer, but I didn’t move away. “You can’t keep ignoring what you are.” The image of my trashed bedroom in San Francisco flashed through his mind. “Stay,” he said, but I wasn’t sure if he’d meant me to hear.
“Get out,” I said again, this time mindspeaking, not able to fight the connection anymore. But I didn’t mean it, and when he turned my chin and put his mouth on mine, I let him.
Want to know what happens next? Buy your copy of Twisted Miracles from Carina Press and add it to your Goodreads:
Read the first two chapters on my website!
More about Twisted Miracles:
Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.
Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.
When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina—Cass’s childhood friend—is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life.
photo credit: Johnny Chauvin
A.J. Larrieu grew up in small-town Louisiana, where she spent her summers working in her family’s bakery, exploring the swamps around her home and reading science fiction and fantasy novels under the covers. She attended Louisiana State University, where she majored in biochemistry and wrote bad poetry on the side. Despite pursuing a Ph.D. in biology, she couldn’t kick the writing habit, and she wrote her first novel in graduate school. It wasn’t very good, but she kept at it, and by the time she graduated, she had an addiction to writing sexy urban fantasy and paranormal romance. Her second manuscript, Twisted Miracles, was a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart® competition in 2012. The book kicks off her dark, romantic urban fantasy series, The Shadowminds, which follows a group of humans with psychic powers through New Orleans’ supernatural underworld. A.J. is currently a working biophysicist in San Francisco, where she lives with her family and too many books.
You can find out more about A.J. (and her books) on her website. She loves to hear from readers! Email her at email@example.com, follow her on twitter at @ajlarrieu, or sign up for her newsletter to get exclusive excerpts and prizes.