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September 20, 2010

Margo Candela: Writing about Sex and Romance Without A Punch Line

Margo CandelaMy special guest today is chick lit author, Margo Candela who is celebrating the release of her book Good-bye To All That. According to Margo, her husband owes her six months…preferably on a tropical island sipping margaritas. The deal was, she had three years to write her first novel Underneath It All and find a publisher. She signed the book contract at 2 ½ years so she still has that six months coming to her. She’s been musing over a few brochures for Fiji.

Of course, Underneath It All wasn’t her first novel. Her first was a romance novel spoof she wrote at age 15 on an antique typewriter she paid $20 for—actually her mom paid $20. Sadly, Wenchhead and the Isle of Evil Men was never published. Do you think it was the title?

In between Wenchhead and the Isle of Evil Men and Goodbye to All That, Margo enjoyed a trip to magazine land where she wrote articles on everything from extreme sports to computer hardware to plushies(people who are sexually into stuffed animals). Shhh, don’t tell Margo’s mom about that last one. She might want the $20 or the antique typewriter back!

When not writing, Margo vacuums. It’s her secret solution to writer’s block and when she hits the Times bestseller list Margo dreams of buying a Dyson DC 25 Animal. And shoes. Ask her the about the black heels on the cover of Goodbye to All That.

(Credit for Margo’s photo: Alex Ben Parks)

Welcome, Margo!

Writing About Sex and Romance Without A Punch Line by Margo Candela

While I can be shy, I don’t consider myself a prude. I enjoy a good raunchy joke and can tell one, too. Some of my favorite movies (9½ Weeks, Against All Odds, A Room with a View, Say Anything) are all about sex or unabashed, if unrealistic, romanticism.

Nope, I don’t think I’m a prude at all but it has taken me four novels to finally manage to put some real sex into one of my books. Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ’10) is the first time I actually wrote something that made me blush and while I didn’t go all the way (I did the whole fade to black thing), it was a milestone of sorts for me.

My novels are funny and my characters don’t take things too seriously even though there is a lot of serious talk about sex and relationships. I’m not at all opposed to bawdy dialog and it sometimes comes so naturally to me that I have to tone it down to fit my characters. But there is a difference between treating sex and romance as a punch line and exploring it on the page. Sex, especially romantic sex, in a book that isn’t about sex or romance takes a deft writing hand to keep it from veering into either camp or erotica territory.

Sex and romance are serious business in books and real life. And, in books at least, I’m not sure how to fit the funny in there and funny is my default mode. I know my next manuscript will center around relationships, both romantic and familial, and while I don’t know how far I’ll take the boy-meets-girl side of things, I’m hopping my readers will find funny sexy enough not miss any actual sex. And if they do, I have a list of movies and books I can recommend that really deliver on both or either counts.

How about you? Do you ever wish an author would include more or less sex in their work?

Goodbye to All ThatHere’s the blurb:

Raquel Azorian is Hollywood’s invisible woman. She stands in the shining light of young starlets giving their careers nudges, her memos help boss Bert create money-making productions, and her practicality keeps her quirky family co-existing peacefully. Amazingly, no one notices. But then Raquel decides she deserves a chance to be the star. Why can’t she have the gorgeous boyfriend? Why can’t she tell the VPs to deal with their own snafus and grab a little power for herself? Why can’t she stop being the middleman in countless family dramas? When Raquel takes off her invisibility cloak everyone in Hollywood notices! Don’t miss it.

Purchase Good-bye To All That

To learn more about Margo or her books visit her website or blog.


  1. Jenyfer Matthews

    Congratulations on your book – it sounds great!

    I don’t mind whether a book has sex or not, so long as it is consistent with the story and the characters. Some of my favorite stories “fade to black” while others give more detail (oh-la-la!)

    My own seem to fall somewhere in the middle :)

  2. Becky

    Congrats on your book!

    I have to admit that I usually wish books would have more sex or make the sex a little more graphic. It really annoys me when romance books use words for sex that are used by elementary or middle schoolers. The majority of romance readers are adults so why do they not use adult verbage? This is the main reason why I mostly read erotic romance now instead of straight mainstream romance.

    Mainstream romance just doesn’t appeal to what I want anymore. Plot is great, you need plot for a book to be good. But if it doesn’t also have good sex scenes in it as well….it’s not worth my time. One or the other doesn’t cut it, I need both together.

  3. Leah Petersen

    I usually want more sex than is included, but I rarely read straight romance or the types of books where it’s clearly expected. But no matter where I am, the kiss then fade to black usually makes me feel let down.

    As for good reading in this area, this free e-book, Sex Scene: An Anthology, is the best I’ve read in a long time.

  4. Carol L.

    I love the blurb. I’ll be putting this on my wish list. Thanks for sharing.
    As for the sex, if it fits with the story I have no problem with it. If it’s romantic and emotional and leads right into a lot of expressive sex that’s fine too.
    Carol L.
    [email protected]

  5. Margo Candela

    Sex is a tricky issue but what I’ve found either there’s too much plot or romance and not enough sex or the plot is sacrificed for the sake of sex and romance is an afterthought.

    Wouldn’t it be great to find a book that balanced all those elements? I’m still looking and thinking maybe I should see about writing it myself…

  6. Chris Roberts

    Funny books that have a good plot are important. Whether or not the book needs more sex depends on the plot. I have read books where I wondered what happened as we suddenly are two hours later with no explaination and I wanted more sex. I have also read books where I have said enough already where is the plot?
    Like someone said before, I hate when the author uses middle school language about sex, which is why I read a lot of erotica I guess.

  7. Heidi Shafer-Wilson

    Congrats on your book….It is my kind of story…I can’t wait to read it…wonderful post, I love writing and enjoy writing the love scenes. I try to picture what I would like or want….thats how I get through them.. My husband laughs at me when I’m getting ready to write those scenes, he says I get to stressed before I start,once i’m writing I calm down…
    Thanks again great post..
    Heidi :wink:

  8. Margo Candela

    Chris: Flowery or juvenile language is distracting when it comes to a sex scene. It’s not like we don’t know what we’re reading. But I guess that’s why there are levels, even in erotica. Ellora’s Cave does a good job in ‘rating’ their books.

    Heidi: Sometimes it takes a little push to get in the mood, but glad to hear you eventually get there. I mean with your writing!

  9. Lucie Simone

    Margo, I am eager to read your new book and I wll be checking out your backlist, too! Personally, I like a little sex, but I don’t want to be hit over the head with it. I hate when the sex is completely glossed over so that you don’t even realize it happened, but I also get bored with scene after scene of nothing but sex. I say a little taste is all you need.

  10. Tart and Soul

    My agent is shopping my book around to publishers, and is finding some editors are uncomfortable with sex in the manuscript. I had the same issue when I was looking for an agent. The book is called “Sex, Lies and Bullfighting,” which should give you an idea of the tone.

    I’m wondering if anyone, including Ms. Candela, has had similar issues?

  11. Shelley Munro

    Welcome, Margo. I love the sound of your book.

    I still remember writing my first love scene and looking anxiously over my shoulder to see if anyone was looking. Silly really, since the house was totally empty apart from me and the dog!

    That first love scene was very tame, and I gradually moved into writing erotic romance because that was what I seemed to enjoy reading. These days I calmly write love scenes while in the middle of a busy cafe. Anyone looks over my shoulder at their peril. :mrgreen:

    That said, I’m happy to read at any sensuality level. As some of you have said – as long as the tone fits the book that’s okay. I’ve definitely read books where I thought there was too much sex taped together with little plot.

  12. Margo Candela

    My editor has teased me about the lack of sex in my first three books. With Good-bye To All That, I took my first step toward finally letting my main character get some fun time without going into the sweaty specifics. I think I did okay, too. Los Angeles Magazine said the sex scenes were “brief but potent.” I’ll take that.

  13. Shelley Munro

    Brief but potent is good. :grin:
    Does your follow-up book have brief but potent love scenes too?

  14. Shelley Munro

    Tart and Soul – it depends on the genre a lot, I think. In the romance genre there are loads of publishers who put on hot and spicy books. Publishers like Berkley for example. Also, St Martins and several others. Have you gone to a book store and scanned the current offerings in your genre to get an idea of the type of publishers that might be interested? That might help.

  15. Margo Candela

    For my next book, how much sex (if any) will depend on the tone and plot line. Not going to randomly throw in a bump and grind just to make my word count. Even though it would be a fun way to get to my goal.
    It all depends on the book, if it feels right then I’ll write it.

  16. Shelley Munro

    Definitely. Sex should depend on the plot. I thought you might have started your next book?

  17. Jenny Schwartz

    Okay, so sex is fascinating…but let’s focus on the eye-popping sentence: “When not writing, Margo vacuums.”

    Vacuums! I so hate vacuuming.

    Cleaning the bathroom, on the other hand, absolutely! Scrub away that writing frustration.

  18. Margo Candela

    It’s all about the vacuum and I have a Dyson. But I’m with you on the bathroom. I’ll take cleaning it over the kitchen each and every time.

    I’m polishing a screenplay right now and then, once done, I’ll work on my next book. But don’t expect more than a few great kisses, it’s a straight up rom-com.

  19. Vicki H

    I love the title of the book she wrote at 15. It kind of fits with MOST, about 99.9%, of men. I love it and it seems she must have a wonderful sense of humor. Thanks for the laugh.

  20. Tart and Soul

    Thanks, Shelley! And yes, I’ve checked out books in the genre, so I know some editors our there enjoy a little bit of skin.

    And I love how we all clean to scrub away writer’s block. Though I’m much more of a kitchen cleaner – give me dishes over the tub any day. I wonder if male writers turn to cleaning, too?


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