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February 19, 2015

Thirteen Ways I Learned to Write About Sex

I’m thrilled to welcome Marian Perera, a fellow Samhain Publishing author. She’s celebrating the release of her paranormal fantasy romance, The Highest Tide and has a fun post about sex. Smile with tongue out

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen ways I learned to write about sex

Thanks for hosting me, Shelley! I like interesting lists, so when I found your blog I read through all the Thursday13 posts first. Those gave me the idea of this guest post.

But here’s the story behind it. I grew up in the Middle East, in a devoutly religious family, a sex-segregated school and an extremely conservative country. How conservative? If a couple kissed on a TV show, this was cut out before the show was broadcast. So speaking of kisses, my first had to wait until I went to college in the States. I was that sheltered.

And now I write romances with explicit sex in them.

Of course, this transition from saint to sinner didn’t happen all at once. So here are a few of the steps I took to become an enthusiastic proponent of the open-bedroom-door policy…

1. Read every romance novel I could lay my hands on, from Sweet Savage Love onwards.

2. Bought and read Stacia Kane’s book Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet. The book is so blunt it overcame a lot of my inhibitions.

3. Reminded myself that it’s not about what I’ve been taught, or what my family believes. It’s about what’s right for the characters and the story.

4. Reminded myself that my editors have read hundreds of steamy romances, so there’s no need to be embarrassed if they refer to certain, uh, technical aspects of the scenes.

5. Kept sex scenes in-character. If the couple enjoy verbal teasing, there can be a rest in the action where they playfully spar with each other.

6. Put the characters in unusual locations. Not only is this fun, I get to think about where they could have sex long before they reach that point. Cave on a deserted island? Got it. Inside a hollow baobab tree? Came out earlier this year.

7. Pushed my personal envelope. Most of my romances are a slow burn where the sexual tension builds up until the characters finally give in. With The Highest Tide, they got their clothes off in the first chapter—and had good reason to do so.

8. Used sex to heighten the characters’ emotional struggle. At the end of The Coldest Sea (coming out later this year), the heroine has settled down with a job she enjoys, and she reluctantly tells the hero, a freighter captain, that she can’t just leave to marry him. So he makes love to her in an intense, the-last-time-we’ll-have-each-other way. The story ends happily, but I milked that scene for all it was worth in terms of heartache.

9. Read some really bad sex scenes. It’s good to know what not to do—for instance, I don’t believe it’s ever arousing to mention the heroine’s urethra.

10. Learned to drop the occasional f-bomb. I don’t use this word very often, so when it occurs—especially when the hero says it in a sexually charged moment—it packs a punch.

11. Held true to my convictions. I believe that even in fiction, when a woman says no, a man should back off (unless they’re play-acting or the scene is written as assault). So I’ve written hot makeout scenes which stopped when the heroine remembered a good reason not to go further. That made it even better when she did want it.

12. Figured out how to incorporate contraceptives into fantasy romance. Or, if they’re not used, to show why not. One of my heroines is infertile, and knows she is, and doesn’t end up with a surprise baby at the end.

13. Wrote sexy fanfics. Less pressure there. Plus, they were Transformers fanfics. If I can write about giant robots having sex, I can write about anyone having sex.

Bio : Marian Perera started reading fantasy at 6 when she found a huge hardcover copy of The Lord of the Rings. Her parents replaced that with a more age-appropriate paperback of The Hobbit. Later she discovered another book with an adorable bunny rabbit on the cover. Yes, that was Watership Down. She had to wait ten more years for romance novels, but once she discovered those she never looked back, and now combines the two for maximum fun.

Marian was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Dubai, studied in the United States (Georgia and Texas), worked in Iqaluit and lives in Toronto. For now. With five hot fantasy romances published by Samhain and Loose Id, she’s just getting started. She blogs at Flights of Fantasy, is on Twitter, has lots of excerpts on her website and still writes the occasional giant-robot-smutfic with no guilt whatsoever.

The Highest Tide


One touch, and the tide isn’t all that’s rising. When brothel health inspector Jason Remerley finds a uniformed woman waiting impatiently in the Velvet Court parlor, wanting to hire a man’s services, he’s struck by lightning. His intense, immediate attraction compels him to pretend his way into her arms.

Enough silver, and most men forget about Captain Lera Vanze’s half-burned face. She senses something off about the handsome, ill-dressed prostitute who sells himself so cheaply. But with his first touch, goose bumps turn to shivers of desire—right before the truth drives them in opposite directions.

Her fury is still simmering when they face each other in a more “official” capacity. She’s joined a warship to stop a terrorist only Jason can identify. Though trust is scarce, they’re swept away in a tidal wave of murderous plots and an explosive attraction that could leave them marooned in an emotional—and very real—minefield.

Warning: She knows how to wield her sword, he knows just how, when, and where to apply his…mind. Contains deception in a brothel, sex in a cave, a shark with a bad habit, and one very large wave.

Samhain Publishing | Amazon

Do you have any questions for Marian or tips to add to her list?


  1. Colleen

    All good points. I always wonder who much is writing from what you know when it comes to sex.

  2. Alice Audrey

    Keeping it in character can be such an issue. I have gotten so tired of reading sex scenes that could be cut and pasted into any Romance. So many authors make the mistake of believing that sex is always the same from one couple to the next. Yeah, right.

  3. April

    I’m a closet erotica writer but I so appreciate the idea of bringing a relationship full circle… since… ya know…that’s how it happens in real life anyway. :)

  4. Mary Kirkland

    That’s really interesting. I often wonder if an author is writing from experience, research or imagination.

    • Marian Perera

      Hey Shelley! Thanks for having me. And yeah, when I got my very first set of edits back, I had to talk myself through reading the comments my editor had left on the sex scene. They were helpful, polite comments, of course. But just the thought that someone else read my sex scene made me do a mental cringe.

      Colleen – I think as long as we don’t strain the readers’ suspension of disbelief, we can make do with research and imagination. I’m certainly not going to try to have sex in a doctor’s examination room with the doctor, but I have that planned for another book. :)

      Mia – Thanks! I hope you enjoy it.

      Alice – Exactly. Heck, in my favorite novel, Gone with the Wind, Scarlett doesn’t start enjoying sex even with Rhett (who’s an amazing hero) until well into their marriage, one night after she humiliates him and he threatens her in a drunken rage. Which goes to show how sadly messed up their relationship is, I suppose.

      Paige – Thank you!

      Mary – The more inventive the sex, the more I attribute it to research and creativity. :)

      Country Dew – Glad you enjoyed it! It’s like every other aspect of writing – gets easier with practice.

  5. Shelley Munro

    Welcome, Marian. I remember writing my first love scenes. I was alone in the house and I kept glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone was checking out what I was writing. I’ve come a long way since then!

  6. CountryDew

    Congratulations on the release, and thank you for this. This is not an issue I *ever* attempt to write about, but at some point probably will need to. I don’t read or write romance but there needs to be some sort of sexual tension in many stories.

  7. The Gal Herself

    As a reader, I really appreciate #3 and #8. Context and staying in character are ALWAYS so important, and yet sometimes writers abandon them when writing about sex.

    • Marian Perera

      Thanks, Carol, and I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post!

      • Marian Perera

        Darnit, I keep replying in the wrong place!

        To The Gal Herself : context and character are the best way to make sex scenes distinctive, not something that can be copied-and-pasted from book A to book B. One writer whose sex scenes are always unique to the characters and situation (at least in the books I’ve read) is Courtney Milan. I want to be like her when I grow up. :)

  8. Carol Kilgore

    I loved this. Great to meet you Marian. Congratulations on your new release.

    Hi, Shelley!

  9. T.F. Walsh

    Wonderful post.. and some great points here.

    • Marian Perera

      Thanks! It was a lot of fun to write.

  10. Maria Zannini

    Re: If I can write about giant robots having sex, I can write about anyone having sex.

    LOL! Okay, you caught me on this.

    I love sexual innuendo and banter leading to sex.

    Congrats on the new release, hon!

    • Marian Perera

      Thanks, Maria! Seriously, you have no idea how creative TF smutfic writers can be when coming up with ways for Optimus Prime and Megatron to do it. :D