Jane O’Reilly: Five Things I Learned Writing Indecent Exposure

Quiet, sensible Ellie Smithson is a highly respectable photographer by day – but there are only so many wedding photo-shoots you can take without your mind wandering to what happens when the blissfully happy bride is swept off her feet and straight to the honeymoon suite’s sumptuous four-poster bed…

So after dark, Ellie takes pictures of a more…intimate nature – a dirty little secret she’s kept from her accountant Tom. Until now. It seems Tom is the subject of her next racy shoot!

It isn’t just the blurring of work and personal boundaries that’s the problem; secretly Ellie has always had fantasies of a most unprofessional nature about the almost illegally gorgeous Tom. With such temptation on display, how will she ever stay behind the camera?

1. I love writing in 1st person present.

I’d always written in 3rd person past before, which is pretty much the standard route for romance novels. But 1st person present is so immediate, so visceral. You are right there with the character, living the story as they live it. I loved it so much that I then wrote 90K of my next manuscript in it. (I regretted that later. It was completely the wrong choice for that book). I have seen some readers say that they’ll reject a book based purely on the fact that it’s written in 1st person present, but I wouldn’t use that as an excuse not to write a book that way if you want to. Just accept that those people aren’t your readers and get on with it.

2. There is a tremendous sense of freedom in writing erotica.

I was able to say all the things I’d never been able to say in my contemporary romances. Use all the bad words and explore all the desires of the heroine, Ellie, that wouldn’t have been acceptable in a contemporary. Erotica is very honest and raw, and I don’t think you will find a more accurate portrayal of female desire. Anyone who wants to understand female sexuality should read some.

3. You can have too many connections between the hero and heroine.

It helps a story to have some, because it gives some backstory, some conflict. But when they went to school together and her studio is in the shop his parents used to own that he burned down and he’s her accountant and he’s had sex with her best friend, it’s too much. Fortunately, the editor who bought Indecent Exposure pointed this out. And made me fix it.

4. You won’t die from embarrassment if one of your sex scenes is read out loud in front of a group of strangers.

I took a scene from Indecent Exposure to a writing sex workshop run by novelist Julie Cohen. There were about 8 of us there, as I recall, and only one other person had brought some of their work with them. I felt reasonably content with my ability to write sex scenes – I’d sold some of my contemporary romances by then, and they have sex scenes galore, although not featuring anal sex and pornography. Ahem. Someone else read my scene out to the rest of the group – I was too busy dealing with the shame – and there was a moment, a really precious moment, where everyone went very quiet and no-one breathed. I knew then that the scene worked. And if that scene worked, maybe the whole thing would.

5. When people find out that you’ve written erotica, they’re going to ask you if you find writing it exciting. And you’re going to have to think of an answer.

When I was first smacked between the eyes with ‘did writing it turn you on?’ I was completely floored. How very rude, I thought to myself. How very personal. I’ve been asked since, though the question has been put more gently. Do you enjoy it? Is it exciting? It’s not difficult to know the answer, though it is difficult to say. It was funny really, after writing stories about women struggling to deal with the way society views women and sex, to find myself struggling to answer that question. To tell the truth, or to deny it? To say yes, writing a scene in which the gorgeous hero pleasured himself was fabulously arousing, or to pretend it was nothing more than words on a page? Like the heroine of Indecent Exposure, Ellie, I tried denial. It didn’t work.

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Jane O’Reilly started writing as an antidote to kids’ TV when her youngest child was a baby. Her first novel was set in her old school and involved a ghost and lots of death. It’s unpublished, which is probably for the best. Then she wrote a romance, and that, as they say, was that. She lives near London with her husband and two children.

Jane O’Reilly: Website | Twitter

Indecent Exposure: Amazon US / Amazon UK


  • I loved this ~ Erotica can be very difficult for some writers. I always say if you are not true to your story ~ if you hold back, you will cheapen it and actually make the reader feel dirty. I can tell when a writer is uncomfortable with a scene, and it makes it very uncomfortable for the reader. Here’s the way I look at it, if you go sniffing around the erotica side of books ~ expect some very strange things and have a very open mind to allow the writer to take you there. Awesome post ! P.S The story sounds awesome!

  • February 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM // Reply

    Jane: this isn’t typically what I read, but you’ve hooked me and it’s going in my queue.

    Chuck: on a side note, thanks for doing these posts. My local bookstore closed a few years back and it’s been a challenge finding new books ever since the physical aspect of browsing was stolen from me. Because of you, my reading list is now fat and juicy once again. You are a SUPER STAR!

  • I am intrigued by your philosophy, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. 🙂

    Try reading your sex scenes to a crowd yourself You will find it very liberating. Or you will die of embarrassment. Either way, you’ll have learned something valuable! (Note: Please ensure the crowd is composed of volunteers. Soapboxing your sex scenes in the public square is not revolutionary. It’s creepy. 🙂 )

    As far as “do you enjoy writing sex scenes?” with the implication “Does it make your naughty bits all tingly?” I respond the same way I do when people ask me that question about erotic photography.:

    “I am making erotica that I enjoy, and I am trying to do the best I can. That makes me happy. But all the blood is in the big head when I’m working: I don’t get turned on while I’m doing it.”

    This is absolutely the truth, and I’ve spoken to several professional pornographers (I am an amateur, but a dedicated one 🙂 ) who have all said the same thing. Later, you might look at the pics and say, “Damn, that was hot!” but while you’re doing it, you’re worried about framing and shadows and not posing the models so they look weird because you have the perspective wrong (unless that’s your thing.)

    I *have* talked to erotica writers who do get juiced up when they’re writing, but they seem to be the exception. Most of them have a similar attitude to the above in the actual production stage. Although in the preproduction stage coming up with the scenarios can be fun. 😉

    To tell the truth, I actually hate writing sex scenes. Don’t tell anybody. 🙂 The reason being that it is so hard to keep them from being repetitive and almost parodic, especially if like me you do like them very down and dirty. I always write the sex scenes last, both because it’s my least favorite part and because that way they are driven by the rest of the story and not the other way around.

  • Great post Jane and your book sounds very intriguing. I think to a certain extent you have to enjoy writing a hot sex scene otherwise it will come across as stilted and / or not either emotionally or physically engaging. At the time I write I’m usually more preoccupied with thinking ‘ok is this actually physcially possible?’ rather than concentrating on the ‘feel’ of the scene. But once I’ve finished writing / editing it, I’ll read it just to ensure I do achieve a sense of pleasure out of it and that I’ve captured the right emotion I wanted in that scene. I too, have a tendancy to leave those scenes for last. Congratulations on your release. I’ve thought of a good comeback…”Oooh yes I do and I’m looking for a research assistant. Are you interested?”

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