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Guest Author: Anna Campbell

Does the thought of writing love scenes turn you frigid? You’re not alone! Slip into something more comfortable and say a husky hello to Anna Campbell. She was a two-time Golden Heart finalist in 2006 who went on to become a two-time RITA finalist for her passionate historical romances. I’ve sweet-talked her into slipping under the covers with us today. She’s that kind of gal. Let’s give her a warm welcome!

Girding One’s Loins by Anna Campbell

Or perhaps I should call this piece UN-girding one’s loins.

Hiya Ruby Slipper gals! A particularly big hello to the fabulous Vanessa Barneveld who invited me here to talk to you today.

When we discussed this blog, Vanessa and I tossed a couple of topics back and forwards (well, it was more Vanessa tossing topics and me ducking – she has a very mean aim, that girl!) until eventually she mentioned that she’s up to the BIG love scene in my next release MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION (26th April, Avon).  She was blushing on the train when she read it, then she nearly missed her station.

Which made me smile with gratification and stand still, so the next time Vanessa tossed a topic, she hit me and I have the bruises to prove it.

Anyway, enough of this idle persiflage!

Do you dread writing big love scenes?

I know a lot of writers do. I used to, but I think I’ve turned into a dirty old woman over the course of my writing life and now I enjoy creating them. Because clearly I was pure as the driven snow when I started out!

I love great love scenes. I love going through that emotional journey expressed in physical form. I love how the characters are naked emotionally as well as physically in a great love scene.

Recently I was privileged to be the keynote speaker at the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Bondi Beach in Sydney (the next one’s 2013 if you’re planning your calendars that far ahead!). I told a story at a panel which horrified the attendees – I hope it doesn’t horrify you. A few years before I was published, I wrote an Australian historical for a competition in a magazine down here. I gave the manuscript to my mother, who was a dedicated romance fan, to read and when she returned it to me, her report was, “It’s a great story, but, darling, the love scenes are a DISASTER!”

Are you horrified?

Actually I think that was a great wakeup call because it meant after that conversation, I put a lot of thought and time into learning how to write a love scene. The research was fun – I spent ages checking out the love scenes in my favorite romance novels (goodness, you girls have such DIRTY minds! What did you think I was talking about?).  And immediately I recognized several problems in my long ago manuscript. One was that the story stopped dead for the naughty bits. Bad mistake. The second was that while the physical detail was OK, I really skimped on the emotional content. So while my characters were fairly athletic (as befits bronzed Aussies!), a reader had no stake in caring why hero and heroine groped various bits of each other.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of rules I’ve tried to apply every time it comes to a naughty bit in my books. One is that the love scene has to advance the plot in some way – there must be major consequences and a change in direction every time my characters get down and dirty.

Even better is when the love scene makes everything MUCH WORSE! So giving into their passions raises the stakes in the story, compelling the reader to turn the pages to find out what happens next. I think we’ve all been in that situation where the sexual tension in a book keeps us on the edge of our seats, then the characters do ‘it’ and we kinda lose interest.

The other thing I try to do is keep the emotion paramount. Yeah, it’s nice when all the relevant juicy bits fit together and there are fireworks, but what the characters are feeling in their hearts has to be center stage. Something that works is to make everything individual to those particular characters, so the reader is involved in Murgatroyd and Wilhelmina’s ongoing story, not just in two generic hawt people making hawt lurve. One way of doing this is to refer back to specific incidents in the story or backstory so that only Wilhelmina would remember how tender Murgatroyd was when he saved the badger from the trap and now he’s being even more tender with her (I know, brilliant example, expect to see it on the NYT next week!).

Another cool way of doing it is to use vocabulary specific to the characters. I recently read a couple of Ruby Sister Elizabeth Essex’s historicals where her heroes are navy men. She has enormous fun using maritime and naval imagery for her heroes’ self-talk. Mind you, you can take this too far. If Murgatroyd starts threatening Wilhelmina with his mighty mizzenmast, it’s probably time to haul in the sheets.

So let’s talk naughty bits. What do you think makes a great love scene? Do you have any favorites in the books on your keeper shelves? What techniques do you use to make the love scenes really sing? I’ve got a signed copy of my latest release MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION up for grabs for one lucky commenter. Good luck!

Thanks so much for sharing your juicy insights into the language of lurve scenes, Anna!

Readers can get up close and personal with Anna at her website and Facebook fan page.

150 responses to “Guest Author: Anna Campbell”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Ooh!! Are Rubies eligible for the drawing??? I’m so excited to read Midnight’s Wild Passion!! I discovered your books just last year, and have adored them. Your mama’s criticism definitely paid offl–your love scenes are both hawt and incredibly emotional, which is wonderful.

    What great advice here. I’m going to engrave “the love scene has to advance the plot in some way – there must be major consequences and a change in direction” on my forehead. I’ve heard Sherry Thomas give similar advice, especially advice that the momentary surrender to passion makes things WORSE between the couple afterwards (even though it’s all groovy goodness pleasure-wise while it’s going on).

    Definitely for me the best thing in love scenes is the emotional nakedness–the trembling hands, the intensity of the eye contact, the spontaneous verbal confessions. (This puts me in mind of Leonard Cohen’s “from your lips she drew the hallelujah….”) *Sigh*

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    • Oh, Elisa, Hallelujah is one of my favourite songs ever. I love the original version that I’ve got on CD – it always gives me goosebumps. “But you don’t care for music, do ya?” Ouch! Actually you’re right – that song is a perfect example of emotional punch. Goes straight to the heart.

      So glad the advice hit the nail on the head! It’s still something I have to remind myself of when I’m writing a book – sometimes you just get carried away with the lusciousness of all that lurve, you forget that the plot has to keep galloping along, even when the protagonists are horizontal! Something that helps me is to have at least one major plot point I need covered by the time all the fireworks are fading from the sky (oh, I’m having too much fun with all this naughty stuff!).

      And thank you for saying such lovely things about the books! Actually I think one of the things that shocks people about Mum’s criticism is that, you know, she was my MOTHER!

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      • I’m so glad you found your way to Anna’s books, Elisa. You’re right–they’re full of complex emotion and I think that’s why readers respond so well to them.

        And, Anna, you’re a braver woman than I am. There is no way in a million years I would’ve shown my mother the (tepid) Blaze I attempted years ago.

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        • Vanessa, it took me years to show my mother my writing but I must say she was actually a really good critic – and she gave me that reader’s perspective that is so essential. But yeah, it was scary the first few times. 😉

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  2. Shoshana Brown says:

    Great advice about making sure the love scene advances the plot. I remember attending one of Jenny Crusie’s workshops at RWA nationals where she was talking about editing scenes. One of the things she said was that every scene should have a protagonist and an antagonist, engaged in some sort of conflict. This seemed like pretty obvious advice until it occurred to me that my love scenes didn’t have any sort of conflict. No wonder they were so boring.

    Thanks for coming to visit, Anna. I’ll be on the lookout for Midnight’s Wild Passion.

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    • Hey, Shoshana, thanks so much for saying you enjoyed the blog. I think sometimes writers – well, me! – can suffer from this odd blindness where we think there’s plenty of conflict in a scene, especially a love scene, and when we step back, there just isn’t! I’m lucky to have a wonderful critique partner (Annie West) who is great at picking up when things are becoming…flaccid! 😉 Love the antagonist and protagonist thing – that’s something I’ll use! Thank you.

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      • Shoshana, that’s a fantastic tip–thanks for sharing it. I’m almost through one of two gruelling revisions and I’ll take another look at my antagonist/protagonist balance on the final pass.

        Anna, that Annie West has helped me out with my flaccid bits too! Isn’t she a gem? She really knows how to up the ante in her emotional love scenes.

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  3. Tawny Weber says:

    Oh Anna, I’m so glad you left the pure driven snow to write your awesome naughty bits *g* You do them so well, so obviously all that selfless research paid off 😀

    I love the idea that a well-written love scene will add to the conflict, and while it feels great for the characters, it should make their lives much MUCH more difficult.

    I’m really looking forward to reading Midnight’s Wild Passion… especially those naughty bits 😀

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    • Tawny, who writes a darn good love scene herself! Lovely to see you here. And thank you for saying such nice things – the cheque’s in the mail! I think it’s really hard to get a love scene exactly right – because you need all that sensuality but you also need dramatic tension as well. Oh, well, as they say – if writing was easy, everybody would do it!

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      • Ooh, that’s right! Tawny, your Blazes are hawt enough to melt glaciers!

        You must get your hands on Anna’s MWP. Naughty bits galore. I must warn you against reading this book on public transport. I got so engrossed that I almost missed my train stop a few times on the way to work.

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  4. Hey, Anna! Imagine, you doing a blog about love scenes. Color me shocked. 🙂

    I don’t know that I dread writing them, but I always worry about them being both real and different — meaning I don’t want them to be boring because they’re like a million other love scenes in novels but I don’t want them being crazy contortionists either. 🙂

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    • Hi, Trish! I was so happy when Anna decided to talk about love scenes for this blog. She’s so darn good at writing them and now I’ve learned all her secrets. Now, if only she’d share her mysterious chocolate slice recipe with me…

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  5. Trish, I’ve actually decided it isn’t about the contortions of the body. It’s about contortions of the heart! Hmm, is that even medically possible? But often the hottest love scenes that I’ve read have been emotionally intense more than physically intense – although I’m certainly not averse to physically intense either. But it’s that emotional punch that makes me remember them, not how acrobatic the participants are. Personally I like a touch of realism in a love scene – I remember thinking I was taking a risk with the first love scene in Untouched where my virgin hero basically loses control. I’ve had a lot of mail from readers saying that they liked it too – he wasn’t perfect and at this most significant moment in his life, he wasn’t a superman.

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  6. SarahElizabeth says:

    That was an awesome read Vanessa and Anna!I always blush when I’m writing a naughty scene – heck I can’t even talk about sex without turning red and laughing! Question – is it possible to tame a rake in real life?

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    • Oh, you and me both, Sarah! I’ll leave it to the experts, like Anna. As for taming rakes…I have a hard enough time taming my cats. I’m interested in seeing if the other Rubies have some experience in this arena. The taming of rakes, that is. And cats.

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      • SarahElizabeth says:

        Hehe thanks for your reply Vanessa – I’m wanting to attempt to tame a rake but it looks like its hard work! I’m trying to do the friend thing without getting in too deep but now I’m kind of going hot/cold. I’m kind of shy its hard for me to make conversation sometimes!

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  7. Hello Anna! Hello Ruby Slipper Sisters!

    I adore your books’ naughty bits, Anna. They’re an example of what a writer can learn from constructive criticism and their mother! 🙂

    Do I have trouble writing those naughty bits into a book…hmmm…uh, no. However, I believe they are a very important plot device and each time you put those two characters together, someone should definitely have something at stake–their heart, their lives, their code of honor…something.

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    • Suzanne, you’re a master, uh…mistress of those naughty bits. The Surrender of Lacy Morgan is TSSSSSS hawt! Thanks for saying such nice things about my own love scenes. I think you’re absolutely right about there needing to be some stake so the dramatic tension doesn’t snap.

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      • Thanks for stopping by, Suzanne! I love what you said about the characters having something at stake every time they’re together. I’m adding The Surrender of Lacy Morgan to my must-read list.

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        • Always glad to stop by the Ruby Sisters’ blog, Vanessa. *sending a wave to my good friend Addison Fox*

          Thanks for adding my book to your list. Anna has been a big supporter of Lacy and her two heroes! Which I always appreciate, La Campbell!

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      • Anna, glad you agree on the “something at stake” concept for love scenes. Now if I could just convince my characters in my new WIP to get that through their heads, things might go smoother writing wise!! So far, they seem to be just having a good time at it!

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        • Suz, whip those characters into shape. Oh, no, you took me seriously! LOL! Actually I always have to cut at least 50% of each love scene so that the drama is in reasonable balance with the having fun bit so I feel your pain.

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  8. Sarah, what an interesting question (thanks for saying you liked the blog!). I suspect it is but it’s probably uncommon. Anyone with any experience in this area? Snort! Actually you’ve reminded me of something I wanted to say in the blog but it was already getting long enough to vie with War and Peace, I think to write a good love scene, you have to turn off your internal editor and you have to forget about Aunty Edna and Cousin Fritz reading it and wondering if that’s what YOU do when you shut the bedroom door. I think one of the problems about that long ago Aussie historical was that I was very self-conscious when I wrote the naughty bits. These days, I let it all hang out! Snort!

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  9. I’m in the middle of writing a very hot love scene. Thanks for reminding me it should be more than just about the heat level. It’s got to have heart, too.

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  10. Bronwyn S says:

    lol!! Anna, I did picture you for a sec with the dvd player going and you covering your eyes for the particularly nasty stuff =) Glad you meant your fave books. I love love scenes. I don’t think they’re naughty at all (unless you’re talking erotica) and you do them very well. I detest the ones that go on forever (won’t name names) and equally the ones that mean nothing and don’t advance the story. Don’t get me wrong, sex for the sake of sex fits in some stories but I don’t think it fits in Historical esp where you have a virginal heroine who all of a sudden turns into a nympho!

    I don’t have trouble writing them with the bits that fit together well (=P) but I think nailing the emotional stuff is the hardest. I find M&B Blazes help because they have so much sex so often that you have more to analyse.

    Can’t wait to read your latest, Anna! And thanks to Vanessa for throwing things- I mean topics at Anna!!

    Bron.

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    • Bron, now you’ve got me giggling at me hiding my eyes in front of the DVD. What’s that, Vanessa? I’d NEVER hide my eyes? Shhhh! I think you make a great point about the level of the sensuality having to be appropriate for that particular character too. Again, it’s making the love scenes individual to those particular people.

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      • Bron, so lovely to see you here. I was happy to throw stuff at Anna. She’s tired of me bopping her with a pool noodle; this was much more fun for her. Great point about love scenes that advance the story. You can easily tell when a sex scene is tacked in just for the sake of it–it just doesn’t ring true in the grand scheme of the book.

        No, Anna, I can’t imagine you shielding your eyes from the naughty bits! Snort!

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  11. Hey Anna and Vanessa! Great post!
    Anna, Vanessa’s wonderfully accurate throwing arm caught you for a perfect topic! Your love scenes are so filled with emotion that they sing! So you obviously took your mum’s comment to heart. I did laugh when I read that bit AND I think you’re terribly brave! I’m not sure I’d have given my mum a really hawt scene I’d written to read… I’m still not sure that I would! LOL

    Your tips are fantastic as usual. And you follow your own advice – your love scenes really ratchet up the tension your stories!

    I can’t wait to get my hands on M.W.P. – and I’ll take Vanessa’s experience to heart. I’ll read it at home!

    Congratulations on your latest release, Anna. The reviews are fabulous!

    🙂
    Sharon

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  12. Amy Conley says:

    I have to agree, it isn’t the actual “hawt lurve” going on, it’s the emotional parts. The slow moving hand;the tender flick of a tongue across one’s own lips;just that first kiss, be it slow and melting or fast and furious, those are the things which make love scenes better than reality! Please, keep ALL love scenes emotional. I also like what you said about the love making have consequences, good or bad for the couple. (Actually, I’m kinda trying to write a romance right now and these hints are VERY handy!)

    Thanks Anna,
    Amy

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    • Hey, Amy, cool that the advice hit you just at a useful moment. Beautifully put descriptions of what makes a love scene sing. I like hot stuff as much as the next person but if I don’t care about the people, basically I don’t care about what they do between the sheets. I think it’s the emotional punch that gives a great love scene its power.

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      • Hi, Amy! I love the idea of the love scenes having consequences for the hero and heroine. I think this all ties in with advancing the story. Good luck with writing your romance. I’m sure Anna’s advice will come in very handy!

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  13. Thanks, Cat! Glad the timing was so apt. I basically think you put my whole blog into a sentence!;-)

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  14. Hello to naughty Anna and all the kind people who’ve dropped by so far!

    Anna, thank you once again for coming over here to talk loins. As you know, I’m a YA writer and my love scenes aren’t as, ahem, detailed as your hawt love scenes. That said, I can play with my teen characters’ emotions, so to speak, to heighten kissing scenes. Thanks for the great tips!

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  15. Vanessa, talk to me in your husky voice again – and I’ll practice my bloodhound yelp back. Snort! Thank you for having me as your guest today! I really think love stories are exactly that, you know, LOVE stories. It’s the emotions that cut the mustard.

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  16. Annie West says:

    Hi Vanessa, Hi Anna. I’m chuckling at the idea of poor Vanessa blushing as she read the love scenes in MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION. I’m not surprised, actually. One of the hallmarks of your books, Anna, is the red-blooded passion in them and Midnight is no exception (love that book!).

    I think for me the test of a great love scene is for the emotions to be engaged from the first. Sometimes the build up to the love scene is as memorable and intense as the actual lovemaking because it’s all about the relationship (physical, emotional and intellectual) between the characters. If it’s all physical alone the scene is easily skippable. If the physical is missing, the scene is generally not going to be memorable. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about things changing because of this scene. It really should be a significant moment in the story, as well as in the characters’ sex lives. Readers definitely won’t be disappointed in these ones…

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    • Hi, Annie! I totally agree with you on the connection between the physical, emotional and intellectual. (You could very well apply to this philosophy to real life!) This is one reason why I love your Presents stories so much. You take a holistic approach and it’s so satisfying when your characters get their HEA. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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    • Wow, Annie, absolutely beautifully put! Hey, you should be a writer – snicker! I love that you said the books were red-blooded. As a reader, I love a book that grabs me by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let me go. I’d love to think Midnight is one of those!

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  17. Cassie says:

    Wow, as a *someday* (hopefully) writer, I got to say, I agree with the love being the hardest part. I love throwing my characters at each other a far as the arguments, my lovers always challenge each other, I find it far more interesting if they disagree, and end up in the sheets, rather than if its a re-creation of the perfect love scene where everything is perfectly fine. As far as writing the naughty parts, I’m still at the stage where, each word I write, I imagine my mother in-law, and the heart attack she would have. Or the nudging elbow my sister would give me. I’m still terrified to let my husband read them, without feeling like my heart is in my stomach, but as you’ve said, its better to get over that. Thanks for the great advice, I hope to be as good as you someday!

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    • Hi, Cassie! I’m glad Anna’s advice resonated with you. I’ve been lucky enough to get her feedback on almost all of my projects, and believe me, she knows what she’s talking about!

      I love fireworks between characters who are seemingly opposites, but you just know they’re made for each other. It’s hard to write when it feels like you have all these people judging you and looking over your shoulder. Someone told me the way to get over this is to just write for *you* and to heck with what other people think. Good luck with your writing!

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  18. Your love scenes are better than chocolate, Anna. And far less calories! I was reluctant to write them at first too, but what an opportunity they offer to deepen character and plot, although I agree you have to keep the reader involved in the story after the lovers have climbed beneath the sheets or into the hay loft as the case may be.

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    • I don’t know, Maggi–have you tried Anna’s chocolate slice? Nah, just kidding. Anna’s love scenes are legendary and they always serve the plot and/or the characters in some way.

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    • The hay loft, Maggi? Snort! I think my heroine would sneeze! Thanks for saying such lovely things – better than chocolate? Wow! Yeah, the trick is to keep that story compelling once that ongoing question of will they, won’t they has been solved, isn’t it?

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  19. Wow, thanks, Cassie! What a lovely compliment! Oh, the mother-in-law reading over your shoulder – it’s a killer, isn’t it? I think I got over that by getting so deeply into my characters, it was THEIR lives I was busy with. My little concerns hardly mattered when the characters felt so alive to me. I still get nervous when people I know read my stuff – think it goes with the territory! Good luck!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Hi Anna and Vanessa–great post.
    Anna, you write wonderful love scenes, both emotional and sexy. It’s interesting that you mention UNTOUCHED–of all the memorable love scenes in all your memorable books, I still remember the first love scene from that novel. There was so much at stake for those two lovers and the risk you took in making the first time not as perfect as they might have dreamed of, paid off in both the emotional tension and the deepening of the relationship.

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    • Hi, Kandy! Wasn’t Anna’s post packed with great advice? Thank you coming by.

      Ooh, yes, I do remember what was at stake for poor tortured Matthew and Grace in Untouched. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the book yet. All I can say is get thee to Amazon or Book Depository or wherever…!

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    • Wow, Kandy, thank you so much. I really did feel I was taking a risk with Matthew and Grace’s first time, but I couldn’t believe that someone in his situation would be a smooth James Bond lover the first time he held the woman he loves in his arms. So glad that scene resonated for you! When I was writing it, I actually had fun with it – poor Grace was not best pleased. Well, at least in the beginning, snicker!

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  21. Delia says:

    Hellooooo Anna,
    It’s your friend Delia again the loller 😉
    This is a great interview. I think it’s wonderful that you had your mom read your story and I love also how she could give you such good advise. I don’t know what my mom would say if I gave her a story written by me with such explicit scenes hehehe…. You should see her face when I give her one of my comments related to love and sex matters. She is hilarious, was always extremely innocent, God only knows why she had two daughters that are completely the opposite to her. But enough about me, I want to tell you that your lesson was well learned because your love scenes are great! 🙂 BTW you are not the first person who thinks she has turn into a dirty old woman, I love the love scenes but the well written ones, not the ones that are just about the sex, to me it has to be about the whole combination and you excel at it.
    I can’t wait for your next book, thank God the 26th is around the corner. Blessings my friend and keep up the writing.

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    • Welcome to the naughty corner, Delia! Glad you could join us here. Anna certainly knows how to cook up a love scene with all the trimmings. MWP is a fantastic read–you’ll love it!

      Now, American friends, it’s bedtime for us in Australia (Well, for Anna and I, anyway.) Have a great Monday, and we’ll see you again in a few hours time. And, remember, one lucky visitor will win a signed copy of Anna’s latest hawt, hawt, hawt historical, so keep those comments comin’. ‘Bye for now! 🙂

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    • Hey, Delia, aren’t you a honey? Thank you! So glad you enjoy the naughty bits – actually when I’m writing, I always look forward to writing those scenes. In letting the physical barriers drop, my characters (usually unwillingly) let emotional barriers drop too and that’s when the real revelations start and that intimacy builds and soon they’re at the point where they can’t live without each other. Happy sigh! My mum was a fairly earthy woman so she appreciated a good love scene as much as the next person (uh, that would be ME as the next person! LOL!). Thanks for swinging by!

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      • Delia says:

        Thank you Vanessa for welcoming to your naughty corner 😉 And thank you Anna for always being such a sweet lady who finds time to respond to us.
        You have really found a great way to write those scenes. As far as I’m concern you are part of my top favorite writers, and to think I just learned about you this past year, I do have to thank I believe Sarah MacLean, she had recommended you and then I entered one of your contest and Lord and behold, what do you know…. I won! You have no idea how happy I was :))
        I guess you guys may be sleeping right now. Have a great night all. And it was very nice meeting you here.

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  22. Tamara Hogan says:

    Hi Anna – thanks so much for sharing such great advice with us today. Yes, you write a damn hot love scene, but for me the reason these scenes work so well is because of how exceedingly well-crafted the characters’ emotional conflicts are. The tension! The angst! The…release. 😉

    I aspire to a high degree of emotional saturation in my own books, and I’ve learned so much from reading yours. Thank you so much.

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    • Tamara, what a beautiful compliment! Thank you! I want all that on a t-shirt. Have to say I snickered at the tension, angst, release bit. But then I would, wouldn’t I? A writer I learned a lot about writing love scenes from is Linda Howard. She writes a really memorable naughty bit and she never loses her grip on who these people are so each love scene is true to that book and unique to those characters. I think that’s really great writing. I don’t like reading love scenes which could have come from any generic romance.

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    • Tammy, I’m with you. Anna does tension and angst! And she’s so good at putting her characters through an emotional wringer–you just want the poor things to get their release.

      Anna, it was you who introduced me to Linda Howard. (Her books, that is. Though I met *her* much later. Brag, brag). You’re right–the reader never loses the sense of who the characters are during the love scene.

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      • I meant to say Anna does tension and angst *so well*! Ah, early mornings. Love ’em.

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        • A couple of Linda’s books have some of my favorite love scenes ever (and I count myself a connoisseur!). Mr. Perfect has a fantastic almost-love scene when they’re washing a car. Yeah, really. And the love scenes in Now You See Her are breathtaking. The heroine is a rather eccentric artist and the hero is a really ruthless businessman and man, do the sparks fly when they get together! Yummy stuff. By the way, thank you for saying such nice things!!!!

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  23. Susan Sey says:

    Good morning, Anna! (At least it’s morning where I live.)

    I love a good love scene,too! I think Jenny Crusie does an admirable job of connecting the plot to the love scene & keeping you in the characters’ heads and apprised of what’s at stake emotionally when her characters have sex. I always finish her books & think, dang, I should just give up. I’ll never write anything that good.

    Do I listen to myself? I do not. I write bad love scenes anyway. 🙂

    Thanks for bringing your wisdom here today! I’ll look forward to the next Anna Campbell, which is crawling ever closer to the top of my TBR pile…

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    • Susan, my Bandita sister! You might write bad love scenes but none of them made it into Money, Honey! Only GOOOOOD love scenes there. Or perhaps love scenes that were so good, they were bad! I agree with you about Jenny Crusie, and she does that thing I was just talking about with Linda Howard. There’s no way you could just plop each love scene in a different book. They’re completely true to that story and no other story. Great stuff! I love how she keeps the snarky humour going in her love scenes too. Humour and naughty bits can be quite a difficult balance to get right.

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    • Hi, Susan! Thanks so much for commenting. I can’t imagine you would write a bad love scene! You mentioned one of my favourite writers–Jennifer Crusie. I’ll never forget my first JC book, Welcome to Temptation. Delicious!

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  24. I know others have said it, but your advice about having the naughty bits move the story forward really hits home with me. The *few* books I haven’t enjoyed reading were ones where it seemed the sex was gratuitous. (Like they had to have “X” number of love scenes.)

    As an author of romantic suspense, I find pacing particularly challenging. How (and where!) to add a love scene when turmoil abounds? They have to be in danger, but not too much or stopping to make love doesn’t make sense.

    And I found myself wanting to delay love scenes as long as possible because (for me) it seemed that, in the books I’d read, once the characters cleared that emotional hurdle of initial intimacy, a lot of the conflict ended and I wasn’t as interested in the story.

    Pacing is always a challenge, but I love the idea of having the *naughty bits* create more conflict or impact the story more heavily. I shall have to ponder that… and do research. 🙂

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    • Anne Marie, suffer for your research. LOL! Yeah, I hear you on the pacing. And it’s vital, isn’t it? As I said in an earlier comment, I cut those love scenes down to the bone (oh, no, I’m channeling Benny Hill again!). Which if you’ve s read my love scenes which tend to be pretty long, will make you giggle. Imagine the level of detail in the first draft – eeek! Romantic suspense is a really difficult one to get right, isn’t it? As you say, you don’t want it to seem silly that the hero and heroine stop to do the dance of passion but on the other hand, you’d like them to get that intimacy rather than just focusing completely on the suspense plot.

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    • Hey, Anne Marie. That is a tricky dilemma you have as a romantic suspense author–finding the right time for your characters to head to the bedroom. I guess this is where research comes in. Ahem, and by that I mean reading tons of romantic suspense novels to learn what works and what doesn’t.

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  25. Michele gardner says:

    I love when an author has the hero make the heroine look in the mirror while he does naughty things to her. There is just something so sexy about it.

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  26. Thanks for the great post Anna and Vanessa. (And thanks for the shout out as well!)

    I have to agree that connecting the character’s emotional and internal lives to their physical/sexual lives is of utmost importance.

    I’ve heard Sherry Thomas give a talk about creating sexual chemistry between characters and one of the things she said that stuck with me was that good sexual chemistry comes from basic sexual attraction, intellectual common ground, mutual respect and emotional connection.

    I think you really nail it when the emotional and sexual connection in your books only serves to heighten the conflict and raise the stakes for your hero and heroine. And that’s why I love Anna Campbell books! Can’t wait to read MIDNIGHT’s WILD PASSION!

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    • Ooh, great advice, EE! And congratulations again on all your wonderful books – I just love the way your people talk. They’re fabulous! I think actually you bring up a good point (as always!). There need to be issues with emotional and intellectual conflict between the characters so even when they make love, the problems haven’t been solved.

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    • Hi, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing Sherry Thomas’s wisdom–I think she’s absolutely right. You will love, love, love Anna’s MWP.

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  27. Shea Berkley says:

    Hey Anna and Vanessa. Wonderful post. You two are a hoot together.

    I’m with Vanessa as in I write YA and there’s only so much we’re allowed to do. Not complaining. It does force us to concentrate on the emotional aspect of the story far more than the grope and grind of a traditional love scene.

    I have to admit, there for a while I became completely disenchanted with the romance genre because the love scenes were just ridiculous and pointless to the story. I’m glad to see the genre is starting to wise up to the fact that the story is about the emotions. When the mental, physical and emotional aspects are melded together, it’s awesome.

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  28. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I like playful love scenes, Anna. Sex is fun! I think sometimes romance authors get so caught up in the gravity of the intimacy, although that’s needed too, they forget that making love isn’t always serious. I like it when funny things happen that reveal the characters’ vulnerability.

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    • Laurie, I like a touch of lightness too (although it depends on the situation and the tone of the book). I think Jenny Crusie does that really beautifully – her characters are just so real and have a wonderful mixture of qualities and faults that feed into how the love scenes play out. Brilliant stuff!

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    • Great point, Laurie! The hawt and heavy parts don’t always have to be hawt and heavy. I love a bit of levity in love scenes.

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  29. May says:

    I totally agree with you. There were some books where nothing happens in the sex scenes and I get bored. I ended up fast forwarding the pages until the plot moves again. Not your books of course!

    It is surprising to me as a reader to hear how hard writers have to work at writin love scenes! I will definitely pay more attention next time I read a romance.

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    • No, I could never fast-forward through an Anna Campbell love scene, May! In fact, I’ve been known to get lost in her characters’ big moments.

      Thanks for visiting!

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  30. Thanks for stopping by, Anna! I’m in Camp YA, too, and I read a book last year where the physical attraction highlight was the male character reaching for the female character’s hand. The emotional journey that accompanied this physical turning point was so masterful, I felt completely satisfied with the romantic resolution.

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    • Shelley, that’s so true, isn’t it? I’ve been gradually re-reading the Georgette Heyers which I still think are the models for historical romance. Brilliant – and often with a sexual tension so taut you have to cut it with a knife. And yet physical contact between the hero and heroine is often completely minimal. And even in the more passionate ones, you might get the odd kiss. But it’s all in the emotion and it works brilliantly.

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    • Ohhhh, that sounds lovely, Shelley! Which book was it?

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  31. Snork, snork, snork. I’m still snorking over the “mighty mizzenmast” bit. Heeheeheee. You have quite a good way with a love scene now, Ms. Campbell, I must say. Grins. Had to LOL about you Mama being the one who said it was a disaster though. Eeeek! It’s challenging in historicals, YA and contemportary. Nothing’s immune. :> And once you get them written, you get to deal with the reaction of readers you know. Oy! I think I’ve got the *wince* factor finally conquered for when people ask me about writing the love scenes. I REALLY got over it when one of the DH’s male colleagues had bought my book, went up to the DH and said, “Sir, you are a lucky, lucky man.”

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    • Vanessa Barneveld says:

      Oh, heavens to Murgatroyd! Yes, I giggled over the mizzenmast too, though I’m not sure Murgatroyd himself would appreciate that. Anna has a future in comedy, don’t you think, Jeanne?

      Good morning to all! Or good afternoon, as the case may be for most of you. I’m on my way to work and will back to reply to the many fab comments soon. 🙂

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      • Hey, every good romance hero has a mighty mizzenmast, doesn’t he? Or perhaps a spinaker? Snicker! Oh, dear, get thee behind me, Benny Hill! Did you have Benny Hill in America? He was very popular over here.

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        • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

          Yes, Benny Hill made it to the US. My sweetheart and youngest daughter adored him. And, for a BH fix, his shows are now available on DVD. Gotta love technology. 😉

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          • Gwynlyn, my dad was a BH fan – I wonder what I’d make of them now. He was derided as terrifically sexist but my main memory is that he was actually pretty powerless in the face of feminine pulchritude. Sad in many ways rather than pernicious. We get a lot of British TV over here in Australia. I’m never sure when I make a reference whether people in America will get the connotation. We also get a lot of American TV too!

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    • Oh, how hilarious about that colleague, Jeanne! I’ve actually learned the best way to answer questions about my ‘research’ that get too intrusive is to make a joke of it. I told a radio station recently that when I needed to do research, I put an ad in the local paper – and the next day, the lines of guys waiting to be interviewed stretched around the block. Made the interviewer laugh and then move on.

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  32. Kim Law says:

    Oooohhh….I love love scenes! Wait…that makes me sound kinda…hmmm…probably makes me sound exatly like I am 😉 I love reading awesome hot, emotional, letting it all hang out there love scenes, and love to write them as well. The thing I once heard that was a big aha moment was just like you said, make the love scene cause a bigger problem for the h/h. Understanding that just made everything click for me. It made it easier to add in the big emotional stuff, and easier to make sure the plot was advancing. Basically, make it *really* good, then make it really bad! 😀 That’s what I strive for!

    Thanks for joining us today, Anna! Love hearing how do you it! 😉

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  33. “Even better is when the love scene makes everything MUCH WORSE! So giving into their passions raises the stakes in the story, compelling the reader to turn the pages to find out what happens next. I think we’ve all been in that situation where the sexual tension in a book keeps us on the edge of our seats, then the characters do ‘it’ and we kinda lose interest.”

    BRILLIANT! I mean, I knew this happened, but never really thought of a tangible solution that could be put into words. I love this.

    And just a great post, Anna and Vanessa!
    Thanks so much for joining us today, Anna!
    ~D~

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  34. Thanks, Anna for the great advice, your snappy humor, and your wonderfully emotional books…but I’m curious, when is the story with Murgatroyd and Wilhelmina coming out?!! I definitely want a copy of that one! 🙂

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  35. Vivi Andrews says:

    Such great advice, Anna. Thank you!

    I’ve been reading my way through this year’s Rita noms and that’s definitely something I keep seeing. The post-coital UH-OH when everything gets sooo much worse and you can’t put the book down because you HAVE to know how they work it out.

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  36. Thanks for stopping by, Anna, and imparting such awesome advice! I always feel dissatisfied by a book that has love scenes solely for the sake of explicit sex. You’ve explained why: the scene doesn’t advance the plot. There’s no emotional stakes.

    I still cringe at writing love scenes, but maybe one day I’ll get over it. 🙂

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  37. Rita Henuber says:

    Thanks for joing us. Great post.
    I do like it when the H&H fall into bed going against what they normally do. When the deed is done it changes them, even in a tiny way. They give up some of their misguided beliefs and grow. My heroine is a helicopter pilot and she tries to get her mind off of having sex. But it’s no use, she’s gonna crash cause her body’s on fire and her engines aren’t responding to the controls.
    I also enjoy writing the playful scene. The hardest was a phone sex scene. Yowza.

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    • Wow, Rita, love the sound of the stories! With a Regency, I don’t have to do phone sex but you make me think somewhere down the track will be a letter sex scene. I remember the sexy letters in Dangerous Liaisons were really hawt! I’m a great fan of irresistible force/immovable object romances. In fact, Midnight’s Wild Passion is definitely one of those. As is Captive of Sin. Actually as is Claiming the Courtesan. Well, CLEARLY I’m a fan of that trope! 😉

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    • If anyone could make a playful love scene sing, Rita, it’s you!

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  38. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    While I have no problem with sex for the sake of it once in a while (a *great* while,) I much prefer there be more than a seriously ho hum Tab A into Slot B scenerio. Give me the emotionally laden scene, teetering on a fence where they could fall either way—and is bad news no matter which way. 😉

    Great advice, Anna. Looking forward to reading this latest offering!

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    • Oh, Gwynlyn, beautifully put about the teetering bit. That’s when the reader stays up till midnight, isn’t it? Thanks so much for saying you’re looking forward to Midnight’s Wild Passion. A week to go – yahooooo!

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    • You’re so right, Gwynlyn. Who in their right mind wants to read a mechanical love scene, eh?

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  39. May, writers are a lazy lot. If we didn’t have to keep our readers happy, we wouldn’t do any work at all. LOL! Thanks for swinging by. Yeah, I’ve read books where the love scenes just seem to be there for the sake of it and they’re never on my keeper shelf. On my keeper shelf, the books have love scenes that just lift the stakes and make me keep reading until midnight to find out what happens. That’s a great romance!

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  40. liz talley says:

    So glad to have you here today, Anna. Sorry I’m so late – my days have been brutal lately.

    I think you’re brilliant at sex, ahem, writing sex scenes. The passion throbs on the page and the reader feels it. I love what you said about the sex driving the plot forward. It should never be a device and I think every writer should keep that in the back of his/her mind when placing a sex scene in a book. If it does nothing plotwise, you might as well close the door. But to give vulnerability, uncertainty, utter loss of control. Yeah. I like seeing my characters naked emotionally.

    I honestly like writing those types of scenes in my books. IMO, the more creative and emotional, the better. And I love sex scenes that complicate as well as some that fall flat. Gives depth.

    Great topic. Glad Vanessa made it stick 🙂

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    • Sorry to hear you’ve had some tough days, Liz. Sounds like you could do with some time out with an Anna Campbell book. She *is* so darn good at those love scenes, isn’t she? If I didn’t love her so much, I’d be super jealous!

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  41. Hey, Kim, you and me both are dirty old women. Well, you’re probably very young! But dirty young woman doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it? I hear you on a great love scene. People say they skip the naughty bits and you know, I’m not sure I believe them and even if I did, when it’s a great love scene, they’re missing out on the best bits if they do! It’s when all the BIG (snicker – DOW club again) stuff happens and I’m not talking about things starting with O. Like oranges and orangutans. Glad you’re going for everything with your love scenes – just the way it should be! Love your line about really good then really bad. That’s it in a nutshell. Because if those characters have reached a point of intimacy where they’re making love, they’re so much more vulnerable to the bad stuff, aren’t they? A great love scene just lifts the stakes!

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  42. Hey, it’s the fabulous Darynda!!!!! Thanks for swinging by. I’m so glad my words hit a chord with you. Actually I’m really glad my mum pointed out my lack of skills in this area (snort – not usually what you hear from you MOTHER!) and it galvanized me to do the hard work and the analysis (seriously, a lot of it was looking at scenes that worked and asking myself why over and over) to pick up my game.

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    • Aren’t moms great for such things? Mine pointed out that my stories were, ahem, boring. Now I write so fast and so tight, I’m afraid I will lose my audience. No complaints so far, lol, but if not for mom…… 🙂

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      • liz talley says:

        My mom is pretty hard on me too. She told me that she wasn’t so interested to read my next book because she didn’t think I could make Brent (the hero) interesting. Uh, thanks, Mom. She’s also tough on my sex scenes and loves when they’re extra sensual. I so love that about her 🙂

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        • Liz, you, me and Darynda need to set up a blog called Momma’s Girls or something! Or perhaps we should have got our mums to do that – sadly, my mum passed away several years ago. She’d get a kick out of me still quoting her today!

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      • Hey, Darynda, how fabulous that your mum gave you a lightbulb moment too!!!!

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  43. Miranda, you make me laugh! Well, your comment makes me laugh! Murgatroyd and Wilhelmina are clearly passionate lovers separated by cruel circumstance who cannot keep their hands off one another. Works for me. The ages will resound with Tristan and Isolde, Abelard and Eloise, Romeo and Juliet and the dread pirate Murgatroyd and Wilhelmina (clearly he’s a seafaring man! Look at that mizzenmast!). By the way, thanks for saying such lovely things. I won’t make you swab the deck today! 😉

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  44. Cynthia, GIRD YOUR LOINS!!!! Snort! Yeah, I hear you on fearing those dragons in those scenes. But there’s actually something really liberating about going for broke! Good luck. So glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for swinging by.

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  45. Hey, it’s the fabulous Liz! All you Ruby Slipper girls are fabulous (and tell me I’m really good at sex – hey, a girl ALWAYS likes to hear that, snicker, snicker, snicker). Oops, perhaps we’ll have to rename the blog the Ruby SNICKER Sisterhood! Thanks for saying such nice things about the love scenes in the books – I still struggle to get them write. They take a lot of polishing and rewriting but I think it’s really worth it – those scenes are SOOOOO important. May you write many more wonderful love scenes!

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  46. Oh, I’m late, too! I’m sure I’ve missed our guest, but I’m excited to read through the comments and see what delicious, naughty things our Rubies have said today.

    Re: favorite love scene, whenever I peruse my memory for one, I always go back to Judy Blume’s FOREVER. Can’t tell you exactly what they did, but I know I liked it when I was 13!

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  47. Jamie, you can run by you can’t hide! I’m still lurking in the shoe cupboard ready to pounce on you! Bwahahahahaha! I’m actually just a few years too old to have read Judy Blume. In fact, I think kids today are so lucky with the explosion in fantastic YA out there. When I was a kid, I basically went straight from Enid Blyton to adult books. Mind you, adult books in general weren’t quite so ADULT back then! LOL!

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  48. What great rules. I don’t usually write sex scenes, but I’ll be sure to keep them in mind if I ever do. Please count me in on the book drawing if I’m not too late. Your book looks fantastic 🙂

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    • Hi, Clarissa! It’s not too late–consider yourself in the draw.

      I don’t write sex scenes either, but I’m keeping Anna’s principles in mind for my YA characters before, during and after kissing scenes. Emotion and plot advancement is paramount.

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  49. Thanks, Clarisa! You’re definitely in the draw. Hey, V, so glad the advice hit a good note with you! Not that you need it!!!!

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  50. Hi Anna! Great to see you here at the Ruby blog–thanks for sharing your incredible insight to scenes that aren’t always easy to write. Emotion, emotion . . . Your cover is GORGEOUS!

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    • Hi, Marian! I thought Anna was the perfect person to talk to us about crafting love scenes. She makes it seem so effortless. Totally agree with you on the cover–Antonia looks rather naughty, I have to say!

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      • Vanessa, what a lovely compliment! Thank you. While I’m on quotes, someone famous – was it George Bernard Shaw? – said hard writing made for easy reading and vice versa! Yeah, Antonia definitely has a glint in her eye in that picture, doesn’t she? Snicker.

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    • I remember some famous author saying, put in all the emotion you can and then DOUBLE it! Might have been Emma Darcy, the Aussie romance writing legend. She’s got a point! Thanks for swinging by, Marian. And yeah, I LOVE that cover!

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  51. I’m really late–like Tuesday late, but I’m so glad I finally made it here. I’m heading toward the bedroom with my characters (No. You know what I mean.) and I’m dragging my feet. After reading this blog, you have me thinking in a different way. Awesome advice.

    Thanks so much for being our guest. AJ

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  52. AJ, thank you so much for having me here. I’ve had a great day and come away with a lot of stuff to think about – stuff that’s going to help me when I write my next lot of love scenes (just heading toward one with the wip). So glad the blog helped!

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  53. Hey, Vanessa and her Ruby Slippered Sisters, thanks so much for having me as your guest. I’ve had a ball. Now off to pick the winner of MWP!

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    • Anna, THANK YOU for being kind enough to share your love scene secrets and for being an awesome guest. Looks like you’ve helped a lot of people!

      And now, drum roll, please! The winner of Anna’s giveaway is Miranda Liasson! Yay! Congrats, Miranda. You’ve won a signed copy of Anna’s latest historical, MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION. We’ll be in contact shortly.

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  54. Jeanne Miro says:

    Anna –

    As far as I’m concerned your love scenes hit just the right high. In fact I haven’t had one “senior moment” during any of them! Of course my husband says that at this time in our life it’s probably the only time I don’t!

    I must admit that Delilah Marvelle’s last book got me hot but then it might actually have been a high flash – who can tell when you get to be “that” age. Of course I get
    excited just picking up one of your books so I don’t know if my opinions about getting excited are those who can still see without glasses and an exciting night is when your husband is watching the Red Sox (they lost how many games already?) and you can read great books like yours without getting interrupted!

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