The ink is barely dry on my publishing contract. Editing has yet to begin. There’s still a long track ahead, along which my book project could derail — and then explode — at any moment. And yet, there is work to do … in the form of paperwork to fill out.
Today, one such document asked me to define my book’s “Heat Level.” I did not know there was such a thing.
How I Got Here
I didn’t set out to become a romance novelist. I pitched the most ridiculous idea I could think of to an acquisitions editor: a pro cyclist and a crossfit instructor seek love in a near-future America under the oppressive jackboot of the French. The French are angry, you see, about being teased all this time for their performance in WWII and-
I’ve said too much.
Anyway, my editor called my bluff by challenging me to write three chapters, so I did. He called my bluff again by challenging me to write the whole thing, so I did. He liked it. So, here we are.
After all the fiction manuscripts and short stories I’ve sent and all the rejection letters I’ve gotten back, I’m glad to be writing any fiction for anyone. I’m no Lena Dunham, over here.
Sources differ on the actual number of levels. Some say it goes sweet, subtle, explicit, then on to the perennial internet fave “hardcore.” Another prefers kisses, subtle, warm, hot, burning (All About Romance).
This site rates romance like you’d rate a pepper sauce (RomCom Romance). I think I’ve actually had “Blood Thirsty.” Really jazzes up a jambalaya.
Some rank the ferocity of the doin’ it by the acts described. Others focus on how many love scenes there are. No exchange rate is offered.
What if there are twenty three sex scenes, but they’re all transacted with bunny rabbit efficiency? Is that a higher or lower “Heat Level” than a single, depraved, ten thousand page bacchanal featuring whips, chains, and whips made of chains?
Or even — gasp! — chains made of whips? Is that done? Wait! Stop. Don’t google it. Let’s not find out.
Let’s all just calm down
My book is more or less like a romantic comedy. There is some romance. Sometimes there’s awkward romance. There are some bits you might not want to read to your grandparents, but they’re there as much for the tension and humor as anything. I believe that puts me no higher than “mild.” Maybe “warm.”
I don’t think I could bring myself to write actual full-on horizontal mambo, though, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit have done it before. Badly. I wrote some sex in a collection of short stories I put out a while back. It felt pretty goofy. But, you know, I was being an artist, and that means going astray sometimes.
I know for a fact my family members all read it. My sister even brought it up once, wide-eyed. Even though I was writing about a fictitious main character, all she could see was a heaping pile of blegh.
I think I’ll not put either of us through that again. If that makes me no spicier than “warm,” well, so be it. At least I’m not still completely out in the cold.