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Sample Q and A – Maria Veloso (Author)

1. Maria, you talk about romance novels being the answer to our dreary sex lives. What makes you say that? Aren't romance novels nothing but “female porn disguised as literature?”

There's a statistic which says that women who read romance novels make love to their partners 74% more often than women who don't read romance novels . This was reported in Psychology Today . I happen to agree with it. When people hear this, they immediately think that romance novels, in this context, refer to those “trashy” novels that you can usually find at the checkout aisle of the supermarket... That's not necessarily true.

There's an astonishing array of novels that are categorized as romance novels. The first is “women's fiction” that has a romantic story at the core of the plot. This category includes Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind , Nicholas Sparks's The Notebook , Robert James Waller's Bridges of Madison County and even my novel, Midwinter Turns to Spring . These are novels that are inspirational, moving, or hopelessly romantic. In these kinds of novels, there are often erotically stimulating scenes, but these scenes of human sensuality and sexuality aspire to artistic and literary heights. On the other end of the spectrum are those scorching romance novels that feature explicit, and sometimes even downright “kinky”, sex scenes. These novels are what people refer to as bodice-rippers – or as you put it, “female porn disguised as literature.”

So you see, romance is like ANY other genre. There are sub-genres that are trashy, and then there are sub-genres that are masterpieces.

2. What are the different sub-genres of romance novels – and which sub-genre makes women have sex with their partners more frequently?

The sub-genres I'm referring to are subdivisions of the “romance novel” genre. These include historical romances, contemporary romances, suspense, comedy, Gothic, inspirational, and even paranormal romances, among others. Which sub-genre makes women have sex with their partners more frequently? My answer is any sub-genre that enables a woman to fantasize about the hero of the story. This is the reason why most romance novels have a strong, sexy hero that women can fall in love with. But when it comes to fantasizing, here's a startling revelation: Women's fantasies seldom revolve around kinky intercourse or sexual gymnastics that would strain a circus contortionist. The sexual fantasy most women prefer to imagine is not outlandish at all – more along the lines of people they could realistically meet -- such as a Flamenco guitarist playing at a club downtown, for instance, like the hero in Midwinter Turns to Spring versus a clichéic Don Juan type that has more god-like attributes than any man could possibly have. Despite the potential for limitless freedom, women's fantasies generally stay firmly grounded on reality – and revolve around sexual encounters that could realistically happen to them. Studies show that frequent fantasizers have sex more often , have more fun in bed, and engage in a wider variety of erotic activities, according to a report in Psychological Bulletin . The association between fantasies and a healthy sex life is so undeniable, in fact, that when one doesn't have sexual fantasies, it's now considered pathological.

But contrary to what people might think, it isn't the graphic sex scenes that give romance novels the aphrodisiac effect.

3. Since you say it isn't the graphic sex scenes that give romance novels the aphrodisiac effect that they have, what is it about them that causes the increase in women's sexual drive?

A study on sexuality, which was conducted at the University of Chicago in the 1990s, helps to illustrate some of the differences between men and women. Researchers found that the majority of men in the study say they think about sex every day or several times a day, and by contrast, an even greater majority of the women say they think about sex only a few times a week or a few times a month. Some of the conclusions that were drawn from the study showed that men are interested in SEX, while women want ROMANCE and LOVE.

The fact that women gravitate to romance and love may be one of the reasons romance novels are so popular. An estimated 51 million women read romance novels, and they're between 14 to 74 years of age.

When women read romance novels, their emotions are stirred. Because a woman's emotions are directly linked to their libido, romance novels then virtually become aphrodisiac cocktails – or what I call emotional foreplay for women. And that's a prelude to sex.

4. You've written a novel titled “Midwinter Turns to Spring.” What sub-genre of romance novel does that fall under – and does your novel cause the kind of sexual stimulation in women that you've described?

I write “women's fiction” that has a love story at the core of the plot. The difference between my book and other books in the romance genre is that the sex scenes read more like poetry than explicit stories that read like they've been plucked from the Penthouse forum. And poetry, of course, is yet another device that tickles the “love and romance” fantasy of women. That, together with the romantic music that comes with the novel, makes for a potent aphrodisiac cocktail, in my opinion. I actually have a few dozen readers who posted comments at the Reader's Corner of my website that said that their sex lives and the level of intimacy they have with their husbands, boyfriends or partners have noticeably improved after reading the novel because it put them in a more romantic state of mind.

5. I understand that “Midwinter Turns to Spring” is the first-ever novel that comes with its own music soundtrack of songs that you also wrote. Did you purposely include the songs to add to the seduction?

Everybody knows that music is often used as a device of seduction, and women love to be seduced with music -- but when I wrote the songs on the music soundtrack, I didn't do it to add to the seduction – not consciously anyway. I simply wanted to give full expression to both my writing and songwriting abilities, and I wanted to weave the songs intricately into the novel's plot so that they would intensify the emotional involvement of the reader much like a film score intensifies the emotional appeal of a movie. But, of course, we've already seen that emotions are a key to a woman's libido, so I guess the seduction comes as a matter of course.

By the way, even men are not immune to the seductive effect of music. When I was having the music CD of “Midwinter Turns to Spring” mastered, my Mastering Engineer (who's a single man) said to me, “ These songs are so romantic, they make me wanna go out and get a date.”

6. You say that a woman's libido is directly linked to emotions. Does that mean emotions are the main cornerstones of a woman's sexual drive?

Absolutely. Not just any emotions, though, but emotions that revolve around romance and love. These emotions are a connected set of processes that involve physiological changes, such as heart rate, blood pressure and hormones circulating throughout the body. G reat romance novelists are skillful at stimulating the largest sex organ of a woman's body, which is the brain.

7. What do you mean when you say “the brain is the largest sex organ of a woman's body?”

When it comes to women, seduction is 99% mental sorcery. Seduction begins in the brain . Unlike men, who are visually stimulated, women are turned on by romantic and passionate words than they are at the sight of a naked man.

Experiments have been conducted wherein women who had "just fallen madly in love" were tested with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify the brain circuitry of romantic love. It is believed that when a woman reads a romance novel with well-crafted emotional scenarios, her brain circuitry mimics the brain circuitry of a woman who has just fallen madly in love, and this then causes her to be more open to the mating call.

8. What do you say to some people's assertion that romance novels are nothing but sex books?

I would say anyone who compares romance novels with sex books haven't read a single high-caliber romance novel yet because if they did, they'd know that great romance novels are the most creative genre in publishing today. Romance fiction is actually the hardest kind of fiction to write. Romances require a thorough knowledge of human nature, a skill in expressing feelings and emotions in writing, and the ability to convey a story in the best-chosen language. In short, a romance writer must give the reader not only good narrative, but also great emotional satisfaction.

9. Should women read romance novels to stimulate sexual appetite or re-ignite diminished sexual drive?

I think women should read quality romance novels not just for the novels' potential for contributing to frequent sex but for the sheer enjoyment of them. I would advise women to choose their romance novels wisely, and avoid the kind of novels that if abbreviated into 500 words or less, would be perfect for submission to Penthouse letters. Remember, the increased libido doesn't come from the explicit love scenes but the emotional intensity of a romance novel. Read instead the kind of novels that have more heart in them written by authors who are skillful in arousing emotions and feelings. While most romance novel writers can't always rise to the literary genius of Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen, there are quite a few who are nonetheless able to deliver emotional, entertainment and inspirational value.

10. Should men encourage their girlfriends or wives to read romance novels in order to get more action in the bedroom?

Not only should men encourage their ladies to read romance novels, but they should read romance novels themselves. Any man wanting intimacy with a woman, and looking to revitalize his love life, would do well to read romantic fiction. Why? Because romance novels offer an inside look at what turns women on, what makes them swoon, and what makes them melt. Men could learn a thing or two from the heroes in romance novels, who are always strong, sexy, and sensitive in a way every woman wants a man to be. A man can also learn from the romantic dialogue, the romantic scenarios and sceneries so prevalent in romance novels. For men who want ladies at their bidding and the upper hand in sex, the know-how is there for the taking in romance novels.
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Midwinter Turns to Spring
by Maria Veloso
Copyright © 2005 Maria Veloso