A veteran author of historical and paranormal romance novels, Sylvia Day woke up to find her latest book was a New York Times bestseller—before it came out in print. Bared to You, which was self-published in April before being reissued by the Penguin Group, tells the story of Eva, a young woman making her way in New York City, and Gideon, the billionaire entrepreneur who pursues her. Though both characters have painful pasts and are wary of starting a new relationship, their magnetic attraction is undeniable—and their love scenes are scorchers. In a Q&A with BookPage, Day answers questions about the similarities between her novel and Fifty Shades of Grey; the popularity of erotic romance; and creating sexual chemistry on the page.
Before Penguin bought the English rights to Bared to You, your novel was self-published. What is the greatest advantage of traditional publishing versus self-publishing? Do you think you’ll ever self-publish again?
The biggest and most obvious advantage to traditional publishing is the print run and distribution for Bared to You. There’s no way I would’ve come anywhere near 500,000 print copies, nor would Bared have ever been found in Walmart, Target, Costco, BJs, Kroger, etc. as a self-published book. Penguin brought to the table a dedicated, enthusiastic team of individuals with a broad network of connections, which far outweigh what I was capable of doing at home alone.
That said, I’m a veteran of this industry. I’m well aware that the breadth of support for Bared to You is rare. For many projects that don’t have the prospect of widespread appeal, self-publishing can be the best option because it increases the profit margin by a massive degree. I’m certain I’ll have future projects that are best served by self-publishing, just as I’m certain that I’ll have future projects best suited for traditional publishing.
In today’s publishing landscape, I think authors should be considering a career portfolio that includes traditional publishing, self-publishing and digital-first publishing. Every project is unique and the best way of disseminating a work can vary depending on a variety of factors.
Why do you think readers are already responding so positively to this love story? Any theories as to why erotic romance is suddenly tearing up the bestseller lists?
I think Bared to You can remind readers of personal experiences with hopeless romance. The angst and regret inherent in a troubled relationship never leave us, and Bared taps into that. Eva and Gideon are so messed up in so many ways and their coping mechanisms often trigger each other negatively. How do you choose between long-adopted survival strategies and the love of your life, both of which you can't live without, and yet cannot co-exist together?
For many of my characters, they lack the ability to communicate effectively verbally, so they show how they feel through sexual interaction.
As for erotic romance hitting bestseller lists, there’s really nothing sudden about it. Erotic romance has routinely appeared on the national lists for many years. Look at the Berkley Heat stable of authors (Heat is Berkley’s erotic romance imprint) and you’ll find Lora Leigh, Lauren Dane, Jaci Burton, Shayla Black, Jory Strong, Maya Banks, Anya Bast . . . all New York Times bestselling authors.
Frankly, I think the recent hype over erotic fiction for women is just an example of the media being very slow to catch on to a longtime trend.
How do you sustain such explosive chemistry between Gideon and Eva for hundreds of pages? Is there a secret to writing sex scenes that continue to excite (rather than bore) readers over the span of a novel?
Emotional resonance—it’s absolutely necessary to writing erotic romance. Sex for sex’s sake is porn. Reading “Tab-A into Slot-B” scenes would be boring and repetitive. Each sexual scene has to further the story and character arcs. There has to be a goal to the interaction and a resolution (aside from physical climax!). For many of my characters, they lack the ability to communicate effectively verbally, so they show how they feel through sexual interaction. There’s a story in the way they communicate with their bodies and that’s what makes the sex hot.
What was your inspiration for writing this story? In your Acknowledgments, you write, “To E.L. James, who wrote a story that captivated readers and created a hunger for more.” Was Bared to You directly inspired by 50 Shades of Grey, or was there some other artistic influence (or life experience) that led you to create Gideon and Eva?
My inspiration for Bared to You was one of my own works, Seven Years to Sin, which follows a couple with abusive pasts. In Seven, the characters’ histories brought them together, but I wondered later what it would be like to explore a relationship in which the characters’ pasts pushed them apart instead. What if the defining trauma of your life impeded your ability to connect with the person you love? Can two abuse survivors have a functional and healthy romantic relationship? That’s the core question of the Crossfire series.
I gave a nod to E.L. James in the reissued edition of Bared to You because there’s no doubt that the success of her series contributed to the success of mine. It was readers of Fifty Shades who drove sales of Bared to You with their recommendations. It’s the least I can do to acknowledge E.L. James for her part in that. I’m grateful.
If readers have discovered and loved Bared to You but are new to the romance and erotica genres—what other books would you recommend they read next?
The Fifth Favor by Shelby Reed; Sweet Persuasion by Maya Banks; and Laid Bare by Lauren Dane.
You also write paranormal and historical romance, as well as contemporaries. Which subgenre is the most fun for you to write?
Honestly, I love them all equally. My focus is always on the story. The setting and time period are mutable depending on the story I want to tell.
Do you have a favorite line (or scene) from Bared to You?
Gideon to Eva: “I must’ve wished for you so hard and so often you had no choice but to come true.”
The sequel to Bared to You is called Deeper in You. Can you give us a sneak preview?
In Deeper in You, we see Gideon and Eva struggling to mesh who they are as individuals with their joint identity as a couple. Trying to blend “his” life with “her” life into “our” life brings all sorts of new problems. Eva is close to her family; Gideon is estranged from his. Eva is a social creature whose network of friends expands as she settles into New York; Gideon is fiercely private and contained. As much as they have in common, they have a lot of differences, too, and they continue to trigger each other’s defense mechanisms in unexpected—and sometimes painful—ways.