Author Beth Cato on Writing Her First Sex Scene

Author Beth Cato and I have been friends since before either of us had a book set free upon the world. I first fell in love with her Clockwork Dagger series, but I’m now obsessed with Breath of Fire, especially book two, Call of Fire, which just came out yesterday. If you like brave women in a steampunk world, check out all her books.

Aware that writing sex is one of my favorite things to do (and arguably one of my biggest literary strengths), when Beth had to write her first sex scene in Call of Fire, she texted me to tell me all about it. I figured I’d embarrass her further by making her write a blog post about the experience …

Writing My First Sex Scene
by Beth Cato

When my heroine Ingrid Carmichael decided she needed to get it on in my next book, I debated her. “What about tearing apart another building? Or slapping down another misogynistic jerk? I can write those things. Those are destructive fun.”

Ingrid was not to be swayed. My book needed a sex scene. Oh boy.

I have nothing against sex scenes. Goodness knows, I snuck into my mom’s romance book stash often enough in my teens to find out what was really hidden beneath kilts. I just don’t usually write the kinds of stories and books that escalate romance to that level. But Ingrid is a demanding lady. From the start of my first book, Breath of Earth, it’s clear that she’s twenty-five, a woman of color, and enraged at how society constrains and judges her. When she meets bookishly handsome Cy Jennings, she is awed at how he treats her with genuine respect. Talk about a major turn-on!

By the time the second book, Call of Fire, starts, they’ve endured hell together and fallen in love. Some seriously bad people are after Ingrid. Capture or death may come at any time. Ingrid wants to live life to the fullest in the time she has left–and that includes sex.

I skimmed over my bookshelves and examined other writers’ sex scenes on a technical level. Seriously, do this. There’s a science to this stuff, and I don’t just mean the biological aspects. I mean the flow. Rhythm means everything. Romance writers get sneered at a lot, but here’s a fact: sex scenes take some serious skill, and a lot of writers (me included) find them to be very intimidating. It’s an intimate act for the characters, and for the author, too.

My characters already had the chemistry, so really, it came down to finding the right pace to move things along through their nervous chatter and the physical seduction. My editor offered some additional comments to help me smooth out the flow, too.

In the scene, Cy lets Ingrid take charge; I let Ingrid take charge, too. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. I’m not going to get in her way, even if I’d rather write about knocking down buildings instead of stripping off clothes.


Excerpt from Call of Fire:

Ingrid dried herself and tucked the towel around her body as she stepped to the door. “Are you still out there?”

“Yes.” His voice was a low rumble right on the other side. “Did you get out of the tub already?”

“Can you help me?”

Hesitant pressure on the door handle made it twitch, but it didn’t open. “What do you need?”

She leaned on the handle and took a deep breath to steel her resolve. “You.” She opened the door a crack.

“Me, Ingrid?” He peered through the opening.

“You. I’m wondering if you can distract me in a pleasant way for a while.”

Through the gap, she saw Cy blink rapidly, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Oh.”

At that encouragement, she pushed the door open. Cy stepped back. He wore an expression of calm rapture as he took in the full sight of her in a mere towel.

Ingrid looked down at herself and wondered what he really saw in her, what he’d seen from the first time they met on the Cordilleran Auxiliary steps. She adjusted the towel over the generous curve of her breasts. Naughty pulp novels made seduction look so easy. A kiss here, a moan there, and next thing the couple knew, suspenders and stays were undone and passion occurred in sly euphemisms.

Truth was, her anxious heart thrummed like a Porterman engine at full power. She was desperately, horribly afraid that he still might balk and refuse her in a gentlemanly way, and leave her ashamed to face him for the rest of forever. Or even worse, that something might happen in the building across the way while they dared to take this respite. That’s how their luck had worked over the past week, like a leprechaun’s curse.

“You mentioned that you’ve thought about this,” Ingrid said. “I hope that it wasn’t just in terms of honor, but about especially pleasant things.” She shakily giggled. “Good grief, I can barely talk.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t speak, then.”

With a single long stride, Cy cupped her jaw and brought her lips to his. His touch sent a spiral of heat straight through her core. The rough skin of his thumb stroked her cheek as he tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. She pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes, her breath rapid.

“I’d like to think I know what I’m doing here, but I’m relying on a score of purple novels that no proper lady should’ve ever read and my own rather active imagination.”


Read all about Ingrid and the delicious Cy (I really have a thing for Cy) in Beth’s newest novel, Call of Fire, now available everywhere!

About the book:

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another Ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even his influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.

BUY CALL OF FIRE HERE.

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