Over the course of her professional career, Sharon Pochron, Ph.D., has garnered a wide range of accomplishments. She has studied the behavioral ecology of baboons in Tanzania and written articles for Highlights, Natural History Magazine and Muse magazine.
And she has published nine erotic fiction novels.
Pochron, who runs the Sustainability Studies earthworm ecotoxicology lab at Stony Brook, wrote erotic romance novels under a penname from 2006 to 2010. Although Pochron declined to share information such as the titles of her novels, who her publisher was or even specific plots, she was still open to discussing other details of her past as an erotic novelist.
Pochron always had a knack for writing, and even when she was in high school, she knew that she wanted to have a romance novel published, she said. Although back then she was not a huge fan of the genre, she thought it would be the easiest to write. In 2004, Pochron learned how wrong she had been when she and her husband spent two years living in a tent in Tanzania while conducting her research.
“You can’t bring enough books to read for two years—there were no Kindles then—and so I bought a whole bunch of Harlequins, and I thought ‘OK, I’m gonna study these, and I’m gonna write one.’ And I did, and it was terrible, and I never sold it,” Pochron said.
After this initial failure, Pochron’s editor suggested she switch from writing romance to erotic romance novels, a genre that was rapidly growing in popularity. Pochron had no hesitations about making the change, and her transition into the world of smutty romance was seamless.
“I mean all romances are the same,” Pochron said. “Boy meets girl, there’s a conflict, they get over it, they fall in love and it’s a happy ending. The only difference between a regular romance and that kind of a romance is with erotic romance, you try to have the pivotal points in the story happen in bed.”
Pochron got her big break shortly after, signing a contract for four novels with one of the “big five” New York publishers. Most first-time erotic authors sign a deal for only one or two books.
“My very first contract was unheard of,” she said.
Although she shared the news with friends and family, she said the only person who knows her penname and has read her work is her critique partner, who writes romance novels under the name Erica Kelly.
Pochron preferred writing science fiction or fantasy-themed novels because they gave her the ability to bend the rules and put her characters in unusual, otherworldly scenarios. She came up with ideas by making observations and imagining how she could transform mundane life into something worth reading.
“It’s not that you’re thinking in terms of sex scenes,” she said. “It’s that you’re thinking in terms of goal motivation and conflict.”
After publishing her ninth novel in 2010, Pochron walked away from the world of erotic fiction. The genre as a whole was not selling as well as it had when she first started, and she had grown tired of writing about love and lust, she said.
“The thing about writing is that whenever you do too much of any of it gets boring,” she said.
Recently, Pochron said she has immersed herself in her research of soil ecology and is really enjoying working with her undergraduate students studying the effects of herbicides on earthworms.
Pochron’s advice for those looking to write erotic novels?
“Don’t do it for the money because you will never make any,” she said, half joking.
Whether you’re serious about getting your work printed or you’re just writing for fun, Pochron suggests joining the Romance Writers of America. Pochron attributes her success in part to the RWA, which helped her to learn the craft, navigate the publishing world and find her critique partner, who is her best friend to this day.
Pochron is still writing. She mostly does nonfiction pieces, but she has also started working on a science fiction novel for young adults, and she wrote a short horror story which will air on the Tales to Terrify podcast in the next year. Despite having abandoned the genre as an author, Pochron says she still reads erotic romances and is not ashamed to admit it.
“It’s about two people working towards a common goal, they fall in love and live happily ever after,” she said. “What’s wrong with that?”