I write romance novels. I am unapologetically proud of that fact. Since 1995, I’ve published 13 works of “genre” fiction, including three soap opera tie-ins, five figure skating murder mysteries, and four romance novels, two set in the Regency period, and three contemporaries.
This past year, I got the rights to a majority of them back from their respective publishers, and decided to re-release them on my own, as enhanced multimedia editions. (That’s a fancy way of saying e-books with audio, video, and other extras.)
Alas, re-releasing the books meant re-reading them, since I had to make certain they were good to go from a technical perspective. Now, I happen to be one of those writers who, once my book is on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, almost never refer to it again. A) Because I am always convinced that every book is out to kill me during the actual writing process, so we rarely part on good terms. And B) Because when I say that I am proud of my work, I mean in an it-never-sounds-as-good-on-paper-as-it-did-in-my-head-so-honestly-this-book-sucks-but-that-shouldn’t-stop-you-from-buying-it-nonetheless sort of way. Some people can’t stand to hear themselves on an answering machine or to watch themselves on TV. I do not enjoy looking back over past work.
However, this needed to be done.
So, I did it.
And then I remembered… Oh, yeah… I used to write some pretty hot sex scenes.
Before I had kids. (In fact, I wrote the final sex scene for my 2000 romance, When a Man Loves a Woman, while in the throes of morning sickness with my oldest son. I don’t recommend it.)
It’s not that I deliberately avoided writing sex scenes afterwards. It’s just that I spent the bulk of my kids’ childhoods under contract to write the figure skating mysteries. I was busy killing people, not hooking them up. (And since these were “cozy” mysteries, both happened tastefully off-stage.)
Here is the thing about writing sex scenes. They are both easy, and hard (yes, yes, I realize the puns make themselves here).
They’re hard because, when you get right down to it, with a few creative variations, you are fundamentally describing the same activity over and over (and over and over) again. It’s not easy to think of new words to describe the same old thing. Or finding new places to do the same old thing in. (This, perhaps, explains the Ferris wheel in Annie’s Wild Ride. You can find an excerpt, here.)
On the other hand, sex scenes are easy because, if you’ve done your job as a writer properly, each of your characters will be a unique individual, with likes, dislikes, and a personality that should make it simple to write a sex scene that’s unique to them. Even if the act is ultimately the same, the thoughts, feelings, lead up, afterglow, reactions, and consequences are different each time.
Have I ever had sex on a Ferris wheel? No. Have I slept with my best friend the night of my husband’s funeral? No. Been seduced prior to a skating competition on coach’s orders in an attempt to make me relax and perform better? No. Atop a washing machine? No. Outdoors in broad daylight? Well, yes. But, that’s my business.
So while I may not have been writing directly from personal experience, the fact is, when you write sex scenes, you’re going to default into writing what you find sexy and erotic. If it doesn’t turn you on, the odds of it turning on a reader go down exponentially.
Once upon a time, the only people I had to worry about reading my sex scenes were my parents. They’ve always been very supporting of my career, bought my books, read them, urged their friends to buy them and read them.
So, there I was, writing sex scene after sex scene while banishing the image of my supportive parents deep into the recesses of my subconscious, where even Freud dare not venture.
When I met my future husband, he bought and read Annie’s Wild Ride. The one with the Ferris wheel. And the washing machine. He mentioned that some things seemed familiar.
Well, they do drum it into your head in Creative Writing 101: Write what you know.
At no point, though, did it ever cross my mind that my future children might someday be reading my books.
My 13-year-old son has already Googled me. He’s the curious sort (he now reads Kveller diligently; everybody, say hello). I can’t imagine he won’t be diving into my collective oeuvre someday soon.
And I have decided I’m okay with that. (Or, maybe, I’ve just really bought into that whole: You can’t change your circumstances, you can only change how you react to your circumstances stance.)
The fact is, like I said at the start, I’m proud of my work. I am not ashamed of writing romance novels. Romance novels sell more books than practically every other genre combined. People enjoy them. My goal is to write things people enjoy.
And I’m not ashamed of filling my romance novels with sex scenes. Sex is a part of relationships. A pretty damn important part. It’s a part of life.
My female characters are strong, independent, smart women (I’ve got an Air Force pilot in one, and a brain surgeon in another–obviously not in the pair set during the Regency period) who fall in love passionately, who have sex enthusiastically (and creatively. Once again, see: Ferris wheel).
Those are good things. Things I wouldn’t mind either my sons or my daughters reading about.
Let’s face it: No kid wants to discuss sex with their mother. Conversely, my kids are going to read a ton of books over the years that I didn’t write, and those books will periodically be filled with attitudes I’m not ecstatic about.
If they cover their ears, hum, and refuse to listen when I talk about what I believe makes a good, long-lasting, gratifying relationship, about how I believe men and women should treat each other, about, yes, sex and its role in all of the above, then maybe, at least, they’ll read what I wrote about it.
And if it weirds them out, then that’ll be their problem.