Saturday, January 13, 2007
Blushing as I Write
Needless to say, writing about sex is something not everyone is comfortable doing. I would venture to say that even those of us who do it professionally are not always comfortable doing it. When I spoke at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention last year, I was amused to hear my fellow erotica panel members discuss how they constantly find themselves using words they would never be able to say out loud. Every now and then I field a proposal from an audio book company, and I turn them down every time...just not sure this is the kind of material anyone wants playing in their car.
Now, as fans of my writing know, I write the “tamest” and most tasteful erotic romance around. A few people over the years have suggested it isn’t even erotic, in fact. I don’t do any classic “dirty talking.” Nevertheless, I do write plainly about sex, and to do so, you really have to get into the characters heads as well as their beds. It’s a little like method acting, I guess. I literally have to get into character and imagine precisely what it would be like being in this situation, with this particular other person. I have to find what it is about the situation that inspires passion and focus on it. I have to feel what the characters would feel, hear what they would say to each other, and literally share in their arousal. Yes, literally—of course. And then I have to find a way to convey it all in words that will speak to the reader’s imagination graphically enough so he or she feels it all too.
You know what sex is like: you’ve experienced attraction, temptation, arousal, embarrassment, bliss, satisfaction, regret, contentment. Well, all those things also happen to an author when that person writes erotic fiction. Sometimes you find yourself quite averse to the idea of writing a sex scene in three pages, but what unfolds in the story literally seduces you. You go from, say, anxious and preoccupied, to completely focused on physical pleasure.
And sometimes, frankly, it’s embarrassing. No, I’m not talking about writing a passage so hot your husband catches you masturbating at the keyboard. (Now that I mention that...I wonder if it’s ever happened to any of my ebook reading fans. Interesting thought...) What I mean is, loss of self-control tends to be embarrassing, and when you write erotic fiction this frequently happens. You have to make sure it happens, or the scene won’t be authentic. I mean, if this guy you created can’t turn you on, he sure as hell isn’t going to do it for the heroine or the reader.
So imagine yourself the last time you were really, dizzyingly aroused. Now imagine having to write down whatever comes into your head while in that condition. NOW imagine having other people read that stuff—your husband, your best friend, your daughter or your mom. (Yes, in my life they have. Yikes.) See? Embarrassing.
And yet, not shameful. I won’t ever write anything that would make me feel ashamed to have people read who actually know me. I have a conviction that while sex is definitely a private thing (and it’s embarrassing sometimes because to the erotica writer it is no longer private), it is definitely NOT a shameful thing. Ideally, it’s healthy, wonderful, and a lot of what makes life worth living. It’s what makes flowers bloom, painters paint, the sun shine, and singers sing. I’m really quite proud that writing about it is a lot of what I do.
But it can still be embarrassing. I mean, for example, anyone who reads my novella Gift of Flesh—the scene when Naissun climaxes over Miakaela and she thinks, “Welcome death, beautiful, beautiful death”—that that was how I sincerely felt about him when I wrote the scene, all hot and panting as I typed. I put this intense stuff out there for total strangers (and worse still, friends and co-workers) to read.
It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. :-)