DISCLAIMER: This post contains offensive and sexually crude language.
Nikki London, who has appeared before as a guest on this blog, received news over the weekend every author longs to hear. Her debut novella has been accepted for publication. Naturally, congratulations were all around. Aside from being an immensely talented, promising author, Nikki is also my best friend of damn near fifteen years. We went to high school together, were in the same clubs, attended writer’s conferences, and now, in our upper twenties, spend time in the same office because – oh yeah – she happens to be my day-job boss. We’re more like sisters than friends, when push comes to shove. Thus when word came that her novella had been accepted, we had to fight for the right to tell those closest to us first.
Everyone was happy for her. Hell, ecstatic for her.
Except her mother.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that there are many points of diversion between myself and Nikki’s mother. She’s a fanatically religious woman, and I have an irreverent sense of humor. She also seems to think I’m going to Hell, though she’s hardly the only one. And she knows I write stories with explicit sexual content. Most everyone close to me does. She has once before characterized this material as “trashy”, which before propelled me on a ten minute tirade to anyone who would listen.
What I learned this morning is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Apparently, upon telling her mother that she was being published, Nikki was informed that her writing was equally trashy (though her mother has never read it). Furthermore, her mother was relieved to hear Nikki would be publishing under a penname, that way she and Nikki’s father wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of having a smut-peddling daughter.
I admit; when Nikki relayed this, I saw red.
First of all: to any relative or friend who would think, much less say this to a loved one upon receiving news that they’re being published, fuck you very much.
Second of all – and I cannot stress this enough – erotic romances are not trash.
This attitude is frustratingly prevalent. A few months ago, Judy Mays’ career was in jeopardy because some self-righteous asshats decided that an erotic romance author was a borderline sex fiend who shouldn’t be allowed near children, much less teach them. But for a writer’s own mother to call her work trashy? Fuck. No. It pissed me off enough when she indicated what I wrote was trashy. Trashy, indicative of trash, meaning having no value whatsoever.
You know what? I like sex. I’m a woman in my late twenties in the early twenty-first century. I am not ashamed of my sexuality. I am not afraid to admit I enjoy writing and that yes, while I have a lot to learn, I am good at what I do, and what I do is, among other things, write sex. And I like sex. I like writing it, reading it, and having it. Sex is a lot of fun, and that’s the way it should be. More than that, it’s a BASIC HUMAN NEED. There isn’t one person alive or dead today who isn’t or wasn’t alive because of sex.
But more than that – more than the sexy material within an erotic romance – is the romance. If all I wrote was sex, I’d probably be much wealthier than I am in actuality. Pure sex stories on Amazon sell like crazy. Yet in order to write just sex, I’d have to remove the following from my work: plot, character, conflict, suspense, romance, development, resolution, and so on.
Take J.A. Saare’s/Aline Hunter’s work, OMEGA MINE. Yes, there is a ton of sex. Well-written, hot, sweaty sex. You know what else there is? Plot. Story. Suspense. Action. Characters. A need to see how the conflict will resolve. Think about the plot to a porno flick where the pizza guy delivers but the poor housewife has no money. Do we give a shit if the husband walks in? Most of the time in that scenario, the husband joins the romp. And that’s the extent of it. Do we care what happens if the pizza gets cold? Are we emotionally attached to any so-called character in this rush-to-the-cumshot?
No. You know why? That’s what we’d call a guilty pleasure. That is what I would call trashy. And even in the literary world, there are any number of pure rush-to-the-cumshot stories to provide a quick fix. Then there are well-crafted, woven, character-driven stories where there just happens to be explicit behind the scenes sexual content. After the cumshot, though, most readers are eager to see how the plot is resolved. If the book is good, readers will remember the characters, stories, feel the highs and lows as the protagonist goes through their trial to get to the end. Say there had been a hot sex scene in Pride and Prejudice right before Darcy first proposed marriage. When Elizabeth turns him down, do you think a devoted reader would have felt satisfied knowing at least they “did it” once? How about Rhett and Scarlett? They had plenty of sex in Gone with the Wind; if we’d seen what their bedroom life was like in intimate detail, do you think a devoted reader wouldn’t feel Scarlett’s despair at, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”?
Calling erotic romances trashy is ignorant at best and insulting at worst. Don’t tell me what I write. Try reading it first. You might find parts trashy, and I can accept that, but I work hard to make my stories entertaining for many reasons. And honestly? The sex parts are an afterthought to the story—fun, hot, and spicy, but an afterthought nonetheless. And I can say the same for every author I know. Does this mean we won’t occasionally write something with more trash than substance? No. But that does not make us trashy authors.
And to Nikki London – congratulations. I’m sorry your mother had to rain on your parade, but as we both know now, that’s par for the course. But as an inductee into the erotic romance world, don’t let this first insult take anything away from you accomplished. Be damn proud of that novella. As your friend, I couldn’t be any more excited if it was my own work.
Magic Seasons Romance Book 2 is out!
4 days ago