Monday, January 9, 2012

No, actually. I don’t write trash. And neither do you.

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.


Nikki London said...

You are truly the awesomest person I have ever known. The whole reason I even started this novella was because of you, and I never would have finished had it not been for your encouragement. You are my bestie, sister and inspiration.

The moment my mom ran her insult train into me, I immediately thought about what my mom said to you and how upset it made you. I was just as mad this time as last. Nobody should judge it without reading it for themselves. And no, I am not going to let her discourage me. If anything, it made my desire to write stronger than before.

Thank you so much for the congratulation! Also, a big congrats to you for your book coming out later this month!

Sotia said...

Congratulations to Nikki!! I know it's hard hearing your loved ones don't support you, and she's lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS, KNL! I am so, so happy for you. (It's like you gave ME that Cold Stone cake instead of just telling me about it - it's like THAT, girlfriend!) I'll be honest with you in saying that, while I don't even write erotica, I've yet to reveal my writing to most of my "real life" and that includes family (except for my husband). I'm terrified of the very reaction you got (and any stigma that would be put on my kids), but I'm also really proud of you for taking that big, freeing step and being YOU. You ROCK, and I will be among the first to own a copy of your book. CONGRATS!

Rosalie, you're a BEAST. Love ya, babe!

LoriStrongin said...

Oh HELL, I'm mad at her mom in her defense!!! It's bad enough there's a stigma against erotic romance authors from other writers, but if anyone should be supporting us, it's our families who should be the first ones to know how hard we've worked and just how much we want this.

So screw the naysayers, I say, and a massive congratulations to Nikki!!!!!!!


KaceyHammell said...

Congratulations, Nikki. I may have to share my mom with you just because she's awesome! While she blushes like mad whenever any of her best girlfriends (all of whom I've called Auntie for years and have read my books), she is constantly saying "I'm glad to know my son in law shows my daughter a great time in the bedroom. Research must be fun" ROFL Such is the relationship I have w/ my Mom and she has with her BFFs

Tho, it is kinda weird to say the least when my "Aunties" tell me their hubby's thank me for writing the books that they share with them and it makes for "fun" times *blush* It's awkward but funny as hell.

I'm sorry your Mom isn't backing you 100% (but with Rosalie in your corner, you're golden!!), but you'll find that the writing community is supportive, easy-going and always willing to listen/lend a hand.

Congrats on your debut story, and if you need anything, ANYTHING at all, please feel free to email. I'm in no way an expert, but love touting about new/great authors.

Keep your eyes on the dream, accept where the doubters are coming from and just write because you love it !!!!

Nikki London said...

Wow...the love and support you guys are giving me more than makes up for my super conservative right-wing religious zealot of a mother!

Thank you Sotia for your kind words!

Thank you are so awesome that anyone in the world should be proud to claim your writing! I was kinda shocked that my mom was so cold simply because she knew getting published was on my "bucket list" and I thought she would be supportive about it even if she didn't care for the content. Mind you, my mom is "8 different kinds of crazy" as Rosalie often tells me. I'm really glad to have met you via Rosalie and call you a friend (whether you want to or not! Muahahaha)

I have had heard good things about a Lori and I would bet you're the one! Thank you for your kind words of support! Your rage comforted me!

Kacey, I do in fact want to steal your mother now! Thank you so much for the support! I'm grateful for every friend I can make!

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