I know what you think this is going to be.
You think I’m going to ask you if your love life has lost its sparkle. And imply that perhaps the years of working, and caring for children, and sharing your bed with the same person, or same couple of persons, has taken a toll on your sexy self.
You think I’m planning to butter you up a little, remind you that romance/erotica is the top selling book genre in the world by a very long margin (so there are lots of romance readers!), tell you how a Romance Writers of America poll showed that 42 percent of their readers had a bachelor’s degree or higher (and they’re smart!).
And then – oh, I’m practically rolling your eyes for you – I’m going to suggest that you try reading a little E. L. James, right? Or a bit of Tiffany Reisz… or Maya Banks. Because that’ll help you get your groove back, eh?
Relax. I’m not here to insult your intelligence. I’m here to tell you my story. Take from it what you will.
Just under three years ago, at age 48 and having written nada before that, I decided to write a romance novel. I won’t bore you with the reasons why, except to say that I’d read one that had left me feeling unsatisfied, both in terms of the heroine’s backstory, which I felt was relegated to wallpaper in a room dominated by the book’s outsized (in every way!) alpha hero, and the book’s sex scenes, which were heavy on what I like to call magic orgasms. You know the ones I mean, where the heroine miraculously achieves completion without any kind of intervention on the hero’s part.
I wanted to try something a little different, maybe inject a little reality into the romance. So I came up with a set of guidelines, rules for sex scenes, and they amounted to:
- I wouldn’t write any of the aforementioned magic orgasm scenes.
- My heroine had to be just as capable of dominating as submitting.
- I wouldn’t write about any sex position or act I hadn’t done myself. Period.
Now, not gonna lie, rule three represented a bit of a challenge. I considered myself to be relatively sexually experienced; my husband and I enjoyed a full sex life and I had a, ahem, back catalogue of adventures from my salad days to draw on. But, um, have you guys actually read any Maya Banks or Tiffany Reisz? Their sex scenes are hot. I didn’t see how I was going to write anything that even remotely approached that level of hotness unless I did a little research.
So I enlisted my husband’s assistance, and turned him into my sexual lab rat (ever seen a lab rat with a great big grin on its face? Come to my house). Over the next several months, as work on my first novel, Lord and Master, progressed, we tested out the feasibility of various sexual positions, as well as entering into completely uncharted territory: entire sex acts we had never done before.
I’m not going to say that writing this book saved my marriage, because it didn’t need saving. Or that it resurrected our love life, which was already alive and well. But it changed things between us. It changed things for me, more particularly, and the way I felt about sex.
What do I think you stand to gain from giving yourself over to the romance reader inside?
Old dog, new tricks –
I remember reading an article a few years back, where the writer and her long- term partner attempted to recreate the infamous grey silk tie scene in 50 Shades of Grey. Now, mostly she played the piece for laughs, but there was a point where it became clear that even though they’d gone off piste in terms of following the exact script, they’d ended up having a surprisingly erotic encounter. Trying something new, proving to yourself that you aren’t an old dog yet, can be incredibly arousing.
Power of the imagination –
Just like watching Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir makes me cry like a baby (Every. Single. Time.), reading a well-crafted sex scene, well… not to put too fine a point on it, but… it too provokes a physical reaction in me. And if you are the same, honestly, where’s the harm in exploiting your body’s entirely natural response to good writing?
No, my marriage wasn’t in trouble. But 22 years and four children along… it’s easy to lose sight of the heady, pulse racing, urgent feeling of being in love and expressing it through the sex act. Or to minimize it, to put it on the shelf along with childhood daydreams and teenage obsessions. What I found, while I was writing about two people falling in love, was that some of their emotions, their urgency, leeched over into my physical interactions with my husband. Which was surprising, and exciting, and really, really fun.
So, yes, damn it, I am going to suggest you try reading a little romance. I hope you’ll thank me for it. Feel free to report back to me on the results at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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