Exposure

I recently had the pleasure of critting my friend, Helen Callaghan’s exciting new time travel novel, Sleepwalker. Though, I have to admit, I had so much fun reading it, I had to remind myself that I was supposed to be ‘being critical.’ Later, as we discussed the book, she surprised me by saying how relieved she was that I had liked the love scenes. She had been concerned that perhaps they didn’t work. They did. Beautifully.

Writers are neurotic about writing sex and romance – even those of us who do it all the time. Lots of writers either claim they can’t write sexy love scenes or they don’t like to. That’s fair enough. I don’t like to write crime investigation scenes. But unfortunately this sex and romance -ophobia often leads to dismissing anything romantic or sexy as not worthy to be considered serious writing, therefore not worth writing.

Writing fiction to share with anyone less indifferent than the cat is a bit like exposing oneself on High Street. We writers are never more exposed, more vulnerable than when we offer up a nice, fat slice of our inner workings. And that’s exactly what happens when anyone attempts fiction. No matter how unconscious it may be, it’s all about me, Me MEEEE! And now that I’ve written it all down… um, er, gosh, I hope you like it. Please like it!

Since I know it’s all about me, the real issue in my neurotic little mind is what conclusions readers will draw as to just HOW it’s all about me? I expect people to be bright enough to know that I’m not the secret agent, the lawyer, the prima ballerina, the space ship captain that I write about. Yet, why is it that if I write one sex scene peppered with a bit of romance, I suddenly fear everyone will believe K D really DOES steal vegetables for lewd purposes, or that K D really IS hopelessly obsessed with the gardener? And is that such a bad thing? When the fiction I write deals with the emotions that revolve around sex and love, I feel more vulnerable, more exposed, somehow more flawed.

In a wonderful essay on why he likes to write about sex, Wallace Shaw writes, “If I’m unexpectedly reminded that my soul and body are capable of being totally swept up in a pursuit and an activity that pigs, flies, wolves, lions and tigers also engage in, my normal picture of myself is violently disrupted. In other words, consciously, I’m aware that I’m a product of evolution, and I’m part of nature. But my unconscious mind is still partially wandering in the early 19th century and doesn’t know these things yet.

Writing sex and romance is that unexpected reminder that we can be swept away in our animal passions just like all the rest of our animal cousins. That implies a loss of control, an unfitness for civilized society. Banishment from the social group is an age-old punishment for what is considered improper behaviour in the tribe, what is considered ‘uncivilized.’ Though we may no longer be sent into the wilderness to fend for ourselves with only a rusty knife, the archetypal fear of being ostracized still remains.

A writing teacher told me once that the best stories, the ones with the most power to grip, are those that come from the place inside us that makes us the most uncomfortable. The place that embarrasses us, that frightens us, the place where we have the least control, that’s the places where story begins. It’s the place where our characters come alive, the place where their love and sex and violence and fear and celebration compel the people we’ve exposed ourselves to — our readers — to keep reading to the end. And, hopefully, if we’ve exposed just the right bits of ourselves, those readers will eagerly come back for more.

 

Ms Holly is almost here!

October seemed a long ways away until I went on Amazon today and discovered I’m there! Well, not me, but Rita Holly is there along with the ultra hot masked Edward and Aurora, the Enforcer and Leo, the Zoo Keeper and Vivienne and all of those other great characters I’ve been living with, and yes, sleeping with, for the past year. All of my writing friends, and of course my long-suffering husband, have heard me talk endlessly about this fun novel I’ve been writing with cool characters and sex and intrigue and motorcycles and dancing and champagne and sex and, oh yes, some romance thrown in because I’m a romantic at heart, and lots of secrets exposed and scheming and plotting and, did I mention sex?

I’ve had so much fun with Rita and her friends and their adventures at The Mount that I can hardly wait to share it all, and now that The Initiation of Ms Holly is on Amazon, October doesn’t seem so far away. It’s officially available 11 October, at which time there will be much dancing in the streets and drinking of champagne. And though even God can’t get reservations at The Mount, you can! In fact, you can pre-order Rita and her friends now so you can join them at The Mount, and you’ll have something hot to read during those crisp autumn nights.

 

Sex translates well!

The Black Lace anthology, The Affair, which contains my short story, Vetting The Affair, now has a German translation! I’ve gone international! Whether you read it in German or English, it’s a hot read for Bank Holiday weekend.

 

The Double Standard is alive and well

I was lucky enough to meet Zoe Margolis a few months ago. Zoe, aka Abby Lee, was famously outed for her popular anonymous blog, Girl with a One Track Mind. When I met her, she was doing a book reading at Sh! Women’s Shop in Hoxton promoting her new book, Girl with a One Track Mind Exposed. At the time she talked briefly about her shock and anger at being called a hooker in the headline of an article that ran in the Independent on Sunday, so I was very happy to read in Saturday’s Guardian that she had won libel damages. No one doubted that she would. The headline of the article was not only defamitory, but it was also wrong. The Inedpendent has since apologized and settled out of court.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help thinking about the big news a couple of months ago when Peter Biskind’s book, Star, How Warren Beatty seduced America, revealed that Beatty had supposedly slept with 12,775 women — give or take.

No one — even mistakenly — called Beatty a hooker. In fact the very idea is ludicrous. Men, especially handsome powerful ones, build reputations on their sexual prowess. Other men admire them, and women long to be the next notch on the bed post. Even though Beatty was referred to as a serial philanderer in one of the many newspaper articles, somehow that just doesn’t have the same impact as being called a hooker.

Seldom does a woman get admired for her sexual prowess, nor does she have to sleep with anywhere near 12,775 men before she gets labeled a whore. I’m in no way denegrating sex workers. I’m simply saying that the old double standard is alive and well, no matter how sophisticated we think we may be.

I doubt if there’s a woman writer of erotic fiction anywhere who doesn’t empathize with Zoe. Every time I publish a new story, every time I write a blog entry, there’s a frisson of fear, a small knot in my stomach, when I consider the risk. The truth is, the prudism and puritanism that’s a part of the culture we all grow up in still causes me to doubt myself, and even though I know better, causes me to fear what other people might think or say. And certainly not without cause. When women are open about sex, we run the risk of being labeled slut, whore, hooker. We run the risk that those who still think sex should be the property of the patriarchy, the church and state, will see us as fair game for verbal and emotional abuse (or worse) because we’ve chosen to celebrate our sexuality rather than repress it.

Zoe Margolis is one of my heros. She’s courageous, outspoken, and she’s making a difference for all of us who believe in the celebration of sexuality. And the world could certainly use a little more cause to celebrate.
 

117 Miles of Inspiration

We just got back from walking the Two Moors Way, also known as the Devon Coast to Coast — Nine days of walking across the whole of Devon. We did it from Lynmouth in the north to Wembury in the South. It was 117 miles of moorland, farmland, red deer, ponies, prehistoric ruins, bluebell woods, wild garlic pathways and much more than I could ever write about in one blog entry. We were usually walking by nine-thirty in the morning and in bed by nine-thirty at night. Somehwere in the midst of blisters and aches and lovely views and gorgeous wildflowers, we developed a routine, and by the beginning of the fourth day, that routine opened into space for thinking. For me, space for thinking always means it’s time to plan and scheme a new story, and certainly the inspiration was there. Now that The Initiation of Ms Holly is off to my editor, I’m constantly thinking about what comes next. With my days full of the enormous emptiness of the moors, and nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other mile after mile, whole scenes played out in my head. Charactors I’d been toying with revealed themselves more clearly, almost like they had dropped in for the day’s walk, and nebulous ideas became more concrete. All that without ever setting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
I’ve always walked my stories. Whenever I reach a road block, I go for a walk, whenever I’m not sure what happens next, I go for a walk. I’ve just never had nine whole days to walk a story before. I’d like to say that I now have the next novel all planned out in detail, but that’s not what happened. I walked across open spaces, huge open spaces, always wondering what I was missing, what I might be able to see if I just looked a little harder. I’m not sure how so much emptiness can feel so full, but it does. There’s a lot out there, and even now that I’m back home, I’m still seeing what’s out there. I think it’s a good metaphor for what happens when I write.
I’ve come home to my own little enclosed space to discover that my story, Accidental Hitchhiker, is now available on the Xcite eBooks anthology, Between the Sheets. Also, my story, Muscle Bound, will be available in October in the Cleis Press anthology, Smooth: Erotic Stories for Women. A very nice homecoming, I think!

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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