Many moons ago when I had a top NY agent, Denise Marcil, I had just completed my first mystery, Doubletake, which I wrote with a coauthor, Margaret Sutton. Denise worked hard to market the book, but this was the late 70s when romance was trumping all other genres and mysteries were a hard sell. So Denise suggested I try my hand at writing a romance. She suggested some titles to read in a new contemporary line that Harlequin was launching that featured modern women who were strong and spunky and had interesting jobs. The editors were also looking for smart, sassy dialogue and lots of humor.
I could do that.
What I couldn't do was meet the guidelines that called for intimacy by a certain page and a requisite number of sex scenes.
Not that I'm against sex scenes. I have some in my one and only romance novel, Play It Again, Sam. However, I will not put one in a story just because sex sells and millions of readers like to be titillated by reading a steamy sex scene. If I could get over that attitude, I would probably make a whole lot more money, but...
|Discounted in a sale|
at Untreed Reads
through Valentine's Day
I did not know until we were well into the editing process that the publisher intended to release the book as a romantic suspense. ARGH! No wonder the editor was asking for a sex scene. I thought the book was going to be released as a suspense novel, period. The acquisitions editor, who read the manuscript and accepted it for publication, certainly had to note that there was not the typical romantic angle to the story to make it romantic suspense.
Still, I wanted to be cooperative, so I considered the request for a while and looked through the story to see if there were ways to beef up the romance. There were places where the sexual tension could be ratcheted up a bit, but they still could not do the deed. Partially because of the professional boundaries, but also because the characters were both wounded people who needed some distance from emotional entanglements.
When I wrote the love scenes for Sam and Frank in Play it Again, Sam, the scene evolved naturally out of the story and it was almost like the characters were directing me on how to write it. Trying to put Jenny and Steve in bed for One Small Victory did not have that same natural feel. The scene I attempted to write was awkward, forced, and held no magic. I knew it was not going to work, so I told my editor that I couldn't add that scene, and if that was a deal-breaker, so be it.
Luckily, it was not, and the book has pleased thousands of readers. Some have asked whether Jenny and Steve ever got together, so I am considering a sequel. They have started talking to me again, and love is part of that conversation.
As Cairn Rodrigues pointed out in an earlier post Let's Write About Sex... or Not, writers have to be true to their stories and their characters. And it has to be about love for most of us. Cairn wrote in her blog piece:
It took me some time to realize that I shouldn’t approach the sex scenes as being about sex, but rather relationships. Not necessarily long term, committed relationships, but the relationship between two people in that moment. Those small, intimate moments do propel the story because they inform the characters, give them context and provide more storytelling possibilities down the road.Dear reader, what is your response to this? Do you like the sex scenes to be there for sheer titillation, or is the relationship more important? Would you ever read a love story that did not have a graphic sex scene?
|Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release Boxes For Beds is an historical mystery and has no sex scenes. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, also minus any sex scenes. The first book in he series, Open Season, does have a sex scene and is available as an e-book. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. She believes in the value of a good walk and a great dog companion.|