Monday, June 21, 2010

Meet me, Leigh! and On the Way to New Isosceles

Dear Reader,

In some ways, I’d rather it be the old days where a writer could be anonymous and let a work speak for itself. You don’t need to know anything about me or even need to like me in order to like what I write. Having said that, I’m perfectly proud to indulge readers and interviewers with all my quirks-from what my housewife-self baked today to the joke that I vacuum with my pearls on and nothing else! I also collect weird pens and adore animal prints-especially cat motifs. What does that have to do with writing a book? Absolutely nothing, but I suppose goofy things like this assure readers that I’m a real human being-an author at the other end of the virtual spectrum delighting in the readership! ‘If you prick us…’

I'm also pretty proud of my 2009 Eternal Press release On the Way to New Isosceles. Although I’ve had other articles and reviews out and about online and in print over the years, this is my first big release. Sure, it’s small to some of the big NY publishing house bigwigs, but ecstatic to me nonetheless! I'm pleased with the near perfect blend of science fiction and sex. I started out thinking I would have a small novella of one sex scene after another on a long space flight. My previous works are not entirely erotic, and fragments of sex scenes had been waiting in my idea notebook for some time. Halfway through writing Isosceles, I had twice as many pages than I expected, serious character conflicts, space battle action, and even some death and angst. After all that, I finally got to the sweet sex scenes! I wasn't sure if there was an audience for material that would please the hard sf fan but also the erotica lover. Such audiences of mind versus body seem at polar odds. Sometimes you find some science fiction that's really lofty and full of space and technology over people and just a little too high brow. On the Way to New Isosceles has a tongue in cheek look about it. Be honest, what else must they do on long space journeys but get hot and bothered?

I’m a stickler for self-editing, perhaps over editing! Between compositing, editing, submitting, and publication, On the Way to New Isosceles took about three years total I think. I handwrite still, and in one moment of writerly self-doubt; I wasn’t going to finish Isosceles. My husband took my notebook and was quickly pleased with the story-until the first sex scene shocked him. Though he’s not totally of a literary mind, his encouragement to finish gave me the push I needed. I kept writing-in bigger notebooks, smaller sketchpads, and even the back of receipt rolls-during my lunch breaks while I was working at a video store. I remember sitting in one of those vignettes in the mall at Christmas time crying because I just killed a character off. Carols were playing, décor all a glow, ruddy shoppers bagged to the brim! And here I was, crying at what was supposed to be a sex story! Should anyone have asked me what was wrong, I doubt I could have explained!

Shocker or shockers, I’m actually a church-going lady who’ll preach to anybody, anywhere if given the chance. How then, could I write such glorious smut and sex drivel? While it’s perfectly acceptable to be a fine upstanding lady and a respectable writer who writes ‘romance’, I’m not partial to the word and the sappy connotations the laymen applies to it. I prefer ‘relationship fiction’. We like to know what makes a character tick-the old adage of man versus man, man versus himself, and man versus nature. What else can combine these three scenarios better than relationships? Two men vying for a women’s affections, a man conflicted over loving the wrong person, the way a society view’s one’s relationship. When writing, we’re always taught to make characters three-dimensional, multi-faceted, real human beings. How then, can one discuss a mutli-layered relationship without revealing what goes on in the bedroom?

A hero who’s impotent, a villain who’s gay, a good girl heroine who despises her need for autoerotic asphyxiation- these sexual intimacies shed light on a character that perhaps we’d rather not know about. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable even. That’s not the fault of the character- in fact, that’s the mark of an antagonist doing his job. A read that makes the reader squirm is good, wouldn’t you say? At the same time our society revolves around ‘sex sells’, we’re also pretty private about our practices. We make commercials with euphemisms or speculate about one’s kinky ways when the news comes out, but for such a natural human necessity, sex is still scandalous gossip to us, isn’t it?

Naturally, some places are better served at exploring sexuality than others- and literature is one of them. Unlike a kinky movie, reading is still a personal and private activity. Outside of your librarian, what you read is generally hidden- unless you showcase your books collection to guests or make lists online. Downloaded ebooks that leave smaller shelf space are the perfect medium to explore you’re naughty book tendencies. Electronic Publishers are far more accepting of erotic literature-and the once shy genre has made quite an online niche for itself.

Why erotica, then? On one hand, it’s easy to say ‘because I can’. Online markets have made the oft-taboo writing of the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock and roll accessible to mainstream audiences. Furthermore, sexual fiction is a form of fantasy just as much as space operas and high, magical fantasy tales. We are imagining sexual situations that of course garner proper wording and research, but one not necessarily need to be a practicing sexual expert to write erotica. Former detectives or lawyers often write crime fiction, but an erotica author does not have to be a prostitute. Erotic content is just as escapist as any other genre. I enjoy writing about places I’ve never been to or places that don’t exist, and it’s a lot of fun mentally going to the kinky and dark places I don’t live. Writing about sex not only keeps characters well rounded and realistic, but also it keeps me on my creative edge in a safe and healthy manner. What’s wrong with that?

Well instead of ranting and raving about all these lofty concepts, it’s about dang time I talked about some books, isn’t it? On the Way to New Isosceles is out now, of course, but the sequel is one or two years away. Truthfully, I never expected an outpouring for the follow-up, silly I know. When I write a book, submit it, edit it with the publisher, then put it out for the masses, part of me is dang glad I’m done with it! I find I often alternate between my works. After the exasperation of getting the rough draft down, I need to let a manuscript stew before I go back to it, and then again perhaps after an edit or two.

There has to be a bit of longing for a work, don’t you think? I need to set something aside so I can think on it and wish to return to that place. Once I finished my final polish of On the Way to New Isosceles and submitted it, I filled the agony of waiting to hear from the publisher into creative output on my next work. Naturally, I went the complete opposite of Isosceles’ science fiction heavy with light-hearted sex and turned around my second draft of a medieval fantasy and sexually angsty epic called Horns of Myleness. After that itch was alleviated for a while, then it was back to Isosceles’ universe for the first draft of what I’m currently calling Equilateral Planet.

Why do I do it this way? Most likely I’m a twit, but I suspect there’s some usefulness to it all. One, even I get tired of a universe sometimes. Edit after edit, book after book. If you do a series all at once, does it stretch thin and loose its luster? I probably should stay in a similar vein of genre and style, but again, I like stretching my wings and switching creative gears. Perhaps the cross training of ideas in one genre leads to a light bulb that revitalizes an old manuscript you’ve buried time and again. Horns of Myleness is about a love triangle that has dire sexual consequences. I had been germing the story line in my head and notebook for sometime, and after completing the positive relationships in On the Way to New Isosceles, I was ready to theorize on the unhealthy. Equilateral Planet introduces new people to JJ and Rub, making New Isosceles a steamy, swinging planet. After writing all that melancholy in Myleness, I was ready to speculate on some healthy but no less kinky ménage. Two factions, one planet-make love, not war!