I put sex in my stories. I addressed some of it in a podcast before the release of Red August – but I thought I would blog about it, to explore it a bit further. If you want to listen to the podcast you can hop on over to Raven Heights Radio and listen to that episode HERE.
To state the obvious, some people aren’t bothered by sexual scenes in a story, and some people even seek out books with sexual passages. Then, there are readers who don’t like sex in a story, and regardless of my reasons for including sexual scenes, it’s not going to really make them like it. So, for those who are curious, here are some thoughts about about those sexy bits of Red August and also, why you will find sexy bits in my second book in the series, Red Archer, as well.
When I first conceived of writing a fairy tale, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at an erotic short. I had listened to a podcast from an erotica author who cranked out many erotic shorts a month and makes a good living at it. I was at a bit of crossroads in my career life and wanted to switch from focusing on art and photography to writing. Naturally, I wanted to write something that would be financially supporting. So, I figured I would try out this model mentioned in the erotica writer’s podcast. I’d write something under 10k words and I would self-publish it for 99 cents and move on to the next fairy tale. However, once I got to writing the character of August Archer and her budding age-gap relationship with werewolf Faolan Conall, I couldn’t just stick to the erotic stuff – I wanted more story. Eventually, there wasn’t a lot of sex in the story left, but what was there was pretty hot. So, what could I do now but finish the story?
I had believed writing erotica might be a good route for me because my first ever paycheck as a writer was back in the late 90s and it was a short erotic story for Playgirl. I figured I could channel that part of myself and write something short and steamy – but I failed. I just wanted to know more about the characters. I wanted to know where they would end up and all of the adventures they might get up to as their relationships developed. So, I decided instead to write a modern fairy tale adaptation and put sex in where it felt right to me. That’s how Red August was born.
I am a sensualist. I immerse myself in the clicks of a keyboard and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sweet and rich melting of chocolate on my tongue, the tickle of the hair on the back of my neck and the warm pressing of my lover’s lips to my cheek – all while just sitting here at my desk. These things cannot be sorted out from each other. They are interwoven. Eggs, flour, milk, sugar, all baked together – touching and creating a full experience.
Sex, passion, lust and hormones are a huge foundation of our motivations as humans, even if we don’t want to admit it, despite the reality of it being all around us. I realize for some people, they’ve got that part of themselves pretty locked down. They keep it private. They don’t like it intruding on their stories about adventure or danger. But, for me, there is a message in that: sex intrudes, whether we want it to or not. If people want to read it just to enjoy the idea that there is this horny teen girl who has an interesting paranormal back-story – I am totally fine with that. The book belongs to the readers once you put it out there. The author’s intent sometimes isn’t clear, or the person reading it might not have an experience or perspective that lets the message in. There is nothing wrong with any of that. If sexy writing isn’t for you, I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. I’m just saying that I can’t help but include it.
The messages I got when I was younger, compared to those that I claimed for myself later, helped me come to a place where I recognize that sex is embraceable as a whole part of yourself and not something to try and put in a box. There are so many contradictions in our society about sex. We require consent, but don’t always prosecute rapists. Or we get consent, then are accused of breaching a boundary we didn’t know was there. We say girls are too young to dress in a sexy outfit or buy dolls that push sex, then we sell everything with sex. There is a calamity about young girls wearing sexualized make-up and clothing, then we deny that clothing or appearance can be sexualized (feminist perspective). It’s confusing as hell. And there is no way for me as one human to un-confuse it. But what I can do is write about a girl who is in touch with her sex drive. I can also make an attempt to not romanticize things that are unhealthy. I will write about things that are not healthy happening in a relationship, but I make great effort to not romanticize or objectify in my story.
I wrote about August’s desires and private actions because that is part of who she is. Her body is doing things that are invisible to those around her, but hormones and chemicals rage on inside of her nonstop.
For me, I think part of the problem is that too often, women aren’t portrayed as whole individuals. When we get explicit sex in a story some feel it defines the story, putting it into a specific slot (I know), saying “oh, this book is about sex.” There’s nothing wrong with reading it on that level. But that’s not what I’m trying to create – a story that’s primary objective is titillation. My objective is simple – to show a whole girl, with her desires, menstrual cycles, awkwardness and cleverness–all the good and the bad–and sex is part of that story.
Take all of the above and add onto it the fact that August is not just a human girl. She has hormones of something other than human coursing thorough her veins. Her blood is rich and heavy with longing and the drive to procreate to a point she doesn’t understand it. Furthermore, because as a general rule, people don’t talk much about sex to each other, she’s confused by it. And if teenagers do talk about those things, particularly before the information age (my book is set in the 1980s), they can be misinformed. They don’t know how normal it is to be having these aches and desires. It’s an aspect of our animal side that is going on in our brains as we go on with all of the activities of our day.
There is a well-loved episode of the original Star Trek series in which this subject is the main theme. Pon Farr highlights the power of hormones and instinctual drive. You won’t get to see any steamy sex scenes with Spock, but I would have liked to. I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there isn’t some fan fiction out there taking that episode much further than shirtless fight scenes on Vulcan.
Hormones and bonding chemicals, like oxytocin, are fascinating and still a bit mysterious. I’ve learned a lot about bonding chemicals in the past four or five years. They are addictive and powerful and can affect you like other drugs – clouding your judgment, making you feel euphoric, or numb. When people have affairs, they can get the sense that they don’t love their earlier partner any longer because of the bonding chemicals that take over their brains with the new person. This isn’t a mystery and it isn’t new, but it’s overwhelming and sometimes ruinous. I like exploring the way these bonding chemicals can make us hold on to relationships that were cut short, or idealize people who aren’t good for us.
I attempt to write sex in my stories sensually rather than what somebody might consider raunchy. But, if you like your sex tucked away, as an aside mention, or avoided like tip-toeing through a garden, then the Red August series probably isn’t for you.