I was having coffee with an old friend, a publicist, who had offered advice on book promotion. I hadn’t expected “sex” to be on the agenda, but he was the expert, so I went with it. And he was, after all, doing me a favor. He even paid for my double-shot, low-fat, half-caff latte.
I took a sip and licked some foam off my upper lip. “Go on.”
“Sex sells. That’s all there is to it. What’s that book called? You know, the one all you women are reading now?”
I knew the one he was talking about. “I won’t write stuff like that.”
“So you can’t write sex?”
“I can write it. Just not like that.” Geez, I felt like we were back in high school.
Most writers would agree that effective and realistic sex scenes are hard to write. They force the writer to reveal parts of herself – what she thinks, wants, feels. Shortly after my novel (The Long Dance Home) was released, I was at a party where a long-time friend told me how much he had enjoyed my book.
“Thank you!” I said, delighted he’d read it.
He stepped closer. “I think I learned something about you.”
“And what would that be?” I took a small step back.
“Well,” he smiled. “I know how you like to be kissed.”
Yikes. I blushed and toyed with a few loose strands of hair tickling the back of my neck. I felt exposed and a little embarrassed. But it was true. I had described kisses, caresses, and beyond, all of which came from my own imagination, experience, and fantasies. Every time my characters peeled off their clothes, I had to peel away layers of myself. This is what writers do to create stories that are real and believable. We take risks and accept vulnerability. And I guarantee to you – it’s never easy.
As for The Long Dance Home, which my publicist friend thought needed more sex . . . “I wrote exactly what my publisher had requested, a PG-13, holiday novel. The love scenes had to be romantic and relatively tame.” I paused and met his eyes with mine. “But my next book is different. It’s dark and gritty, and the sexual relationship is quite disturbing.”
He leaned in and rested an arm on the table. “Really?”
“Yes. I think you’ll like it.”
“I do.” I offered a slight smile and picked up my latte.
A layer of foam had settled at the bottom of my cup. I circled my finger along the inside, scooping up the last of the warm froth, and put it in my mouth. It tasted sweet, a hint of rich milk. I closed my lips around my finger and licked off a layer of sugary residue with the tip of my tongue. Slowly, with lips wet and soft, I withdrew my finger from my mouth.
Sex? Yeah. I can do that.