Monday, February 25, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex


Charlaine Harris, who writes the hysterical Southern vampire mystery series, swears that her books took off once she started putting sex into them.

Oy! I went to an Orthodox Jewish Day School through sixth grade (substitute Rabbis for nuns, keep the rules, and you get the picture). Try as I might to construct a love scene that involves nudity, I'm convinced that I will get struck by a lightning bolt at the first sign of heavy breathing.

Hey, I like sex – but even writing that sentence has me checking to see if Rabbi D is clucking over my lost soul.

Here's the problem. My characters are two middle-aged adults who have been around the block a few times. At some point (should it be in Book 2? Hold out for Book 3?), they're going to go steady, get lavaliered, maybe even get pinned, or the 40-something equivalent. In any case, there's a point in an adult relationship that would suggest that somebody is getting some. So practically speaking, sex needs to be part of the Mac Sullivan-Rachel Brenner equation. Plus, circling back to Charlaine Harris, sex sells. What to do?

When I first started writing fiction, I described a love scene to my husband. I could see him trying to figure out how to phrase the question. Despite years of marriage and four kids, he thought he knew me, but perhaps, there was still a surprise to be had. Finally, he decided the direct approach was best. "Are you writing smut?" "No," I answered indignantly. "I subcontracted it out."

I suppose we could just have constant "fade to black" moments in our books, much like the Doris Day movies of the 1950s. It was a time when Hollywood was still peddling the idea that a "good" 30-something woman (Virginal Doris was 35 in Pillow Talk) would wait for a diamond on her left hand before any kiss would be permitted. Forget about any tongue involvement in those encounters. Kisses that ended up with the heroine actually sleeping with the hero, after the obligatory "fade to black," still were not much more than a peck on the lips. Even I could have written those "sex scenes."

We haven't put it in the acknowledgements, but the Southern half of Evelyn David has agreed to write all steamy scenes. We don't like to call it smut. We prefer to think of it as romance. Besides, she's not worried at all about stray lightning bolts.

On the other hand, the Southern half is a Southern Baptist. Sex scenes don't bother her a bit, but she is appalled at foul language. Put a damn in a sentence and she worries that her Mom will be disappointed in her. Me? I know words and combinations that would make a fleet of sailors blush. I don't worry a bit if the good Rabbi will think I need to say any special prayers.

We're finishing Murder Takes the Cake, the sequel to Murder Off the Books. Here's a spoiler so don't read the next sentence if you want to be surprised…but on page 98, there is a kiss. More of the Doris/Rock variety, but hey, there are 250 more pages before the exciting conclusion. A lot can happen between the sheets (of paper, that is). I'm making no promises, but I'm checking out rubber tires to sling around my waist…to ward off lightning bolts.

Evelyn David

1 comment:

  1. Dear Marian: Love this column! And you've now given me the inspirtaiton for my Wednesday blog, which will provide the Irish-Catholic counterpoint on the topic. Maggie

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