Friday, September 9, 2011

Those Scenes...

By Laura Spinella

Whatever the genre of a book, I’m sure the writer has an interesting post publication story to tell. Author is a curious job that leads to people you would not otherwise meet and questions you wouldn’t ordinarily be asked. Some of the more common queries being: Where do you get your ideas and how long does it take to write a book? Depending on the person’s knowledge of the publishing industry, they’re impressed by your imprint credentials or simply by the fact that you have a book in print. Either way, it’s flattering. When you write a novel that includes love scenes, fairly detailed love scenes, invariably, always, eventually the question comes around. And here, at The Stiletto Gang, I’m guessing I own that one.

Those scenes, those scenes, those scenes… Truth be told, I didn’t think much about them while I was writing the book. Well, not their reader impact. But from book club gatherings to library chats to emails from readers, clearly, my love scenes are on their minds. I was a bit dense to it at first. It wasn’t until I attended a library event, where I was the guest and BEAUTIFUL DISASTER the book du jour, when I finally got a clue. People were gracious and polite, some having read the book, some not. However, there was a woman who sat in the back row, very silent, very sober. Now, sober is bad for me at given event, and I can tell you that they don’t serve wine at library functions, so my senses were sharp, absorbing her penetrating stare. Finally, toward the end of the chat portion, she raised her hand.

“Yes?” I said, suspecting I was about to receive a verbal flogging.

“Your book, I read it. All of it. And, well, I want to know something. Did your publisher demand that you include those scenes… embellish them like that? You know what scenes I mean…”

While the urge to play dumb was overwhelming, I have no angst over my love scenes so I answered, “Yes! In fact, they said they’d double the advance if I agreed to double the page count on those scenes.”


But I wasn’t about to justify any part of my book to her, especially not for the express purpose of gauging publisher influence versus something I obviously felt passionate about while writing the book. I will not be judged, not to my face anyway, on those scenes because that, to me, sounds a whole lot like censorship.

Not every email mentions Mia and Flynn’s steamier moments, but some do. My favorite is from a young man who, apparently, found BEAUTIFUL DISASTER a profound and stirring read. It was really a beautiful letter, telling me how the book graduated him from the world of YA into adult fiction. He went on at length, conveying how those scenes resonated, explaining that my book was a first for him in fiction. Okay, if you’re feeling a blush come on, don’t feel bad, I did too. I wrote back, thanking him for the lovely note and signing my name: Mrs. Robinson. Well, I suppose we all have to learn somewhere.

Book clubs have been the most fun when it comes to the discussion of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER’S love scenes. About an hour or so into each gathering, as the wine flows, so does the conversation. After discussing Roxanne’s motives and if Mia will salvage their friendship, moving onto Flynn’s psyche and how he was pushed to the brink of redemption, we get around to those scenes. I think my reaction to their reaction is my most profound moment from this side of published author. While I believe my love scenes are an integral part of the story, I don’t take them so seriously that I can’t have fun with them. And we do have fun. In addition to playing an important role in the story, they provide an invigorating indulgent escape for the reader. At least that’s been the majority of opinions to come my way. Some readers want to know how I go about the process of writing a love scene, and for that I have a very simple answer. I’ve never intentionally set out to write one. It has to grow organically out of the characters and plot. Any other scenario would be forcing it, and I suspect it would show. I get that sex in a book is a matter of personal preference; some people seek it out while others like to leave it at the bedroom door. Whatever floats your boat, I’m okay with that. Personally, I think the best romantic scenes are those that exist because they’re a natural part of the story. Overall, it’s nice to know, that in many circles, in addition to telling a good story, I’ve been able to provide a little escapism. Call me crazy, but I thought it’s why we read.

Come visit me at BEAUTIFUL DISASTER was recently chosen by the University of Georgia for their annual Alumni Author Showcase. If you're in Athens, GA November 3rd, see you there!


  1. Laura, thanks for this really thoughtful post on "those scenes". My mother always asks why I don't have more of those scenes (ok, ANY) in my books and in all honesty, I don't think that they suit the type of book I write. (And I went to 16 years of Catholic school.)

    When I finish my next book, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is on my tbr pile. Maggie

  2. When I was younger I included steamy sex scenes in my books--now I most shut the bedroom door.


  3. I love it, Maggie! Your mother asks why not, and my mother has only read an edited version of BD! But I do think you're absolutely correct, it's got to be a natural fit or there's just no point!

    And thanks, I'd love to be on your tbr list!!

  4. That's for reading, Marilyn. You just have to go with what works!

  5. I just did a re-write on a WIP that removed a "steamy" scene I loved, but the re-write had removed the moment and without the moment, it would have been steamy for the sake of steamy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

  6. You know how I love my Flynn and love that scene! I thought it was tastefully done and captured the emotion of the moment.

  7. LD, you are so right! It all comes down to the moment, as the writer you have to take charge!

    Charli Mac... you know i love you!

  8. Laura, I wish I were a fly on the wall for the BD book club meetings! (And, if I were, I'd have to hope that no one could hear the tiny noise of a fly chuckling!) ;-) Love the Mrs. Robinson moment, too. Can't wait to see what's within the pages of THE IT FACTOR. If there are enough of "those scenes," I think we need to get a copy to Maggie's mother. :-)

  9. Thanks, Susan. Yes, we'll need to put Maggie's mom on the advance copy list! Actually, THE IT FACTOR is slightly tamer, the characters are a little younger, so it didn't lend itself to the level of "intensity" that Mia & Flynn did. Besides, I like to think there's only one Flynn!

  10. P.S. Laura, congrats on the Alumni Authors Showcase honor from UGa. That's stupendous! I feel compelled to say, "Go, Dawg!" Seriously, very cool!

  11. At a recent family wedding I was told my an older relative of my husband's that I should include more of *those scenes* in my books because sex sells. She was concerned that my lack of sex scenes was going to hold me back. Funny how one person's taboo is another person's favorite moment! (You can put my husband's relative on your ARC list, too!)

  12. Well said Joelle! And along that some line, I think some of the reaction I've gotten is b/c BD sits on the women's fiction side of the aisle. If BD was displayed in the romance section, this wouldn't even be a conversation! That makes me laugh!

    Susan, Thanks, and has my "Go Dawgs" rubbed off on you?? Or did you know that before me??