Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Don't You Write a Serious Book?

I just sent off the manuscript for my ninth novel to Totally Bound. I feel elated and exhausted, as I always do when I finish a book. I'm not worried about being accepted, since this tale was specifically commissioned by the publisher. However, as always, I worry about whether readers will like it, whether it will sell.

Her Secret Weapon is a novel-length follow-on to my short piece, Her Secret Ingredient. Here's the tag line and blurb.

One sexy French chef. One kinky American TV producer. One ambitious Chinese gal who wants them both. The ingredients of bliss? Or a recipe for disaster? 

Accomplished cook Mei Lee “Emily” Wong knows exactly what she wants: her own show on the Tastes of France food channel. But life is full of complications. First, her deceptively nerdy producer Harry Sanborne initiates Emily into the delights of submission. Then her boss, legendary chef Etienne Duvalier, begs her to dominate him, and Emily can’t resist the opportunity to have her way with the suave and sexy Frenchman. Fortunately Harry’s too horny to be jealous and Etienne will do whatever she asks, in the bedroom if not in the kitchen. Somehow Emily manages the balance of power to keep both men satisfied.
When the network sends the trio to France to shoot a series of cooking shows on location, Emily knows her career is on the upswing. Her plans fall apart in Marseille as a Hong Kong drug syndicate kidnaps both Etienne and Harry. The Iron Hammer Triad mistakes Etienne for notorious French gangster Jean le Requin, who has stolen their drug shipment, worth millions. Emily realizes she must find the real Le Requin, retrieve the purloined dope, and bargain it for Harry’s and Etienne’s lives. But what chance does one Chinese woman whose knife skills are limited to chopping vegetables have against the ruthless cruelty of two criminal organizations? Even her secret weapon may not be powerful enough to save her two lovers.

Warning: includes both female dominance  and female submission, anal sex, outrageous lingerie, and chopsticks used as instruments of erotic torture. 

I'm pretty happy with the way the story turned out, especially since I wrote and sold the blurb long before I'd figured out how the plot was actually going to work. And I have to warn readers that in addition to adventure and French local color, the book includes lots of delicious sex. 

Anyway, during a recent email conversation with my younger sister, I mentioned I'd just finished another novel. She replied:

Wow! You are so talented. Have you ever thought about writing something more mainstream ... with a just little vavavoom... Why not make some substantial money.  Or maybe some fantasy sci fi.  You know better than I, but I think the teen market ... ie hunger games type stuff is pretty hot right now.  You are such a great writer, you should consider it.
I've gotten the same line from my  brother. "Why don't you write a serious book?" he asks. The implication being, of course, why am I wasting my time writing this erotic stuff?

If money were my main object (which it isn't), I might point out to them that aside from a handful of people like J.K. Rowling and James Patterson, romance authors are the ones doing the best with book sales at present. Or I might note that writing what is "hot these days" almost guarantees that by the time the cookie-cutter book is done, the content won't be so hot any more - because there will be a thousand other copies on the market.

But I'm not writing to get rich in any case. If I were, I'd have to quite my job and really focus on the process, because despite the mythology of the instant best seller, you have to keep putting out one book after the other in order to actually make a living as an author. 

Meanwhile, how can I convey the fact that for me, erotica is seriousOkay, I'll admit that Her Secret Weapon isn't deep. Perhaps it won't win any awards for literary excellence. Still, it deals with some real issues like honesty, ambition, jealousy, and the balance between heart and mind. And it's a great, fast-moving, sexy story.

I believe that it's important to write about sexuality and sexual pleasure - and to write well. People are so conflicted about sex. Reading a frank, explicit story that celebrates the sexual can have beneficial effects. I hate to bring up FSOG, but the infamous trilogy has opened the eyes - and the minds - of many readers. They should try my work, which actually offers a much more positive message. 

However, erotica is routinely dismissed as trash or (heaven help us!) "porn". I view this as a symptom of how much our society actually needs erotic literature

I write sexually explicit fiction because sex interests me, because I think sex is important, and because I'm good at it. The fact that my writing is not considered "serious" is society's problem, not mine. 

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