If you’ve read the novel, you may be astonished by this comment. It’s one of the most explicit and transgressive things I’ve ever written. It includes almost every variety of sexual activity I can imagine (well, that I did imagine!)—bondage, spanking, flogging, age play, ménage (FFM and MFFM), femdom, lesbian and homoerotic activity, public sex, anonymous sex, even a double penetration on a billiard table. How can I call such a story “innocent”?
What I mean is that when I wrote the novel, I was innocent. Innocence implies a lack of knowledge, even ignorance. The word definitely describes me at that point in my career. I knew nothing about the constraints or conventions of genre. I had no notion that some types of sex were banned. (Of course, the rules might have been looser a decade ago.)
Incognito is unquestionably a romance, though I didn’t write it with that conscious intention. The story follows the core trajectory of that genre, chronicling the development of a loving relationship between my heroine Miranda and my hero Mark. The classic obstacle has to do with Miranda’s fear of loving sex, due to her early experiences. Over the course of the book, she conquers this fear. The novel has an unequivocally happy ending that even includes an engagement ring.
At the same time, the book breaks all the rules I’ve (since) learned about the expectations and preferences of romance readers. While Miranda is figuring out how she feels about Mark, she has all sorts of sexual adventures with other people—mostly strangers—women as well as men. I’d never dare write something like this for a romance audience now. They’d hate me and give me one star reviews. In fact, I’m sure my editors would censor such activities right out of existence. (They've done that with much less blatant examples in other books.) Back then , though, I wrote what turned me on and what fit my characters. Miranda represented certain aspects of myself. I’m bisexual, at least in theory. She put my theories into practice.
Then there’s the fact that the book includes sex between cousins (who pretend to be twins), and the sexual initiation of a seventeen year old male by his much older aunt. As I edited this (very hot) scene recently, I wondered whether I’d be forced to cut it. These days it’s eighteen or nothing, and anything even hinting of sex between family members is strictly verboten.
I gave away my virginity at the age of fifteen. I can’t pretend that teenagers are asexual beings. I supposed I could bump up the age of my hero by a year or two, but it wouldn’t have the same impact.
As I work my way through a book I wrote so long ago, I remember the thrill I felt creating it. I reveled in the freedom to expose and explore my fantasies. Miranda’s adventures go far beyond what I’d dared in real life. I blush now at the extreme quality of some scenes. At the time, though, I didn’t bat an eyelash. I found these scenes arousing. I didn’t doubt that my readers would, too.
The book is currently available at Totally Bound, and they’re going to re-release the new version. They’re a pretty traditional erotic romance publisher. I wouldn’t be surprised if they want me to cut or alter some of the more controversial scenes.
Writing this blog post has made me realize that I’m not going to do that. I won’t do violence to the original vision of the novel. If they won’t publish it in its current form, so be it. I’ll take it somewhere else.
Innocence is precious. I believe it should be cherished.