As many of you know, I'm trying my hand at erotic fiction. This is a switch from writing amateur sleuth novels and yet I'm not entirely surprised that an editor at Simon & Schuster suggested it. There's a lot of sex in several of my mystery novels (the two page sex scene in Passion, Betrayal & Killer Highlights was even reprinted in Cosmo). So I'm not entirely out of my element.
|Taken From Post Secret!|
But the other thing that gives this exercise a familiar feel is that the genre of so called "chick-lit" murder mysteries and erotic fiction have one major common denominator: they both take an enormous amount of abuse from literary elitists.
Just look at some of the comments on Anne Browning Walker's Huffington Post's article: Why Intelligent Women Read Romance Novels. Here's just a sample:
Each to his own, but romance novels are just soft porn, women like porn as much as men do but can't admit that, so this is the socially acceptable outlet. Repressed women love romance novels because they are bodice rippers with ridiculous plots, just like the porn men like.
This just sounds like a great way for a woman who thinks she's a smart woman to justify the fact that she reads crappy romance novels with raised lettering on the cover. It's not actually true.[that smart women read these books]
Is there anything stupider than women who constantly and neurotically (and egotistically) feel the need to label themselves "smart women"?
Especially, when they are about to describe one or more of the very insipid things they do...
My response to that last comment is yes, people who use their free time reading articles they know they're going to hate just so they can make insulting comments anonymously are infinitely stupider.
It all reminds me of the outrage of the literary critics when Bridget Jones opened the floodgates for books featuring young, single female protagonists who occasionally like to shop. The authors of these books (myself included) were supposedly bringing great literature to its knees, robbing more serious authors of the attention they deserved and assaulting the book shelves with our unforgivably pink covers! It was an outrage! Maureen Dowd actually wrote a whole column in which she named my first book, Sex, Murder And A Double Latte, as one that was helping to undermine the elegance of the entire murder mystery genre (I was given the privilege of responding to Ms. Dowd on Beatrice.com). On the flip side, a group called American Decency Association (I could NOT make that name up) used my sex scene that was excerpted in Cosmo as proof that Cosmo shouldn't be allowed to be sold in "decent-family oriented stores," you know, like CVS and Safeway. There is nothing like having a paragraph where you describe an orgasm being reprinted and lambasted a hundred times over on the Christian Wire News Service.
So I, and every other author like me, was getting it from both sides. In fact that photo on the very top of this blog? That was taken from Post Secret. Dowd and the Morality people freaked one of my readers out so much that my book became their dirty little secret! I mean Post Secret is where people confess to hating their mothers and fantasizing about having sex with Catholic Saints for God's sake!
But I digress...
Undoubtedly I will face the same kinda thing when my erotic fiction is published and if I'm REALLY lucky another bigwig like Dowd will take me to task and I'll be invited to respond in a public forum (really, it was a lot of fun). And American Decency Association? Please, please, PLEASE put me on your hit list again. It was one of the greatest honors of my career.
But as fun as it is to have enemies I do have a problem with critics who judge an entire genre of books by their covers. What makes a book good is not the cover but it's also not the genre. It's how it's written. I heard so many people complain about how the protagonists in "chick lit" are all obsessed with finding a man, obsessed with shopping and obsessed with their weight.
Well my mysteries were often called chick-lit-mysteries and my protagonist was never obsessed with finding a man (she does end up with an on-again-off-agan love interest but she's clearly cool with being single), isn't a big shopper and never freaks out about her weight. That's not to say there aren't some great books written about women who are worried-about/obsessed-with these things. I'm just saying you can't assume you know what's going to be in a book just because it has a cover that fits into the pastel color palette.
To be honest I think this erotic fiction I'm writing might be the best thing I've written to date. I posted an excerpt online and one Twitter reader told me it reminded her of Sidney Sheldon.
Sidney Sheldon! That's the best compliment I've ever gotten in my life! But I'm sure there will be those who dismiss it as unreadable smut simply because its erotica just as there are those who dismissed my mysteries because of the color of their covers. Those people who like to write ugly comments on Huffington Post will always have the time to post ugly comments attacking anything they're uncomfortable with but mostly ignorant about.
I'm just hoping the silent majority will give it a shot. And maybe, just maybe, the intelligent people who like to read books that the book police tell us we shouldn't read will become increasingly willing to tell those particular coppers to either take the time to read what they're criticizing or shut the hell up.
Although it is pretty clear that the American Decency Association read my sex scene. I have to remember to send them a thank you letter.