Come listen to Episode 4, Part 1 of 3 of my podcast, 12 Minutes (or less!) with the Author. The subject? Let’s Talk About Sex (Scenes), Baby! Transcript and link to the Spotify podcast episode below.
Episode 4, Part 1 of 3, on Spotify: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/XAoZdUPJqzb
This podcast episode is available on YouTube as well. Find it here: https://youtu.be/eN2hjbEu7j4
Hey there, welcome to another episode of 12 Minutes – or less! – with the Author. Today the topic is sex. Well, sex scenes in books. Whether you write them, read them, or skip over them, this podcast is for you. I’ve also listed this episode as clean versus explicit, but please note that there might be one or two slang words used for body parts that might be considered crude. But I’ll endeavor to keep it clean.
Recently I reached out to 11 authors I’ve met through Instagram. I sent them a list of questions on writing sex scenes – or not writing them. I asked each author to answer 3 of the questions.
Before we go any further, let me explain how this is going to work. Because the response from these authors was so great, I realized I’d need to share their feedback over multiple episodes of 12 Minutes – or less! – with the Author. Sometimes I’ll share all responses to a particular question, and other times I’ll spread author answers across all episodes.
This podcast features Part 1.
First, a little about me. I’ve written books for two different genres. My Door to Door series falls into a PG-13 paranormal mystery genre, while my Rated R Bellerose Witchline books are adult dark fantasy. As you might guess, sex in the mystery series happens “off-page” – and my main character Emily Swift is pretty happy about that. However, if you’ve read my Bellerose Witchline series you know Lucie and Templeton have… ah, connected.
But I wanted to know what other authors thought about writing sex scenes. The genres of the 11 authors I contacted range from paranormal cozy mystery to sexy rom-com, to fantasy, dark fantasy, and adult dark fantasy, and to contemporary fiction, sci-fi, and thrillers. They write in young adult, new adult, and regular adult categories. What they all have in common is me, Tracy – as a reader and a fan of their books.
Before we get to the Q&A portion, I want to thank the authors who shared their perspectives. They are:
- Lisa Alfano, author of standalone thriller books like Fractured Secrets and Sleep With One Eye Open. She’s also moving into the young adult fantasy genre.
- Saffron Amatti, author of the paranormal Lucas Rathbone Mystery series set in 1920s England.
- Jennifer Brasington-Crowley, author of two unconventional romance series, the RavenSong Series and the Stillwaters Series.
- Neil Bullock, sci-fi-slash-fantasy author of the Primordials Series.
- Jessica Cantwell, author of the YA fantasy series The Realm Saga. She’s also working on a contemporary novel called Rebuilding Jennifer.
- Julie Embleton, author of the dark fantasy Turning Moon shifter-romance series, the Coveted Power Series, and the standalone urban fantasy, Rogue Assassin.
- Rose J. Fairchild, author of multiple short stories with three in-progress dark fantasy novels. (She’s 1 of 13 authors featured in They Walk Among Us: Malarkey’s ImaginOmnibus #1.)
- Barbara Kellyn, author of multiple standalone smart and funny rom-com books, including Saint Dick and Forever Endeavor.
- Shari T. Mitchell, author of the thriller-mystery series, the Marnie Reilly Mysteries.
- Bruce Spydar, author of the sexy rom-com Shy Backpacker Series and its naughty-but-nice spinoff, Refining My Dining.
- And last but absolutely not least is Rachel Stanley, author of the paranormal fantasy series, A Grim Series. Rachel’s also busy writing her next fantasy series.
Now, let’s get to the meat of this episode. Sex scenes in books.
The first question I asked received the most answers, and I’ll share author responses across several podcast episodes.
Question #1 for the Author: What do you think readers like to “see” in a sex scene for the genre you write in?
Bruce Spydar: In my memoir-style romcoms (both the Diary of a Shy Backpacker series, and its spin-off Refining My Dining), I believe my readers are seeking realistic and fun situations. They are written as first-person POV, through the eyes of the MC, and while any sex may or may not be sexy, it’s more about contributing to the humour and plotline than about how explicit it might be. That said, for Refining My Dining, the sex is quite a significant part of the plot.
Julie Embleton: With shifter romance, readers want their MC as a dominant male who leads in the bedroom by ‘taking’ his woman—the ‘taking’ being consensual. (Julie adds: As a reader, non-consensual sex is a major turn-off for me, so I would never include it in my own writing.) She continues: Regardless of genre, I feel most readers want connection, intimacy, and shared enjoyment between the characters.
Neil Bullock: I write sci-fi, and I think often, what people like to see in a sex scene in my genre is not very much. The kind of sci-fi I read doesn’t usually have any, or it’s “closed door,” and I take my lead from those kinds of stories, although I can see that changing as my series develops.
Shari T. Mitchell: That all depends on the reader. I’ve had one die-hard romance and soft porn reader tell me my books need more sex, but that’s not my jam. Besides, I write mystery thrillers. I don’t think my audience is looking for sex. They want a mystery to solve.
Question #2: Does your audience want sex scenes “on page” or “off page”? (Please identify your genre.)
Rose J. Fairchild: Most dark fantasy readers seem to want the sex scene to be on-page. The story is rougher, grittier than traditional fantasy, and a sex scene keeps the tension, while shifting the focus to something more pleasurable (pun intended).
Saffron Amatti: Well, I dunno what they *want*, exactly, but I write mysteries (specifically historical mysteries) and typically, sex happens off the page, so I stick to the accepted conventions. As an avid reader of the genre, though, I prefer it off the page because usually, it doesn’t add much to the story!
Rachel Stanley: In general, I don’t think readers mind if the sex scenes are ‘on page’ or ‘off page’ as long as they don’t overshadow the story, but I think my readers expect the sex scenes to be ‘off page’ because that’s the tone that I’ve set for my books. And I think that’s the key thing, I don’t think it particularly matters whether the sex scenes are ‘on page’ or ‘off page’ as long as the tone of the book doesn’t change throughout.
Question #3: If your sex scenes are “off-page,” how do you convey the act (or passion) to the reader? (Please identify your genre.)
Lisa Alfano: In my new YA fantasy series novel, Cage of Tangled Thornes, the teen characters have premarital sex, but it is implied not explicit. For my thriller Fractured Secrets, Dan and nurse Janie enjoyed a one-night stand, but with murky details.
Question #4: In your opinion, what is too taboo to write about?
Jennifer Brasington-Crowley: I would never write about underage people having sex. I did write a sex scene from the POV of a 17-year-old male, but he was two weeks from being 18, and his partner was 24, and the age difference was pivotal to the plot. But yeah, writing minors having sex feels wrong. So does any type of incest, sex with an animal, or a child. Nonconsensual sex is not taboo for me to write, but when the nonconsenting party is unable to consent (child, cognitively disabled person, animal) that’s a big NOPE.
Question #5: When did you think you took a risk in a sex scene? What was it? How was it received?
Barbara Kellyn: In my romcom Forever Endeavor, the MMC is a mechanic, so that naturally created an opportunity to have a little fun with the “sexy mechanic in a garage” trope. In one of their sex scenes, the MMC and the FMC engage in role-playing at his workplace to fulfill his fantasy. This was the first time I’d ever written a spicy scene that takes place outside of a bedroom setting. I was really proud of it! Like all of the intimate scenes I write, it is steamy, it is sexy, but it also has its funny moments. Barbara adds: I try to ensure my sex scenes are not overly serious or untrue to characters/storylines. While they are steamy, I often use some banter and inside jokes to convey and further the MCs’ emotional connection – plus, let’s face it – sex can be quite funny in real life. One reviewer said, “I’ve never laughed so hard during sex… reading a scene, that is!” I LOVED that compliment!
Next question: With regards to sex, what would you like to write about but don’t?
Jessica Cantwell: N/A really. For whatever reason, I started my writing career in the YA fantasy genre. Why? I’m not so sure. I gravitate toward dark, twisted, and spicy and that is where my writing is going now. Each book will have its own level of sex as it relates to the story and characters. Realm is YA – scenes are hinted at and take place off screen. Rebuilding Jennifer follows Jennifer from age 7-17. You will see that everything (language, actions, sex scenes) increase in level as she ages. It is still on the mild side considering the age and subject. I have a few other works in progress that are for mature audiences. Things will get spicy there. Note: When I say mature audiences, I’m really referring to sensitivity level.
Next question: What language is preferred by your readers? Examples: penis vs. cock vs. member vs. “shaft.” Making love vs. f*cking? In other words, if you include sex scenes in your stories, what type of language does your readers expect? (Please identify your genre.)
Lisa Alfano: For Sleep With One Eye Open (previously PMS Girls) which is an upper YA thriller, one late-teen character (Jess) was promiscuous and used sex as a weapon. I grazed the surface of her sexuality but did not give a play-by-play. However, the word “cock” was the teen choice for the male appendage.
Last question: Do you “hold back” in writing a sex scene because you worry about how it might reflect on you personally?
Jessica Cantwell: No. I’m a writer and my job is to write what is best for the story. I do think this is a great question though, because people have a hard time separating a writer from their stories and actors from the characters they play. But that is exactly what is happening. We ‘play’ a role and write (or act out) what is best for our characters.
Wow! We’re off to a great start: 11 authors sharing their perspectives, experiences, and advice on including sex scenes – or not – in the books they write. Thank you to these authors! Learn more of their thoughts in the next two episodes of 12 Minutes – or less! – with the Author. Listeners, I’d like to hear from you. Drop me a note in a comment below – and remember, I might publish your comments with this episode.
Go to Episode 4, Part 2: