Come listen to Episode 4, Part 2 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 2 of 3, on Spotify: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/m3BPRumKqzb
This podcast episode is available on YouTube as well. Find it here: https://youtu.be/ugysdFVJjF0
Welcome to another episode of 12 Minutes – or less! – with the Author. We’re still talking about sex – specifically including sex scenes in books, or not. This podcast is Part 2 of Episode 4: Let’s Talk About Sex (Scenes), Baby. If you haven’t listened to Part 1 yet, I encourage you to go back and check it out first.
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.
The genres of the authors I contacted range from paranormal cozy mystery to sexy rom-com, to fantasy, dark fantasy, and adult dark fantasy, to contemporary fiction, sci-fi, and thrillers. They write in young adult, new adult, and regular adult categories.
Before we get to the Q&A portion, once again thank you to these authors:
- Lisa Alfano
- Saffron Amatti,
- Jennifer Brasington-Crowley
- Neil Bullock
- Jessica Cantwell
- Julie Embleton
- Rose J. Fairchild
- Barbara Kellyn
- Shari T. Mitchell
- Bruce Spydar
- Rachel Stanley
Now, let’s get to the juicy bits. Sex scenes in books.
Question #1 for the Author: What do you think readers like to “see” in a sex scene for the genre you write in?
Rose J. Fairchild: In my opinion, sex scenes are a double-edged sword in dark fantasy. I believe readers like to see vulnerability and trust-building to counter the violence and tension, a welcome unraveling that bares the character wholly, but allows them to be stronger and more connected for relinquishing control. On the flip side, using lust as bait for revenge also works well in dark fantasy.
Rachel Stanley: I am a fantasy writer (and that’s pretty much all I read as well). Unless the book is sold as being an erotica novel, I think readers are more interested in what makes the book a fantasy novel rather than anything else. So, I think readers want to ‘see’ less in the way of sex scenes. That’s not to say that they need to be excluded, but I don’t think readers of fantasy novels want to see anything overly explicit that overshadows the story.
Question #2: Does your audience want sex scenes “on page” or “off page”? (Please identify your genre.)
Lisa Alfano: I think readers enjoy on-page sex scenes and off-page ones. However, I do believe I would limit my age group for my YA novels if I went explicit. So, for me, it is a personal choice as I know there are explicit YA novels. And, while I enjoy a good romantic on-page sex scene as a reader, I don’t have confidence in my ability to write a convincing explicit sex scene. Yet, I am perfectly comfortable writing a murder or horror scene.
Neil Bullock: I’ve made it particularly difficult for myself writing sci-fi in first person. One of the most common pieces of feedback I had for Nexus was “I don’t feel this.” I don’t have any feedback on how I fixed it yet, but it involved an increase in non-plot-related conversation such as finding things in common from earlier life, and more touching, heavy breathing, and hearts racing. That kind of thing.
Question #3: If your sex scenes are “off-page,” how do you convey the act (or passion) to the reader? (Please identify your genre.)
Saffron Amatti: I fade to black with a strong hint as to what’s about to happen, that is: a flirty, “Well, I think it’s time for bed, don’t you?” Or a couple heading for the bedroom, that sort of thing. Sometimes it’s alluded to in a following scene to some degree, whether it’s a bit of flirtation or thinking about “happy memories of the night before” or naked cuddles in bed while contemplating the future – though admittedly I’ve done that only once so far. I leave the details up to the reader, though, if they want to add them, because sex scenes don’t really belong in the kind of stories I write. There’s a fair amount of talk about sex in my book, however, because my three MCs are in their twenties and obviously pretty interested in it. Also, I’ve got one character who gets easily embarrassed (and a load of other characters who find it funny to embarrass him), and another who has a lot of emotional problems and uses casual sex instead of therapy because, well, it’s the 1920s and I don’t know that they’d really invented therapy as we know it yet, and he couldn’t afford it even if they had.
Next question: When did you think you took a risk in a sex scene? What was it? How was it received?
Bruce Spydar: In Refining My Dining, I took a risk with the whole book … as a male author, writing for the first time from a female POV, and trying to understand and convey sexual situations both from a female perspective and in a humorous manner. So far, it’s been read primarily by female readers and appears to have been well received.
Jessica Cantwell: I made a comment in regards to sex (it’s not an actual scene) in Rebuilding Jennifer that I thought might be offensive because it involved religion and worried about how it would be received. Every advanced reader absolutely loved it.
Next question: Have you ever received negative feedback on a sex scene you wrote? What was the complaint?
Jennifer Brasington-Crowley: In my book, Stillwaters, I had two readers complain that there were too many sex scenes. I agree, there were many, but none of them were explicit in nature and as a writer, sometimes you have zero control over what your characters want to do! 🙂 As I told one reader, “They’re running short on time, gotta get it all in while they have the chance!” On the flip side, I had a reader complain that all of my other books did not have enough sex!
Barbara Kellyn: References her book Forever Endeavor and how she had fun writing a “sexy mechanic in a garage” trope with some roleplaying between her MMC and FMC. Barbara shares: One reviewer said they couldn’t decide if it was cute, corny, or “cringe.” Ouch! That one still stings to even WRITE!
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.)
Jessica Cantwell: As a reader and a writer I think it is important to use a variety of words and describe a variety of scenes/actions. No one wants to read about vanilla missionary sex over and over again. For example, [name redacted] uses the same words repeatedly and all sex scenes started with “he entered two fingers then swirled his thumb around…” BORING! Sex should be spontaneous, fun, and enjoyable. Reading about it should be the same. I use it all in Rebuilding Jennifer.
Last question: Do you “hold back” in writing a sex scene because you worry about how it might reflect on you personally?
Julie Embleton: Yes, I do, and it’s something I’m hoping to overcome. A lot of older family members read my books, and have said they found the intimate scenes as ‘a bit racy’. They’re definitely not—especially compared to the spicy books I love to read!! But knowing my cousins, aunts, and even my parents will read what I write, and deliver their opinions on it, does make me hold back. Maybe I need to start publishing under a pen name . . .
Shari T. Mitchell: Nope. Other people’s opinions of me aren’t any of my business. I don’t care. Sorry if that sounds blunt, but I write what I write. Some have complained about too many murders.
Whew! More great observations coming in Part 3 of Episode 4: Let’s Talk About Sex (Scenes), Baby. Thank you to our gracious authors! Learn more of their thoughts in the next episode 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.