It was 11 am on a Wednesday and I was in a windowless room with a seriously ill relative. Waiting for the doctor, waiting for a nurse and trying not to flinch at the onslaught of trauma cases being wheeled through the adjacent hallway.
The thin blue curtains did little to muffle the “Code Trauma” announcements. I quickly looked up and learned the difference between a Code Gray and Code Blue, and that Tier One was worse that Tier 2.
When things went poorly in the room next door I heard the paramedics and nurses discussing the protocols for “personal effects”, calling for clarification, and resuming their earlier conversation about Bridgerton, without missing a beat. It went something like:
“Yeah we can’t keep the dead guys stuff here. But OMG can you believe what happened in that episode?”
These people, I thought, are a lot better at compartmentalizing than me.
I hate emergency rooms. As an empath I am overwhelmed but all the human energy, drama, pain and more. I can feel my wires fizzling, snapping and short circuiting every time I have to spend time in there. Minutes become hours. Hours become months. GET ME OUT OF HERE becomes my mantra.
But on this particular day I was on a deadline. And sitting in the room with my sleeping relative, who fortunately was not in mortal danger, there was little I could do, besides write.
As luck would have it, this was the day I was due to write the climactic sex scene. I’d been putting it off, delaying, and hand-wringing about it for almost a week. It made me uncomfortable. But not nearly as uncomfortable as the ER.
Here’s the thing. I’m not a prude. I’m very sex positive. But I’m not personally a fan of literary porn. No judgement – it just doesn’t float my boat. I hate getting two thirds of the way through a gripping novel with a great plots and well thought out characters who finally have sex and poof! There goes the plot, there goes the story and there goes my ability to listen to the book on Alexa while doing the dishes. Seriously. My teen-aged kids are a little traumatized by the number of books I have played OUT LOUD with graphic sex scenes.
That usually sounds something like this:
“Oh hi kids how was your day at school… Just listening to my book here… Oh… Sorry. Sorry. OMG”
“Alexa fast forward three minutes!”
“Alexa fast forward five more minutes!”
“Alexa… Play my music!”
Most of these books are bestsellers by the way. Because in case you didn’t know this (kidding) sex sells! But in the world of women’s fiction, clean also sells. Probably because we all gotta wash our dishes after we make all those babies.
I’m in a lot of groups with other authors and the general advice is to write what you like to read. Your audience will find you. This wasn’t helpful to me because I don’t really choose books based on their “spice” level. However, if I am reading contemporary and women’s lit, I always prefer books that are funny, and I prefer to read plot driven narrative. I don’t mind sex scenes but for me the sex isn’t sexy unless it’s a part of the narrative. I don’t want it to become the whole point. It’s all too easy to get knocked off your narrative once your characters start screwing.
Naturally, being the overthinker that I am, I wrung my hands and stressed out about this scene almost as much as I stressed out about to wear on my first day of high school. Which I don’t remember, ironically. I’m pretty sure involved some really cool shirt I got at Fiorucci. I do remember the first time I had sex though. And I’m pretty sure I’ll remember this first as well.
There I was, laptop literally sitting in my lap. I was hunched over in a miserable plastic folding chair. I couldn’t do anything to block out all the Code Strokes and beeping alarms. I was stuck there. All I had for escape was my imagination. And my deadline. I decided to just go for it. Lean in. Lean into all the discomfort, lean into all the mess of life, lean into the uncertainty and hope and write my damn sex scene already.
It took almost four hours till we were moved to a private room. I had to slam that computer shut at least ten times when people came and went. My relative had no idea what I was “working” on.
But by the time we got upstairs, my scene was done. It was a hell of a lot spicier and funnier than I thought it was going to be, and I’m leaving it that way. I am happy with it. It felt real, and true to the characters.
Writing that sex scene, on that day in the ER helped me keep my sense of optimism. My sense of humor. I think I understand why the paramedics and the nurses were chatting about Bridgerton while people around them were quite literally dying. We all need that escape sometimes.
“Hate You Later” – the book I am referring to in this story, will be out in August. It’s Book One in the Lit Lovers Series. I can’t wait for you to read it. Sex scene and all.