On the blog this month, I’m dealing with questions that have come up in the wake of the release of The Lawyer’s Luck and The Preacher’s Promise. I plan to return to Reconstruction Era history in September, leading up to the release of The Mayor’s Mission in the fall.
One of the questions that has come up several times, but always in a respectful way is: Where are your love scenes? Love scenes, in romance novel talk, usually means sexual activity. I thought it was a great question to ask and I appreciate the opportunity to address it on my blog.
When I came into this new phase of my writing life—I came to understand that I was not very gifted in writing, believable, organic sex scenes. I felt despair about this. I had a very interesting contemporary story premise that I wanted to share, but without those sex scenes, I knew it wouldn’t be possible to be heard.
Then I discovered inspirational fiction and a light went off in my head. I could tell stories about people who would struggle with the Christian principle of waiting until marriage to have sex, but I could still share stories about how that decision challenges my characters and their worldview. When I came to that decision about where I fit in the writing world, an entire load came off of my shoulders. It freed me and I wasn’t inclined to despair any more.
However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the expectation that, because I write about African American people, that I would be expected to show them having sex. My sister-in-law is one of my biggest supporters, but she shocked me one day when she said, “I don’t read books by African Americans.” Stunned, I asked her why not. She said, “There’s a lot of cursing, sex, drugs, and violence in books by African Americans.”
I don’t agree. The selection of books by African Americans today is more varied than ever, and her statement conveyed to me that she was not looking hard enough for the books she wanted. (I despise the term clean—so I’m not using it—on purpose. It strikes me as judgmental.) Her view did let me know, that from a marketing stand point, I could use a different kind of approach to signal to readers that certain elements would not be found in my stories. So I was grateful for her statement because it let me be more deliberate about how I would package my stores with the covers, descriptions, etc.
But I still got the question.
So now you have the answers as to why. I hope that people who read my stories don’t structure it as “something is missing.” My characters will struggle with their decision making process as a part of their faith story arc. My decision not to show lovemaking scenes, but to “close the door” should not characterize me as a prude. As a reader, I still enjoy stories with organic, well-conveyed lovemaking scenes. A good story is a good story. (Just don’t tell my father.) For me and my stories, I will do a lot with tension and conflict about those stories, but that won’t be part of my brand. I recognize that there will be readers who won’t ever want to read my stories because of that. I’ve made my decision and I’m at peace with that possibility.
Sexual activity is about making choices. Characters choose about whether or not to have sex. I, as the writer with my ability and view, feel happy that I am able to choose what goes into my story and what doesn’t and how. I hope and pray readers still give me a chance, but if my “closed door decision is a deal breaker for a reader, that was my choice.
Fair warning: people who know me know –I’m always doing something different. If you are a wonderful someone who chooses to read my stories, thank you! However, please know that I have some projects/approaches in the works that will be different. I hope and pray you stick around.