My debut novel is not.
Don’t consider this a Spoiler Alert, but rather, targeted marketing. As I’m preparing for the release of Pretty Little Mess: A Jane Luck Adventure, I see the need to clarify the genre to those who are becoming interested in my book. This is difficult, because I’m a little averse to categories when it comes to writing which encompasses a spectrum of life experiences. If I had to sort my book among many, I’d place it in Women’s Fiction. Simply put, it is a belated coming of age story of a young woman who is attempting to navigate life, her sexuality, and relationships while grappling with diametrically opposed notions of faith and purity… and a couple of stalkers.
Now, I’m no Erykah Badu, but I do consider myself an artist, and like her, “I’m sensitive about my shit”.
So, when the first couple of Advanced Reading Copy reviews from friends came back, I was… shall I say… miffed that a primary complaint was the lack of a sex scene between Jane Luck (the heroine) and one of her many male acquaintances.
I can understand the confusion. I’m a sex nerd who chats about tantra and the latest postings to Jujumamablog.com over lunch with friends. I sell adult novelties on the side. If I had an idol, it would be Grace Jones. I’m a bit left of center on ideas about traditional relationships and marriage. But that’s not what this story is about.
There’s a part in the second chapter, shortly after Jane settles into her cozy vacation bungalow in Jobson’s Cove, Bermuda, where she’s looking for a book to read. She doesn’t want any of her usual preferred books, which are heady and scientific. She mentions that she’s in the mood for something more “sensual”. Some may consider this a cue, a keyword foreshadowing some caution-to-the-wind vacation sex about to pop off in a page or two. It is not.
Remember, the word “sensual” refers to anything that arouses any of the five senses. Jane is a student of architecture. She is an emotional kind of person who is heavily influenced by her physical environment and who appreciates the details.
When Jane stopped considering books, momentarily, to admire her surroundings (and to give the audience an invitation to vividly picture the setting), one of my previewers was a bit thrown off. She wondered why Jane would spend so much time describing her surroundings. She wanted to see where this “sensual” mood would lead, and hoped the destination was a bed somewhere with a man. I noted my previewer’s sincere inquiry and flipped back to the second chapter to see what she meant. “I can get verbose,” I said to myself, thinking that this may have been some passage that went on a little too long. I didn’t want to be one of those authors who went on for pages or even chapters applying flowery language and philosophical observations to paint colors or drapes. I took an honest look.
It was three paragraphs. Three short paragraphs of setting.
I wanted to say, “Damn, hold your drawls, doll. My name ain’t Zane!”
When the only observation I got from another friend honed in on the lack of a sex scene in the book I knew it was time to explain, because I want this book to get into the right hands.
Pretty Little Mess is not an Erotica or Romance novel. There is some nudity, but that’s much more about power than it is about sex. And though Jane is a bit of an exhibitionist who sometimes wears snake-print pants and shoes with Lucite heels, she is still a woman with a very religious background who is brought to tears from guilt over simply masturbating.
So, I’m not trying to be “deep” or making some high road rant about “true art” v/s the instant gratification mentality. I’m just trying to tell a story and stay true to the characters. If I didn’t remain true to the personality of the main character, what kind of story would that be? It would be like those otherwise awesome action movies that feel the need to plop a totally shallow, predictable and unnecessary love story in the middle of an escape from a hijacked plane.
There’s a time and a place for letting all the sexy hang out, but it’s not in my debut novel.
If you want the crazy tale of a young woman having a head-on collision with her youthful sexuality, crumbling religious devotion, a burgeoning career, and a haunting family history, buy my book!