Friday, October 3, 2008

You want me to write a Menage a What?

Have you ever considered some subjects taboo in your writing?

I have. But first, a warning...if you're fainthearted and disapprove of racy romance, you might want to click off this post right now, cause we're going to talk about pushing personal boundaries when it comes to creating erotic content.

Still reading? Don't say I didn't warn you. :)


Erotic romance. My little genre just gets wilder and wilder. When it comes to heat levels, the trend is burn, baby burn, the hotter the better.

Even though I write some steamy--fine, downright sizzling--stories, I've always considered the growing presence of erotica that includes menage scenes off limits for me, as both a reader and a writer. Fine, I write hot, but I don't do gratuitous. Ever. So in my mind, this was the one barrier that I could never envision myself crossing in real life, much less writing about. In my mind, how could a menage be anything but gratuitous?

But then, one of my writer friends whispered "cop out", which, for me, is right up there with the good old backwoods triple-dog-dare. A girl just can't back down on it, you know?

"And Liane," she continued. "Since when did any of your stories resemble anything that happens in real life?"

Fine. She had me there. I write paranormal and speculative romance. Magic always finds its way into my stories. So do glow in the dark, underwater orgasms. So, yeah, a bit of world building, and anything goes.

That conversation got under my skin. Was I copping out? Maybe. Reading a few well done menage stories like Sex and the Single Pearl by Mia Varano, and Fires Within by Roxana Blaze cured me of my assumption that menages are, by definition, gratuitious content. Both authors have my official permission to flog me. :)

Cops outs just don't sit well with me. With my gratuitous argument shot to hell, I started anylyzing *why* I still refused to cross the menage a trois boundary in my writing. And it boiled down to this. While I write outlandish worlds that dabble in magic realism (in the loosest sense of the word), my stories are still, by definition, traditional romances. My heroes and heroines always end up with happily ever afters. They walk away at the end bound for a committed, lifelong, monogamous relationship. And in spite of truly enjoying the stories I mentioned above, I didn't see any way I could compromise my traditional roots in the genre by including a menage in that romantic journey.

So there was the *real* challenge. How could I write an emotionally viable menage, when I believed that it threatened the happily ever after component of my hero/heroine relationship? While I write about magic, I need a certain amount of emotional truth in my stories, or I'll never find my way to "the end". I doubt any resulting readers would, either.

Both writers, Varano and Blaze, found their way to menage scenes through the emotional roots of their characters. And I envied them for their ability to do what I (almost) turned my nose up at and copped out on.

Now, artistic challenge before me was huge. Spinning a menage story because my editor said that's what was selling just wasn't going to happen for me. But to build a world where those sorts of scenes drove my hero and heroine one step closer to their ultimate HEA was what I, as an author, needed to fulfill my creative vision. Question was, could I invent a world where the menage element was part of the journey toward reclaiming a "lost" happily ever after. there was a thought. And that thought led me to a tagline: Beyond the bounds of pleasure, a single chance for redemption...

From that tagline grew a concept for a series. The emotional validity of the Hero/heroine journey took some hard work and revision, but in the end, I think I found a way to blend what my publisher was asking for, and my need to pursue a the raditional and ultimate happily ever after. When I submit the resulting linked stories to my editor at the end of the month, let's hope she agrees that I followed through with the concept I pitched to her. In my opinion, it's the most emotionally compelling piece I've ever written. The stakes for this couple to reclaim each other are huge.

Is there a moral here? I think so. In the future, I'll be careful what I turn my back on as a writer just because I'm feeling squeamish. I'll be very careful about allowing my personal reservations inhibit my ability to stretch as an artist.

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