Jade A. Waters had the best blog post this week, recounting firsts. Aside from being dazzled by her eloquent writing, I became nostalgic about my own first reading of the erotica genre.
Until I was in my late teens, I was always sneak reading books I was not allowed to read in the open. Beside my mother’s bed was a treasure chest of romance novels (like mother, like daughter). There was a well-worn copy of Jackie Collins’ Chances that if my mom left me alone in her room, I tucked into while listening for her footsteps so I would not be caught with it.
I never was caught with a book that I was not supposed to be reading.
I skimmed so extensively piecemeal, that I practically had read the entire book by the time I was allowed to read it in the open, Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. It was actually funny when I read the entire book, I was finally able to put all the love scenes into some context. And even discovered some additional love scenes that I was not sophisticated enough to decipher because I was looking for the obvious ones.
Now the thing that intrigues me about how guarded we are about children these days, and what they see on television and read, is what happened to me from my experience of skimming books with material that I was not supposed to. It is how I became an erotic romance writer and editor. I was not taught that sex was dirty, my mother was always forthcoming with sexual information from the time I was six. My Barbie and Ken slept naked side by side like I saw on television, and my mom did not say a word to me about it or make me separate them.
When I skimmed Chances, I formulated a plot in my preteen head for a Montague/Capuletesque family saga with one family on the wrong side of the law, and the other family on the right side. I have to say writing the bad family was much more fun than writing the good family. In an issue of Cosmopolitan, Jackie Collins said she never used an outline for her stories. This is how I structure my stories as well, and since I am not capable of ending a love story badly, I usually know how it is going to end!
Shanna I think, and honestly any Kathleen E. Woodiwiss novel is the gold standard for romance. After skimming it, reading it in full and still skimming to this day for the good parts (which are not all sex scenes), I become lachrymose when I read Shanna. It is one of the best love stories I have ever read. My mother and I quoted from that novel, it left that kind of impact on us. The only time I have ever missed my stop on a train, was reading Forever in Your Embrace written years later by Woodiwiss. Kathleen Woodiwiss taught me how deep a love story has to be. If you are going to write a romance and not just an erotic piece, that love has to be everything. Something to die for, something to strive for…
None of this was a stretch for me, because I have always been violently, hopelessly romantic. I always look for love, I probably skim life looking for love…
photo courtesy of Amazon.com