Skimming

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.Β  I always look for love, I probably skim life looking for love…
photo courtesy of Amazon.com

0 comments

  1. Loved the tender honesty of this post. For boys of my generation (50’s) there were copies of Playboy on the tables in front of the seats where we waited our turn for a haircut. If you were lucky, some guy left it open to one of the ‘good’ pages. Meanwhile at Catholic school, we got lots of insights by reading National Geographic.

      1. Yes. As a good Catholic boy it would have been a mortal sin for me to touch a Playboy. ( read: immediate banishment to hell) but if it was accidentally within my view, that was different.

          1. Don’t wait too long. There are a lot of women and a lot of writers who will be helped by your story. Step one in writing in general and writing erotica specifically, is ejecting the damaging juju. Sex is the most powerful force affecting human history. Telling stories of human sexuality is our calling, but we have to shed many taboo’s to begin that journey.

  2. I love this post! I’m honored that I inspired you (and thank you so much for the kind words), and I loved hearing about your first read. I particularly loved “I always look for love, I probably skim life looking for love…” Skim away! XX

    1. Thank you, your post was much more multi-layered than mine, but the book part really inspired me. I might have to do a separate post on V.C. Andrews which I managed to get away with under the radar as a preteen!
      I do always look for love, probably, a blessing and a curse for sure!;)

  3. Oh my… my father’s bedside reading was a lot less romantic, and I suspect influenced me in a dirtier direction πŸ™‚ Also, it sounds like a I had a lot more secure alone time with it than you did πŸ™‚

    Still, I love that this became a favourite of you and your mother’s, a lovely bonding experience, and how great that it you made it your job, too!

    1. i want to know what you were reading?! it’s never too late for me to be influenced in a dirtier way! but i was a good bonding point and a reason why i do what i do…

      1. Growing up the youngest of three boys, I used to raid my oldest brother’s stash. He had the good magazines – Penthouse, Hustler, High Society, Oui, etc. I used to love reading the Penthouse forums – almost as much as looking at the photos. Until about nearly two years ago, that was the only erotica I had ever read.

        1. i started out with some porn too, i think it is a good thing. i am not sure i ever possessed a copy of oui though but i would like to…francophile that i am!;)

  4. Oui was one of my favorites. That and one called “The Little Black Book.” I believe that’s why I have always been attracted to black women.

      1. My brother had every smut magazine you could imagine. It was though they supported his bed. He must have had hundreds stuffed under there.

  5. I missed this one! Such a good post. I’ve never read Shanna, but I read a lot of that type of romance when I was a kid, (even Harlequin Historicals, which I *gobbled* up. Shh.. don’t laugh). Sometimes, it’s the the casual, consumable stuff that doesn’t get much respect that ends up having a huge influence.. which is why I respect pretty much all writing. You never know what effect it’s going to have.

    1. thank you, i have always been a romance and erotica reader, and it has influenced everything! i am exceptionally lucky to be able to get work published through ravenous that sticks with me as well…

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