Once upon a time, I wrote a book about a special little girl named Artemis Darth Vader and the men who would do anything to protect her. The book is a romance, though the romance wasn’t all that was on my mind in that story. It’s part of the book. There is a sex scene, though it’s not exactly full on sex. These days, most people consider sex scenes in books as needing full penetration for it to be actual sex. This, in my opinion, is ludicrous. But different strokes for different folks.
I submitted this initially to my usual publisher. They loved it! Hurray!
They wanted to publish it under a different arm of their publishing umbrella, saying (quotations taken directly from the correspondence) that it’s not a romance because “there’s only one sex scene.”
I was aghast. And infuriated. And a whole bunch of other angry emotions that don’t need to be described here. Later, it was walked back saying it was a “misstatement”, but not before I responded with a line by line description of each of my books, inviting the person on the other end of the email to show me where one of my books had more than one sex scene. In fact, I said, full of self-righteous fury (and probably a little full of myself too), I’ve written asexual books where there is no sex, and were still romances. Just because people don’t have sex, or don’t have full penetration does not mean they cannot (or their stories) be considered romantic. My irritation was clear. An apology was given, which was really great, but the damage had been done.
I pulled the book about aliens and cults and explosions and published it on my own.
Flash forward to Why We Fight.
First (and foremost) sex is not needed for romance.
Let me say that again: sex is not needed for romance.
People like smut. That’s totally cool!
People skip smut. That’s fine too!
I don’t like telling other people how to read. You read what makes you happy, and if you skip a book because there is no sex or skip a book because there is too much, that’s just fine.
However, I think it’s important to remember that sex is not always needed for romance. I don’t say this just as an asexual dude, but as a writer who knows my way around words. I’ve said before that if you don’t believe in a connection between the characters, then a sex scene is pointless. You need to actually feel and see that these two (or three or four) people feel something toward each other. Sex can help, but it’s not the be all and end all.
The At First SIght series is sexual, at least in part. If the Tucson Crew isn’t having sex, they are, at the very least, talking about it probably more than is healthy. Paul and Vince have a very active sex life. Sandy and Darren do too. Going into Corey/Kori’s book, I knew I wanted them to be on the same level.
But looking back at all the sex scenes from my books—and not just from this series—one sticks out above all others as being (at least to me) the most erotic. And it doesn’t actually involve any sex at all.
In The Queen & the Homo Jock King, Darren and Sandy are at each other’s throats for a large portion of the book. Sandy thinks (rightly so) that Darren is an asshole. Darren thinks (and rightly so) that Sandy is a drama queen.
Yet, there comes a scene even before they’ve done the do that I think is more important than the actual sex they end up having. This scene takes place at Jack It, in the Queen’s Layer. Helena Handbasket has finished with her performance, and is coming down from the high of it. Darren appears, and proceeds to undress Helena to help her become Sandy again. There is no kissing. There are no handjobs. There are no blowjobs, no fucking of any kind. It’s not sex.
And yet it’s sexual. It is highly charged and crackles with electricity. It’s pretty damn awesome if I say so myself. I am fucking proud of that scene, knowing what it meant for the characters.
I wanted to do something similar in Why We Fight for Corey/Kori and Jeremy. There is sex, yes, but I wanted something beyond that, something that carried a similar thrill as the undressing scene in Homo Jock.
Once again, there is no kissing (well…that’s not entirely true, but you’ll see what I mean when you get to it). There are no handjobs. There are no blowjobs, no fucking of any kind. It’s not sex.
What it is are two people sitting on either side of a door, with the door between them. It’s two people who care about each other and are trying to fight it (very, very unsuccessfully, as it were). It’s a different kind of coming together (heh, that’s a pun, get it) that I’ve never written before, and ultimately, I’m damn proud of it too. It allows Corey/Kori to have control over the situation, which was important to me. They needed it, given that in the book, the power dynamic is a bit off as Jeremy Olsen is, at least for the summer, their boss.
Yes, they have a bone sesh later on, but I think this is the scene that should be regarded as the sexiest. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I like the idea of Corey/Kori being in control.
Look: I’ve my position on sex in romance clear before, both here and in previous posts. You don’t have to agree with me, obviously. By now you know I usually consider sex to be the least important part of a book. But here, with this story, I wanted to challenge myself (and possibly the reader) with thinking about how sex in its many forms affects us, and what actually constitutes as sex. There are sexual situations in Why We Fight aside from the actual boning. But there is only one actual sex scene. And yet, somehow, it is still a romance.
(Wait until I show you my biggest trick this fall when I set out to convince you that Heartsong is a romance with no sex scene at all in the entire book. Yay for asexual werewolves and the soft boys who love them!)
In fifteen days, Why We Fight releases.
And I can’t wait for you to see what happens when Corey/Kori finds the man he deserves.
Next week, my last blog post before release in which I’ll discuss why I’m ending this series now, and what it means for me writing contemporary stories in the future.
See you then!
Add on Goodreads!