Over Sunday lunch with my parents, as we somehow ended up talking about the often vulgar way sex is portrayed on House of Cards (yes, really; and I have no idea how we got on that topic either), my mother declared nonchalantly:
Your father and I aren’t embarrassed to see sex on TV. We’ve had sex.
After we all stopped laughing at that inadvertent motherly masterpiece (my wife was reduced almost to tears), I found myself thinking again on the issue of sex and romance in novels. Which is no shock really. I think about aspects of my writing seemingly most of my waking hours.
Over the next couple of days, I considered the bigger picture. I also remembered a bit I’d written in Passports. I feel this is accidentally useful to illustrate this post:
Joanne realized someone was missing and asked Isabelle, “Where is my Foreign Service dreaming son anyway?”
“I think he is upstairs,” Isabelle replied.
“Oh, find something,” Joanne urged her husband as she walked around to the sofa to sit down next to him.
“I’m looking,” Jim replied. “Hey, what’s this?” He had stopped on a film channel.
“No idea,” Joanne answered. “What’s it called?”
The film was fading in.
“It’s French,” he observed. “Isabelle’s here tonight.”
Isabelle watched the screen with them, and what James’s father had chosen hit her as he began to read out the title. “Change it! Turn over the channel! Now!” she laughed.
Jim sat frozen momentarily. “What?”
James’s mother grasped quicker why Isabelle was demanding that. Joanne derided him. “You blind?”
At the sight of the increasingly explicit sex, [James's grandmother] Lucy roared, “Mamma mia! That’s French alright!”
Jim jumped stations and ended up landing on a home shopping channel for a safe haven.
“I did not mean to sound rude, Joanne,” Isabelle giggled as she explained her adamancy. “That is a film that is, uh, it is a very French film. I don’t know if that is for us tonight.”
“I swear Pilgrim State’s next,” Joanne assailed her husband. “What would her mother think? I’m going to have you committed!”
I love this post, and I feel your pain. I cringe at myself all the time, but one needs to make start. I also tend to overtweak, and that usually makes it worse ;)
A few weeks ago, I also discussed with a (male) friend, who is writing what I would rate as a serious “guy book,” that I have by now become comfortable with writing novels which may by default, yes, appeal more to women than to men. Yet I’ve not given up on constructing them to appeal to men too. It is just extremely difficult to hit both audiences.
I admit as man that writing for women characters is a challenge. But we men are not without romance in our souls too. That latter contention is, of course, an assertion my wife never fails to (smilingly) remind me of every chance she gets:
You seem to know quite a bit about what certain French girls think…. and I know why.
Uh, and moving swiftly along, I don’t consider my tale “romance.” It is as much about culture, travel, life abroad, diverse relationships and companionship. But it naturally does have substantial romance woven into that, so “what women like” in that regard is absolutely vital to me.
I get a mishmash of answers to this query from every woman I ask, so I figured I would toss this out there into the WordPress world and see if any of you care to share your literary opinion too? 1) Do women steer away from “romance” when they know it’s written by a man? 2) And if they don’t, would they nevertheless still see “romance” composed by a man differently than that authored by a woman? :-)