Full disclosure: my upcoming release, LYING BENEATH THE OAKS, has a sex scene. No fade to black, no coitus interruptus. The book is a romantic suspense, and while the scene isn’t even close to ghost-pepper hot, it’s definitely there in all its sweaty, naked, sliding glory.
They say “write like your parents are dead.” LBO is my sixth manuscript. I admit it, in the first two, written back in a time when I thought for sure I’d be published with the snap of my fingers, I wrote like my parents were very much alive. I faded to black. I interrupted. I was the queen of the euphemism.
And then my first two manuscripts didn’t sell. Neither did the next two. When it came time to sit down to write the manuscript that became LYING BENEATH THE OAKS, I felt pretty free by then to write whatever I wanted. The possibility that the elderly lady at my church might read what I wrote grew a lot more remote. My writing got bolder—and better, I think. I wrote like my parents were dead.
Fast forward a few years. My parents are still very much alive. So are my husband’s parents. And that lady in my mother-in-law’s book club who can’t wait to read my book but never reads “smutty” books. I have received Facebook messages from at least seven respectable senior citizens who told me they’ve pre-ordered, and well, I worry about their pacemakers. It occurs to me I may be penciled in for a concerned pastoral visit. There’s the co-worker who read an advance copy and told me red-faced that she’d read many a sex scene before, but never one written by someone she knows. And whose husband she knows, she added, in a meaningful whisper.
Suddenly, the cold chill of terror tempted me to call my editor and beg him to shut it all down. The sex scene would be awkward when people I know in real life read it, especially my boss and the lady at church who likes Amish romance. It was more than that, though. There’s not a word in the book that isn’t just as personal. Not a sentence that doesn’t show off the shape of my imagination and my worldview and the way I think about people and problem solving and entire cities. And also the way I think about a man’s shirtless chest.
Publishing a book is terrifying. It will expose me: the way my brain works and the vocabulary I think in and things I fear and the colors I see when I close my eyes. It’s nakedness, and not just the sexual kind. When this book comes out, everyone will know me in ways that they don’t, now. Here’s a hint: the sex scenes are nowhere near the most personal part of LYING BENEATH THE OAKS.
I calmed down. I’m ready for the January release day, I think. I’ve dreamed of having a book exist in the world that I wrote since before I could spell my own name. Sometimes I can’t believe my own good fortune. I have a book coming out. People will read it. They may hate it. They may skip “certain parts.” (They may also read those parts twice.) My favorite people, I find, are kind of like that with other people too—skipping the parts they don’t like to focus on what they do.
I bit the bullet and gave the copy to my in-laws. My father-in-law read every word. “I liked it. It’s a bit bawdy, but I liked it.”
THE DARKEST FLOWER:
LYING BENEATH THE OAKS: