Thursday, August 30, 2007

Three's company-or is it a crowd?

I have to admit that this post has nothing to do with Colin Firth or Mr Darcy-I just love this picture! It's that moment when we see the softening in Darcy's eyes as he observes Elizabeth playing the harpsichord/piano-I love that scene, it says so much without words.

Actually, I'm really following on from Jane's post about menage a trois, or however many you want to make it, because it's a subject close to my heart writing-wise rather than personally-I can't imagine having to put up with 2 real men-think of all those dirty socks, (it's okay I said socks, crumpets!) the endless demands for sex, the toilet seat never down! (I could go on but I think you get the picture.)

Maybe that's why it's nice to write about it instead. I understand that it is a fairly common fantasy, two men and one woman. It fascinates me because I write about dysfunctional sexual relationships and adding 2 men into the romantic mix offers both the writer and the reader, a whole new layer of complications.

The book I'm writing at the moment, potential title 'Simply Sinful' (but as we know, that can change in a second), is an exploration as to whether a menage a trois really can work without someone getting left out or sidelined. One of the things I've learned is to allow my characters to explore the things that I don't understand either as they wend their way through the usually dark and emotional quagmire of my story line.

Instead of trying to intervene and offer author-like hints such as 'little did they know' or telling the reader, I get my characters to have a conversation about the particular thing that is worrying me and somehow, we all work it out together. Okay, that sounds crazy, but it really is a learning experience for me too.

At the moment, I'm trying to get the heroine of my book to decide whether she really wishes to commit adultery, even with her husband's approval and for the best of reasons. How will that make her feel? How does it affect her relationship with God, her family and her husband? I'm not sure yet, but we are working our way through it together.

One of my crit partners once told me that reading my books was like hands on sexual therapy in action. I 'think' she meant that my characters really do discover themselves through the sexual acts they engage in, or choose not to engage in, as they work their way through the story and ultimately reach a satisfactory conclusion.

That's one of the reasons why I get twitchy when people describe erotic romance as a story that could possibly stand alone if you took all the sex out. Mine definitely can't, but I still don't believe I'm writing straight erotica as my characters usually end up together by the end! Maybe not conventionally happy ever after, but happy enough :)

It will be interesting to see whether I can get away with this book...and whether people will still see it as a romance. I hope they do, because that's what I intended all along, even if I choose the most torturous paths to get there! Sometimes I wish I could write the more conventional stories but my muse says otherwise, and ultimately, you have to write what you believe in...

Is there a line you draw between erotica and erotic romance and if so, where do you draw it? I think it's getting very blurry these days...


Pam Rosenthal said...

I have to admit that I can't see my way to a romantic ending that isn't paired (well, if you consider that in the end of Safe Word one of the pairs is Kate and Jonathan... and Sylvie, Randy, Stephanie, Ariel, Arthur, Steve... a couple with a supporting cast, let's say, which to me makes them a couple, or as Jonathan puts it, the boss lady and the boss lady's boyfriend -- and this is many years before Big Love, I hasten to add.)

None of which makes me right. Just limited. I'll be very interested to see how it works out for you, Kate.

In my current romance, I've got an older couple and a younger couple -- and an adolescent girl (ward to the older man, sister to the younger). There will be hot sex between each couple, and Regency dancing amongst the foursome.

My editor worries that I can't have hot enough sex in the book with a virginal youngster/family member in the same pages. I hope she's wrong.

Sharon Page said...

I've heard people say a romance is truly an erotic romance if you can't take the sex out. And I've heard it defined in the opposite way, as you mention, Kate. Perhaps what it means is the "proper" definition will never quite be found. I'm of the "can't take out the sex" group, mainly because I can't see that the emotional development of the couple, or group, should be complete without the information revealed in the sex scenes. I always felt the sexual part in a relationship is essential to explore. How can two people marrying at a time of rules and propriety, suddenly finding themselves undressing in a bedroom, not be substatially affected by the very intimacy and oddity of what they are embarking on? So for me, the sex is crucial!

Now, my external plots could probably hang together with the sex glossed over, but the internal emotional development-no. So I'm in full support of your approach, Kate!

Sharon Page said...

I also have to admit I can't quite picture a menage a trois in real life, yet I love to write about them. Because to me, these push emotional boundaries. I had a male friend tell me he was brought in by a couple to take part in a threesome. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the husband took great care to point out that he earned a higher salary than my friend! That was a telling tidbit about competion for me, so competitiveness is also a conflict in my menage stories--and usually it has grown from the backgrounds of my characters, so it is more than just male posturing. The competition reflects the vulnerabilities of the heroes.

The image of a couple of men chopping vegetables for dinner is a fantasy I can enjoy :-)