I was voted the girl most likely to remain a virgin through high school (and I did). I adored Nancy Drew when I was 8 and went through puberty reading Stephen King. You'd think I'd be writing mysteries or horror novels. I did read romance fiction-- the Harlequin Presents books, with exotic settings and strong, domineering men-- and tons of gothics, but there was little to no sex in any of those. Sex happened behind closed doors, with waves crashing on the shore and curtains billowing in the windows.
I read the sweet romances and gothics at an age when I wasn't entirely sure what sex was all about. Oh sure, I understood the mechanics of the parts fitting together, but I didn't understand the point. I mean, masturbation accomplished the same goal, right? Right! So all of the drama and emotional turmoil and risk taking in those books seemed kind of silly when the end goal was orgasm and that could be achieved without a sheik or business mogul or brooding sheep farmer to boss me around.
And yet... here I am. Writing about sex in all its myriad forms. I guess I should've seen the writing on the wall when I chose to research women's sexual fantasies for my senior paper in AP Psychology. "Behind Closed Doors" was the title-- and I got an A. Thank you, Nancy Friday, for inspiring the topic, not to mention giving me a reason to buy all those smutty books and call it "research" when really it was just me figuring out what that sex stuff was really all about. I hadn't even had sex, but I finally knew what was going on behind those closed doors in the sweet romance novels-- and I wanted a piece of the action!
My writing comfort zone may be dirty words, erotic fantasies and kinky practices now, but I think I have probably written something in nearly every genre that exists. It's just that no one would buy my attempts at science fiction or horror or mystery. Sex became my comfort zone because it's the genre that pays me. The higher the number of erotica sales, the fewer stories I wrote in other genres.
This topic gave me pause because it asked about what happens when I step outside my comfort zone. I wasn't thinking in terms of my erotica comfort zone--there really isn't much in the category of sex that I haven't (or couldn't) write about-- I was thinking more generally about genres. And I will admit to a feeling of guilt-- I don't know what happens when I step outside my comfort zone because I honestly don't remember the last time I consciously decided to write fiction that wasn't erotic. I've written about ghosts and vampires, angels and demons, and they were all having sex. I have novels plotted, outlined, even half-written and they are a mashup of genres-- but they all include explicit erotic content. Does that mean I can't not write sex? Maybe. Or maybe I've just gotten lazy these last few years, too wrapped up in writing what I am reasonably certain will sell instead of venturing into the unknown.
I do think I'll be giving this idea more consideration. I love writing erotica (and erotic romance), but there is something to be said for breaking out of the comfort zone. Writing erotica has felt a little too comfortable the past couple of years. Maybe it's time to write something new, something that doesn't include sex. The mind boggles. A story (or novel) without sex? Do such things even exist? Not in my world, not in nearly a decade. But maybe it's time for celibacy-- at least in my writing. Maybe giving up sex will make me a better writer. Maybe sex is baaaaad for me.
Nah, I think that's taking it too far. I'll never stop writing erotica, but it wouldn't hurt to write something not erotic and see what happens.
I'll let you know how it turns out.