Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I Love Writing! J.P. Bowie

It was after I had written my first two books that I picked up Stephen King's On Writing and realized that everything I had done up to that moment was wrong. Agonized, I speed read through them again, cringing as I imagined  Mr. King criss-crossing my manuscript with great big red lines and maybe giving it an F- grading if he was feeling in a generous mood.

One of his cautionary statements is 'the adverb is not your friend'. Oh My God. My pages were filled with those buggers - and some that did not easily trip off the tongue. 'She cried beseechingly' was one I gasped in horror over, and there were dozens more. Plus, I had absolutely no idea what POV was or that it even existed, and how important it was. Head hopping was the order of the day in my epics. Jeez, when I think of it now, I flush with embarrassment. Fortunately, I had the chance to rewrite them and have a real editor guide me over those hurdles a few years later.

Writing has been a learning process for me. I think in practically every story I submit to my publishers I learn something new, and I'm happy to. I very rarely argue with the editor. Sometimes I may raise an eyebrow at their audacity, but then when I really look at what they are saying, I invariably agree. Ain't none of us too good to thumb our noses at a suggestion on how to make a sentence read just a little smoother.

Originally I started out as a writer of mysteries with paranormal overtones. Writing erotica hadn't even entered my mind. My protagonists may have kissed and 'lain together' but that was the extent of the shenanigans. It was actually a friend of mine who asked why I stopped just when it was getting good!
"What on earth do you mean?" I asked all high falutingly - now there's an adverb for you!
"I'd like to have read about them... you know... doing it," he said without even blushing.
Hmm... I really hadn't considered that at all, and quite frankly I didn't know if I could actually write a sexual scene. I mean, in my youth, I was known as quite a lad (ahem), but describing the act, and making it sound authentic, and of course titillating, I thought would be a bit of a challenge.

My first erotic story was My Vampire and I, and I was amazed at how easy it was to write the sex scenes. Of course it was vampire sex, and we all know there are no limits to what those characters can do. They are masters of seduction, they ooze sensuality, their kisses melt the stoutest resolve to resist - and as an added bonus they can fly. Sex in the clouds or hovering over ocean waves - who wouldn't want to experience that kind of trip?

From then on erotica was all I ever wanted to write. Cowboys, detectives, marines, regular guys, and of course, vampires, all become the world's greatest lovers when I let them loose on the pages. I honestly don't know if I could write a story without erotic content now. Hopefully, I won't have to.


  1. " I honestly don't know if I could write a story without erotic content now. "

    I know exactly what you mean, JP. My brother keeps asking me, "Why don't you write something serious, something mainstream?"

    I tell him, "I write erotica. That's what interests me. And that's what I'm good at."

    About adverbs - screw King, they have a purpose. Sure they can be overused, but sometimes an -ly is exactly what you need.

    1. It dismays me when people put down erotica as not 'serious'. The same writing rules apply as to other literary work. What other genre delves so deeply into our psyche? What other genre produces such outward (no pun) physical changes in our being? Sure, maudlin stuff can make us cry, and horror can raise our heart rate, but how would life lived *not* include sex?

    2. Yes to both points being made, emphatically! ;)

  2. I remember way back when the first widely-vailable "bodice-rippers" came along, and I vowed never to read any "fade to black" romances again. Let their be sex! (it feels like that would have been in my late teens, but now that I've googled Kathleen Woodiwiss it turns out that I was a fair bit older than that.) Well, I did read Fanny Hill and Tropic of Cancer and Lady Chatterley's Lover while I was still in college, but those didn't push the wild romance buttons much.

    My inclination to write only erotica came later, when I first realized that there was a market for it, and I could sell to that market. But I should save that part for my own post next week.

  3. I kinda knew about the pitfalls of overuse of adverbs, but tense and POV was always elusive in my earlier stuff. Perhaps my love of JP Donleavy set me off on the wrong track at first.

    First rule about breaking the rules is to know and understand the rules in the first place. Sorta like a jazz musician. Ya can't be Coltrane if you cant play "Mary had a Little Lamb" perfectly. Backwards.

  4. On Writing is still the only Stephen King book I've read.

  5. Years ago when I was the Art Mom for my kids' school, I used to talk with the students about how some artists feel the only way to be a good artist and to improve, is to study the old masters. In art museums they're the ones with easels set up in front of some piece they admire, as they conscientiously try to duplicate every brush stroke.

    The other kind of artist feels that to know anything about someone else's style is to not be true to your own vision. So they never take art classes and instead, create what they see in their minds. From then on, I'd explain to the kids which kind of artist had created the work we were examining that month. The kids were surprised that they couldn't tell which philosophy the artist believed in. The copiers weren't any more skilled than the more independent artists.

    Write what you feel deeply. Language/grammar and other niceties can be fixed by editors. But write what moves you. I've told students for years that they should "barf it out quickly, clean it up later." Teenagers like to laugh at my saying. But if you self-censor before even a single word comes out, the well will dry up and the words will stop flowing.

  6. Hi JP.

    I read Stephen Kings book too and took a lot of it to heart. He breaks his own rules sometimes too.

    In the end we write what we would like to read.


  7. On Writing is an interesting book, and it sounds like it was useful to you, JP. I agree with what Daddy says, too, that we have to know the rules before we can break them. However, I hold Stephen King responsible for some trends that really irritate me—for example, while it is a good idea to question whether an adverb (or any word) is needed (and to avoid redundancies such as "she cried beseechingly"), many seem to have taken this to mean that an adverb is a forbidden part of speech. I gave a talk once on the difference between grammatical rules and fashions of style. I'm not a huge fan of some of the current fashions, many of which seem to trace back to King.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.