By Tim Smith
This year marks my 18th anniversary as a published author. I’ve released 21 books, along with blogs, reviews, and newspaper stories too numerous to count. Even before I switched publishers and signed with one where erotic love scenes are an expectation, I had included them in my mystery/thrillers. That was a component in books by some of my favorite writers, so I figured “Why not?”
I’ve always written under my own name (actually my middle name, which is what I’ve always been called), and made no secret about what I write. My family knows that my stories are adult-oriented, and so do my friends. When I was still working, my co-workers knew it, too, and many of them were fans of my literary output. Did I get funny looks or the cold shoulder from some of the others because I chose to write erotica? Of course. Did I let it bother me? Not a chance. I respect freedom of choice and if someone doesn’t want to read my books because they consider them obscene, it’s their loss. That’s also why I tell prospective customers that my books contain adult content. Better to lose a sale than offend someone.
I had a cousin who supported my writing efforts, but she wouldn’t read any of my books for religious reasons. I respected that and we remained close. My late mother, on the other hand, was one of my biggest fans. Even into her late 80’s, she’d read my books and when I asked her opinion of the sex scenes, she always said “They were very well written.” This from a woman who read every book written by Harold Robbins and Mickey Spillane.
My openness at work caused a few minor problems, which were remedied when I promised not to actively promote on company time. It also caused an occasional problem when someone was convinced that I had based a character on them or a mutual acquaintance. Thank goodness for that disclaimer about it being a work of fiction. For the record, I have never totally based a character on someone I know. There may be some physical or personality resemblances, but they’re all composites.
Most writers hide behind a mask. A hint of mystery can be a good thing when you’re pushing hard-edge fiction about spies and private eyes. The mask I chose involved social media. Before I retired, I was employed by a state agency. When I set up my Facebook page, I didn’t use my real first name, the one that appeared in my personnel file. For occupation, I listed “writer/photographer,” working at “self-employed.” I didn’t list where I worked, I didn’t friend very many of my co-workers, and I made no mention of my place of employment in any of my posts. I use that page to promote my writing, period.
I’m often asked if my stories are based on personal experiences. Have you ever had that question at a book signing? I love getting that one because it gives me an excuse to tease people with “Maybe yes, maybe no.” I tell them that I draw on personal experiences, which is basically true. I’ve used actual incidents, whether it was for a scene or the plot itself. I just don’t tell them where fact ends and fiction begins.
As romance writers, our literary adventures often reflect what’s going on in our lives. When I wrote “Anywhere the Heart Goes,” I was still feeling the sting of a bad break-up, so my lead character went through some of the same things I had endured. “Mistletoe and Palm Trees” was the result of a vacation I took by myself when my traveling companion had to cancel at the last moment. “Catch and Release” was inspired by something I experienced while having lunch at a waterfront bistro.
One of the best marketing tools I use came about by accident. I was doing a book signing tour in The Keys 10 years ago and was interviewed by a local newspaper, since most of my stories take place there. A week after the interview, the reporter e-mailed me the PDF and promised to send me a print copy. The headline in the PDF read “Former Spy Finds Paradise in Ohio Man’s Novels.” I was ecstatic. When the print version arrived, it had been shortened to “Former Spy Finds Paradise in Ohio,” situated right above my head shot. I still display that story at personal appearances. People stop to read it, see the headline and my face, then look up and see me. Their eyes go back to the page then back to me, followed by them asking if I’m the former spy. I just smile and shrug.
I’ve discovered that you can have some fun when people find out you write erotic romance. It’s a great way to insert a laugh into a conversation when you talk about impossible sex positions, or how many euphemisms there are for certain body parts. Once, I broke up a family gathering by introducing myself as “The guy who writes all those dirty books.” Most people thought that was funny, but for some reason, my nephew’s prospective in-laws weren’t amused.