Monday, April 4, 2016

Changing Stories

Literature is an endless sea with waves rolling onto shore, each bringing something new, sometimes treasure and other times trash. Whatever the result, readers decide the final disposition and value. From Shakespeare to Victorian Erotica, readers are the ones who keep the printed words alive--or buried in a midden heap.

When I was first published, erotic romance was just gaining a foothold in the literary market. Readers secretly read their books behind closed doors or hidden in the safety of the newfangled e-readers slowly finding popularity with the public. Then in a flash, it seems, erotic romance exploded like Fourth of July sparklers and the new genre was everywhere. The final salvo (Fifty Shade of Gray) ensured it would stay around for a year of two, at least.

By then, the authors who'd struggled for recognition moved on to other interests. Some found publishers of more conservative romances to work for. Others moved to the new YA or NA genres. And in that weird way these things work, suddenly erotic romance with the emphasis on romance turned into erotic romance with the emphasis on erotic. The lines blurred between erotica and erotic romance to the point one could never be certain which was which--just as the lines between romance (with a capital R) and erotic romance changed. More and more ROMANCE opened the bedroom door. What was once considered erotic romance just dwindled into that no-man's land of maybe, maybe.

Now there seems to be a surge of writers who are revising their books for self-publishing and in that process, they're removing ALL the sex, lengthening the stories, and then offering them as sweet romances. It's a head-scratching moment for me. I can understand lengthening the stories as many of them were short. It's the sex part that puzzles me. If they can remove the love scenes while maintaining the integrity of the story, then why were the love scenes there to begin with? If they weren't an integral part of the story, why include them? Or were they gratuitous as so many readers thought, just so they could be included in the erotic romance category?

I have the rights back to most of my books so I've been in the process of evaluating each of them, trying to decide what the final disposition will be. To that end, I've also considered whether to leave them as is, sex and all, or revise them. And this is what I've realized. For MY books, written in the past, there is no possibility of removing the love scenes without totally changing the stories. My sex scenes were integral parts of the stories. The books were explorations of that particular aspect of human relationships. It's a part we don't really talk about, you know. We skirt around the edges with dirty jokes and sly innuendoes, but the truth is sex is still private. And secret. In my stories, I dare to shine a small dim light on the rainbow of emotions and feelings possible in this most secret, private part of life. And so...there will be no changes, except perhaps some corrections of spelling or grammar errors. What is, is. If I change as an author, it will be in future work.

I'm not ashamed of my past work or where I came from. As I've said for years, it's fortunate that there's a story out there for every reader. If my stories make a reader uncomfortable, it won't bother me for them to not read them. After all, there are so many books and so little time.