Guest Post: Nicole Peeler

, by Kt Clapsadl

I am so excited today to have Nicole Peeler, an author I love, as my first guest poster on the blog! She's talking about one of the most debated issues in Urban Fantasies today, sex, so make sure to read on down to see what she has to say. If you haven't checked out her books yet, you don't know what you are missing! In fact, Orbit is having a special promotion where you can get an e-copy of her first book, Tempest Rising for only $2.99 right here. If you need any further encouragement to try out this fantastic author's books, check out my reviews of the first three books in her series: Tempest Rising, Tracking the Tempest, & Tempest Legacy.

So without further ado I give you Nicole Peeler:

The Sex Question: Or, Writing For Ourselves

I did a blog post the other day on sex and urban fantasy, a topic I've written about quite a few times. I'm often asked about the conjunction between sex and UF, and I'm still thinking this idea through. I think, as my blog post discusses, that there are very complicated social and cultural reasons for why women are allowed to write sex in a way that men aren't. But does that mean that women writers should all write sex?

The answer to that question is: of course not. Sex is like any other plot device in that it has to have a purpose. That said, though, I do often see an unfairness when people focus on a writer's gratuitous use of sex. Oftentimes, I've found that when there is a writer using genuinely gratuitous sex, it's because they're doing all sorts of gratuitous things. They're gratuitously using action scenes. They're gratuitously using exposition. They're gratuitously using other clich├ęd scenes, such as the "look over all our weapons so we get to talk about shiny weapons" scene, or the "stare at a photo album so we see everything that character has loved and lost" scene.

In other words, writers who use gratuitous scenes are usually not very good writers. But it's often the bad sex scenes that garner people's focus, as if sex is to blame. And it's not: it's just that in our paradoxically puritanical and sexually obsessed American culture, we are taught to "see" sex everywhere.

So sex gets blamed for bad writing.

But sex isn't the culprit! To everyone who commented on my post, saying that sex shouldn't overwhelm the plot of a book that isn't erotica: you're absolutely right. But that's a bit like saying, "Authors shouldn't do things they know they shouldn't do." Is this to say that authors DO always do what we know we should? Of course not, and there are all sorts of examples of books that did seem to randomly stick in various plot devices in an attempt to please everyone. Some of these books are even quite popular, and sometimes there's a weird sort of pleasure to be found in reading these Blockbuster Film-esque books.

So why write sex at all, if we risk offending people, or having them focus entirely on the sex in either negative or positive ways?

It's because that when sex is used well, it can hold so much symbolic weight. We can learn so much about a character by the way they treat their own body and their sexuality, and that of others.

I have definitely been taken to task by reviewers who didn't like the fact my books had sex. Some have suggested they would have loved the books, if they'd been written without the sex. But I would say that such readers missed the boat on Jane. Jane wouldn't be Jane without her libido, and I wouldn't have written the book I wanted to write. I'd also argue that to make Jane the character I wanted her to be, those sex scenes have to be there. Stripping Jane of her sexuality would create an entirely different character, altogether.

And while those readers might have enjoyed reading that character's book better, I certainly would not have enjoyed writing it.

I think what I'm trying to say is that, as authors, we should only do the best we can. We should only write what we want to write, as best as we can we write it. If we start stripping out OR inserting things just because we feel like we should, our books will suffer. I've talked to many author friends who don't enjoy writing sex, but who've felt pressured to do so. They hated doing it, they felt their attempts failed, and they stripped out or toned down the majority of these scenes during revisions. But I'd feel the same way about taking out all the sex from my books. I'd feel just as forced and coerced, and just as much as if I were pandering to the notion of "pleasing everyone" rather than writing what I felt was strong.

So us authors need to stick to our guns, and write to our individual strengths and interests. Our readers will either love us or hate us, but at least we've given them our best.

Nicole Peeler is a professor of English literature and creative writing at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, PA. She also writes urban fantasy novels for Orbit Books. Her third novel, Tempest's Legacy, just hit shelves in January.

For those American readers interested in Nicole's fiction, Orbit Books is offering her first book,
Tempest Rising, as this month's Orbital Drop, downloadable on multiple platforms for only $2.99. Click here for more details.
Amazon Reviews Subscribe to RSS Facebook Friend me on Goodreads Email me