To Sex or Not to Sex
There’s something I’ve been debating for a while now, and by a while I mean several years. Does gay literature have to involve sex?
A couple of years ago when I was first trying to sell “Blood Moon, Yellow Sky,” before Tal became a dragon, I was with a literary agent. After several rejections of the book she and I debated if it would sell better if there were graphic sex in it as opposed to alluded sex. “Sex sells,” she told me. I left that meeting debating a: if I wanted to put a couple of graphic sex scenes in the book and b: where I would put them if I did. The next time I talked to her and expressed a concern that I wanted to reach a broader audience than I would if I had sex scenes in it. After some thought she agreed that the story on its own was strong enough and with the right publisher behind it, it didn’t need sex. She also agreed that the sex would limit the sales of the book to gay men and women who enjoyed reading about gay sex.
Now that I’ve self published the book, along with several others, I’m finding mixed reactions. I get mostly good feedback on the series. Every so often I get a review or an email that sounds surprised that a book with mostly gay male characters doesn’t have sex scenes in it. One review of “Shadows on the Campfire” actually said “Most of the characters are gay men but there are no sex scenes, making the read suitable for Y.A. as well.” This is good in my opinion, opening my writing to several audiences, and that is my goal, to hit as wide an audience as I can. I have also gotten feedback from readers that they want more sex in my work, sorry but that’s not going to happen in these stories. Yes I have my visions of what my characters do to each other in the privacy of their own bedrooms, showers, forest, ect., but that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach.
I’ve also heard concerns that most of my main characters are in stable loving relationships, with little personal drama. Life is full of enough drama without having to go looking for more. One of my big goals in reaching a wide audience is showing gay couples in committed loving relationships. I feel that right now, when we are fighting for very human rights in the real world, it’s important to show things in as positive a light as possible. I want my characters to be as good and upstanding as possible, even if they do happen to be dragons, vampires, werewolves and mages. The drama in my stories happens around my characters through the world interacting with them, it very rarely happens with them interacting with each other. One reviewer of “Coyote’s Pup” wrote “Chance and his fellow characters are all quite likable in that they consistently behave in a pro-social manner, and I do like books about people who are undisputedly on the “good” end of the good and evil scale. The members of this Coalition of supernatural creatures are all genuinely interested in helping each other with their magic or anything else that they can help with.” I think this is a good thing. I never viewed the whole thing as “pro-social” before, but I guess in a way it is. Why not have characters more concerned with making the world a better place than in seeing how much drama they can cause each other?
One of the first things that we as writers are told is to write what you know. On the whole my life is low on the drama scale. I am happily partnered in a very stable relationship. I’ve known drama in my past, and don’t like to dwell there. I like happy relationships. It’s what I know now. I think more people need to know what happy, stable relationships can be. If my writing can help people realize these in their own life, then I’m making a good impact on my readers and the world.
I want my books to reach a wide audience. I want my readers to get a good impression of what loving gay couples can be. It would even be nice if folks want to see a little more of the qualities that make heroes and heroines as opposed to just more drama. If folks are just wanting sex with no plot or anything else to carry you through the book, I know a few writers that can fill the bill. If you want a good strong story with characters that leave you impatiently waiting for the next book, check out my stuff. Good gay fiction doesn’t need to have sex, just strong characters who happen to be sexy.
Tomorrow look for the beginning of the end of “Dr Gnome” as I try and get the novel wrapped up over the next week or so.