Monday, January 18, 2010

Jill Myles: Sexytimes Writer

Today we welcome Jill Myles, author of the sexy paranormal GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, out now! So buy it! I mean really, just look at this cute trailer:

Jill's talking to us today about writing those pesky sex scenes. I don't know about you, but writing them always makes me uncomfortable. Like my mom's going to pop out from behind my shoulder and scold me. ("Wendy! For shame! That's private stuff!")

Warning: The following post has words like "orgasm" and "schlong." If you are my mother, click away. Click away now.

Welcome, Jill!

1. We all could probably think of elements *not* to include in sex scene (weird animal or botanical metaphors, lots of bodily fluid, etc.) but what do you think makes for a good one?

Good question! I think it differs for everyone and for what type of book you are writing. If you are looking to shock or titillate your readers, you have to push the boundaries of what is 'acceptable' and 'normal' in a sex scene. On the other hand, if you're looking to create a touching moment, someone whipping out the handcuffs isn't going to do it, you know? So if you're going for a touching moment, I think lots of devoted-type actions are the best -- the hero touching her cheek, stroking her hair, kissing every inch of her body, etc. If it's angry sex, think harsh, jerky motions, the heroine slamming the hero down into the bed, things like that.

2. Confession: I've only written scenes with Uncomfortable or Intentionally Ho-Hum sex, but still, I always have trouble with pacing. How do you know when to end it?

When I think someone's going to get rug burns. Kidding! It's tricky to tell when to end it. Not to be graphic, but (well, okay, I'm going to be graphic) unless you're doing something ultra-extraordinary with the hero's schlong, I think that once you get past the initial point of penetration and the heroine's orgasm (a good hero ALWAYS lets her come first) then you might consider wrapping things up. The heroine's just going to end up with friction burns if the hero's sawing away at her lady-business for seven pages more.

3. How easy is it for you to write a steamy scene? Can you whip out some heat typing away at Starbucks? Or do you have to give it more thought?

It's easy (with an asterisk next to that). I really enjoy writing the sexual scenes because they're emotionally intense and really progresses the hero and heroine's relationship. When I'm writing a sex scene, to keep my brain 'choreographing' the thing, I tend to have to write it all in one sitting. And since most of my sex scenes end up around 3 or 4k, well, it makes a good writing night and I'm always super happy when I'm done with it because that's some rockin' word count (no pun intended).

As far as thinking ahead what they'll be doing? Not really. I just let it all play by ear.

That being said, the asterisk comes in to play because I am NEUROTIC about someone reading over my shoulder for any sort of writing -- not just sex scenes. So I write when my husband is playing video games or napping, and always, always when I can have some mental privacy. Never, never at Starbucks. If there is even a shred of a chance that someone's going to see what I'm writing? I can't continue. It's this weird phobia of mine.

4. A 4,000 word sex scene?! Holy crap! was I saying? Oh yes: How do you handle other people's nosy personal questions when they find out what you write?

I work for an extremely conservative company in the day job, so I have a pen name and keep things as separate as possible. My co-workers know that I write, but they don't know what name I write under. People tend to snicker or ask personal questions when they find out you write romance, so I basically don't give them the opportunity. Maybe that's a cop-out, but it's what I'm going with. I did make attempts at one point, though -- I told my boss that I wrote romance, and she immediately came back with "Wow, your husband must LOVE that. Wink wink." It was, in a word, CREEPY. So yeah, separate lives and all that.

5. How can you tell if you've given TMI? Or are being too vague?

I leave everything in the scene, even the stuff I'm handwringy or questioning. Did I go too far? Is someone going to get offended? Did this just go over the line to non-sexy? But I trust what pops into my head and I leave it there. Usually when I'm mid-scene, I'm too close to it, and I find that if I continually edit when I'm in the scene, I tend to take the edge off of things. So I leave it and re-read it when I do my read-through after I've finished the first draft. 9 times out of 10, I can't even tell which part made me uncomfortable/awkward (which means that my instincts were good). And if something still sticks out or makes me go 'Yuck' during the re-read, it has to go.

6. How does language come into play?

When I first started writing love scenes, I had a difficult time even getting myself to use the word 'nipples'. I find it to be an awkward, strange word. No clue why. But there are only so many 'peaks' and 'tips of her breasts' that you can use, and at some point, you just have to suck it up and go nipple. And you know what? Now I nipple all the time! Nipples everywhere! But the same can be said for sex scenes overall. You feel really awkward and weird writing the first steamy scene so you try and neuter it (the scene)...but at some point, you're going to have to go nipple. And once you do, it's hard to go back to glossing over things.

That being said, I avoid certain words just because I find them kind of icky. Words like 'spurting' and 'dripping' and 'sloppy'. Not sexy. I think everyone has certain words that set their teeth on edge. Anything that makes me think of geysers of bodily fluids? Probably not going into my book. YMMV of course. Some people dig that.

Thanks, Jill! That was enlightening.

And remember, Jill is hosting a contest! Her agent, Holly Root, is offering a query critique for one lucky winner drawn at random. Leave a comment here and you'll earn one entry for the drawing. Commenting at each of the other blogs on Jill's tour will earn you additional entries.

Jill will pick the winner on January 27.

Next stop on the tour is tomorrow: Ilene Wong. More sexy stuff! And here is a list of all the stops.

Good luck!


Allie said...

Ha! "At some point you"re going to have to go nipple." Brilliant! This is such a great interview!

Melanie Hooyenga said...

*fans self*

I didn't expect this first thing in the morning. Now what was I going to say?

Oh yeah, "at some point you're going to have to go nipple" is my new line.

Sounds great!!

sue laybourn said...

Oh, I loved this!

I've been slowly developing my sex scenes. They're getting better. The metaphors and purple prose are gone. There are still certain words I just can't bring myself to use, e.g. 'cock' but, I 'went nipple' a while ago. ;)

J.F. Posthumus said...

A great article/interview!!!

Once you get past your personal inhibitions, I think it makes writing the scenes A LOT easier. If you're not comfortable with writing it, welll... it just isn't going to work. The same is true with words, if you're not comfortable using it, it'll throw a hitch in the writing.

I let a few co-workers read one of our, um, steamy scenes.
They said they wanted more to read lol... didn't hurt that the ladies liked romance novels, either...

Donna said...

Great info, Jill! I agree that you have to go all out or the emotion doesn't make it through the way it should. And that's one reason it's so important, because it's a big moment for the characters, and their developing relationship.

The last scene I drafted I actually wrote at a library! LOL I didn't have anywhere else to go to write at the time. It sure made me write the scene FAST so I wouldn't have to worry about anyone checking out what I was writing!

houndrat ( Debra Driza ) said...

OMG, I totally write in public, but pick the corners so my back can be to the wall. And I close my laptop if I walk away, lol--glad to know it's not just me.

Yeah, I have a nipple phobia, too. So weird, since I have two of them. :P

Awesome post, Jill! And boy, some steamy scenes in your novel--WOOT!

Rose Pressey said...

Great interview! I can't write in public because I'm so easily distracted.

Shveta Thakrar said...

Hahahaha, this was hilarious! Thanks for such an enlightening inside look, Jill and Wendy. :) (Inside what, we won't ask.)

Laura said...

Ahhh sex scenes, I say write what you would be comfy reading and if it needs another kick then kick away lol another great interview.

Shawna Thomas said...

Great interview! I write erotic romance but the first time I wrote... certain words, I blushed. It does get easier. I had to laugh at your 'nipples all over the place'. Too true.

I also agree with writing it through from start to finish. No one likes an interrupted sex scene. Not you, not your characters. ; )

This is one I'm going to read!

Christina Farley said...

Wow. This was a facinating interview. Jill, I love how you shared how you got over your difficulties to write certain things.

Laura Pauling said...

All I can say, is thank God I write middle grade so I don't have to worry about using the word nipple. (One of my many words I have trouble saying outloud to other people, never mind writing it)

Great solid advice! (If I ever write some sex scenes just for fun.)

Addled Alchemist said...

LOL! Awesome interview! After reading Gentlemen, I would have never suspected you had inhabitions, Jill. So glad you overcame them. ;)

Other Lisa said...

OMG, this was hilarious! "Go Nipple!" But the line that really had me snorking my coffe was: "The heroine's just going to end up with friction burns if the hero's sawing away at her lady-business for seven pages more."

Thanks for the illuminating and very entertaining interview!

Dana Fredsti said...

That is the cutest book trailer I have ever seen! If your books have even half the humor of your post here, I'm gonna be a VERY happy reader... :-) Oh, and I can't stand it when writers use 'cream' for a woman's bodily fluids. Like...get some ointment!

David Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, Jill:
Such a brilliant post!
As a romance writer myself, I've been dying for a good porn thesaurus myself. BTW, I predict "going nipple" is going to be in every romance writer's vocabulary from here on out!
-Dave Fitzgerald
(aka Ravenous
author Kilt Kilpatrick)

Nicole said...

Boy can I relate. And the whole "is someone looking over my shoulder?!?!" isn't a phobia. Or at least, not just a Jill Myles one! I go into my room, close my door, tell people to knock before coming in, and I am *still* paranoid that someone's going to come barging in and see what I'm writing. It's kind of ridiculous, actually...

Great interview!

Anonymous said...

Loved the interview! Especially this line " The heroine's just going to end up with friction burns if the hero's sawing away at her lady-business for seven pages more." Absolutely true.

Oh and I definitely second the issues with having anyone read over your shoulder. I can't write when anyone else is around either, the only exception is my favorite coffee shop, but if I'm all self-absorbed, getting that tunnel-gaze at my laptop people usually tend to leave me alone.

And yes, in my scenes I'm definitely going all in with "nipples" and "cocks". Purple prose? Not so much.

Erin Kndall said...

For some reason I'm having issues forgive me if there are multiple posts from me...I know I get just one entry here. ;)

Love the interview!! "Go nipple!" That's awesome.

I don't have issues writing with people around, but I do with writing sex scenes. One time, I had to write a sex scene and I had to use voice recognition (tendonitis), so I handwrote the scene first. Then, the dictation would go faster and smoother. I was so worried that I even played music, too. Just to make sure no one heard me dictating.

Erin Kendall

Anonymous said...

Good tips on how to avoid turning your scenes into Penthouse Letter's material.

lwalker said...

This was great! I completely identified with just about everything Jill said -- and she said it so brilliantly!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Now that I'm writing YA, I don't get quite as graphic as when I was writing women's fiction. Though, I never wrote romance, so I didn't get too graphic - more innuendo, or hinting at the action.

Thanks for the nipple, I mean interview. (Not sure why that word just "popped up.")

Janna Leadbetter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Xid Trebor said...

Wendy, thanks for the interview; Jill, you dirty, dirty bird!
I think someone once compared sex scenes to fight scenes, both have to be choreographed and end in a climax (hopefully mutually!)

Cathy C. Hall said...

See, this is exactly why I can't write love scenes. I can't READ about them without having to look up half the words!

Margay Leah Justice said...

I'm one of those people who frets over whether I've said enough or too much when writing sex scenes, so I really enjoyed reading your take on it.

Ash. Elizabeth said...

Another great interview, but that book trailer...was freakin' funny as hell : ) i never saw it until now and loved it!

I ♥ Book Gossip said...

What a great interview! I really love the first book. Please count me in for the contest.

cindyc725 at gmail dot com

Tere Kirkland said...

"Now I nipple all the time!"

LOL, thanks, I needed that. I'm switching gears and writing an urban fantasy that's not YA for once, so I'm having trouble letting my characters be as naughty as they want to be. Since it's not a true romance, I'm thinking of mostly fading to black, but I'll remember your insights!

Thanks, Jill and Wendy!

Anonymous said...

that was another brilliant interview! nipple! :D

feywriter said...

Love that trailer!

I wrote a very sexy scene recently. Prior to that, I hadn't thought I could write a sex scene. Now I think I could handle one if the story called for it.

I, too, get paralyzed if I think someone is or might read what I'm writing. Which is why I gave up on writing during weekends, when husband is very PRESENT.

Thanks for the great interview. Very helpful and entertaining.