Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Writing Wednesday: Reading Sex Scenes to Strangers

I write romance.

I write romance and adventure for both Young Adults and the young at heart. And yes, my adult books tend to contain sensuality and - you guessed it - sex.

So when I was asked to participate in a Valentine library program back in February, I signed right up. The title of the program was "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: Authors Talking Romance."

And then there was a blizzard.

So this past Monday night, the rescheduled program took place, without all the Valentine hype and advertising they'd had for the original program so the turnout wasn't the greatest, but most of the seats were still filled.

Eight authors, including myself, read from our published work on the general topic of "sex" and the stories ran the gamut of time periods and situations. We heard tentative first kisses between near strangers on a high school field trip in the 1970s, and a princess in ancient Egypt slicing off her brother's phallus to keep him from raping her.


The Egyptian scene actually kicked off the readings, and it was bloody and filled with explicit words and actions. If anyone in that audience didn't know what they were in for, they got the idea pretty quickly.

We heard scenes from contemporary political thrillers and 16th century courtships.  Two authors read from books that featured the pirate Sam Bellamy and his crew. This is Cape Cod, after all. Gotta have pirates.
One older gentleman had the audience in stitches with a tale of hot tub antics - not what you'd expect, but rather a humorous mishap with misplaced bubble bath. The actual sex scenes were alluded to behind closed doors, but he actually said "nipples" out loud without stumbling over the words.


I read a scene from MY KIND OF CRAZY, with kissing and touching and overwhelming feelings... everything leading up to but just shy of actual sex. I thought long and hard about what I would be comfortable reading out loud, and wasn't sure how far I wanted to go. Pun intended.

I read last, wrapping up the evening. By then, the audience and other authors had all relaxed and gotten over the shock of hearing the word "penis" read out loud in the library. But here's a secret - I'm a painfully shy public speaker.

So why did I sign up to read a sex scene out loud in front of a crowd? Actually, I figured if I could do this, it would go a long ways to helping me overcome my fears of public speaking. Which, you know, is a thing you need to do when you're an author and you want to connect with your readers. You need to actually go and talk with them.

What did I learn from the experience?

I can do this. The audience was receptive and engaged, and several stayed to chat with me afterward. It wasn't as awkward as I'd thought it might be - I mean, think about reading romance out loud to a group of strangers. The potential for discomfort is pretty high up there. But I'm really glad I participated. And now I know I can do it.

How have you challenged yourself lately? Authors, have you ever read one of your sex scenes out loud to a crowd?


29 comments:

  1. Good for you Katie! And I love the fact the library hosted this event. I don't enjoy reading from my own books, let alone the hot and steamy parts...someone else's though, I'd have no problem. Great post, thanks for sharing. ~Daphne Dubois

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for tweeting! I'm looking forward to reading your just released novel - and you should start getting used to the idea of reading out loud, too!

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  2. You are one brave gal. Kudos. The closest I have come is reading a sex scene aloud to a professor with one of his graduate students present. It was my first novel. The Saturday meetings were special ones for off campus student and several of us drove four hours, each waiting while he read our chapter and then commented. I had used the term "nipples like rosebuds," in this scene. Bickham said, "Jesus Christ, Raymona, nipples like rosebuds." Oh Lord, the agony. The grad student, now known for her mystery series, was so cool about it. But on the long drive home I made the driver that Saturday stop so I could get a chocolate shake. Really needed that chocolate. I have come a long way since nipples like rosebuds. My critique group was well shocked when they read one of my scenes in Two Hearts in Time. Bickham was tough. One of my chapters (unrelated to sex)he read and said it was great. He then threw it in the corner. "But you don't need it."

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    1. LOL - actually, the moderator had a basket of chocolate she passed around after a few of the readings. After the graphic Egyptian story people were grabbing handfuls!

      Thanks for chiming in with your own tale!

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  3. Great post Katie. My sex scenes are very explicit and I can't imagine reading them out loud. I think some things, like fantasy, are better left where they belong, in the imagination. LOL!! If i had to do it, I think i would cringe with embarrassment...but as you say, it could be a very good challenge. xx

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    1. Anni, I've read your debut and I'm not at all sure I'd be able to read yours out loud either! Loved your book by the way and will be posting my review soon!

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  4. I have not done this. I usually pick an non sex action scene. Haha Good for you for forcing yourself to conquer a fear and get out there. Creativity takes courage!

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    1. The last time I read out loud from one of my romances, I picked what I thought was a funny, if slightly suggestive, scene, and the first audience question was:
      "I thought there was sex in this story, no?"
      So maybe it's better to go for it, pun intended!

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    2. Very enjoyable post, Katie. I can't imagine doing what you did. I'd probably be run out of town, but the event dis sound like a lot of fun. I think I'd have like dot be there in the audience. Kudos to you for your courage.

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  5. Katie, I've never read a sex scene out loud to strangers or to ANYONE. Not sure I could. But I loved your post, mainly because like you, I'm not eager to do any public speaking. If you can, maybe I can!

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    1. In the end, I think maybe it's easier to read that kind of scene to a group of strangers (or mostly strangers) than to friends and family. I remember being much MUCH more embarrassed when my dad told me he'd read my book than I was Monday night.

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  6. Great post Katie! Yes, I've read an almost sex scene on a radio interview, stopping short of the actual act. I was nervous, but the host was entertaining, the show received good reviews and I sold a few books due to the show.Public speaking is not my forte, though I was in debate club in high school, I can argue with the best, but getting and presenting, like a workshop, I'm still working on. Good for you!

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    1. Thanks, Tena. The only time I did a radio interview, I realized how much talking and explaining I do with gestures instead of words - doesn't work well on radio and the host was frustrated with me. Good for you for reading out loud on the airwaves!

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  7. I've never read a sex scene to the public, only my writing group. Good for you for having the courage to "go all the way".

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    1. (pun intended, I'm sure!) Thanks for chiming in, Jana!

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  8. Wonderful post, Katie! You're brave, indeed! I don't believe I could read my sex scenes out loud to a crowd. Yet, if my own 83 year old mother can read my books and fall in love with the story, I suppose I could attempt to face a crowd. Your post brought to mind another situation for me. I had to listen to a narration of my book for audio. The narrator was exceptional, but you should have seen how crimson my face was as I was listening to him. He has this deep, rich voice, and I kept fanning myself. Thankfully, I was alone in the room at the time. I kept looking over my shoulder for a family member to pop in. As far as challenging myself...yes, I try to step out of my comfort zone every six months with something different I would never attempt to accomplish. Thanks for another thought provoking post.

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    1. Love that story, Mary! I'm not sure how that would feel - listening to someone else read a sex scene I wrote. Hmmm...

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  9. I had to have someone else read from one of my erotic romances. I blushed the entire time, but the audience enjoyed the read. The person who read it kept fanning her face. Good response.

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    1. LOL - yes a good response, and poor reader!

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  10. This comment was sent via email, as the author had difficulty getting the comment to "stick" in Blogger:

    What a fun time! I go into anaphylactic shock at the mention of reading a sex scene aloud in the privacy of home ever since my middle daughter compared my h/H to...rabbits! LOL
    I have, however, read in front of my (former) local RWA chapter (about 20 women). I think I would rather speak to a crowd of non-writing strangers! The meeting was about tightening a scene and I read one preceding a sex scene--that I evaded behind a closed door. Then award-winning author Sharon Sala gave tips to fix it. I know how you must have felt when your turn came. I almost didn't read, but I knew I had to for myself. Did you feel a weight lift and a burst of Super Pride come over you?

    Best wishes,

    ~Calisa Selfridge~

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  11. What a challenge, for sure, Katie. I wouldn't have that courage, but I'm proud for you that you did and that it went so well. Maybe I could read a sex scene in front of my chapter members, but strangers...doubt it!

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  12. Absolutely not! Ha! I'm just not publishing books this year with sex scenes. I'm excited, but a little nervous about what fans might think. Reading them outloud...in public...I'm not sure if I could do that. I'm not what you would call shy, but I am kind of a prude! Ha! Maybe I do need to go read some sex scenes out loud! You are so brave! And I do love all of your book covers.

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  13. So far I've read aloud only to my husband and a writing group at the library in my small town. My husband tends to see my reading about sex as foreplay, so I have to be careful about the timing there... My library group is composed mostly of men who know nothing about contemporary romance and seem to have the notion that it's all like a blending of their idea of "bodice-rippers" with pornography. I try to read highly suggestive, emotion- and yearning-filled scenes, but not sex scenes. I like stimulating their curiosity. Maybe they'll buy the book!

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  14. Go you! This reminds me of a game I play with my kids- would you rather?
    Would you rather read your sex scene aloud or ? Like you said the only thing worse is reading in front of family.
    Being a romance writer is not for the faint of heart.
    😁I think I would have to copious wine before I attempted it. My scenes are fairly graphic.

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  15. Holy cow, no I have not! But I am impressed with your bravery. I would be stumbling over my words while beet red. Good for you for making it through!

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    1. It's probably easier and more fun to read the bloody, action-packed demon slaying parts of your books anyway, right?

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  16. Okay, I can't get passed the Egyptian scene. That was a sex scene? Wow. Good for you--you're brave. I'm cringing at the thought of my in-laws reading the sex scenes in my debut...gulp. Awesome post!! Thanks for sharing. Claire Marti

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Claire. Yeah, "discussing" the sex scenes with people you know is way worse than reading them to strangers. Or the though of my mother-in-law reading them. The receptionist at my dentist's office admitted that she felt "weird" reading "those" parts of the book since she knew me. And then proceeded to ask me something about one of the scenes... Oh the strange conversations we authors get to take part in...

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