[ETA: Not sure if we're to introduce ourselves, but just in case, *waves* Hey, I'm Melissa. This is me: http://www.melissa-marr.com/]
Let's talk about sex . . .
It’s one of the first topics I had to ponder when I decided to be a part of a group blog. Actually, since I write YA, the sex topic is unavoidable. Attend a YA panel. Read YA blogs. Listen to a discussion of authors trying to decide if they will be joining the ever-increasing number of folks writing YA these days.
Authors, booksellers, librarians, parents, teens . . . one of the inevitable topics seems to be sex (and the semi-related topic of cussing--specifically THAT word which is a less PC word for sex-- but let’s hold off on the cussing chatter until another blog post). Some of the comments that echo in my discussions/inboxes/on panels/etc are--
Is there sex in it?
How much sex is in your book?
If I write YA, that means no sex, right?
YA shouldn’t have sex. Kissing is all there can be in YA.
It really shouldn’t have THAT sort of sex.
Dear Author, I am appalled by the sex. When my Very Young Reader read your teen book, she read about sex.
Dear Melissa, Thanks for being real about the sex.
The fascinating part of the discussion—ok, fascinating to ME at least—is that every last one of those sentence is totally legit, valid, altogether okay to say.
It’s not my place to suggest what anyone’s child but mine can read, nor is it my job to only write what another parent approves—in large part because doing so is impossible. What IS my job is to think about the topic and to make the best decisions I can for me as an author and for me as a mother. I don't always "wear both of those hats" at the same time--which, like everything else in this life, is an individual choice.
I've been thinking about this topic more and more bc my first adult book comes out next year & bc as of last year, my Wicked Lovely books are being re-published as ADULT novels in Germany. Not a single word changes in the text, but my books are published in three print versions in Germany. The hardcovers & trade papers are YA, but there are also adult mass market paperback editions via a second German publisher.
At the end of May, I was in NY for BEA. (My publisher pitched a panel to them, and they accepted it.) Not surprisingly, the panel I pitched was YA Crossing Over. [Unexpectedly, my German publisher was in the audience for the panel--which was exceedingly cool since his publishing decisions for my books were what sparked the panel.]
On the panel, I was joined by Michele Jaffee, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jeri Smith-Ready (moderated by Elissa Petruzzi from Romantic Times Magazine). Inevitably, the conversation circled around to “what’s different in your writing YA & adult?” topic. A couple folks easily said “the sex” or “the swearing.” My answer was the same; however, in my case, it’s a matter of more swearing in the YA and perhaps a bit more sex in . . . YA? Adult? Both. I’m not sure. It depends on the “more.” There’s certainly more of it in my YA, but I suspect there are at least 3 sentences more detail in the adult.
. . . which got me thinking. As a writer, the content of my books is based on the characters. In my YA series (WICKED LOVELY), I’m writing about the Summer Court (languid days & summer pleasures) and Dark Court (all sorts of decadence). In my adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, I’m writing about a commitment-phobe who is trying very hard NOT to end up in a relationship with a man who loves her (ergo, avoiding the sex).
When I'm doing the writing, the content is never about the readers. It’s not about worrying over parents, librarians, parents, etc. I write for my characters. It’s very cool that readers, parents, & librarians read the books, but when I write . . . none of you even exist. You are figments of a dream that I will ponder when I leave the characters.
Admittedly, I do think about how you all feel about sex (& cussing & religion & politics & all the rest of those difficult topics).
It’s when I decide to do a group blog with folks who some sex that makes me blush. It’s when I write a blog like this. It’s when my teenager and her friends notice the eyecandy in movies. It’s when parents ask me “what age is this for?” and “Is my daughter old enough for your books?”
When parents ask about sex in my books . . .
I tell those asking that I am a mother, and my own son (12 in October) hasn’t read my novels yet. My daughter (16 now) was allowed to read them at 12. Before 12, everything they read, they read with me or my spouse. At 12, they get to the solo-reading, and by 16, the shelves are wide open. However, that’s my rule as a mother. It’s how we started our talks about sex—by being open, by (them or us) saying “this is too mature yet,” and by steps. I’m open about that as a writer bc it makes a lot more sense than ignoring it or censoring it.
When I’m writing my books . . .
I think about how my characters would deal with the issue of sex. In my first book, WICKED LOVELY, Seth has been a one-night-stand kind of person, so when he decide to become intimate with the girl he loves, he has STD tests. She has hereditary faery Sight, so her decision to have sex has to include thinking a bit extra about pregnancy. ---spoiler ahead-- In FRAGILE ETERNITY, Ash is a part of the Summer Court, so her attitude toward sex has changed.
When I’m revising my books . . .
I think about the scenes I have in text, and I decided if they are each required for the character and story.
When I decide to participate in a blog . . .
I participate in discussions with my co-bloggers on how to address the different audiences of our books-- “where are we on the fact that teens will read this & some of us write sex, violence, etc.?” [NOTE: It was a non-YA author who writes heavy sex and violence who had the most conservative view, incidentally.]
When it’s right now . . .
I ask you all what you think. The topic is wide open. The stances are myriad. They can all spark thoughts. So let’s talk about sex.
Oh, and to encourage talking, I’ll offer some give-aways:
1. A signed copy of RADIANT SHADOWS to a US resident.
2. A signed copy of RADIANT SHADOWS to an international reader.
3. A signed copy of WICKED LOVELY to a US resident.
4. A signed copy of WICKED LOVELY to an international reader.
5. A signed copy of any of my books to a library collection (must be requested by a librarian!)*
6. A second signed copy of any of my books to a library collection (must be requested by a librarian!)*
[*Librarian copies must go to libraries, so if less than two librarians reply, I'll send those copies to the first 2 librarians who request them after the contest.]
To enter to win, you can get
1. One entry for commenting.
2. One extra entry for linking to it from Twitter AND/OR Facebook.
3. One extra entry for being a librarian or a bookseller. (Tell me in comments if you are.)
4. One extra entry if YOU blog about sex in YA & link your post to this post. (Tell me/post a link in the comments if you do so!)
To give you time to ponder, blog, reply, etc. I’m keeping the contest open until my next blog post on July 6th. Winner will be drawn by Randomizer and announced on July 6.
And just for fun, if It'm going to borrow their title, I might as well include a video, right?