Reading tastes evolving my writing style
Question: Do you find your reading tastes evolving as your life changes? (not that any genre is better than another, just differing from before). Please answer this for me via the comments on this blog, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or M&M of Restraint closed group on FB. My curiosity is getting the better of me. I want to know if I’m somehow… broken.
My long-winded answer, with a side of defensiveness over some comments over Good Girl NOT being Erotica: (must never read another comment or review, because to me it’s like telling a mother her kid is homely. I’m sick of explaining myself, as if I have a reason that I should be defensive. My book. My rules)
As a child, I was a reluctant reader. My teachers were beside themselves because I didn’t want to read ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ or other books children my age thought were entertaining. I looked older than I was, and apparently I thought older than I was as well. This was decades ago, way before Kindles and ebooks. Books for the tween-aged girl were The Baby Sitter’s Club or the classics. Easily bored, it took a lot to entertain me and keep me engaged- still true to this day. My parents were at a loss, so that is when I received my first magazine subscription in my name at age 8: Mad Magazine. <- My father’s idea. 😉 Somehow he knew I’d turn out to be a closeted pervert who thought violence was humorous. “Spy vs Spy”
When I began reading novels at 10 years old, I read VC Andrews and Stephen King. Horror, mystery & suspense, with a side of sex, was the only thing that would capture my attention. Too mature for most kids my age, I’m sure. I’m no worse for wear, but highly well-read. Mom wouldn’t budge on Anne Rice, though. If a stranger had found my library card, they would have thought I was a grown woman. Good thing the librarian was my aunt and didn’t bat an eyelash at my selections. I never really thought about that until now… what did my aunt think? “Strange Kid,” I bet.
My early 20s were dedicated to VC Andrews and Oprah’s book club selections. In my late 20s through early 30s, I read Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Yes, you can thank the over-criticized Twilight to that obsession, and I’m not ashamed. It’s still one of my guilty pleasures.I was entertained; what more can I say?
For some reason I’ve yet to explore, I moved onto Dark Erotica, mixed with Young Adult as a palate cleanser. This is when I began writing. Although I was leaving UF & PNR behind, my first book was UF, and that’s why it’s my first book- the shelved Chrysalis that may never see the light of day. My second attempt was a mix of BDSM and Crime.
Restraint was a whim that I thought would never come to fruition, and less than 3 months after I started writing it, it was published. Obviously after this I read many books in the Dark Erotica and Erotica genres. Yes, I wrote Restraint way before I ever read a book it would be classified alongside. For me it was about control, and the lack of control I felt over my life, and had absolutely nothing to do with sex. Sex was just a metaphor to express how trapped I felt. While I had to categorize Restraint as Dark and Erotica because of its explicit nature, it was never smut. Never sex for the sake of sex. It was human behavior- a cerebral fucking.
Good Girl was another precipice in my life. A hybrid of contemporary and non-sexual BDSM(control over your own life and actions) with playful sex added into the mix. I was no longer reading Erotica or Dark Erotica. I’m not sure why my tastes have changed yet again. But I can’t read this type of book, and I haven’t for almost two years now. When readers recommend books that are in a similar genre as my own, I try, truly try, to read them. But I can’t. My tastes are now story-driven. It’s why I always liked YA so much. I want 100% story with amazing chemistry between well-fleshed-out characters, not 10% story with repetitive sex. Once sex is introduced, I get bored and check out, or want the story to end.
While many enjoy this: the following statement is about what I enjoy. You can debate me if you wish, but this is about personal preference and how it affects my writing style. What is sex without buildup? If it’s just input a character name here, put peg A into slot B, it doesn’t hold my attention. A hot, smooth talking dude just makes me groan. Give him some kickass name that I think is beyond ridiculous, make him heavily muscled, borderline abusive, and without any true characteristics, add a whiny woman without any self-respect, and make them screw in between 5 pages of storyline, and then screw again and again and again. Maybe add another cookie-cutter character into a menage. Don’t forget to add the Baby/Babe. Sorry, no! I can’t swallow it. I just can’t.
I understand the appeal of smut, why readers long to read it. It just doesn’t hold any appeal for me. Erica longs for… more.
In real life, that same douche wouldn’t do a thing for me, either. If he’s the abusive ass, I’d find him as an abusive ass. If he flashes me a bullshit grin… charm to me is false, lies, and highly annoying and predicable. To me it’s like small talk- I don’t have time for that waste of time… I am nothing if not serious. Debate me; that will get me hot and bothered, or just bothered. But either way, you’ll get an honest reaction out of me vs polite bullshit uttered out of social obligation.
When I read a book, I want to be left wounded, raw. I want real- real in all its glorious, pain-filled flaws. I want my emotions warped until I feel what the character is feeling, until the character becomes a true entity, and that is what I hope I achieve with my writing.
So now I find myself reading cheesy Historical Romance. Why? Why the hell would a woman who writes the M&M Series read about that era, an era that goes against her core belief system with its maltreatment to women? Easily answered: because it’s the same as when she was a child; Erica wants to read the opposite of her situation. She wants anti-reality. I’m also reading contemporary. Why you ask: because Erica also wants to read about reality. The mind that creates stories is complex enough to have to read varying genres to fight ennui.
Never fear: nothing will EVER inspire me to write historical. I love it, but just like novellas and short stories, I couldn’t write it if my life depended on it.
What does this mean for my writing future: I don’t know. M&M holds my undivided attention because it is so involved, twisted, character-driven. And as you can see from earlier books in the series vs later books, I refuse to add sex for the sake of sex. Any and all sex is to drive the story.
So I find myself with some negativity on Good Girl, not only for the addiction theme, but for the lack of erotica. Nowhere do I list this book as a sex-fest. I know readers do like smut, and I have nothing against it. I do not enjoy smut, so therefore I cannot write smut. So to negatively rate Good Girl because you are judging it against M&M or books in differing genres, is ludicrous. Good Girl, the Blended series, is NOT erotica, so to judge it against erotic is like judging Harry Potter against Fifty Shades. While Good Girl has sexual situations and themes, because real life has those, it is not a sex book. Never was, never will be, and I will make no apologies for it either. Other books in the Blended series, the sex will vary by the character. I’m not cookie-cutter. My characters are complex and different than the others. One book will not be a repeat of the last with the names and locations changed.
Is there anything I haven’t written? Any line I’ve refused to cross? I can understand why M&M readers would be blindsided by… borderline normal in Blended, but that doesn’t change a dang thing. I am the immovable object, and the only unstoppable force I will ever concede to is my own mind. Negativity will NEVER get me to move. It will only get me to become even more unbending. I’m always baffled by some comments and emails I get. My characters are dominant being. Who do you think created them? Exactly.
While many of my hardcore M&M fans will NOT enjoy Good Girl, the small following of Blended fans will NOT like Restraint. Why, you ask: because Erica Chilson is not a one-trick-pony. I have the capacity to write differing genres with equal fervor. I can write both, and I don’t ask my readers to read both. I’m good with two separate followings with a group of readers that straddle the genres. Just as my tastes have evolved over time, my writing does as well. Just as I was as a child, I am easily bored. I need both anti-reality and reality to keep myself interested… and an interested Wicked Writer writes better books than a writer that feels pressured into writing what readers want.