Long before I realized it, I was writing about power. My novels are concerned with sex. With the complex, troubling, joyous experience of sex. With the mess. With the fuck ups of fucking. With the vulnerability.
Too often sex is portrayed in books as this unlikely experience — a kind of pyrotechnics to make flat characters seem more lifelike. Or it’s truncated as though we must not speak of it. Like some teaser from a black-and-white movie where the door closes as the couple looks at the bed.
You can tell a lot about a character by the kind of sex she has. And it would be odd if she didn’t have sex. It would tell the reader things about her — hopefully things you’ve considered as the writer. One of the most curious things about Tipping the Velvet, for instance, is that Nan doesn’t know what “tipping the velvet” means when she overhears prostitutes using the expression. We’ve spent hundreds of pages watching her have explicit sex, but Flo has to explain what it means. And that’s a huge character moment for both of them. Flo is not some sexless unimaginative socialist, she’s aware and she’s not haughty about sharing her awareness. And Nan, for all her experience, is initiated into the frank sexuality of the lower class.
In my second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, I write about sex in a more forthright way than I was able to in Red Audrey and the Roping. I suspect that part of that is because I was moving away from lyricism and also because so much happens between these characters with little overt action. My second novel is subtle. And, I think, better, than my first.
In exactly one month, I’m going to premiere my video series set in Spokane. Half of the videos will introduce you to curiosities about this town, and the other half with highlight spots from my second novel — places that I lifted and fictionalized. Sometimes just lifted. If you haven’t bought a copy of my book, please do. That way you’ll be able to request spots you’d like to see. Or argue with me about my assertion that I write about sex. Or some other third thing.
1 thought on “Serious people don't write about sex. And other lies.”
I loved both your books. Loved them. Thought about them for a long time after I finished them. It did bother me a bit that as mature as Field Guide was, you seemed to avoid writing about sex. I wasn’t expecting graphic, gratuitous scenes. But there was a stark absence of those scenes.mi wondered why, and it’s interesting that you wrote a post about it.