Monday, January 9, 2012

How I Got over My Sex-Scene-Writing Embarrassment with Ruthie Knox

I'm so delighted to have Ruthie Knox back on the blog today, talking about something that I think will relate to all of us who write on the spicier side of the fence. 

But before I hand over to Ruthie, I'm over at Everybody Needs A Little Romance on the 10th (US time), and I'd love some comment love - hint hint!

Oh, You Scandalous Woman! or, How I Got over My Sex-Scene-Writing Embarrassment

I recently had an appointment for my annual lady-parts checkup, and when my (female) gynecologist unfolded the stirrups and asked me to scoot my butt down to the edge of the table, I said, “Oh, I have something interesting we can talk about for this part! I’ve been writing romance novels. They’re really sexy.”

And somewhere in rural Ohio, the Ruthie Knox of twenty years ago keeled over and DIED.

You see, when I was a teenager, my mother was a practicing midwife. There was a pelvic model on our dining-room table. There was, at one time, somebody’s placenta in our refrigerator. My mom had long, involved telephone conversations with strange women about mucous—the private kind of mucous. And I Would Not Talk about Sex. Not with my mother, not with my friends, not with anybody, anywhere, ever.

I did, however, read a lot of sexy romance novels. I liked to think about sex. I certainly assumed I would some day be having sex. It was just the whole conversation thing. The whole being-at-ease-with-the-fact-that-actual-human-people-have-sex thing. I couldn’t handle it.

I don’t have a dramatic story about how all of that changed. I just grew up, I guess, in the usual way that people do. I went to a liberal college and got more comfortable with my inborn feminism, et cetera, and so on. If one wants to have sex, one needs to be able to talk about it. Particularly if one wants to have good sex. So I fumbled my way through the awkwardness and got over it.

But when I started writing romance, there was another level of discomfort to get past—a sort of knee-jerk siren in my head that screamed SEX! SEX! YOU’RE WRITING ABOUT SEX! EVERYONE WILL READ IT AND THINK ABOUT YOU WHILE THEY’RE READING IT AND THEY’LL KNOW YOU HAVE SEX AND THEY’LL WONDER IF IT’S ABOUT YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND OMIGAAAAAHD!

I’m pretty sure every romance writer has this siren, although volume levels may vary.

Mine was remarkably easy to switch off—all it took was one person. In the early months after I started writing, a friend of mine said she’d love to read the manuscript that turned out to be Ride with Me. I was thrilled, but also extremely nervous. “There’s sex in it!” I told her. And this friend—a wonderfully blunt woman—asked me, “You do know I’ve had sex, right? I’ve even read books with sex in them. I think I can handle it.”

So I took a deep breath and sent her the file. And then later I sent it to my parents. And after that I let my husband read it. And several of my friends.

And it was fine.

Getting comfortable with being someone who writes sex scenes for public consumption is a multistage process, but so is getting comfortable with sexuality generally, as a human woman. We get so many mixed messages about our bodies and what we’re supposed to do with them, what we’re supposed to want to do with them, what we should want other people to think about them/us—it’s tricky business, with a large Sidecar of Shame that threatens to slam into us if we navigate it wrong.

But it’s only fictional sex, you know? It’s not like I’m killing puppies. So when I heard recently that a few of my relatives by marriage who I don’t know particularly well have preordered Ride with Me, I gulped, and then I let it go. I hope they like it! Since these relatives all have children, I’m going to go ahead and assume they’ve had sex. They can probably handle my smutty, romantic, monogamous novelized version. Maybe they’ll even like it! Maybe my fictional sex will make the real, live lady parts of these real, live women feel happy.


But also, yay!

As for my gynecologist, I left her with my website address and a promise that I’ll still come back for my annual when I’m glamorous and famous. If she’s lucky, I’ll autograph her stirrups.

RUTHIE's fab debut Ride with Me is available from Loveswept on February 13, 2012!

In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!

When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.

Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.

Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?


 Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.

One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital copy of Ride with Me. Good luck to all!  To win, all you have to do is let us know what you do shamelessly today that would mortify or disappoint the high school version of yourself!?

Rachael's answer - I eat Avocado!! Okay, so it's not very exciting but I despised the stuff then and now I actually quite ADORE it!!


Eleri Stone said...

I was surprised by how well friends and family reacted when I broke the "I wrote a book and it has sex in it" news. My favorite response was my sister's - "I love sex! I just had sex this morning!"
Good luck with the release. It sounds great.

Rachael Johns said...

Haha Eleri - I LOVE your sister's comment!!

Helen Lacey said...

When my elderly mother read my recently released book she whispered to my sister "where did she learn all that sex stuff?" I certainly wasn't about to tell her :)Great post.

Lacey Devlin said...

LOL! Ah, the wit :) That'll keep me laughing for the rest of the day. Great post!

Anonymous said...

"But it’s only fictional sex, you know? It’s not like I’m killing puppies."

Yay! Can I borrow that comeback for my less-than-understanding relatives??? Unfortunately I have a few of those. But that doesn't stop me from lettin' it rip in my books :)

Great post!!

serenabellbooks said...

Great post, ladies!

I was waaaaay more shameless in high school than I am now. But I do put the trash out in my pajamas these days. My high school self would have died first.

Ruthie, I had no idea your mom was a midwife--did I ever tell you I did a looong profile of a nurse midwife/home birth proponent about a year ago? Such a fun article to research. I have this vague idea for a midwife heroine somewhere in the back of my head as a result, but haven't yet made it turn into anything.

Anonymous said...

A woman who'd read one of my books looked me up and down and said witheringly 'Clearly you're obsessed...'
I don't have any problem writing sex scenes - but when I decided to produce audio versions of my books - I couldn't read the words aloud without collapsing into giggles. I was completely defeated by 'nipples'! Fortunately I have a good friend with a great voice who was able to do it for me.

Sue said...

Yes, Ruthie, it seems like you REALLY got over writing that 'sex-scene embarrassment', questioning whether you really had that, ahem - just teasing!!

Your stories are so romantic that the hot, steamy is just a compliment to it all -- love your post & RIDE WITH ME - great story!

Gina Leigh Maxwell said...


This had me laughing so hard I nearly snotted my coffee! That decibel level seems about right. Thinking that everyone would assume I was writing about my sex life was the hardest part for me. But then I got over it. Cuz, really, if they think that, more power to them. Or to me and my husband. *lol*

P.S. I so appreciated the WI accent in OMGahd. *squishes*

Trudy said...

I could never talk to my mom about sex until recently.. But there are somethings I could never discuss!.

Ruthie said...

Thanks for your kind comments, everybody!

@Eleri -- That's hilarious! Perfect response.

@Helen -- To which you might have replied, "I read about it in a book, Mom!"

@Aimee -- It's all yours!

@Gilly -- that's so funny. Yeah, I don't think I'm going to be clamoring to read audiobooks versions of my work. I'm not positive I can say "cock" without busting up in giggles.

@Gina -- "More power to them" -- exactly.

LS said...

This looks like fun, I love finding new authors, thanks

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