Friday, July 13, 2012

Steaminess Issues

Three more days until the party starts. Remember, Taken by Storm goes on sale for $0.99 and Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer will be free. The contest post will go live Monday morning. I'm gathering questions for Michael and Leesie's Q&A sessions Tuesday and Thursday. I've got some good ones already. Every one who asks a question will get an extra contest entry. Feel free to leave yours in the comments below.

This post became my mantra! We were getting settled in Singapore when I wrote it.

Steaminess Issues
from "Storm's Story," July 25, 2008

Rachel called me this morning--last night her time. A box of books landed on her dorm apartment step yesterday. Her today. Oh, the international date line is going to do me in.

My advance reader copies are done. I’m still waiting for mine, but I had Lexa send most of them to Rachel at BYU. She says they look great--just like a real book. She sat down and read it straight for four hours, and then had to hurry and get ready to go to a Bollywood movie with friends. I’m so offended. She put down my book for Bollywood? She has read it before, and she spent most of her 24th of July holiday reading it. I suppose I can forgive her.
Here's the original cover. The ARCs looked just like this except they had a big pink "advanced readers copy not for sale" square plastered on it. I've got a PDF of the ARC cover, but I need a JPG to load it here. 

Rachel read me Lexa’s editor’s note from the front. These are paperback review copies so there isn’t a dedication or acknowledgements. But there is a note from the editor. I’ll post that as soon as I get it. Lexa describes Taken by Storm in a way I never could. She makes it sound sooo steamy.

This is Lexa's letter that was published inside the ARC. Can you read it?

Down at the bottom on the back of the galley cover, it says the age range for Taken by Storm is "12 and up." I’ll let you in on an industry secret. In the United States, books that are shelved in the 14 and up section have, what the industry calls, “content.” That usually means explicit sex scenes, drug use, and/or vulgar language. Twelve and up is for the same age group, but no content--well, considerably less content. The age range labels don’t always make it onto the back of the books sold to the general public, but your booksellers shelve them that way. If you aren’t sure, ask them if you need help. And every publisher’s online catalog includes the age ranges. If you are looking for books that don’t have explicit content and gross language, don’t shop in the fourteen and up section. You never know what you’ll get on the next page.

Even though Taken by Storm, is probably as steamy as Lexa says it is, I’m proud of that 12 and up “rating.” (A lot of people in the industry would faint to hear me call it that, but in essence, that’s what it is. Movie and video game people don’t throw a hissy over ratings, but book people, even in the children’s and YA field, are sensitive to anything that approaches censorship, no doubt for good cause. Good books are banned and challenged regularly.)

In my novel, readers will get a frank depiction and discussion of teen sexuality--from Leesie’s abstinence to Michael’s experience. There are lots of great kissing scenes. I love to write romantic kissing scenes. And Michael challenges Leesie. Those scenes are as authentic as I could make them. But they aren’t explicit. I’ve drawn a line that I won’t cross. You won’t have to skip pages when you read my novel, but you won’t be patronized, either.

I want my readers to know that if my name is on the front cover of a book--no matter what age range is on the back--you are safe. You won’t be bombarded with an explicit sex scene you weren’t expecting and didn’t want to read. There are plenty of authors who write that material. Some do it well. Some slip into something that verges on porn. I offer something different.

There are intimate moments in Taken by Storm. My characters have hormones like everyone else. I hope and pray that I handle those moments with taste and decency. My characters deserve their privacy, deserve to hang onto their dignity, deserve our respect. They are sharing a personal, intimate journey with us. We can at least give them that.

That said, can you take that rating literally? Is this a novel for twelve-year-olds? That depends on the twelve-year-old.

I didn’t write Taken by Storm with younger teens in mind. But when I think about the messages our beautiful, impressionable junior high age girls are getting these days about what to wear, what to do, what to sacrifice, what to risk--all in the name of getting attention from guys, I say, sure, why not.

Please, honey. Absorb some of Leesie’s strength, taste her spirit. Appreciate Michael’s honesty and sensitivity.  Acknowledge his pain. Think again before you get caught up in the storm of dangerous, demeaning behavior that’s raging out there in your high school--in your junior high. Don’t sacrifice who you are, who you are destined to become. Don’t threaten the mature relationship that will last a life time chasing popularity that will not last to the morning.

Don’t buy the lie. As women and girls, we lose if all feminism ends up bringing us is a sexual revolution that demeans the sacredness of our bodies and turns the intimate acts of committed love into sport and recreation that can damage our very ability to become mothers.

I cheer when I see how well girls are doing. How smart you are. How hard you work. You will change the world. You already are.

But some of you out there are breaking my heart. Leesie and Michael’s story is my special gift to you.

I promise I don’t preach like this in the book. That’s not allowed in fiction. But it sure feels good to get it off my chest.

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