Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Story - a little rant on 'coming out'

Just need to have a little rant today.

I went to Book Club this week to discuss Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. It was a book I'd read some time in my youth and I picked up all the feminism stuff then, but reading it now, as a writer, all the writing stuff is so pertinent. It was magical to read about the history of women's writing and the theories Virginia Woolf gave as to why women did not write before the 1800s. I loved to see myself along that chain of women who because of the hard work women did in the past, I can now write. I carry the legacy forward and so my writing needs to reflect that history in some way.

I haven't "come out" to my Book Group about my writing for a few reasons - one being that they're mostly in their 70s and I'm not sure erotic writing is something I'm comfortable discussing with them. Another reason is for the fact that some of the birds in the group denigrate romance writing openly and scathingly, and with no foundation. And there's another woman who writes and I'm sick to death of hearing about her writing all the time (which is her autobiography).

Tonight I thought was the perfect opportunity to confess and to explain how this book touched me so deeply. However, before it was my turn to speak, we had a woman say, " Barbara Cartland and all that junk." Not long later she said, "...oh, the Mills and Boon rubbish..." and then in another breath, "...most romance should never be published...". But the best was, "I was so shocked to find The Story of O was written by a woman." When asked why, she explained that women should never have such fantasies. It was "disgusting" (her word). NOTE: I was pleased to see most women had read this book!

I have to say that there isn't a huge amount of support for her views (she's quite loud and most of us try to ignore her) but it's this brash, loud, negativity which stops a lot of conversations - not only me with my writing, but maybe there are readers there too, or others with things she dismisses so easily. I know there are romance readers in our group because the romance comment came after someone asked for romance titles.

I know she is only one woman, but a very loud one. I don't do well with that sort of person.

There's a need to be in contact with 'readers' so that people hear about my books and will buy them, or read them. But how do we get in touch with readers? And do we need to be selective about who we call our 'readers'.

I am very cautious about who is told about my writing. I have some aunts who I know would be horrified, and I chose not to tell them exactly what I write. My Dad isn't quite so selective - he just tells them I'm writing, mentions erotica and I'm not sure what happens, if they think he has it muddled up, or if they think they heard wrong, but nothing else gets said (or not to me).

I did point out to Dad the other day that the local Catholic priest's housekeeper is unlikely to want to read my book. He was a bit shocked.
"Why not?" he asks, in all naivety.
"It's called 'The Virginity Mission', Dad, do you really think a Catholic priest's housekeeper is going to want to read about sex? About a girl trying to lose her virginity?"
"Oh, I didn't think of that," says my Dad.
I mean what planet is he on?

My sisters on the other hand, are not at all like my Dad, and are more like some aunts. I had magnets made with my last book cover. I offered them to my sisters for their fridge, friends, etc. They declined. I asked if they were too embarrassed to have such a racy cover on their fridge (being funny) - but they are. Then one sister confessed that in a drunken moment she had told her friends what I wrote, and while they roared with laughter, my sister cringed. When I asked why she wouldn't give my magnets to her friends, she said it was just all too embarrassing.

And that's what it is. Sex is all too embarrassing. For all I try to think it isn't. For all I try to treat it as a normal every day subject, society doesn't (or not the one I live in!).

But my openness about sex has been useful. I could give my sister some information about females who can pee standing up!

So... will I ever come out to all people? No. I can't see that ever happening.

And you know what makes me saddest about that... I'm only writing erotic fiction. What if I was trying to announce my sexuality? How confronting must that be?


  1. This is so interesting...
    When I started writing 'romance', I didn't want anyone to know either, hence the pseudonym. Slowly, slowly, I've come out of my own closet. Now I'm fairly happy to talk about it.
    My mum has read my two books (I know you have too - so you'll know that they're kind of on the steamy end of contemporary but not erotica)... she told me at the weekend that my aunt has now read both books, borrowing her daughter's kindle to do it on. She told my mum she enjoyed them.
    The other aunt was so keen to read my book, she told my mum she wanted her own 'signed' copy... I had to explain at that point that it was a digital book only.
    Anyway. Those 3 ladies (mum & her two sisters) are about as conservative as I think you'd find, yet 2 of the 3 have said they enjoyed my books.
    My father who I never wanted to know that I wrote - has apparently told his local lawn bowls club all about his daughter who writes - including telling them the book title and that you can get it on Amazon. (And yes, he knows there's sex in the books).
    So to this woman who dominates your book club, I think it's a shame if others in the book club feel they can't openly discuss whatever they want to discuss without fear of ridicule. I saw a good argument about romance, which is books like Pride & Prejudice, & Wuthering Heights, which are all-time classics.
    Anyone can write an autobiography, right?
    As for your sisters, that's a stranger one. I've got your magnet on my fridge! I've told my sister that I don't mind her telling any of her friends that I write; and I think she's shared it with a few people.
    When they're not as caught up in this whole book deal as we are, as writers & in our writing & community of self-promotion, and promoting our friends - they probably just aren't in the mind-set to continually be thinking about talking about writing.
    I'd imagine if people ask my sister something like: "what's lily doing now"... she'd probably say, oh she has two boys and they just moved back here and they're building a new house and she's working in admin... " I think all that would be first & foremost in her mind, not my writing.

    Long response - hope it makes sense!
    Next time that awful lady starts dominating the conversation, stare her down boldly and ask if she has any idea how hard it is to write a good romance novel, and get it published!


    1. Oh, that's awesome that your aunties have read your story and loved them. I'm so pleased that your Dad is proud too and telling his mates. It makes your heart glow when they do that, doesn't it?

      Gosh, sounds like I have to be brave and just own my stuff and to hell with others' response. Man, I'm such a chicken! But I'm not going to get anywhere unless I am brave and tell people.

      Okay, so I started this blog to get myself some braveness... Better start making it work now.

      Thanks, Lily. I hope next time I can come back and say I was brave and proud!

      Cate xoxo