June 13, 2010
Here’s the truth: if your characters engage in any type of sexual activity, if they even have a vaguely sexual thought, your readers are going to think it all comes directly from your own personal experience. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
In my first novel, Chemical Pink, there is a male character that likes to masturbate while playing with, and talking to, his fruit and vegetable dolls. He’s got a whole collection: the macho Eggplant doll, the Sweet Pea Sisters, the double headed Cherry Girl, the towering Zuchini boy. He gets comfortable in his bed and creates different scenarios in which he acts out his fantasies. Mr. Corn and Ms. Cantaloupe are particular favorites for the rough stuff.
I have never found these dolls even remotely exciting but my character Charles Worthington does. The vegetable doll scene in Chemical Pink was generated from deep within his mind. It was behavior that only he would understand based on a complicated maternal relationship and a deep seeded yearning for intimacy. The details of his life in no way mirror my own. Nevertheless, many of my readers believed they knew a little secret something about me after they read about Charles and his dolls. They wanted to see my collection. I kept telling them that I don’t own any dolls, that they are not interesting to me, but no one believed me. They just smirked and winked and felt privy to my dark little secret. I’m sure they called all their friends, spread the word. And there was nothing I could do about it.
The Wentworths is filled with sex because sex drives interesting behavior and I believe most people are either running towards or away from it for a good portion of their lives. Again in this novel I have a male character, Norman Wentworth, who thinks and does some unusual things. He has cannibalistic fantasies involving his family members. He dreams of wearing animal pelts and a penis shaft made from the leg-bone of his neighbor’s German Shepherd. HE’S A GAY MAN. I am a heterosexual woman. But as with Chemical Pink, many of my readers thought they were joining me in my bedroom when they read about Norman’s escapades. No point in arguing.
My new novel, Point Dume, has got sex. Of course it does. And one of the main characters resembles me. She’s a woman who shares many of my beliefs; she does some of the same stuff that I like to do. And she lives exactly where I live. Those readers who are looking for clues into my personal life are going to think they’ve hit the jackpot with this new novel. I can just see the smug, knowing expressions right now.
So how do I handle this? I laugh–because it is pretty funny, if you think about it. For every reader who believes I put on a silkworm costume and roll around on the floor while someone tries to squash me, I say, “Oh, you’re so clever. You figured me out.” And for those who feel they can confess their deepest darkest fantasies to me because they think I’ll understand them now that they’ve read a particularly lurid spanking scene, well, I plead with them—PLEASE DON’T SHARE. The reader can think they know my secrets but really, I don’t want to know theirs. I try and keep a firm line between fiction and reality.