Friday, March 18, 2011

Taking Chances

After I finished writing The Impersonator, it occurred to me that many of my loyal readers would not be thrilled with it. It was a bit different than some of what I’ve written in that Ben, the main character, deals with the pain and self-doubt and imperfections he sees in himself by having sex, sometimes with not so great guys. He’s a slut.

After a while of writing several stories many writers decide they want to take a chance on throwing something new into the mix. I admit this is a big chance because if you got out too far from what your core readers expect of you it can damage your readership. Think I am exaggerating?

Say you are an established M/M author wildly popular with readers. Never in your entire career have you included two men with a woman in your story. Suddenly you decide to do this. You feel this establishes a character trait for one of your heroes. Your readers write scathing reviews of how you disappointed them. They never expected YOU of all authors to do this to them.

You are writing a popular M/M series. One book you decide to get a little adventurous and you have a short M/M/M scene in the book because it sets up the character. Suddenly readers are calling for your head. Talking about how they can’t trust you, they won’t be reading one of your books again for a while, maybe never. You broke their trust, they say.

You’ve established your couple, are bringing them down the road to happiness with a few bumps and then…one hero cheats on the other. In an already established relationship. Run for the hills because the readers are coming at you with pitchforks.

You write a popular M/M vampire series and several books into the series you suddenly decide to add a third character to their relationship. Readers scream, ARE YOU NUTS?

These are real scenarios I’ve seen in books and reactions.

Sure a very popular M/M author will survive such scenarios but there are some readers you may never get back and if you are going to be adventurous you should keep this in mind.

In the beginning, I wrote both M/F and M/M books. Even in my first M/M book, Another Chance (first one written) Aubrey was bisexual and had sex with a woman in the first part of the book. He was madly in love with Daniel, but sought comfort from his pain in the arms of a woman he’d known most of his life and who, possibly, bore his children. It never occurred to me in those early days that some strict M/M readers would be bothered by that scene, but some were. Now in my current writing career I would not write a scene with a woman.

Also, back in those early days, anxious to get my career as an erotic romance author going, I volunteered to write a ménage and not just any ménage, but a M/M/F. I knew as soon as I sat down to write it I didn’t want to do it. Now I would never volunteer and if I had, I would admit to my editors that I didn’t want to write the story and get out of it. But then, well, I didn’t want to come off as a flake. So I wrote A Knight For All. Even die-hard fans cringe in dismay when they come across that one. It’s got its fans, some people liked it. But not my die-hard M/M only fans. I’ve joked that if I ever revisited Gregory and Edward from the story, it would begin with Katherine’s funeral.

I no longer write M/F because as a reader it just doesn’t do it for me anymore so if I don’t even like to read it (with very few exceptions) why would I want to write it? So, I CAN guarantee that no matter how adventurous I become, you won’t see a woman in a sexual relationship in one of my books again.

However, what I am going to do in my cop partners serial killer story (sorry it doesn’t have a title, lol), is have one hero already with someone when the story begins. The other partner is in love with him, but there is nothing he can do about it. I don’t know if this will cause panic among readers or not, but that is the way I feel the story needs to begin.

I’ve taken chances before by having a cheater, Brad. And though many readers forgave Brad just as Justin did, I still get some who just can’t get past what he did. Not everything you write will work for every reader, not even your die-hard fans. Most often if your die-hard fans are disappointed in your latest offering, they will still buy and read your books.

Am I saying don't write out of the norm, don't take chances? No. As a writer myelf I couldn't say that, but be prepared. The reaction could be not quite what you were prepared for.


  1. In fact, I think one of the scenarios you've described happened this past week...

    I can definitely see that it's a tough place for an author to be. I can often (but not always) deal with some of the curveballs you've described if the author is skillful and I can see why the author wrote the scene that why. If it's gratuitous, I have more trouble.

    I'll have to warn you that the most likely reason for me not reading your described WIP is the serial killer aspect. Serial killers squick me out! O.O

    I like my veri word: catem. Sounds like a command: Cat 'em!

  2. You are correct one of the scenarios was quite recent.

    I understand on the serial killer. I won't ever get into the SK's head though and it won't be violent descriptions because that's just not me. But certainly I can understand anyone's reluctance there.

  3. But Ben was a loveable slut ;)

    Risks are tricky. They can sometimes pay off or not. And sometimes it's hard to tell when you're writing a book if a risk will hit a hot button or not with readers. I try to tell myself not to worry about it, but it seems like the more books I write, the more I worry about such things, you know? Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss when it comes to writing.

  4. I hate when that happens. Hate it. So it's good to know that you will never add a woman in your books. ^_^

    Adding another male I can take, but not a woman ... I like to read about guys, I don't want a woman suddenly thrown in the middle. I'm not particularly fond of them in fiction (unless it's f/f, and then I don't want a man thrown in the middle...)

    As to cheating... I hate it. Brad cheated on Justin, whom he ends up with. If a character cheats on someone with the one he ends up with in the end... then it's different. Am I making myself understood?^^

    If the MC cheats on the other MC, I will hate it. But if he cheats on a minor character with the other MC, then I don't mind so much because then the MC is his one true love. So long as he doesn't go back in bed with the other character after being with the other MC, I'm fine with it. I think.. ^.^

  5. You know your loyal fans love your work. There are going to be some books we like better than others but one of the reasons you're such a terrific writer is you do take chances. If you wrote the same story over and over it would be boring for you after a while, wouldn't it?
    I say keep taking chances. Wherever you take us, we'll enjoy the journey getting there.
    Love you, Ma

  6. As a reader and fan, I can only suggest writing what makes you happy. I grew up reading category romances and Linda Howard & Iris Johansen were two of my favorite authors. I was pretty devastated when they eventually moved to mainstream fiction & thrillers respectively, but I never for a minute begrudged them their subsequent success and happiness in their new genres.

    Your situation seems similar, IMO. How can you grow and evolve as an author if you don't honor your inner muse? Is it worth the potential negative feedback? That's for you to decide.

    By the way, in an effort at full disclosure, I reviewed A Knight for All for Rainbow Reviews and I remember liking it a lot. Not sure that helps, but at least you know that you have fans who will support your writing no matter what. And who knows? You might be able to garner even more fans with your new stories. Good luck.