Like many novelists, I was slightly bitter when Fifty Shades of Grey took over the world. Here I was, a reasonably talented novel writer, who had poured countless hours of blood, sweat and tears into properly writing my books (each one took more than three years and several drafts to complete), only to have them sell a mere few thousand copies each.
Meanwhile, a not-all-that-brilliant story becomes an international best- seller and gets turned into a blockbuster movie, simply because the book is dirty. I can guarantee I wasn’t the only author in the world who shed a couple tears as Grey sat on the Top 10 sales list in bookstores across the planet, month after month.
It’s the age-old question: Does sex sell? Is society really so shallow that its latest literary fixation would be a series labelled mommy porn rather than something a little more spiritual or educational? Or does society simply need a break from reality? Maybe people just need to escape.
Even Disney is not so wholesome in all this! Each Disney movie that temporarily rules the world contains an element of the whole sex-sells thing—Elsa being their most recent pop-culture queen, with a sensual, diva-like presence.
Several of my own readers have complimented me for including just the right amount of nookie in my novels. I thought it ironic when my chick-lit book Cherry Blossoms won a National CBC Bookies Award for the Steamiest Read. The book really wasn’t all that steamy, but the story had one great sensual scene that was just provocative enough to titillate readers without being offensive.
In my novella Dead Rock Stars, about two-thirds into the plot, Jackson Hill and his love interest finally go at it on the kitchen counter. Just as the two are about to dive into supper, they dive into each other! They then hastily decide to skip the meal (for the time-being) as they lustfully make their way up to the bedroom. One of my biggest fans emailed me and said, “Wes, thank you for not taking me past that bedroom door!”
That email spoke volumes to me! A sassy contemporary novel doesn’t need pages and pages of sexual decadence, but it probably shouldn’t be as wholesome as a Sunday picnic either. A good writer must figure out where the balance is when it comes to including sexual content. That perfect balance has to work for both the author and the readers.
–Wes Funk is an Edmonton-based novelist and freelance writer. His novel Dead Rock Stars has been incorporated into various curricula and his book Cherry Blossoms won a National CBC Bookies Award.