For the most part, my readers are awesome and supportive. You’ll see no argument from me. However, every once in a long while, I will run into a reader who starts one of my books and evidently has a violent reaction to it. At that point, I’ll usually see a review or note that reads something like, “I had no idea there was this much sex in it!”
Um, seriously? Have you looked at the majority of romance and paranormal books out there? Plus, are you aware that when you’re reading one of my books and it has the words “Horrorotica” on the front of the book, or bodies of sexy individuals on the front cover, as in the Mrs. McGillicuddy series, that these are erotica-centered (or, at the very least, erotica-friendly) books?
Mrs. McGillicuddy seems to be raising the most eyebrows of late, so let me state for the record that even though there are steampunk elements in the books, and it’s set in an alternative world run on steam-power and influenced by Victorian fashion and etiquette, the Mrs. McGillicuddy series is actually a part of the “urban fantasy” genre, and is closer in kin and kith to books like the Anita Blake or Kitty Norville series, rather than such books as The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger or Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. That’s not to say I don’t love and admire these books, because I do, but I have to admit that I intentionally avoided these books while I was creating the series. I didn’t want to accidentally imitate them while I was in the middle of world-building my own series, because reading is a very subconscious activity, and it’s easy to integrate other writers’ world-building into your own, if you’re not careful. Actually, if you want to know, I was reading the Sookie Stackhouse series while I was writing A Clockwork Vampire. It’s a safe series for me because I find it vaguely interesting, it allows me to follow what’s popular among my female audience, but doesn’t contain any elements I have any interest in.
So yeah, this is my plea. Please don’t start reading the series and then complain “But it’s not really steampunk!” I mean, what is steampunk? What is any genre? Before there were paranormals, books like the Anita Blake series and Tanya Huff’s Blood Series would have been shoveled under the heading of Horror. Then Paranormal comes along, and suddenly any book with a vampire protagonist in it is slated under that genre heading instead. These books were breakthroughs. Almost nothing like them had existed prior to their creation.
And besides, why does steampunk, or any new sub-genre, have to follow a specific blueprint? This confuses me, the girl without a genre. Why are there these detailed rules and regulations that authors have to follow, or somehow they’re not doing it right? Are there Genre Police? Will they be taking me away? And why does putting some steamy sex into a steampunk story somehow invalidate it? Especially considering that the steampunk erotica sub-genre seems to be thriving? (No, really. Check Amazon.)
Lastly, I wanted to say that if you’re reacting badly to “all that sex going on in books today,” I really, seriously, think you should work harder at filtering your reading material. I’m totally cool with your reasoning, by the way, whether it’s because of your religion, or that you’re asexual, or because you just don’t enjoy reading about adult sexuality, be it straight, gay, or some combination. That’s your prerogative, and you have every right to read, or not read, whatever you wish. But please, try and look over the book you’re about to read. There are usually some pretty obvious signs that the book has sexual content in it. If you feel you can’t handle it, don’t read it. I promise there are still many, many books out there with little to no sexual content—Christian literature, British cozies, classics. The list goes on and on. In fact, Harlequin has whole lines dedicated to “sweet” romances for those who want to read romance without the “pink parts”.
Reading a book and being offended by its sexual content is not the fault of the writer. You can always stop. And as a last parting thought, please try and be more flexible with your approach to genre tropes. Remember that many of us writers are working hard to expand the existing genres, to go places where others have not in an attempt to bring you something new and to keep the genres from going stale and cold.
OK, I’ll stop ranting now. Carry on.