It’s hard to get in the mood for love, when my toddlers wear me to the bone on a daily basis. By the time they’ve gone to bed, I’m a shattered mess. I spend most evenings either lying comatose on the couch, waiting for the inevitable wail which tells me they haven’t quite had enough of me yet, or frantically writing, ignoring everything and everyone around me, so that by bedtime I’m wired and my partner’s happily snoozing with the dogs for company.
The mood for love is as evasive as a good night’s sleep.
But I’ve come to the conclusion, it’s best to carry on regardless. Comatose or wired, tired or busy, love must surely conquer all.
This is how I felt earlier today, when I approached the love scene in my novel. Both girls were napping (a rare occurrence) and I flopped heavily onto the couch. Feet up, book poised, I was just about to (dare I say it!) relax, when I realised this was my chance to write, damn it, and I was gonna grab it with both hands and bloody well enjoy it! My characters were waiting for me. This was their chance for love. How could I let them down?
But how explicit would I go? It was a question I had asked myself quite frequently over the last few days. Yes, they were in a hotel room together. Yes, they fancied the hell out of each other. And yes, the outcome could quite possibly involve sex. But was I really going to describe their erotic bedroom antics to my readers? Perhaps there are some things that are best left private.
Although my partner might appreciate my amazing flexibility and prowess in the bedroom, I’m sure our neighbours wouldn’t.
No. I would hold something back, let the reader fill in the gaps. After all, my book is a crime story, not a top shelf erotica. The last thing I wanted to do was peak too early. I had to keep the reader guessing. I had to keep the reader wanting more.
In my opinion, the best sexual tension exists between characters who haven’t been to bed together yet. And after they have? It’s boring! Take Temperence Brennan and Agent Booth in TV series, Bones, for example. After she gets pregnant, who cares about them, honestly.
My partner would disagree. More action, more sex, more violence. That’s his general view on what a movie, TV series or book should contain. I wonder briefly if that’s a male point of view, or just him. I have to admit, the best movies seem to follow this formula. I’m not so sure about books though. Sometimes I prefer to enter a world that’s less ‘in your face’ than on screen.
Besides, I had to think about my characters. I had to stay true to their personalities.
My male protagonist, Ryan Price, is a detective, who is far from ‘at his best’. He drinks too much coffee, he never sleeps, he’s always late and he has the self confidence of a mouse. He’s been burnt: by the job, by his boss and most of all by his ex. The last thing on his mind is love. Yet his colleague, Kate Miller, stirs something within him that’s been buried since he arrived back in Perth. But it’s been so long, he’s unsure what’s stirring.
Kate, on the other hand, doesn’t hold back. She’s brash, smart and a laugh a minute. But the walls behind her jokes are tough to break down. And when Ryan learns of her past, he realises that she’s living in a place far from romance and relationships. Sex is something dirty, something scary, to Kate. Can Ryan really be the one to change her mind? Kate looks up to Ryan, but is it enough? She flirts like hell, but then laughs it off. It’s driving Ryan mad.
How are these two maniacs seriously gonna get it on? One’s too scared to be rejected, the other too scared to be approached. This was never going to work!
But they love each other (although they might not know it yet), and they’ve been friends for years. And seriously, tell me any other book where the main characters don’t have problems. That’s the whole idea isn’t it? Evolution of character, solving the hero’s conflict, resolving all the sticky bits?
I decided to reflect on other crime stories I’d read. Had I ever come across a love scene amongst dead bodies and forensics? I didn’t think so. Maybe it wasn’t conventional for the crime genre to enter the complicated world of romance. Maybe crime authors felt that love is something best left to the experts, like the Mills and Boon authors, with their structured plots and devices, hiding behind pen names, describing bodily parts as throbbing members.
I ventured into our study (4th bedroom), where row upon row of crime novels, sit ordered upon our Ikea Billy bookcases: Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, Robert Crais, Jonathan Kellerman, Ed McBain. Surely there was someone here who’d ventured into this territory before. Mickey Spillane surely would have banged a few broads after catching the bad guy?
But no. It’s always implied. Even the make up sex between Mickey Haller and ex wife Maggie McPherson is merely reflected upon the next morning. And he admits straight away: ‘we didn’t really make love.’
Oh, where was I going to find some juicy sex in a crime novel? For research purposes, of course.
Then I remembered Operation Paradise by Perth author, Sarah Evans, a cross genre novel, that blurs the lines between crime and romance. Amongst the abductions, explosions and murders, the main character, DI Eve Rock, always has time to admire the men in her life; in fact, the proceedings of her love life are as important as her detective work. There is flirting and kissing and even an exchange of bodily fluids, but, as I re-read the end, sadly, there is no sex scene. If this crime novel wasn’t going to go there, then I doubted any would.
So I had nothing to go on. It seemed that no-one had been there before. Was it really a territory I wanted to be first to discover? I’d certainly like to think I have no restrictions with my writing. And I’m not a published crime writer (I’m not even so sure what I’m writing is crime), so surely I can break the boundaries of the genre. But what if I’m just plain bad at it? No one wants to have a bad sexual experience, even if it’s just on paper.
Returning to my laptop, I make my decision. My fingers take off, whipping over the keys, seizing the moment with fist pumping enthusiasm. I’m in the mood for love! Yippee! And no-one is gonna stop me. My heart beats faster. My pupils dilate. I lick my lips. Perspiration gathers between my… and then my children wake up. Bugger.
Maybe I’d look at it again tomorrow.