Sometimes, the lessons learned are not the ones the teacher intended.
I have been deeply concerned from the start, with the quality of my writing. The time I spend editing, running spelling checks, checking grammar, getting beta readers to find plot holes, errors in tense, and so on, is probably four times the amount spent writing.
I want to sell my books, of course, but I also want to be respected and admired as an author. I love it when a reviewer calls my prose “exquisite,” as some have done. I get a thrill when readers say that my characters are complex and developed. I get heart palpitations when someone tells me that they wish our world was like Daniel’s Fork. Still, not every reviewer and reader hones in on the things that I consider the “elements” of a good book.
I have a habit that has turned out to be a double-edged blade: my insistence that everything I do, I do to the best of my ability. I firmly hold to my opinion that while I write “fiction,” and that entails a certain degree of creativity when it comes to story telling, my characters should be as true to their nature as I can make them.
My main example is William Evers. I structured him as a non-conformist, a rebel at heart. My crafting of his personality in Daniel’s Fork was done with the objective that he should not be liked by the reader too soon. The reader will like Setiyah best, then Jonas and Eric. Later, in the sequel novella, Will begins to grow in the reader’s affections. A clearer picture of the protagonist develops. He has, after all, a whole series during which he’ll develop and become the man he is meant to be.
Will Evers is amoral, insensitive, arrogant, and ambitious- not good traits for a hero! He is also sexually uninhibited and dominant. The original title of the book was A Whore and a Rogue, and it pertained entirely to him! So, if my lead male is a whore and a rogue, he must be a strongly sexual character, and his sexuality must reflect his amorality!
As a result of William’s character, I knew I had to have erotic scenes in the novel, but I did not want to write a book that was erotica. I opted to include two chapters in the novel that have erotic content. Two chapters out of thirty five is not too much; the novel is a mystery after all. A romance would have much more sexual content.
True to my ethic, the erotic content would have to be explicit and done well. After all, a stallion like Will Evers would have to be true to character, as in great in bed. Each erotic scene took the entire chapter. The scenes came out, in my opinion, well indeed! However, in the overall scheme of things, the prose, the characters, the setting, the humor, the tone, and atmosphere are the things I spent most of my time crafting, and the ones that make me most proud.
Reviewers and readers, however, don’t have the same mindset. I found, to my surprise, that the things most reviewers zoomed into first, were the sex scenes!
A few reviewers commented that the scenes were “gratuitous” and unnecessary. One reviewer called them “as close to pornography” as you could get. Some called them “the best erotic scenes” they’ve ever read.
A couple of reviewers went as far as saying that they only gave the book four stars because of the explicit sexual content. Others gave it five stars because of the sexual content. But whatever each one said, one thing was obvious: the scenes made an impact, and any author would be a fool not to use “impact” to his or her own purpose.
It occurred to me that this was something I could turn to my advantage. I could possibly use the erotic content to draw attention to the series. I aimed to do something daring: something I never would have considered two years ago. I decided to use the explicit erotic chapters, not only the ones in Daniel’s Fork, but also ones from the other books, and release them as a separate erotica collection.