Beyond “Mother, May I?” or Parental Advisory

Well, this is awkward.

When I told my mother that I was writing a fairy tale remix novel, she asked if this was a story she could read  (I have a bit of a history). I told her yes, of course it was. Then I caught myself. The story isn’t rampant with sexual encounters, but there are a few. I laughed, amused at the strange turn of events and told Mom I would put paper clips and Post-It notes on the steamier pages in question that she might not want to read. I remember hearing or reading about someone whose mother or father did that to her daughter’s reading material. I also remember hearing from a friend that she got a book at a book sale and realized halfway through that the naughty bits were censored with White-Out.

I never – and I mean never, even in my sexier novels – write sex scenes gratuitously, for the shock and awe of it, any more than I write my violent bits just for the thrill. I don’t mind including thrills and chills in my stories, cheap or not, but they need to go with the story. They have to have a purpose.

And as I write, I have a policy: I’ll care about other people’s opinions after I finish writing. And even then, I won’t let other people’s opinions tarnish the integrity of the story. I’m at the mercy of my plot and characters, and sometimes people want to have sex and sometimes people want to hurt each other – just like real life – and those are things I don’t want to shy away from because of some socially ephemeral sense of modesty. There are times when a fade out is tasteful and acceptable for a scene; there are other times when it’s just a cop out for people who don’t feel comfortable writing them or don’t know how.

What I’ve learned is that the more I try to direct the plot, the more I try to hide things or make them more acceptable to this kind of person or that kind of person, and the more I censor and censure myself, then the less honest and the more forced the writing becomes and the less I believe it. And that just ain’t right. If I’m going to write something, I’m going to devote myself to it entirely and just prepare to put out the fires later. Writing isn’t a profession for timidity, and it’s one of the only areas in which I really work not to be timid. It’s easier in print.

I feel like an actress starring in a R-rated movie in which you bare yourself to the gaze of millions of people. It’s exciting, and you’re all puffed up and proud, until your mother asks if she can go see it. You duck, blush, and grin and tell her to wait for the network television version. There are just some things mothers don’t need to know.

(<3 you, Mom)

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