I re-edited Fan Mail. It still has plenty of rather kinky sex but no spanking sessions. It is just too much all at once. I imagine that men had no trouble with the original version, but women might find the spanking offputting. I am introducing a radical sexual idea: sharing a committed partner with another. It is difficult to convince female readers to suspend disbelief when the heroine allows her partner’s ex-wife to get him off. I think it works in the story’s context, but I’m not sure a female reader could put herself into the heroine’s shoes and do that.
Could Mrs. Lion imagine letting a friend masturbate me? I could (and did in the book!) imagine that. But it feels like a giant reach for a woman to imagine herself allowing that. Even if she could accept the concept, could she take the bigger risk of including another woman? This is what I think is the biggest challenge in writing fiction. It’s easy to identify with a character who solves mysteries and does heroic deeds. That is standard fare for romantic fiction. It’s also easy to identify with a woman having passionate sex and falling in love. Going further seems very risky.
Fifty Shades of Grey combined female-submission with romantic adventure. It was an enormous success. Obviously, the BDSM included in the story would be a stretch for most readers, but the underlying premise is very standard romantic fare. The genre is full of examples of women captured and forced into some sort of servitude, only to fall in love with their captors. Grey is no different. The only variation is that our heroine is involved in consensual BDSM. The reader has to leap into imagining consenting to accept what will be done to her.
The vast majority of people can get aroused thinking of being in a submissive position, especially if submitting includes orgasms. Women, who are the majority of romance novel readers, enjoy imagining themselves in this role. The author of the novel doesn’t have to do much character development work to advance this story.
What happens if the heroine takes the dominant role? If we start with her being sexually dominant, we almost certainly have limited ourselves to a mostly-male audience. I want to reach a much larger female audience. I can’t explain why I want to lead the ladies into suspending disbelief and imagining themselves as dominant. I don’t mean BDSM-mistress dominant. I am thinking of a much deeper, more subtle dominant role.
My heroine starts as a vanilla, sexually inexperienced woman. She meets a man who is as inexperienced as she. He has an established problem with initiating sex. She senses this and responds by taking the lead. She finds the power arousing. Here is where I think the trap lies. Just because it turns her on to control sex doesn’t mean she is ready to discipline him. In Fan Mail, she gains self-confidence and a strong sense of security. One way she expresses this is to share her partner in limited situations. That is the big stretch for the reader.
Like spanking, it isn’t essential to the story. I see this story arc being similar to BDSM in Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s an expansion of the female role in the relationship. It’s a sexual expression of power and security. At least that’s my thinking as the author. I want my heroine to use her power in a feminine way to express the deep love she has for her partner.
The logical question I’m sure you may be thinking of asking is: Would I want this with Mrs. Lion? Well, the truth is that I don’t know. She is already in charge, and unlike the edited heroine in Fan Mail, she does spank me. She also does other BDSM things for me. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want to include anyone else in what we do. If she did, I trust her enough to accept. Just because my fiction discusses a topic doesn’t mean I am asking for it in real life. If I do a good job as a writer, the reader can see her/himself in those roles. When I read the book, I can imagine myself in the hero’s shoes. For the record, when I am writing, I am too busy working on getting things right to get sucked into the plot. That makes it fun to read the book from end to end once I am done with writing and editing.