The Birth of Bad Judgment
Okay, to be honest up front, this post is probably NSFW. There are no images and no explicit language, but there's a lot of discussion of sex, so be warned.
Everyone at work gone? Hopefully to return later? Okay. Well, you might be wondering why I'm talking about a book that came out last year, but in all the hubbub of the 99 cent sale, I've had Bad Judgment on the brain. I thought you guys might be interested in knowing how the book came to be.
Bear in mind, there's a part of this story that might make you think I'm completely nuts, and I'll warn you when we get there.
So almost two years ago, I was doing one of those run-through-the-mud-for-fun-and-health races, and I had neither fun nor health, because I ended up falling off the monkey bars and tearing my ACL. Leaving aside the indignity of adults doing monkey bars in the first place, there were some complication things from the surgery, and long story short, I ended up quitting my full-time job to stay at home and recuperate.
The plus side to all of this was that I was able to spend more time reading and writing, and a lot of that centered around fanfic. The minus was that between medical costs and being short on income, it wasn't long before money started becoming an issue. Which is when my mother (my dear and sainted mother!) suggested that I self-publish some porn novellas to help cover bills. I suppose she felt that porn novellas would offer the most buck for the bang.
So to speak.
I've got roughly a million years of education in creative writing (it feels that long, anyway--grad school alone took a century) so I already knew how to put a couple sentences together. There's a big market for erotic fiction right now, and I'd written enough fanfic to know that I wasn't, like, inept at writing the occasional sex scene. Those were mostly male-male, but I figured hetero erotica would probably have a larger audience, and when it comes to making money, size matters.
So I set out to write some porn.
Now, I highly doubt that anyone expects romance novelists in this day and age to be prudes, and I'm definitely more on the side of sex-is-healthy-and-nothing-to-be-ashamed-of, but there's a big difference between writing a book with some sex scenes in it and writing a lot of sex scenes in a book format. For anyone out there who thinks written porn is easy to produce, let me tell you, it ain't.
I took what in retrospect is probably a very analytical approach. I started with the guy, gave him a name--Brogan--and a brief description that mostly focused on certain, um, anatomical aspects, and started trying to come up with a scenario in which he could reasonably get himself laid.
Here's the part where you might find me sounding downright crazy-pants, but I swear, a lot of writers imagine their characters as having wills of their own. I remember long conversations about this sort of thing in school. I don't know why. It's a sign that we're invested in a character, I guess. Just go with it, because it'll be easier on both of us in the long run if you don't expect my thoughts to make sense in any way.
The problem was that Brogan ended up being kind of pushy. Once I'd gotten a few basic character traits in order, his voice started to develop on the page remarkably fast, and from that point on, he had opinions on basically everything. Like, for instance, the fact that he didn't want to be a corporate lawyer or carry a briefcase or have sex in the office late at night with his beautiful co-worker Jessica. When I tried to figure out what I might change to make it easier for Brogan to get down to business, he was zero help. He didn't seem to know what he wanted or where he was going. Brogan didn't seem attracted to Jessica at all, and when I caught myself writing that Brogan thought they should skip having sex and go to a bar to have hot wings together, I realized that Brogan might be gay.
I can honestly say that this surprised the crap out of me. I don't know what it says about me as a person or a writer that I managed to be dumbfounded by my own character coming out, but it is what it is, man.
Brogan's orientation wasn't a problem for me, per se, but it did present some moral complications on the porn elements, because it's different when you're writing about members of a marginalized community. Granted, women in porn is a touchy subject too, but as a chick, I felt more qualified to handle that one. But for LGBTQ characters there's other stuff to take into account, and I had some squidgy feelings about the ethics of the money-grubbing part of the enterprise, so I basically watched a lot of bad TV and tried not to think about it for a while.
A few days after this, I got a mental picture of a beautiful young man alone in a spartan apartment staring out a window at the falling snow on Christmas. He was incredibly lonely. He was also viciously pissed off.
And so Embry was born. Unlike Brogan, Embry leaped into my head pretty much fully formed, and I found that pleasantly refreshing. Also unlike Brogan, Embry knew exactly what he wanted, and he had no time for sex, let alone the kind of hours-long sex that porn would require. He had important business of the violent variety.
I was trying to write a scene about Brogan, and through some rebellious impulse, I put Embry in the scene too, and what had been a quagmire of hetero non-action suddenly lit up with sexual tension. In less than an hour, I had seven pages of Brogan and Embry bickering and arguing and making heart eyes at each other (well, Brogan made heart eyes. Embry scowled, because he doesn't know how to make goopy faces).
That's fast, just in case you weren't sure. That's really fast, especially for me, because I'm a slow writer.
That was the end of poor Jessica, rest her soul.
Brogan's character grew in leaps and bounds after that. I've blogged before about how goals give characters agency and drive, and Brogan's goal was clear as glass by that point. He wanted Embry--in his bed, in his life, the whole nine yards. Brogan actually wanted to cuddle with Embry, despite the fact that cuddling with Embry would be sort of like cuddling with a porcupine. Brogan clearly has very few self-preservation instincts.
I tried to write porn. I really did.
But they started having feelings. And then there was a plot. And then the novella turned into a beast of a novel that would not end.
I started sending my mom pages and she kept saying, "This is really good but we're on page sixty and there's been zero sex. There's no porn in your porn." And I was like, "I know, but they can't just jump into bed, okay, there has to be stuff that happens first." And then she told me that I didn't understand how porn works. I started telling my husband that I was going to figure out how to write porn any day now so I could make some money, and he shrugged and said that he didn't really mind being poor as long as I was happy with what I was doing (he's seriously the best ever. Someone should clone the crap out of him). I started sending pages to my best friend, too, and she told me that she loved it, but that I should stop telling people that I was writing porn because I clearly wasn't. And somewhere in there Embry and Brogan sort of fell in love.
I didn't really know what the heck to do with it when I'd finished, though. I mean, I'd written and read a lot of fanfic, so I knew there was an big audience for LGBTQ love stories, but heck if I knew if that audience was also buying books with original characters. And I wasn't sure that anyone was going to buy my self-published novel when I couldn't even call it erotica anymore. And I've read a lot of romance over the years, but I hadn't read many that had as much edgy content (not going to give spoilers, but if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about), so I wasn't sure there was going to be a publisher willing to take Bad Judgment on.
So I figured, hey, I'll send it out to a couple folks and they'll either like it or they won't, and if they don't, I'll self-publish and cross my fingers and be done with it.
But lo and behold, Carina Press called me.
And that's the story of how I wrote Bad Judgment.
This post ended up being quite a bit longer and more in-depth than I'd originally planned, but I'm starting to accept that that's just how I do things. If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward in the form of an adorable animal. I wanted to give you a porcupine in honor of Embry's prickly nature, but they're not as cute as hedgehogs. Actually, I'm pretty sure there's nothing as cute as this: