It’s a SMUTTY Book…
-or- Why I think that warning labels and smutty classifications are in the eye of the beholder.
But I can’t say it as eloquently as this man can… Enjoy! (I know I did)
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This one goes out to my author pal, Savannah Smythe who posed a comment question from my last blog post. I encourage everyone to visit this brilliant and engaging website.
To her question, here is my more eloquent reply (ala Tom Lehrer).
Anatomy of a Sex Scene
Why I did what I did and how I did it…
A recent blog discussion over on a group I belong to in LinkedIn for authors touched upon a topic that piqued my interest, that topic being sex.
The notice of the topic appeared in my inbox (if memory serves) and I thought it was an interesting topic to discuss.
I was particularly intrigued by the opening line –
“How’s that SEX SCENE you’ve written? You feel good about it, or as uneasy as a cat on a raft?”
I read through quite a bit of the posts (sex sells and these authors were definitely struggling or grappling or tangling with the subject matter by the looks of the posts). At first I wasn’t so quick to jump into the fray. The posts were hetero-centric and I just didn’t know if my hot man-on-man action was going to fit in with this crowd. Then I spied one entry that made mention of a gay romance story and how the sex scenes were handled there and I thought – oh, what the fuck -DIVE IN!
So dive, I did.
What I did do was rather than inundate people with a copy/paste of my sex scene on my website (an excerpt from my forthcoming book Angels of Mercy), I decided to simply reference the link to the work and give a general statement of how and why I did what I did. The forum moderator (who posted the topic) asked me why I made the choices I did (my main protag, Elliot, is the one in control in the book – it’s his POV through and through). And while I never pulled away from the intensity of these two young men and the serious sexual situations they found themselves in, I also knew that the sex wasn’t written to titillate and be a “one-handed” read (if you get my meaning). The sex in this book had to advance these boys further into the depths of their burgeoning relationship (so what’s new? – okay, I’ll grant you that one).
But here’s the kicker (from my perspective, at any rate): when I started out, I thought I was going to focus on romantic stories that I read when I was a teenage boy starving for some sort of recognition that there were other men out there who desired other men; yeah, not so much it turns out.
Gordon Merrick and John Rechy were my absolute go-to’s for that. Those men were my prophets – men of words and lust, of thoughts and hopes. I admired them greatly and still do. I often credit them for saving my young gayboy life. I am NOT mincing words here. These men, for whatever reason were inspired to write what they did, had absolutely no idea that some random kid in a Southern California city like San Diego, would find these books and hold them so close to his heart, taking the time to make paper bag book covers to disguise the truer nature of what was in them. I knew they were dangerous books to have (well, dangerous by others who might find them and think of them as such).
So yeah, as a writer, I thought my works were of an erotic nature because gay men like sex – we don’t have to procreate (though the tech is there if we want to use it – ala Neil Patrick Harris and his delightful hubby David Burtka) so sex is purely for pleasure and to bind the men involved together on a very intimate level. So I made that mistake to think I was an erotic writer. And more to the point – a GAY erotic writer. Sin of all sins in the mainstream literature world.
Then Angels evolved. It burgeoned into something else. Well, that’s not entirely true. It sort of was something else all along. I just knew there was some hella hot sex going on in there (because they’re hormonally charged teen boys and sex is on the brain every 8 damned seconds). So I thought that – hey, sex sells so I must be an erotic writer.
You see the book evolved along the lines of the thriller/high drama I’d always envisioned. It’s a very psychological book in that you, as the reader, are in Elliot’s head. He is aware of you and (at times) addresses you directly. You’re along for the ride, so to speak. It wasn’t the plan from the start when I saw these boys populate (nearly fully formed in a matter of seconds) in my head. But Elliot had other plans for me.
You see, Elliot was my sixteen year old self wanting to finally surface and play in the make believe world I’d created for him. Elliot is a shy, artsy, stay in the shadows kind of gay kid. He’s out – only because he made the tragic mistake of telling his then best friend in the seventh grade and that bestie turned on him and blabbed to the rest of the school about Elliot. So out but not by choice; to stay in the shadows, try to be unobserved, also not by choice. That’s survival, that is.
So how the fuck does this relate to the fucking, you ask?
It was clear to me that my boys were going to do something I hadn’t really read in LGBTQ YA or Adult fiction (romance or not). You were going to get into their heads and root around a bit. You were going to feel what they feel as they felt it (this includes their hard core fucking) – but from inside. I also had to keep in mind that book one was from Elliot’s POV, but the second book was going to be from his boyfriend’s (the star quarterback of the high school football team – the Mercy High Avenging Angels). So I had to carefully plan any situations between the boys so the two perspectives would jive when read side-by-side.
And my hubby, being the retired psychiatrist he is, put a golden nugget in my head to mentally chew on during the whole process – he said, “What is important for Elliot to remember and relate may not be important to Marco (the boyfriend).” That was far more helpful than I realized at the time he said it. It has been my lightning rod and bellwether and any other sign post I could have while I write the series. POV of both these characters is vitally important if the series is to work.
Okay, okay – so where’s the sex? I’m a-gettin’ to it… sheesh!
So the sex… yeah.
As I said, I knew that the sex was integral to the story. Hormonally charged teenage boys – duh! But I just didn’t want to throw it out there like a bone (pun intended – sorry).
First, a little context – if you haven’t followed my blogging about the story (then, where the hell were ya – just kidding!), my story centers around the question: what would happen if the quiet, shy, and in the shadows out gay kid became the boyfriend of the most high profile football jock on campus? How would it work? What would happen? Who would support them, and more importantly, who would try to tear them apart?
Angels is not an easy piece to write. In truth, while it is the first book I am going to release, it was not the first m/m romantic storyline I’d ever written. I have three other stories in the wings at various stages of development but put all of those on hold because I didn’t feel like those epics (and they sort of are – I tend to think Cecil B. DeMille epic – it’s just in my nature to do so) were quite ready for prime time. So when my boys come together (from the first chapter, mind you), I wanted to get the “chase” of their romance put quickly aside. Unlike most stories where they try to avoid the coming together of the romantic leads (because “they say” that once you do then all the sexual tension drains from the story-line), I was more intrigued to find out the “what happens next” in their romance rather than the thrill of the chase.
So the context: Marco has been secretly in love with my artsy gay boy, Elliot, for two years now. He’s stalked him in the background, biding his time, taking unobserved pictures of the boy he can’t seem to get enough of. All of this while he tries to lead a double life of the jock image everyone puts on him. That duality in his life is very much the crux of the whole story. How the hetero-sexist world pressures gay men (even more so than our lesbian counterparts) to conform to what makes them comfortable, that we’re one of them at the expense of who we are.
Once Marco has Elliot front and center in his life – he holds onto him with a ferocity that consumes them both. These boys are lost in each other (to the detriment of their own safety as danger definitely circles them). But they aren’t concerned with that in the heady and intoxicating draw they feel in one another.
But I had a few things to consider at this juncture:
- These are boys of the internet age. THIS IS SIGNIFICANT AND CANNOT BE UNDERSCORED ENOUGH. (A point I’ll come to later)
- Hormonally charged teenage boys and the proliferation of safe sex knowledge and avoidance in such boys
- How men/boys think about and (more importantly) execute sex – no girls involved so the soft pillows and lacy crap was out the window – men, despite protestations to the contrary to their lady folk (in the hetero world) like their sex like they live their lives – MESSY AS ALL FUCK. Marco and Elliot were no different. Why? Because when I was a lad – the messier the sex, the hotter it was. Plain and simple. We’re boys; it’s what we do.
Now for one other element that was of consequence but how and why I employed it was purely from personal experience and not, I repeat, NOT because I was pandering to the whole über-hung sex stud romance story stereotype. Simply put, my first boy was massively hung. He even had a nickname – Glo-bone. I didn’t give it to him – he had it all on his lonesome before I met him. So Marco is a BIG BIG boy. And like me, Elliot was a bit of a twink (don’t know what that is? Google it!), so I wanted to use what I had from my own past to color how they came together (I swear these puns are not wholly intentional, well, sorta).
Elliot is a boy on a mission. He contemplates the enormity of his boyfriend and knows he’s diving into the deep end of the gay pool – but like me, he realizes that if Marco is the one for him, then what he’s got to work with from his boyfriend is something he wants to become adept at. It is important to him that Marco sees him and only him. No matter the cost (pain or otherwise) that may come in the process.
Marco, on the other hand, has his own demons to face in his first time with Elliot. Those demons don’t fully realize themselves for the reader until we get to his part of the story in book 2, but I do hint at them during Elliot’s telling of their first time together.
So now – ONTO THE SEX –
From Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot [Chapter 3 – Shadowboxing and Champagne]
I already surmised that he was a man full of surprises. He was thoughtful, gentle and very passionate. But the most surprising thing about him was his patience. I was a jumble of nerves and conflicting emotions. Not about him. I knew I loved him. I was overwrought inside, concerned if I would make the grade, be an adequate lover the way he would wish me to be. Turns out, I needn’t have worried.
He was so sweet-tempered, taking his time to undress me slowly, gently batting my hands away anytime I tried to help him. With a lone small table lamp on the nightstand next to the bed, our bodies shadowboxed on the wall behind us. In that silhouette I became so ultra-aware of how inadequate my body was in comparison to his. I tried to hide it, painfully aware of how glorious he was, and how not, I was.
He smiled softly, but he said I was perfect for him in every way. He reminded me gently of how long he had watched me, how his desire to have me for himself had built over the past two years. Then he said the most amazing thing to me: he told me that he hoped that he would be everything I would want in a lover. That what I thought mattered to him so much that he was a bit nervous. He hoped it would be good for me. His hands were trembling, a slight quiver to his voice. My heart melted for him.
I just watched him. I heard the words; I knew what they meant. But for the life of me I couldn’t make it make sense. I could see he was becoming pensive, being so vulnerable with me about his insecurities. There was no way I was going to let him think he would ever be inadequate.
I wanted to make sure that Elliot set the tone. He was nervous as all get out but once he saw that Marco was right there with him, it completely transformed the whole scene. To Elliot, Marco is every bit the confident and studly jock that everyone says about him. To find out that Marco was just as vulnerable, even more so when (as the author) you know what demons he’s wrestling with that Elliot has no idea about. It’s quite the moment that will have to wait until book 2 for the big reveal on that front – but in the moment all we have is Elliot’s position – so let’s roll with that, shall we?
I pulled him to me and we fell onto the bed with a ferocity that I didn’t know I had. We tangled; we writhed, our bodies becoming slick with the passion we felt for each other. And it mattered to me that he was just as unsure as I was. Marco, my confident, sexy as hell boyfriend, was vulnerable with me. He allowed me to see that in him. And it mattered. It mattered in ways I couldn’t even fathom in that moment of our passion. It was something I found I would ponder from time to time thereafter. Truly astonished that someone who seemed so sure of himself and his place in the world, was worried about what I thought of him, of whether he’d measure up to what I wanted. If anything, it made my heart flutter just thinking about it, the way that sentiment from him did. But after that admission, I could see it in his eyes. Tucked there, in the furthest reaches, along with his abiding love for me was the fear that he’d fail me. Absurd. Completely absurd that he could ever fail me.
His kisses brought me back to the moment.
He whispered that he loved me, every inch of me, proving to me that he did by covering every inch of me in soft kisses. I tried to return each of his ministrations, but he wouldn’t have it. He said it was my night. He wanted to spend the night making love to me, pleasuring me. Letting me take from him what I wanted.
And make no mistake, I wanted him.
It was important to me that Marco’s revelation about being just as vulnerable and concerned with what Elliot would think of him as a lover was out there. It’s what Elliot clings to that allows his trust in everything Marco to become absolute. It was this trust that was critical in making the scene work. Without it the whole thing would’ve been something else – something more porn/erotic. Eroticism wasn’t the point. The sex was. There is an important difference. Erotica is by nature there to titillate the reader – sex, the sex between my two main characters was put there to psychologically advance their relationship – to establish that trust that Marco was Elliot’s and Elliot was Marco’s. Nothing new from any other romance, right? Yeah, not so much – only because I knew where this was all going to go – so I had to seed this from the first time they were together. The trust had to be absolute. It had to be pervasive for the rest of the story to work. The whole series is a question of who do you trust and why. The element of safe sex (with a condom) is addressed here because it’s just the thoughtful kind of guy Marco was reared to be. But the question of youth and safe sex does percolate in the background. Boys will be boys, and given the vlogging by sex-crazed teens who post their exploits on the likes of XTube and RedTube, there is a plethora of kids out there far more sexually active and proud to post their sexploits on camera (as a matter of record, I never viewed any vlog post of anyone who appeared younger than 18 – the age of my boys in the novel – I was VERY careful about this. It may be research, but I too am sensitive to jailbait postings. But while I didn’t view them, it was clear that they were out there). The folly of youth, it seems. In any event, it was more than enough evidence to support Elliot and Marco becoming fully conversant with the ins and outs of gay sex – and messy gay sex at that.
When the moment arrived, he looked into my eyes, and he spoke of our love again – of how he knew how much trust I was putting in him. I had reason to be concerned – he was no shrinking violet. Italian Stallion didn’t begin to cover it. But there was no way I was not going to do this. With an ample gob of lube, he worked his fingers into my ass to get me used to it. I knew he didn’t have to do that, after all, he was a hormone raging teenaged boy – as was I. He could have just plowed me for all I was worth. But he didn’t. That’s not my Marco.
After a few minutes of his fingering me because we’d watched it on a porn once (exchanging charged looks between us as we did so), I told him I thought I was ready. He leaned down and we kissed very tenderly. He asked me again if I thought I was sure. He wanted me to have a way out if I was worried. No way. I was in all the way. I wanted him to take me, no matter the pain, no matter the cost. He slicked up his sizable condom sheathed cock, my eyes wide at how much of him there was. I wasn’t sure how all of him was going to fit in so little of me. But I’d remembered the porn videos about it and saw that some twinkish guys like me were able to take some massively hung men – so in theory it was possible. A part of me was inflamed with the possibility, but the more reasonable part, the part that was speaking fairly loud at this point, wasn’t so sure.
He paused, unsure if we should do this. No going back. I reached down between my legs and gripped that slicked up monster cock of his and pulled him to me, letting him firmly know that we’d passed that point of no return the moment we became a couple. I wanted him to know that I was good with it. I wanted it. I wanted him.
I don’t know if he thought it would be sexy or if he was trying to distract me from that impressive cock of his, but when he pressed into me, kissing me while he was shaking it a bit with his hand as if that would get me to loosen up further, there was precious little that would have distracted me from what I was feeling. There was no denying it. It hurt. Far more than I was prepared.
At this point I knew I was deep in the mechanics of the sex the boys were going to have. This is where most erotica fails to even remotely draw me in. The mechanics are fairly well known to most people. Fucking is fucking… it may be creative, it may be damn near acrobatic in nature, but it’s still fucking. Fucking is fucking. That part didn’t concern me nearly as much as what Elliot felt during the process. Feeling the enormity of the man he loves as he takes Elliot’s virginity from him. The manner in which he moves Elliot from virgin to an adept lover happens fairly quickly – this wasn’t a mistake either NOR is it wholly impossible (drawn from real life, remember?). Elliot is a quick learner – he sort of has to be. It’s how gayboys survive in this world. We dance between our thoughts and our reality like a well-trained boxer. As with any boxer, some are better at it than others. Some are naturals, while others have to work hard at it. Elliot is closer to the latter rather than the former. He talks a good game, but he’s not as en-pointe as he likes you to believe he is. That’s important too. Having the über hot boyfriend, the man who is at the apex of their insular high school world, only serves to dull that carefully honed survival instinct that Elliot is ‘sorta’ good at. So their sex, their coming together, while it strengthens them as a couple, it also conspires to erode the foundation they both come to rely upon, the world that will eventually crumble from beneath them. But that was later – now I had to build upon their growing trust to be there for one another.
With my sharp intake of breath and a deep moan, he stopped – his eyes soft with fear, saying over and over how sorry he was – that we should stop. When he began to withdraw I found something within me clicked, I knew I didn’t want him to stop. I hooked my feet around his back and drew him forward. I was already committed to being there for him. I would endure anything for him – even if that meant enduring the pain as if he were cleaving me in two. I was determined for my body to learn of his passions and not only accommodate them, but become adept at pleasuring him. I never wanted to become so good at something as I did in that moment.
I once read somewhere online that Linda Lovelace had said that fucking John Holmes was like squatting on a telephone pole. That sister was preaching to the choir here. But he meant that much to me, so I begged him to continue, biting my lip as he pulled me to him. His next few thrusts into me burned, and I hissed – part in pain and part in a blossoming raw erotic pleasure. Then before I realized it, his fucking me caught fire, ignited an inferno of desire and then I couldn’t get enough of him. My legs had moved from being at his side to finding their way onto his shoulders as he brought our bodies together in a thunderous clap of sweat, flesh and passion. My toes curled from the largeness of his moving deep within me. I moaned – loudly. I tried to keep from calling out his name, afraid he would think he was hurting me. And he was hurting me – each time he withdrew, it hurt – hurt that he wasn’t there anymore and I needed him to be there.
He chuckled softly at my pleading for more. He picked up the pace – only because I told him I wanted it to be rougher. Before long I was demanding that he give me his all. And he did. He poured every ounce of his body strength into fucking me, and I met every thrust, hoisting my hips to meet his with a resounding clap of flesh. Panting with exertion, he asked me if I was sure I hadn’t ever done this before. For his cheekiness I clenched my ass tightly around his cock causing both of our eyes to bulge at that sensation. Hands down, that became our new favorite thing. He began begging me to bear down on him as he fucked. I was a quick learner. I could tell he was pleased.
“So good, baby. You’re so fucking beautiful. I just want to make love to you. That’s all I want to do,” he murmured as we kissed between his impassioned words. I just nodded. I was beyond words to tell him what I was feeling for him. I hoped like hell he saw it in my eyes.
Without much in the way of warning he leaned forward and bit down on that tendon from my neck to my right shoulder as he continued to take me. His teeth gripped that piece of flesh, rasping his tongue against it – the pull upon my skin burned while he fucked me with reckless abandon. I was in heaven. I was shuddering with how deeply he burnished his way into me. I was on fire. I didn’t want him to stop; I wanted that burn to consume me. I found I would always want him this way. There was no going back. I could feel him sucking very hard upon that tendon. I knew he was leaving a mark. Marking me – making me as his own. I’d wear that proudly. I was putting the world on notice: I was Marco Sforza’s. That put an extra spark in our fucking that had me abandoning any pretense of being quiet. I’d become a dirty little bad boy and I begged him to keep fucking me.
Surprisingly enough, he came after only a few seconds of my dirty talk. Leaning forward so our foreheads touched, he giggled and told me I got him so hot when I said those dirty things to him. I felt sort of cheesy saying them – like I was some sexy porn star, but fuck, he was doing me good and it just seemed to spill out without much thought on my part. I told him if he fucked me like that I’d always remember to do that for him. He smiled as we kissed. I felt him wane a bit, though never really slipping from me, but as the kiss blossomed in the afterglow his cock stirred to life and we went for another round right on the spot, laughing as we did so. Ever laugh while you fuck? I can tell you now, I highly recommend it.
Marco and Elliot are one. Their relationship on more solid ground than ever before. Elliot is confident in what they are to each other – insofar as he’ll allow himself, that is. He still grapples with why Marco wants him. He can’t reconcile that with the boy he’s stared at in the mirror each morning. He’s skinny (though not really – body image issues – another gayboy foible), he’s average looking (he’s not – image issues again), he’s boring and nothing special (he’s a brilliant singer and a great graphic artist), and for the life of him he doubts that Marco will be around for the long haul. This too was the impetus for the work. Gay men always carry a degree of doubt when they find a potential mate. All the love in the world is a wonderful thing to have, but there’s always the chance that it’s purely transitory. A wisp of the real thing. Nothing to cling to.
Only Elliot will come to learn that Marco is, if anything, a man of his word. When he tells Elliot that he is the one for him, he means just that. It is a promise and a binding that will be tested as the story progresses. Each time I use sex in the story, while I don’t pull punches in it (the boys get into some very messy and involved cum play – it’s just their thing and with that safe sex definitely goes out the window – but they are exclusive to one another so they think they are safe) I don’t want to use it for the sake of sex.
Eh, what would a drama infused story be if everyone were safe? Thankfully, the manner of sex is the least troubling for the boys of Mercy, but sex is an important tool, a device I employ to color ALL of the characters of Angels.
Sex sells. I just made sure that when I use it – it advances not only the story as a whole, but the characters as well. Sex may sell, but it doesn’t have to equate to a sell out.
Blog Tour – Shane Allison – Men on the Make Book Release
Described by editorial reviewer Amos Lassen as, “Tales that are a reflection of the way we as gay men live today. Some of these stories are so hot that I must say that they do not reflect all gay men but might indeed reflect their dreams,” you know you’re in for one helluva rompfest of a book.
On today’s blog post, I had a moment to discuss with Shane Allison his points of view in how the book came together, the views he has on the work itself as well as a broader look at Gay Literature as a whole.
SA Collins (SC): So Gay Sex Confessions. What was the impetus for the book?
Shane Allison (SA): I have always had an interest in gay erotica, and when something centers on being confessional, that’s even more fascinating. Cleis had done some lesbian true confession books I think, but never anything queer, so I wanted to visit that theme.
SC: Was it something you saw lacking in the gay literature arena that needed addressing or was it more of a lark?
SA: I wouldn’t say lacking, just not enough of true gay confession writing. It was a hard book to do because there weren’t too many I guess that had anything to confess, or wanted to confess. There definitely needs to be more books like Men on the Make for sure.
SC: Given the topic, how did you go about sourcing the material? Was it a general call via social media or did you ping gay men in your own social network to contribute?
SA: A general call pretty much. I hoped that there would be those out there that were willing to share their real life sexual experiences with me.
SC: Do you feel there is more to explore with this type of ‘confessional’ scenario with men like us?
SA: Yes, always. Every confession holds something new and exciting. I keep a journal of my sexual experiences, and there’s always something new and great to write about.
SC: Overall, how do you see our voice out there in literature? By and large, my impression is that, like mainstream media, we are woefully underrepresented. Do you feel this is the case? If not, why not?
SA: Good question. I like the idea of new LGBT writers expressing themselves in whatever medium they choose. There are many, many stories that have yet to be told. I feel that we are more represented now than we were a century ago. We have come far by leaps and bounds, and we still continue to make strides. I don’t want the LGBT community to be defined as one dimensional, that we all want to march down aisles in wedding dresses and tuxedos. We are so much more than that.
SC: How do you feel about the M/M romance genre or gay fiction? What is your perspective on why there is such a prevalence of women writing (in the majority) to other women rather than to us?
SA: I don’t mind M/M romance as long as it’s good writing. I prefer mine with a bit of sex mixed in. I don’t really like the term romance because it’s associated with bad writing and watered down work you find in books sold in supermarkets. I get a lot of gay erotica written by women, most of it not so good. I believe there’s this idea that erotica is easy to write, but it’s not as easy as some might think. I get material that comes off very generic and over the top like I wouldn’t know the difference between that and mind-blowing work.
SC: How do you feel we, as gay authors, work to get our words, our voices into the hands of gay men? Do you see it as a systemic issue or more of a cultural or age related issue?
SA: I use to wonder with the state of LGBT bookstores, if we really get out and support the stores. Not just buying books by your favorite authors, but going to readings. That support is so important. With bookstores closing around the country, we have to get the book in the reader’s hand. Whether it’s doing interviews like this, using social media as a tool to get the word out, and doing reading and tours. You have to let them know who you are and what you’re doing. You can’t depend on the publishers and bookstores to do everything. This is especially important in the gay community. Just when I think no one is reading, I get emails from people telling me how much they like what I’m doing.
SC: Given the nature of the work, sexual confessions, what are your influences from a literary standpoint and how do you feel they helped in putting this work together? Or do you see them as separate from the fictional writings you’ve done?
SA: Well, fiction and non-fiction are close siblings for sure. There’s usually a little non-fiction in my fiction, a story loosely based from a true life experience. The Straight to Hell Magazine was a big influence on me. Billy Miller runs it now. That magazine gave me the idea for Men on the Make.
SC: How much of it is, in fact, real – by that I mean, do the men who have contributed to this work, actually say this happened to them or is it more of a coloring of how we as gay men experience our world? It is a metaphor or an amalgam of our experiences? A broad stroke, if you will?
SA: All of the work are from real life experiences.
SC: Did you find the editing process difficult or easy with this particular piece?
SA: It was easy pretty much. I did have a few questions about some of the stories, but all in all, I think this is a great anthology.
SC: What was your experience like in coming to terms with your own sexuality? Do you believe it influences your work or is your work more illusionary? By that I mean, are you writing from a core set of experiences that you have personally gone through or do you like to dabble in the ‘what if’ of life? A combination of both?
SA: A combination of both really. The true confession work comes to me easier. I’m one of those writers who likes to write about mostly everything that happens to me.
SC: So many who write with an erotic edge to their work do so with a fair degree of anonymity, under a pseudonym. I know I use a nom de plume becuase my name is rather boring and doesn’t quite standout. So I chose to write using a variant of the first character I ever fleshed out – sort of honoring my first creation. Do others in your personal life know about the type of writings you do or are you writing in the closet, as it were?
SA: I use my real name, so folks know. My friends know what I write and edit and they are cool with it. I don’t really go for pen names. I understand it with some people, but I’ve been writing material with sex in it for years and decided long ago that if I was going to be out about it, I needed to be proud of what I do and I am.
SC: Who was the greatest literary influence in your life, and why do you think they made such a great impression?
SA: I started out writing poetry, so poets like Langston Hughes. Later, in my twenties I discovered Allen Ginsberg’s work. His sexual poems and poems he wrote about friends is great stuff. I love his poem, “Please Master.” That one is my favorite poem by him. I had lots of influences. Madonna, poetry, dirty magazines and my own imagination mostly. Whether it’s writing sex or getting in front of a camera, you have to decide to be balls out. You can’t be timid.
SC: What’s next in the pipeline for you – what tickles your literary fancy from an author’s standpoint?
SA: My debut novel, You’re the One That I Want will be out in 2016, so I’m psyched about that for sure. I have all sorts of ideas.
SC: What inspires you? What makes you stop and ‘smell the roses’ in life?
SA: Anything positive inspires me. Other people pursuing their dreams makes me get off my ass to make my own dreams come true.
SC: Anything else you’d like to add?
SA: I know there are folks who want to write in this genre, and the best advice I would give would be to read as much of the stuff as you can get your hands on, the good stuff mind you like the wonderful books Cleis Press does. Read and write everyday. Even if you think it sucks, keep moving forward with it. Don’t think about it too much. It’s more important to get the overall idea out there.
I want to thank Shane Allison for taking a few moments to discuss his current release (out now – see links below) and wish him nothing but success on his new venture. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for his novel when it drops in 2016.
From Cleis Press –
Want to Hear a Secret?
Nothing is better than a juicy secret, especially one involving what goes on behind closed doors! Men on the Make: True Gay Sex Confessions features the absolute hottest and most unexpected sex: in public, with strangers, threesomes, foursomes and moresomes. What makes these stories collected by award-winning editor Shane Allison even sexier is that they are real-life encounters and reflect gay life today in all its cultural diversity.
About the Editor –
Shane Allison has been published in countless literary journals and publications, such as McSweeney’s, Velvet Mafia, Mississippi Review, New Delta Review, and Outsider Ink. The editor of Rookies, Cruising, and College Boys, his stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Beach Bums, Best Gay Erotica 2014, and The Big Book of Orgasms. He lives in Tallahassee, FL.
My Review –
I think the thing about Men on the Make that I liked was the variety not only in the sex but the way each man relayed the telling. It’s a tapestry of maleness and rutting that is so strong you can literally smell it coming with each turn of the page. Whether Rosen’s Castro ‘forbidden fruit’ boss man, a torrid romp with Daddybear or a bisexual fuckfest in the French Quarter during the height of Mardi Gras, this book pulls no punches, safe sex or otherwise, in how we, as gay men, are varied in our sexual appetites or adventures.
The book flirts with men moving out of their comfort zone all for the thrill of a busting a nut in a public place, or in a seedy apartment. Sometimes love is in the mix, other times, not. It’s a cornucopia of semen laden and male musk filled orgasmic tales. Or I guess you could argue, tails. Some are better told than others, some with more stylized method of evoking that raw sensuality and male musk that seeps from the page. As with most compilations it has its high points and thankfully, very few that don’t quite make that high mark. It’s a more even work than I expected. In that I was thoroughly pleased with the effort.
This is by no means a romantic influenced compendium of male experiences. This is out and out rutting and sexual gratification. Tales of the need to seed. The darker and seedier side of (gay) male sexuality. That’s not to say that there isn’t some more subtle flavors like angst, confusion, desire percolating at the edges of these men’s confessions that heighten the emotive quality of the tales. There most definitely are. I agree with Allison when he says that there needs to be more work of this nature out there. That’s true. I think our voices, no matter the expression of them, needs to be heard. As with our heterosexist opposites who have no problem bathing us with their hetero-normative sexually laden world in the media, there does need to be more of who we are as gay men. Bold and honest work. Men on the Make is an attempt to close the gap on this. I think gay men, while we often experience so much of our lives in varied and unusual ways – sometimes throwing caution to the wind just for a good fuck, we aren’t always so quick to share those experiences. It’s something that Shane laments a bit in compiling the work. I think society has taught us to be a bit reserved with the sharing of this aspect of our lives. Men on the Make is a strong contender to balance that underrepresentation of our sexual lives.
Where you can get a copy –
Men on the Make
True Gay Sex Confessions
Edited by Shane Allison
$15.95, Trade Paper
216 pages, 5 ½” x 8”
Publishing on September 6, 2014
From Amazon US
From Cleis Press
Finding Your Voice… Then Sticking To It
Today I’ve been mulling things around. I do this, as I am sure you do it too, from time to time.
But here’s my dilemma, of sorts: I’ve gotten caught up (with my mental ramblings) in a conversation going on with other gay authors and the lack of our representation within the M/M genre and what that means to our voice within our own community. By that I mean real gay men’s voices writing about our own experiences, or at the very least experiences that reflect the reality we all live in. I mean you can have gay vampires, weres or what have you and still have it rooted in what we, as gay men, have to deal with in our lives. How we feel, how we cope.
I know I’ve preached from the Rechy alter before. I just love his work, I have since I was a boy. There are others, but he was the first one I found – sentimentally clinging to his work more than any other, I suppose. The hubby actually found his website out on the net. Well, that’s sort of redundant, isn’t it? Where else would one find a website? Isn’t it funny how I’ve been such a pro-Rechy reader that I never thought to see if he had a website? That really fascinates me. The idea that I can be so vocal about something that has dominated my views on reading for so long and never once seeking him out on the web. I think I know why that is and I’ll come to it anon.
I suppose that some part of it has to do with what I’d built up in my head that was his allure. Well, I’d like to think so – he’s one helluva sexy man – Hollywood sexy. If anything, I am still that 15 year old boy who found Sexual Outlaw on a low shelf in the Gay and Lesbian Studies section of a bookstore. Believe me, I was just as surprised that there was such as section like that in 1979. But there we were…me in my shorts and t-shirt on a hot summer day, and there it was in all of its seedy and semen soaked glory:
I know I’ve written before on how amazing this work is and how it saved me from plunging headlong into a wanton and lascivious chain of sexual exploits. Exploits and adventures that in that era (we’re talking the cusp of the HIV pandemic) might just as well have killed me. I know I’ve covered that before. What I haven’t said is that while that book “opened doors and windows I never dreamed existed…” (paraphrasing Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame now), it also allowed me to mentally and sensually let myself fall into the main character’s exploits. Okay, I’ll be blunt about it. I rubbed several of my own creative juices out while reading it. It was like heady, sperm filled porn to me and I was fucking hooked. The odd thing was, it wasn’t porn by any stretch of the imagination. I was titillated all right, but only because I had no other outlet to explore the sex that was contained in that book.
But it was more than that too.
When my parents found out about me, when I confirmed it to them, my dad didn’t really have a huge reaction to it. Just told me that sex with a woman was pretty damn great, but if I wasn’t into that, then maybe sex with men might be great too. And that was about it. Conversation over. It wasn’t like I couldn’t bring it up again with my dad. I didn’t have a problem with that, nor did he, it seems. My dad was pretty goddamned awesome. I’d like to think he knew that. But even with a great male figure in my house to give me guidance and unconditional love, he was right in thinking that he didn’t have much in the way of advice with what I was dealing with inside.
That’s where John came in. John Rechy became my mentor, of sorts. Not that I put any of the responsibility on him. I wouldn’t presume to think such a thing. But I needed something, mind you. I needed someone male to give me a heads up on what was out there and how it sort of worked. I needed a primer. Sexual Outlaw became that primer. He was like my kinky Mr. Rogers (wow, there’s GOT to be some therapy in that statement somewhere), and I soooo wanted to be a part of his neighborhood.
I explored that part of my sexuality. I had anonymous sex in the park, I had encounters with nameless men. I had sex. Quite a bit of it too before I ever had my first boyfriend. No one knew about this, of course. I put on a very good face to friends at school and the new gay social friends I’d made. But I still found time to have anonymous sex. I was careful – well, insofar as I could be back then. I didn’t go off to some john’s house or somewhere I knew could literally be a dead end. Yeah, there was a degree of fear in the whole equation. But that also heightened the sexual tension. It made it come alive. That wasn’t Rechy’s fault. I’d already had those thoughts, those desires. Rechy just gave me the wherewithal to admit to them, to embrace them to some small degree and let me know that I wasn’t half crazy with the thoughts and feelings I’d been having. Somehow, I’d survived. Somehow I got very lucky. I know that, believe me I do. It’s not something that I would advise anyone else of doing either.
Women don’t get how powerful and potent testosterone can be. How intoxicating and bewildering and utterly dominating it can be within a man. I saw a documentary on men and their penises called Private Dicks. It was a somewhat humorous way to look at men and how they view their dicks. Sort of the Vagina Monologues but the men’s side of the fence. There was a trans (F to M) man in the film named Spencer. Spencer had spent part of his life as a woman. After the sexual transition, he became acquainted with testosterone very intimately. He said to any woman who was watching it that having been a woman and now was a man, he could say without a doubt, that women have no idea just how potent and powerful that hormone drives men to do what we do.
He’s right about that. It is potent. It is powerful, heady, and lusty. The need to seed is intense.
Anyway, that’s what I want to explore with my own writing. That incredible rush that men get when our sexual potency is heightened. That’s why Angels of Mercy doesn’t shy away from my boys sex lives. It permeates the book because that’s how teenaged boys are. If they could have sex they would – no questions asked. Marco and Elliot have quite a bit of sex in the book. It’s honest. It’s forthright and it is unabashedly male in all of its splendid semen laden fornication. I did quite a bit of research on the topic – mothers would be surprised just how much their teenaged gay boys are having sex – and how much of it they’re posting online. And just to be clear, there was no under-aged stuff within my research. All 18 and above, but there were several postings from these boys that it became quite clear they’d been at it (posting their sexual encounters) for years. Marco and Elliot toy with that as well – sex and social media. These are boys of the internet porn age. They act accordingly but not beyond the realm of their natural characteristics. I don’t call upon the reader to make a huge leap of faith when Marco or Elliot explore their sexual relations. The sex happens organically, as it should.
But, as my hubby keeps reminding me, it is NOT erotica in the sense that I am writing sex to titillate – because he’s quite clear that I am not. The sex Marco and Elliot is very hot and heavy, but it also drives the story forward as these two boys discover how sex becomes another character in their story. The sex they have is varied and pointed and sometimes downright angry. I didn’t want to shy away from it. It’s also why I think it will never get picked up by a traditional publisher. I think it warrants a decent publisher. I believe in the work that much, but I am also a pragmatist – there are too many cards stacked against a ‘gay’ novel already. To use cum play like I do because my boys are into it is definitely pushing the envelope too much. But again, it is a very intrinsic part of who they are – both as a couple and individually.
In Elliot’s book (Volume One of the series) I never really allow Elliot to give voice to how his orgasms are. He says that he has his orgasmic release, but he never gives it any weight – you never get to experience it from his perspective. It’s always about Marco’s ejaculate that Elliot fixates on. For Elliot, it is all about Marco’s release. That’s very much a theme between them. Elliot talks a lot about every time Marco makes love to him. How much he applies himself to learning what pleases Marco as a lover. But Elliot never gives his own desires much voice. My husband says many times over (as he’s had to read it many times over) that what I have is a character study of these men’s lives. Their lives happen to coincide with the love they feel as they come together – BAM! Like a head on collision of two bullet trains – it’s hard, fast and intense – almost to the point of being violent. The hubby also says that I shouldn’t ever refer to my work as erotic. He thinks it is far more than that because of all the little things I’ve woven into Elliot’s psyche. The hubby ought to know – being a retired psychiatrist himself.
Maybe he’s right.
The hubby also did something else: he looked up Rechy’s website and sent me a bunch of blog entries he’d posted. Several of which I have opposing points of view on. I guess this is why I cringed when the links to the blog entries were in my inbox. I knew what he was trying to do. He was trying to get me to see why Rechy’s work meant so much to me and how far I’d gone into left field – over thinking elements of my work when I should be just concentrating on the work itself and not the minutiae that surrounds it. He also knew the temptation to reach out to Rechy would be too great. I knew then as I stared into the iphone this morning at all of those links to Rechy’s site, why I’d never looked him up.
Fear – plain and simple. Over the years I’d built Rechy up as a monolithic mentor. He’s never been anything of the sort, just to my 15 year old eyes and in my 15 year old heart. I sort of fell in love with him through his works. He was my first (virtual) boyfriend. I know how that sounds. But I remember that feeling that Rechy was talking directly to me, because I needed it. I needed someone. Sexual Outlaw was it. Then it was City of Night, then Numbers. Yeah, I pretty much did them all. Rabid about it, I was.
So yeah, I was fearful that whatever I’d say I know I’d embarrass myself somehow. And I am not usually like that. I come from theatre and opera. Working with big names in the industry is second nature to me. But John Rechy is different. No one wants to be thought of in those epic monolithic tones. He’s human, same as the next guy. I get that, I do. But my romanticized 15 year old self, yeah, he’s not so convinced. It’s this duality when it comes to him that colors what I write. It’s that strong voice that I am constantly striving for, trying like hell to lock it down for myself. Try to make my own mark – no matter how big or small it may turn out to be.
So yeah, fear… fear that I can’t or fear that I won’t. But I know I have to try. Writing is what I want to do. Writing is what drives me each and every day now. I could lament on the years that I did nothing with that passion, but I’d much rather concentrate on the here and now, right? Rather than the shoulda, woulda, coulda’s…huh?
I hope it wouldn’t be fear of something that I’d say or write – though thinking on it now, yeah I could so gush all over Mr. Rechy and it wouldn’t be pretty. I’d go all Japanese fangirl on him, I’m sure. I wrote him a decent sized email this afternoon (and felt immensely guilty for doing so right after I sent it). He’s a busy guy, I am sure he didn’t need me to prattle on about my life to him. I know I embarrassed the fuck out of myself. I sort of liken it to being that Japanese fangirl walking up to one of those waifish boys from One Direction and just well, sort of fall apart. There might even be some tears involved. How fucking embarrassing would that be? Uh, VERY… he’s gonna think I am some sort of fucktard and will investigate the steps he’ll need to take to ensure his safety from my impending fangirl moment.
Let me lay that to rest for ya, John – I’m too damned embarrassed already. I’ll stay put under my rock if it’s all right with you.
But it’s done now. I’ve had my say to him – thanking him for the inspiration, for being a guiding light in my young gay boy life to the man I’ve become today. I suppose actually, in some strange way he’s left such an imprint upon me that some part of me that was 15 has never grown up. Like a sexually driven Peter Pan, he’s still tucked in there. I still get giddy when I open Sexual Outlaw now. That same feeling never fails to rear its head when I open that book. I immediately go back to that moment when I first found it. My skin sort of tingles, knowing what’s in those pages already – the surprise has long since worn off – only to be replaced by something far greater: my younger self. I am there, trapped and forever lost in those words. Words I can’t fully escape, nor would I ever want to. They’re what gave me the courage to seek out my own voice in this world. Outlaw gave me the balls to seek it out for myself.
So yeah, I may have just fangirl’d all over John (sorry!) in that email I sent to him (I am too afraid to even reread the copy in my sent mailbox because I know I’ll cringe). How teenaged girl can you get? Not that I am disparaging teenaged girls – on the contrary, I am commiserating with them. I’ll take the embarrassment. At the very least I can say that I’ve had my say on it. I’ve told him what his works have meant to me – let the chips fall where they may, right?
Fifty years in and I am still trying to sort out my own voice. I think I am close. Angels of Mercy is helping me get there. And when I do find it, by the gods, I will make sure I stick to it and never let it go.
Rattling the (Emotive) Cages
So this one’s a short rant – comparatively speaking.
I’ve become frustrated over whether or not the work is ready. On one hand I feel really good about it all. Now that the cover is sort of put to bed (I’m happy with it), I think I just want to toss it to the wind.
But here’s the fly in that ointment – I reached out to a very good editor and had a very nice conversation about what I was doing and where Angels of Mercy was. She read through it (she has some fairly amazing writing and editing cred so, yeah, ears were definitely perked and listening) – well what I had posted to my site anyhow.
Her response sort of shocked me. I mean, I’ve been getting fairly great responses from my betas out there and they’re very much hooked in and invested in my characters. But here was someone from the ‘biz’ who could give me a little 411 on where I really was in the process.
Grammatically, it seemed (unlike the stream of consciousness I babble here about), I was very clean and spot on with what I’d put down. That seemed to impress her that I had that much polish to what I had already. Not that it couldn’t be tweaked and tightened. But she was really liking my boys in Mercy and what they were up to. She got, without my prodding too much, that you were firmly entrenched in Elliot’s head and letting his gayboy self slather all over your eyeballs because he’s just that kind of gayboy. Elliot is all over the place. But he’s cuter than fuck, so yeah, he gets a pass.
She thought she could help me out with the real meat of the story because my prose was so clean. We could actually hone in on the whole arc and look at the bigger picture as well as laser like gaze over the finer details that would just put AoM – Vol 1 on it’s best possible feet – literary speaking.
I know it sort of needs that. Not that I am not happy with all that I’ve done so far.
Then came the price tag (and let me be clear right here, I fully think she’s worth the dough – no gripes there) but it still was a fair chunk of change. So I have to weigh it.
Then I had a thought: (uh-oh, as my family would say) – What if I crowd-funded the editorial costs? Could I get that much traction and attention? It certainly seemed plausible. The work definitely warrants a try. What could it hurt? There are books out there that are giving far less for the money asked for than what I’ve been mulling around in the back of my mind.
Now, I know that my work is NOT standard M/M Romance/Erotica fair. It’s just not that – not really. For one thing, it goes dark. VERY DARK by the end of book 2 and 3. At the end of this book we are only touching upon that darkness that will turn my loving and committed boys lives upside-down. And it couldn’t hurt to put that out there, right? I mean – worst that could happen? No one would spring for it. No worse than where I am now.
And here’s the other rub: while it is about two 18 year old boys who are madly in love with each other, it also pulls absolutely NO punches about their sex lives or their sex drives. My boys love sex. My boys have quite a bit of it in book 1. But the series isn’t just about that. It’s honest about it (after all they are hormonally charged teenaged young men). But the sex is not all it’s about.
The work is meant to be a character study. I rattle Elliot’s internal cage so much that the reader can’t help but walk way from it that they really know this boy and the man he loves.
So now, I am working on what sort of package I’ll be putting together for anyone’s investment in getting it on its feet. I’ve got some pretty amazing things planned up in my noggin’ already. I think it just might work.
And if it doesn’t, I’ll find another way to press on. Marco and Elliot’s story WILL be told. It will be published (even if I have to do it myself – though the editor I spoke to thought it was good enough to not give up on the traditional publishing route). That’s saying something I guess.
The hubby thinks I should work with PFLAG to get the word out about it. After all, my cousin (who has a gay son and struggled with understanding him as he grew up) read the work and found a way to connect with the work that really gave her some insight into her own world. So yeah, the potential is there that I might have a market for the work through people like PFLAG who are both proponents of acceptance for LGBTQI individuals but also wanting to educate themselves a bit about our lives. The adversity we struggle against on a daily basis. While my book is certainly NOT academic, it is deeply rooted in real life experiences. GAY MEN’S experiences. Our voices, our way.
That’s what I am trying to create here. No punches pulled, no apologies, one big hot mess of a life (or lives) that have a story to tell. A way to connect, a way to enlighten, a way to experience something that they might not have picked up any other way.
It’s like Rechy’s work for me as a teen. He breathed life into my burgeoning gayboy existence that was quite literally withering on the vine before it could take hold. Wondering if there was something wrong with me. When his big, gay, gritty as all fuck world, came in like a breath of sex laden air that completely enveloped my 16 year old self and said – “It’s cool, you’re gonna be okay kid. It’s all gonna be okay. It’s a big gay world out there, you just gotta claim your stake in it.”
And claim it, I did.