I have to agree with this post from the lovely Alina Popescu. Thanks to her for starting this off. I’m probably going off on a bit of a tangent here, but bear with me. I think it will make sense in the end.
Alina Popescu article
In my opinion, this big, wide world of ours (not just Britain) is becoming a damn nanny state with its trying to protect us from ourselves. I may well become unpopular with this post, but you know what? I don’t really care.
Every day we hear and see things like this-
Don’t eat too much sugar, oh look, let’s tax it so people have to pay more for eating it.
Let’s hide cigarettes in plain brown wrapping and stow them away under the counter so people won’t be tempted to smoke.
And then there’s this – I can’t even…I mean WTF?? Really?
By the same token- let’s leave alcohol on show everywhere, make some cheap stuff so people can rot their guts, offer free drinks at Happy Time and generally promote drinking as a social pastime. I speak from experience when I say alcohol has been a huge detrimental factor in my family life (not for me but family members). It doesn’t stop me going out and buying a good bottle of wine though.
Why? Because I make the decisions for myself on what I’m going to drink, and how much.
I decide whether as a mother I give my kid a good slap on the bum because he or she is being a brat. I decide whether or not my kids can knock themselves on the forehead swinging conkers, or get a nasty scrape because they’re playing hop scotch. I decide whether to give a homeless person a sandwich or buy them a cup of coffee without Health and Safety breathing down my neck. Gasp! I even make the decision to eat that lasagne that’s over its sell by date. Sacrilege indeed.
So…. going back to warnings and preserving people’s sensibilities, (I told you I’d get there in the end) there are those who believe we should put them ad nauseum on books in case it offends or distresses someone. Hmm, let’s use Love and Punishment as an example of this type of warning
This book is about two men in a relationship, features raunchy gay sex, bondage, kidnapping and assault, rolling pins being shoved up a man’s arse, various nasty scenes of aftermath killing spree gore, a psychopathic serial killer, a detective who believes the ends justifies the means, and a singular act of determined and gritty violence by one man protecting the man he loves that some people might not agree with. It defies social morals and norms and asks the question- how far would YOU go to keep the one you love safe?
Hell, you know what, maybe I should use that as the blurb. It sounds like an interesting book to me. This warning is so going on Facebook afterwards as a post of its own. So who’s scrambling to go buy it? I see you…you can run but you can’t hide.
Recently a fellow author and very well-known book reviewer trashed both me and Love and Punishment because she didn’t like the subject matter. I believe in retributivism and her crowd didn’t like that I’d expressed this personal fact about myself in my Author Notes; they also thought some of the scenes were gratuitous. Well, hell, I know it’s not everyone that likes having a scene where a rolling pin is used as a torture implement but it’s really not that bad. I mean, look at fisting. Are warnings given for that happening in a story? Worth Keeping dealt with sexual abuse and self- harm, Saving Alexander did the same, but I didn’t get flack for that.
Bad things in books can often be used for good. A young man I know got in touch and said it had helped him, as a self-harmer himself, reading about what Nick was going through. Saving Alexander was used as a therapy tool by someone as a book for patients to read about and overcome similar things that happened to Alex. So it can go both ways.
I don’t generally put warnings on my books. Read the blurb and you’ll get the idea as to what a book is about. It’s about two men falling in love, telling their story and yes, hopefully having great GAY sex. If you feel uncomfortable reading the book, or don’t want to read about GAY sex, put the book down. Don’t read any more. If something acts as a trigger for you, please –put the book down. Let me be clear. I’m not belittling anyone who has had bad experiences and may still be suffering from it. But to be honest, me writing about strawberry pancakes or twinkling fairy lights may be a trigger for some people. An author can’t cover all eventualities.
One of my next WIP books is about a sexual predator priest abusing a young boy and then slaughtering his family. It has self-harm and I’ll make sure that factors into the blurb somehow so people know what it’s about before they buy it. If anyone has a specific concern about the content, I’ll answer them willingly and then let them make their own decisions about whether they read it or not.
Books are fiction. They are stories of fictionary people in fictionary situations. (I think that’s a great word, fictionary – I like it, not sure if it actually exists in this context but hey. I’m a writer. I get to make stuff up.) The author sets out to shock, make the reader feel emotion, empathise, sympathise, hate, adore, feel sick- it’s called writing. And if we achieve this, we’ve done our jobs. This group loved Love and Punishment by the way -it came third in a reader poll against some tough competition, not even in the M/M genre, but in the Thriller/detective category.
Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware. Arm yourself before you buy a book. I like to think my covers and my blurbs give a reader an idea of what’s in the book. Reading a review or two before you buy also helps. Downloading the sample before you buy will help. Ask a friend. Use one of the wonderful reading groups we have on Facebook to ask a question if you even think there might be something in there you don’t like. I think there’s also a fine line between telling a reader what to expect overall and putting specific warnings about content in the preface/blurb to the book. I’d like to know the book I’ve purchased is MM. I don’t like cliff-hangers, so I’ll check out the book forums first if I suspect there is one or have heard there is. I’m not all that fond of ménage, so again, I’ll do my homework. But if I see the blurb talks about Larry, Curly and Mo in a relationship, I kind of think I’d have my answer. I’m not fond of mixed M/F and M/M sex scenes in the same book. I read both but don’t like it together. I won’t read twincest or incest. I’m not keen on every BDSM book out there, there’s only a few authors I read who I think tackle the subject well and with variety. And sometimes I’ll slip up and buy a book that has this ALL in the same story and you know what?
I pull up my big girl pants, forget that book and find the next read.