Why Write About Sex?

So I’ve mentioned before that my next book, The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (coming December 15th), includes some fairly explicit (but tasteful!) sex.

Honestly, except for a free safe sex story that I wrote as part of the Real Story Safe Sex Project, I haven’t written a lot of explicit sex in my day. I always considered myself a “fade to black” kinda writer.

But when I was mapping out The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, it quickly became clear that sex was part of the story. It’s about a 23-year-old gay guy looking for love; it just seemed dishonest not to include something about his sex life. I also liked the idea of doing something new and different — a writing challenge. (And, hey, I don’t mind if it sells a few books either.)

Maybe it’s because the sex is pretty organic to the story, but writing the sex scenes was actually very easy. Well, nothing I write is “easy,” but it was easier than I expected it to be.

The hard part? Worrying what people would think of me.

In the book, Russel Middlebrook does some somewhat “shocking” things (within the context of the story — again, all very tasteful). And Russel is at least a vaguely auto-biographical character.

Did that mean that people were going to assume I had done all the things that Russel does?

It turns out that erotica would be easy for me to write (because everyone knows it’s fantasy). Writing the sex life of a character that I hope very much with feel “authentic” is a lot harder.

But, of course, it’s exactly that authenticity that was how I knew it was so important that I write the sex. I won’t go so far as to say it can be “brave” to write about sex (because that sounds ridiculously pretentious). But it definitely felt right.

So am I still worried that people will make assumptions about me? Maybe a little. But hey, Russel is a fictional character; most people understand that. And, of course, my private life is my private life.

But mostly I’ve decided I just can’t think about that. It’s my job just to write the stories. I can’t control what other people think about them, or what conclusions they draw.

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8 Responses to “Why Write About Sex?”

  1. Michael 22 November 2014 at 3:53 am #

    I could see how you'd be concerned that ppl would make certain assumptions at first. I'm just glad you decided to include what (IMO) is the next step in Russel's journey. I mean…he's not 16 anymore lol…and the story should reflect that. We all do it (sex that is) so why not talk about it in a tasteful manner?

    • bhartinger 22 November 2014 at 7:20 am #

      Thanks, Michael. That\’s exactly what I was thinking.

  2. Chris 6 December 2014 at 8:22 am #

    I thought it was tastefully done. Nothing too explicit, just sort of letting us get a sense of Russel's habits in the sack.

    Though you definitely broke about a dozen rules that govern how gay romance novels are supposed to be written. :)

    • bhartinger 9 December 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      Thanks, Chris. (And I\’m not sure I\’ve ever read an outright gay romance novel!)

  3. Jim 14 December 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    It was a great scene. All I will say was OUTSIDE!! But where was perfect. I was afraid someone was going to wander by and see them. But it was great. And yes thank you for the way it ended. I can not wait to follow Russel and (?) don't want to give it away to LA. When is it due out again? Also one question what happened to Gunnar's gf? You never did say. That bothered me all the way to the end.

    • bhartinger 15 December 2014 at 2:47 am #

      The next book is out in July 2015 (the exact day isn\’t determined yet).

      Gunnar and Em dated for a while, but drifted apart, mostly because they went to different high schools. They stayed friends though, and she will appear in book #3 of the new series. :-)

  4. Jim 14 December 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Any reason why you didn't do a book about Russel and Kevin's relationship while they were openly dating in that homophobic High School? I would have been interested in reading about that. Let's face it not one of the most tolerant schools around. I think that would have been and interesting story…how they dealt with it, how they stayed together during it. I guess I felt there could have been one more book after the Elephant of Surprise and The Thing I Didn't Know.

    • bhartinger 15 December 2014 at 2:42 am #

      Mostly, because I wanted to move the stories into present-day, and there didn\’t seem to be anyway to do that, while keeping the time-line intact. The world has just changed SO MUCH since the early and mid-00s when those four books were written. Plus, I wanted the challenge of writing an older character. But I do have other gay teen novels in the works.


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