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Lynn Flewelling on "Sex is Hard"

As many of you may know, the fabulous Lynn Flewelling began her publishing career in 1996 with LUCK IN THE SHADOWS, the adventures of Seregil and Alec...rogues, thieves, spies and two of my favorite fantasy characters ever written.  The Nightrunner series continued with STALKING DARKNESS, TRAITOR'S MOON, SHADOWS RETURN and THE WHITE ROAD. More books are forthcoming.  In addition, she's written the wonderful Tamir trilogy, set centuries before The Nightrunner series, in the same world but with different characters and events surrounding an early queen (Tamir) who was disguised at birth as her twin brother so that she wouldn’t be killed to clear the path to the thrown that's passed along through the female line.

Those of you, like me, who adore Seregil and Alec might be interested in her new release, a short fiction collection set in the Nightrunner world.

Thanks for having me back, Lucienne! I’m very excited about the release of my Nightrunner short fiction collection, Glimpses, which contains some erotica, the first I’ve written. Here’s a little bloggage about it.

Sex is Hard

OK, sex is pretty easy (and fun!) if you know what you’re doing, but writing about it? That’s a whole different kettle of naughty bits. And when you’re a woman writing gay sex?  A challenge, to say the least, and one I tackle in my new Nightrunner short fiction collection, Glimpses.

For years now I’ve been tap dancing around sex scenes in my Nightrunner Series, and gay sex at that. When the first books were published back in the mid 90’s, graphic sex scenes were not encouraged for books intended for the mainstream, so I had to be coy, showing the kissy stuff, lead ups, and morning afters, but not the deed itself. This led to a some frustration among a sizable portion of my readership, who are into that sort of thing. Complaints were made. Fan fic ensued—or so I’m told.  Inquiring minds wanted to know, especially about Alec and Seregil’s first night of love making, once they became a couple at the end of the second Nightrunner book, Stalking Darkness.


Anyhow, a few years ago I jokingly threatened to write my own fan fiction, but people took me seriously and began to ask when I was going to get around to it. Back in June the “first time” story began to gel and I banged it out, so to speak, in a single day. And it wasn’t easy. Not because it contained gay sex—I’ve read plenty of that and never you mind why—but because putting the sex scenes into words made me feel so—naked. I’ve been pondering that a lot and have come up with the theory that, gay or straight, even though it’s the characters knocking boots, it’s the writer’s mind that is being exposed. You have to reveal what you know, what you can imagine, what you fantasize about, perhaps even what you’d like to do. Or do do. That’s naked.

Then there’s the issue of a woman writing about a man—or men—having sex. “Write what you know” goes out the window to some extent. Men are not complete aliens; they can love, feel affection, be romantic and passionate, but with a slightly different spin. Some of the worst m/m fiction I’ve read features “women with penises.”  That’s not good. Men are not women, and vive la difference! Although I didn’t discover it until well after the story was in production, Josh Lanyon’s Man, Oh Man guide to writing m/m romance covers this in great detail. Men aren’t as talky. They hate to cry, even though they sometimes still do. They think about sex a lot. (I’ve seen claims that men think about sex every sixty seconds. How do they get anything done?) Sex for sex’s sake is sometimes desirable.  (Often desirable, for some characters.) And the power dynamic is different between men than it is between hetero couples; in m/m sex everyone has the same parts, so who gets to do what to whom? It’s a negotiation, rather than a given. Top? Bottom? Equal rights? And, if you go to what Charlie Cochrane calls “the final favors,” men are not self-lubricating. Do I have to spell it out? L-U-B-E.  Bad m/m fic often overlooks this. Ouch. But there is affection, love, cuddling, and tenderness, too, and that’s universal.  Some guys even stay awake for more than five seconds afterward. Because this was my first try at writing erotic scenes, I had my friend, erotica writer Betty Blue, vet them and she had many helpful suggestions.

Over the years I’ve had many gay men ask me how I was able to write gay relationships well—and now we’re talking relationships, which include but are not limited to sex. In that case, I did draw from what I know.  Love is love and while everyone—straight or het—may express it differently,  the feelings are the same—the basic human need to love and be loved, to be special to someone.  

But back to the story. It is called “The Bond” and fills in a lost moment or cut scene, if you will, from the series: Seregil and Alec have sex. On screen. Once I had it written, I pondered ways to distribute it. In 2001 I wrote a similar, though sex-free, story called “By the River” about how two of the characters met long ago. That one I just published to fan groups for their enjoyment. I was thinking of doing that again, when my friend Reece Notley, who runs 3 Crow Press, suggested I write a few more stories and she’d publish it as a book of short fiction. And so Glimpses was born. It contains four stories: two with gay sex, one with hetero sex, “By the River,” and an excerpt from my forthcoming  (Spectra: Oct, 2011) currently-in-search-of-a-new title Nightrunner book. It went live on Smashwords the other day, and should be available in dead tree and e-book formats on Amazon, B&N, etc. over the next few days, as well as The Book Depository.com for foreign buyers. It has a beautiful cover by Anne Cain, as well as interior illustrations provided by talented fans. I’m very excited about it, in part because it’s the most short fiction I’ve written in years, in part because I finally took the leap to detailed scenes.

But I feel so—naked! 

Glimpses was also my first foray into small press publishing, and it was a great experience. Reece lined up a great cover artist, lots of blurbs and reviews, and did a superb job with the formatting. And she knew how all the publishing stuff works—Smashwords, Create Space, Amazon, etc.  It was a lot of fun working closely with her, and with the cover artist.


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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
I am very excited about Glimpses. I have a Kindle, but I cannot imagine not buying this book in paperbook for the lovely cover and the fanart. I would have been excited about it regardless, since I love the Nightrunner books so much, but the fact that you have taken the step of going graphic adds to the fun. I do a little m/m romance writing (Josh Lanyon's book has been invaluable), so I know what you mean about the difficulty of making the sex realistic. But my feeling is, if you do the research, pay attention to other writers, get some input from gay male writers in the genre, and stay true to your characters, everything will come out (and go in) just fine. I adore Seregil and Alec and all the other wonderful characters in the series. It's going to be a real treat to peek in on their most intimate moments.

And what do the people in your world use for lube, anyway? ;D
Sep. 21st, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
And what do the people in your world use for lube, anyway? ;D

Spit. Oil. Ye Olde Astroglyde, perhaps? No hair products (sorry Josh).
Sep. 22nd, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
Ye Olde Astroglyde is surely Seregil's purchase, since I can't imagine Alec managing that transaction without death by blushing.
Sep. 21st, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
Firstly I want to say that I love how in-touch you are with your fanbase. While I'm not always a vocal one (kind of shy), it still makes me feel good to see and know.

Secondly if the world adhered strongly to "write what you know", as some suggest, we'd have a lot of bland stories today. Research is an amazing thing and while it, of course, can't stand up to experience it's the next best thing and almost just as good for someone with a vivid imagination.

Anyway, I loved reading this and being able to get inside your head a little about this stuff.

And can I give a big "wow" to Anne Cain's talent? Because she's definitely something. :)
Sep. 21st, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
I was so thrilled with that cover! I got to choose the models. 8-D From photos, but still fun shopping.

Edited at 2010-09-21 06:19 pm (UTC)
Sep. 22nd, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
Best wishes on the anthology, Lynn. Sounds like a lot of fun, and it looks beautiful. Anne is one of the best artists out there. Three cheers,
Sep. 22nd, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
I'm so excited for you to have done this, Lynn - to try something so new to you can only mean you'll grow from it! Thanks so much to Lucienne for making the publication process possible! I'm very excited to read all of it - and curious about this heterosexual scene. Who is it? Who is it?? XD;
Sep. 22nd, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
Alec's parents. :)
Sep. 27th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
Monday Mix, Sept. 27
User ariannasterling referenced to your post from Monday Mix, Sept. 27 saying: [...] If you write the same things I do, this article on sex [...]
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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