Not in Front of the Family
by Janey Fraser
It wasn’t until I first got published, that I realised how carefully other people read your books. Especially if they know you. “Is that woman meant to be me?” asked my sister indignantly after my first novel came out. Of course not. Just because they both happened to speak in the same way and had similar careers doesn’t mean I based my character on her. Honestly.
From an author’s point of view, it’s hard sometimes to separate fact from imagination. When I dream up my characters, they tend to be what I call a ‘pot pourri’ of quirks, looks and behaviour. The latter is often garnered from sharpish observation on my part as well as a dollop of fantasy.
So if you happened to have been sitting on the Circle line, three years ago, with a bottle of beer in your hand and whispering loud sweet nothings into the ear of your tattooed girlfriend, you might well find yourself in my next novel. Yes. I confess here, hand on heart, that I found myself writing about this character out of the blue: presumably because he made an impression. However, in my book, he’s an accountant by day and a raver at night. That’s where my imagination comes in.
So if you think you are the hero or heroine or the villain in a novel, you may well have contributed. But only in a bit part. Sorry.
Right! Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s address the issue of embarrassment. In fact, I’m going to spell that with a capital E because that’s what it is to the author when he or she knows that their nearest and dearest are reading their sex scenes. You see, when you write about romance or lust, you do so in the heat of the moment. You forget that one day, with any luck, it will be published and that all your friends (and husband) will promptly assume that you have a sex life that rivals Casanova.
The result can be mortifying. “I didn’t know you wrote those kind of books,” said a friend’s husband the other day at a dinner party with a wide grin on his face.
“I don’t, really,” I spluttered, going red and feeling horribly Judas-like.
“So you don’t write them,” he persisted. “You get someone else to do the sex bit for you?”
“Of course not.” I was indignant now. “It’s all from my imagination.”
He wasn’t giving up. “So it’s nothing to do with your amazing love life then?” He winks across the table at my own husband who is trying not to listen.
“Writing,” I try to say without choking on the prawn mousse, “is a mixture of real and fantasy.”
Then – would you believe it – he actually touches my knee. “I think you’re amazing. Yes. Really.”
Maybe that’s why we haven’t had a repeat invitation to dinner.
Still, that’s nothing compared with the response from my children. They’re now of an age when they probably know more about sex than I do. There’s nothing that embarrasses them more than when a sex scene comes on the television and I’m in the same room. Actually, there is. It’s when there’s a sex scene in my book. “I can’t read your stuff any more,” announced one of them the other day. “Sorry.” She flashed me a prudish look. “But it makes me feel weird.”
The awful thing is that I can see what she means… Still, recently, I’ve decided to adopt another approach. The ‘write it and don’t care what my family and friends think’ one. After all, it’s my book and my life. In fact, there are some rather juicy scenes coming up in my new novel After the Honeymoon. Both sexy and otherwise.
Before you ask, they don’t feature you – although they could do in my next novel. It just so happens that I’ve been approached by a cancer charity which is auctioning the opportunity for readers to have their names in authors’ books. It’s for a great cause. So if you want to be featured, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, I’m off to write another sex scene. Just to embarrass the kids. Funnily enough, my husband doesn’t mind. Between you and me, I think he rather likes it…
After the Honeymoon by Janey Fraser was published on May 22. She is also the author of Happy Families, The Playgroup and The Au Pair, all published by Arrow, Random House.