Thursday, September 26, 2013

H.B. Pattskyn on Erotica, Porn, and Cutting Out the Sex for Mom

Helen Pattskyn writes beautiful prose. She also writes beautiful stories, and most of all she writes from the heart. She's stopping by to share part of every erotic writer's journey: trying to define what we do. 

This post is also part of a wonderful GIVEAWAY including a free copy of her new release, Hanging by the Moment, and a bag of swag. All it takes to enter is a comment and your contact info.

Oh, and just let me say this... that cover is gorgeous!
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First off, I want to say a huge, huge thank you to Tali for having me here today! My third novel, Hanging by the Moment came out on September 6th from Dreamspinner Press and I couldn’t be more excited. Hanging by the Moment is my first solidly contemporary story (my second book is contemporary, but with a steamy BDSM twist) and it’s a huge departure from my first two books (my first novel is a paranormal/historical).

I sometimes worry that readers won’t want to stick with me because I write all over the board like that. (I’m currently working on another paranormal, this time set in the modern era, and another book with a BDSM twist to it.) The heat levels in my stories are all over the place too—but I feel like I have to write the stories the way my characters want me to. Some boys area all about the sex, others have different priorities. Kind of like in real life.

The truth is that I get a little bent out of shape when people assume that because I write m/m I’m penning porn. I don’t even consider what I write “erotica” for the most part (okay, that second novel comes pretty close!)

Erotica is defined by Miriam Webster as “having an erotic/sexual quality” (which, does definitely sum up the first half of my second novel *G*). But to me, sexuality is simply a part of the human experience; nearly all of us engage in it, and hopefully all of those who do, enjoy it—and hopefully most of us realize that there’s more to sex than physical gratification.

My husband told me that his mom wanted to read my first book, but she’d rather have the PG version. I thought it was a little strange, Mom isn’t shy, but okay, I could go through and edit out the sex…. Except I couldn’t. I could change a few words, make some things a little less explicit (all the while scratching my head, Mom’s a nurse and like I said, not shy), but I simply couldn’t cut out the sex scenes, too many other important things went on during them. While they were having sex, James and Alun were connecting on a deeper level, through actions and also through words. Alun’s playful nature came out during foreplay. James’s dominant streak showed when Alun took him in the living room—only as it turned out James was the one doing the taking!

I finally finished editing and called Mom to explain that I was sorry, but I could only get it down to a PG-13 rating.

Mom balked. Why was I editing my story before giving it to her?!

Erm. Your son said you didn’t want to read the sex.

Bullshit. She wanted it exactly the way it had been published. In fact, she wanted a copy of everything I wrote and if her son and I ever got divorced (not likely, by the way) I was to continue sending her copies of everything I write because she loves me. And in the meantime, could I kindly smack her kid upside the head for tell me she wanted an edited version?

I love my mother in law.

So I signed a copy of the book and told my husband we were going to take it to her and asked him why he’d lied. Turns out, he was the one who was uncomfortable with the sex. Not because it was two guys, that was fine (he’s incredibly supportive and talks my books up to anyone who he thinks might enjoy them). He just didn’t want to think about his mother reading about sex. Any kind of sex.

I love my husband, really I do *g*.

It was a little harder giving Mom a copy of my second book; like I said, it’s pretty steamy and the sex is pretty kinky. Not that I think much can shock Mom. She’s a retired nurse and spent at least a couple of years of her career working in the emergency room.

Hanging by the Moment is about 112K words long and only has three and a half sex scenes in it, and one pretty tame masturbation scene. One of the sex scenes fades to black before actual penetration happens because everything that needed to be said between Pasha and Daniel was said during foreplay. Because just like any other scene, if the sex can be cut out, it should be (speaking of my own writing, not telling anyone else how to bring their stories to life). Every scene, ever sentence, every word, has to either tell the reader something important about the characters or drive the story forward.

Yet occasionally, my work is labeled as porn and while I don’t have a problem with porn, it isn’t what I write. I ended up leaving what was otherwise a really great critique group because I got tired of being put down for writing “porn”. I didn’t mind the gentle ribbing or the teasing or the silly fun that we had when I submitted something, but it got to a point where it was no longer funny. It got to a point where it was personal. And no artist should subject themselves to people who only want to tear them apart. An honest critique is one thing and yes, sometimes it can be harsh. I sought out other writers because I wanted to hear “this doesn’t work” and why. What I didn’t need was to have someone be completely shocked that my first novel took second place in a writing competition because “I didn’t know there was a category for porn!”

Well, as a matter of fact, Heart’s Home took second place in the paranormal category, because first and foremost, it’s a paranormal romance.

But I shouldn’t have had to defend myself (and maybe I didn’t, maybe I just felt so insulted by the comment that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. It wouldn’t be the first time!)

As an artist, I observe a few rules for living my life and one of them is not surround myself by people who can’t support me. Nobody has to like what I write (I didn’t get angry at my mother in law when I thought she didn’t want to read the sex; I don’t expect any of my friends to read my books either), but they still have to support me because that’s what friends and family do.  

Which is a really great place to circle right back around to my third novel, because family plays a huge part in Hanging by the Moment. (Sneaky marketing ploy at work! *G*) 

Pasha Batalov is the son of Russian immigrants; to his father, Ivan, family is everything. But when Ivan says “family,” he means brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Husbands and wives. Pasha is expected to find a nice girl, get married, have children, and take over the family restaurant. Being a good son and understanding Russian values, Pasha has never told his father that he’s gay, even when being buried so deep in the closet costs him his first love.

After losing Michael, Pasha resigns himself to a lonely life of one night stands and meaningless sex, even when it starts weigh on his heart and soul. He wants a family, a man to love him, maybe even children—but how can he do that and still be the son his father wants? The son his father needs?

A chance meeting with a lost delivery truck driver changes everything. Daniel is sweet. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s drop-dead gorgeous. Best of all, when he and Pasha are together, Daniel looks at Pasha like he’s the single most important person in the room. It doesn’t take Pasha long to start falling in love—to start wondering if he should stick it out in the failing family business or try to figure out how to have the things he wants: a husband, kids, a home of his own.

But Daniel has a secret, and it’s not the kind of secret he can keep for long. For the last six years, Daniel has been living with HIV—and HIV changes everything.
I’m donating twenty percent of my earnings from Hanging by the Moment HIV/AIDS awareness charities, and it was directly because of the research that I did for the book that I decided to start volunteering with AIDS Partnership Michigan (http://www.aidspartnership.org/). Giving money to something I believe in is relatively easy, giving my time takes more effort and that means something to me.

You can read more about Hanging by the Moment on my website (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/p/hanging-by-moment.html)  or at the Dreamspinner Press site (http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4161)

And of course since this is a part of a virtual book launch party/blog tour, there’s a prize at the end  :) Between now and October 14, I’m visiting a bunch of my friends’ blogs; if you leave a comment here (and include your contact info) you’ll be entered to win a pretty cool prize: a sighed paperback copy of Hanging by the Moment as well as a goody bag of awesome swag.

And anyone who signs up for my newsletter (http://helenpattskyn.us7.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=0bd1c530d47486fe22f3cce92&id=dc70f94d36) will also be entered to win a signed paperback copy of the book in October. 

Thanks again to Tali for having me!
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My pleasure, Helen. And I hope visitors remember to leave a comment so they can enter the drawing for your glad bag of book and swag. 

9 comments:

  1. That's funny about your husband getting squemish about his mom reading about sex, lol.

    Thanks for the great interview :)

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. Awesome post! It's so interesting, and sometimes a shame, how people perceive books with sexual content. And the story about your mother in law is amusing, wonder if you wasted your time or if it was a good writerly exercise? Whatever the case... Thanks for the great post and looking forward to the new release!

    Sara(dot)bowerman(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. A great post, Helen. Your mother in-law sounds like a fantastic and supportive woman. The part about your husband is a bit funny but somehow also understandable (and he sure sounds like a sweetheart).

    My own parents would like to read my books but can't read in English so they're forever trying to get me to translate one. ;-)

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  4. Hi Chris :) (A a huge thank you to Tali for having me today!)

    Mom is totally cool, I'm very lucky (she raised good kids, too). I know how lucky I am to have both my husband and his family :)

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  5. Thanks for sharing and the giveaway. I'd love to read more of your works.

    schan26.wisc(at)gmail(dot)com

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  6. It's so wonderful to see you have such a supportive and loving family. I also like your comment about not having to read, or even particularly like your books. They just have to support you. Because you're doing what you love and that's the important thing!

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  7. ooh diverse genres from one author? count me in. :)

    oncerfan(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  8. That is so funny about your husband having a squick about his mom reading sex! XD But yeah, if she's worked in an ER, I'm sure nothing can faze her. What a wonderful M-I-L to have!
    Best of luck with your new book! Once my life settles down (huge work projects) I'm looking forward to reading it. :)

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  9. Great post, Helen! I think of the worst things about saying you read (or write) m/m is that people think of porn. As you say, nothing wrong with that, except that isn't what you're talking about. What did I hear yesterday, "if you think of sex the minute you hear the word 'gay,' there's something wrong with you." I'm glad your MIL will support you (and read your books!) no matter what. That's just wonderful! I'm also glad you got away from that group. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who are tearing you down.

    Carolyn
    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

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