People pick the strangest battles.
You’d think the horror and violence would garner the most visceral reaction from readers – and it does, but it’s mostly limited to the first novel in my Rankin Flats series. They read that – or part of it – and realize the depth of violence and horror isn’t their thing. That’s fine! If I was a reader who didn’t like those things, I’d want to read a few reviews pointing them out too.
Same goes with my profanity and sex. Usually if people don’t like either in my novels, they know the books aren’t for them by the end of the first book. I’m cool with that too.
What I didn’t entirely anticipate was the visceral reaction I received about two partners talking candidly about anal sex. That, apparently, is The Line Which Cannot Be Crossed.
My series, to the point of Band of Fallen Princes, has had cannibals eating living people. It’s had shapeshifters ripping a man’s jawbone out. It’s had murders, psychics, and a brutal couple of torture scenes. But butt sex, that’s the kicker for folks, apparently. And the funny thing is, some of the most offended? Haven’t even read the books. Just referencing the scene on Facebook netted me dire warnings about the dangers of anal sex. Which is fair, but I’ve also not received warnings about the risks of regular sex between any of my characters. Or the oral sex that happens. See how that can feel a little morally picky?
It’s sex. Between consensual partners looking to try something new out. And it’s not even done in the novel – it’s just talked about.
Yeah. That’s where individuals wanted to plant their flag about the horrors of reading my books. So be warned, I suppose, for the dangers to your soul. Because of butt sex. Riiiight.
Now keep in mind, I’m actually kind of regretting one of the scenes featuring the talk about butt sex, because it’s largely plot filler. A reviewer left me a comment saying basically that the heroes talk more about sex than they do the case, which is a pretty damned valid point. There’s also another running joke in the novel not related to anal sex about the couple being abstinent in the last few weeks while bodily teasing each other. It’s cute, but in retrospect, it didn’t need to dominate the protagonists’ story that much. These are valid complaints.
A better way of going about the novel would have been to focus on the much more interesting villains, the four of whom form sort of the antithesis of the It boys. Together, they form some of the more interesting villains of my series, especially in that they have no powers of their own. They’re not special, they’re not supernatural, they’re just four men who formed a bond early in life to always look out for each other while they took what they could from life. It’s also the first time a villain’s demise in my novels wound up hitting me hard, emotionally, to write about.
Exploring how these kids went from geeks and outsiders to full-blown psychopaths (and make no mistake, they are evil and psychotic, to a man) was strangely cathartic in a way. A lot of my emotions about being endlessly bullied as a teenager went into the early parts of this one (though nothing done to me was nearly as bad as what happened to Ronnie Cooperman). Exploring those emotions and then twisting them on the page into how they could make a person into a career villain was a fascinating process. “Okay, at least I didn’t turn out that way” was a thought I had more than once during the process of writing Band of Fallen Princes.
And in the end, they’re tragic figures, save perhaps for the manipulative leader of the bunch. They formed such a bond as friends that nothing came between them. Not wives, not the law, not any sort of morals. They are insanely devoted to their friendship, to the point where they actively help each other pursue or cover up their vices and mental sicknesses. In retrospect, the novel should have been all theirs, with appearances from Garrett, Brianna, and Murphy only introduced to break up the action – at least up until that epilogue.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE END OF BAND OF FALLEN PRINCES:
I loved writing the wedding scene of Band of Fallen Princes. It’s self-indulgent as hell, but everything about it was fun to research and even more fun to write. The church in it is 100% real – you can find it in Lennep, Montana, and it is gorgeous. The food and drinks were researched with the help of an awesome local baker. The music was something I actually curated myself, and you can find the playlist on Spotify (here’s a link if you’re interested in giving it a listen).
I loved the culmination of all Garrett’s fears and worries as he waited at the altar. I loved the little character moments of all my personal favorites – with a few even getting more attention than I thought they would (see: Jin and Wendy). I loved the conclusion to Monica and Sloan’s story arc for that novel, and wasn’t sure where it would go until I actually wrote the thing. Collectively, that scene, despite its unnecessary length and detail, is one of my favorites from the series.
That scene ended up influencing my decision to write a honeymoon novel. More on that tomorrow when we talk about the failure that was the unpublished On Hallowed Lanes.
Thanks for reading, and remember, Plague of Life drops next week!