sometimes it really is about the sex

(Note: this was originally posted at the Firebirds group blog.)

About a year ago, I wrote in my journal: “This is probably a very bad idea, but what if I wrote about sex workers? I’d have to do it under a new pen name, of course, but what if?”

And then I sat there and looked at it and blushed.

And then I thought about it some more. I realized I couldn’t write about jaded professionals because, well, that’s not my milieu. But I could write about people dipping their toes in that stream and the complications that ensue. It’s a rich terrain to explore, I think. In part because it makes me a wee bit uncomfortable and therefore makes my characters uncomfortable too.

Romances run the gamut from near-chaste just-kisses to everything-but-the-sex to peeking-through-the-keyhole to, well, flinging that door wide open. But sex—or at least, that lovely physical awareness of each other—is always a factor. Sex can, and usually does, complicate relationships, and sex without love gradually transforms into sex with love. The two are entwined. And yet how often does a romance deal specifically with the sex/love dynamic? Some do, of course, but I think most don’t.

But there’s more to this for me.

Some years ago, I found an anonymous blog written by a graduate student moonlighting as a call girl to make money. She wrote a lot about her clients, mostly about her interactions with them and why they sought her out. It was clear that many of them saw her as a friend and confidante, filling an emotional need, not merely a sexual one.

Then last year, I read a piece in an online magazine by a woman who had been a sex worker (porn star, phone sex worker, and sex therapist, I think) and was now going to school to become a nurse. When she told her friends, they all nodded and said it made perfect sense. She’d always been drawn to the helping professions. Sex worker or nurse—in some unexpected ways, the two are not so far apart.

This is the heart of my new book, Call Me Saffron, and the heart of the series that stems from it. The idea of looking at sex from a different point of view, whether it be through the eyes of someone who pretends to be a call girl, or someone who tries to get a job as a phone sex worker (spoiler: she’s not very good at it), or possibly someone who starts dancing burlesque, with its fascinating blend of artistry and come-hither sexuality. It’s the idea that sex can be both problem and solution. That it can foster intimacy. That it can lead to healing the heart.

Midway through Call Me Saffron, Samantha, my heroine, says, “When I came to your apartment in May, you asked me about myself. You wanted to know who I was before I—before we—”

And Dylan responds, “I’d expected it to be a simple physical release. A way of exorcising the image of Persephone screwing my best friend from my head. But when you walked in, all bravado and vulnerability, I had to know who you were and why you were there. What it meant to you. It turns out that sex is personal.”

Obviously, I didn’t take on a new pen name. As I started writing the book, I realized that it’s still my voice and still very much about the characters’ emotional arcs and their journey toward each other, and that the blatantly sexual situation they’re in is just a jump-start mechanism for this particular story.

I’m exceedingly proud of this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect. And maybe that’s why it worked out.

Here’s the blurb:

Samantha Lilly is in a long-term relationship… with her vibrator. She can’t handle a serious commitment, but casual affairs don’t do it for her either. So she’s resigned herself to being alone.

Her high-priced call-girl roommate Jeanine has other ideas. She persuades Samantha to take her place for one night with Dylan Krause, an incredibly hot prospective client recovering from a messy divorce. She says it’ll be good for Samantha to be with someone without her usual expectations and complications.

It’s more than good. It’s intense, extraordinary, and emotionally devastating. During their long, intimate night together, they bare, not just their bodies, but their souls.

But after that one amazing night, Samantha flees. This feels too real for her. And yet she can’t forget Dylan, even though she tries.

Then one day, he walks into the architecture firm where she works. Seeing him threatens to destroy the careful walls she’s built around her heart—and this time she can’t run away.

Call Me Saffron launches today. I’m running a launch week special discount; it’s 99c for a limited time before it goes up to its normal price. You can find it on AmazonNook, and iBooks.

If you read it, let me know what you think, and if the sex works the way I think it does.

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