Love Hurts, But No Love is Worse…. by Guest Author Rosemary Harris

lw-smileWe are very pleased to welcome to the ball guest author Rosemary Harris.
A former bookstore manager and video producer, she is president of Sisters in Crime New England and a board member of MWA-NY Chapter. Her first book, Pushing Up Daisies was a Mystery Guild selection and was named to Library Journal’s Best First Fiction List 2008. The Big Dirt Nap will be released by St. Martin’s Minotaur on February 17, 2009.

There was only one thing my agent and my editor agreed on regarding the manuscript editing for my first book, Pushing Up Daisies (2008.) In fact, it was the first substantive thing either of them said to me after “I love it!” Needless to say, I was putty in their hands after that remark and would have agreed to most any changes a la Paperback Writer (“I can make it longer if you like the style, I can chance it round…”)

Take out the sex scene. That was their advice. By anyone’s standards, including my 88 year old Aunt Mary’s, the sex scene was pretty tame. Okay, it was in a non-traditional place (a greenhouse) and on a non-traditional surface (a potting table) but that was as adventurous as it got. Not a lot of descriptive anatomy or flinging of clothing. Just two single, healthy, over-the-age-of-consent people doing what comes naturally.

Didn’t matter. I was advised to take it out. I was writing a series. (I was?) And in a traditional mystery series, your female amateur sleuth can’t do the deed in the first book, unless she’s married, soon to be married, or deeply committed. I thought they were joking. Had I been transported back to the fifties? To the days of those old movies where the married couples got dressed to go to bed and slept in separate, monastic twin beds that you couldn’t double up in even if the censors let you? Should I strike a blow for fictional sleuths everywhere and insist that Paula Holliday (my heroine) get some nookie?

bigdirtnapblackThey explained that if Paula sleeps with someone in the first book and then someone else in the second book, readers will think she’s, um…frisky (i.e., not a nice girl.) What about Stephanie Plum, I said. Isn’t she sleeping with two guys in the same book? Apparently, when you sell as many copies as Janet Evanovich, your heroine can go to the docks during Fleet Week and pick up sailors three at a time, but for a newbie, it was a big mistake.

I thought about it. It was my first book. The agent and editor both said the same thing. And, it really only required me to delete two lines of text (the characters could have a near miss, as we used to call them when I was young.)

All right. Paula Holliday didn’t get any love in Pushing Up Daisies, but I hope that you all do on this Valentine’s Day!

11 Replies to “Love Hurts, But No Love is Worse…. by Guest Author Rosemary Harris”

  1. Welcome to the Ball, Rosemary. I certainly hope you get lots of love for The Big Dirt Nap, and perhaps Paula will get some in the next book. I’m looking forward to them!

  2. Thanks for being our guest today, Rosemary! Your launch party last week was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  3. Hello ladies,
    Thanks for welcoming me, even though my “deb” days are long gone. Odd that sex is more of an issue than violence in our books. I don’t think anyone would mind if I took a staple gun to the bad guy’s chest in book three but heaven forbid someone get to third base. Do you think it says more about the readers or the editors?

  4. I think it’s about the editors, if you ask me. I really don’t know, but here’s the thing: NewsFlash: our readers have sex! Yes, they do. We do, too! And sometimes not always within the confines of long-term, monogamous relationships. Frankly, I think an awful lot of readers would be fine with characters having sex in our books – heck, they’re doing it too! So, I really don’t think it’s about the readers at all.

  5. Rosemary, Thanks for being our guest debutante today and what an informative post. I had no idea the conventions of mystery writing were so, well, conventional. At least for women. Just when I think I’m starting to get my head around this business, there’s always something else that just completely stumps me.

  6. I think it depends on the book, the editor and the publisher–and whether they consider you a “cozy.” Sue Grafton’s PI sleeps around in her books, and so does Sara Paretsky’s PI. But they’re both considered a little more hardboiled. I don’t mind a heroine with an active sex life myself, but I also like to prolong the sexual tension in my own books (as I posted earlier in the week) instead of having my main character jump into bed with the first available guy.

  7. Prolonging the experience, Meredith…just like real life! I actually did come to agree with them …I was thinking of the arc of the book as opposed to the arc of the series. I suppose I should be grateful that they were thinking that longterm….

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