It has occurred to me that I may have been wrong to write about sexual assault, but I don’t regret it.
I plot all my books, but I don’t have any control over the story. That sounds weird, but that’s the way it is. My books are a product of my subconscious. It is what it is.
Reader expectations are important
A reader came to me at the ARRA conference, and she told me she found Trelloran Seduction confronting. She wanted the book to lead her into a feel-good fantasy. She didn’t want to experience the struggle and the trauma. It felt too real.
I really appreciated her feedback, because all my readers matter to me. And feedback like this really matters. I can understand how she felt.
Fiction should entertain, but it should also spur discussion about our world
Underneath the fantasy, Trelloran Seduction talks about rape and sexual abuse, but its major theme is recovery from this experience. Rape isn’t a nice subject. It isn’t something you want to experience. That’s why I put a content warning on Trelloran Seduction. Yet, I can’t sugar-coat this subject. We need to talk about it.
It’s not whinging to stand up and say sexual assault is not okay!
If you think we don’t need to talk about it, just look at what is happening in the real world. When a man is caught on tape bragging he wants to “grab them by the pussy” to an audience of cackling men and he is STILL elected president of the United States, you know this issue needs to be talked about. He was STILL elected despite having these attitudes towards women.
Rape culture surrounds us. Our society still accepts the perpetrators as legitimate members of our society and excludes women. Rape culture constructs women as objects for male gratification, as perpetual victims, and blames US for these sexual crimes.
The balancing act of meeting reader expectations
I didn’t know what to say to this reader. I felt very sorry that I hadn’t met her expectations for a beautiful fantasy.
But in another way, perhaps I have done my job well. I challenged her. Perhaps she won’t think about it ever again, and she won’t ever read one of my books again. But perhaps if I challenge enough people, and enough men–yes, men read my books–I will be doing something small to turn around the thinking that women are sexual objects that exist solely for male gratification.
No book will satisfy all its readers, but I hope that this reader enjoyed some parts of the book at least. This is the lot of a writer.