Saturday, May 15, 2010

Warm Welcome to Stephanie Beck

"Standing By My Words”

Before I got my first contract, I was doing what most new writers do: begging for peer edits. I found a partner, but knew I should have another opinion, so I posted requests on critique sites. I made it clear the genre was erotica and the story was ménage about three sexy brothers and the woman they loved. I assured the possible repliers that the sex was graphic, but the overall tone was affectionate.

Almost immediately I got a reply. I was excited, so I sent out the first chapters. The day after I sent my chapters she sent a reply.

“I respect myself and making love too much to read something this filthy. Do not send me anything else ever again.”

I was shocked. Hadn’t I been honest enough in my post about what the content was? Or was my story that offensive?

About a month later the story, Poppy’s Passions, was picked up by Lyrical Press, so I put that harsh criticism aside in favor of being thrilled. Despite someone calling my work filthy, I felt no shame when owning up to my words. I use a pen name, but I told my friends and family exactly what I wrote. Even my dad knew and was proud of my accomplishment. Having the support of my family and friends made me set aside the doubt I had and I pushed forward with writing.

My next manuscript turned into a heavily erotic BDSM themed novel. I researched and read up on everything I could find pertaining to the lifestyle. I wrote the story as true to life as I could make a situation I hadn’t actually experienced. It was kinky and graphic. Some moments were incredibly hard and wicked. When I was nearly done, I started feeling doubts crawl into my mind.

Did I really think it was the kind of thing I should write? The question didn’t come from the harsh critique or from any worry about what people around me might think. It came from my faith.

I’m Christian and very happy in my choice of faith and practice. As a Christian woman, could I stand by a story with so many sexual themes?

The next Sunday I was still thinking about the story and had even mentally started tweaking it a bit to make it less graphic. Before the sermon started I genuinely prayed to be shown what I should do about the story. I nearly choked on my gum when the pastor announced, loud and clear the theme of the day: Bondage.

I lost track of how many times he said ‘bondage’, but I know it was at least fifteen times in twenty minutes. I really thought about how I felt in that moment, and for sure I didn’t feel dirty or wrong.

Whatever guilt or hesitance I’d still held evaporated as I read my manuscript later that day with fresh eyes. The story I had was one that embraced faithfulness, love and affection. It was a healthy love. The sex scenes were graphic and deeply BDSM, but even with those trappings, the scenes still showed love between two people who held tight to each other and also to their faith. Since Bondage Sunday, I’ve been less hard on myself. As long as the story’s focus is love, then the sex is just trappings and the heat or kink level doesn’t matter.

I believe I’ve found the perfect job for me because I am able to bring people together in love every time I sit down to write. Those couples aren’t always conventional and heck, they aren’t always ‘couples’ but the love is there and it’s a good love.

I’ve also come to terms that my writing is not going to be to everyone’s taste, nor will it fit with all belief systems. But as my early critique partner showed me, if a reader doesn’t enjoy or approve of a story, they can always put it down.

Poppy Maguire is tired of being a loser. Emotionally neglected as a child, she wants to find the courage to leave her family and the job she hates. She desperately wants to make a change. Little does she realize how much of a change sexy brothers Cody, Michael and Trevor Paraby will bring to her life when the friendly shoulders they offer turn into so much more.

Comfort turns to passion and Poppy learns what life could be like in the arms of not one, but three men who love her. But what happens when the pink line on a pregnancy test doubles and she’s expecting twins, courtesy of a Parabys?

The brothers blow her mind by offering her the family and love she’s always longed for. But do they realize what they’re in for? Cody is moving a little too fast, Michael may not be in for the long haul, and Trevor is a bit self-centered.

In order for Poppy to have the extraordinary love she fears she hasn't earned, everyone is going to have to do some growing. But can she break free from the bad seed of her abusive family and have the courage to bloom?

You can find Stephanie at:


Janet said...

Welcome to The Prairies, Steph! I think most of the Chicks are enroute to the monthly meeting of their writing group, so I'll start the ball rolling this morning :)

I love that you are comfortable with what you write, and your confictions are steadfast. Many times (and I'm speaking of Romance in general) we, writers, are ashamed of what we write - as if our stories and the way we tell them are somehow inferiour to other genre or literary fiction. We need to stand up for what we do, not hide or apologize for the stories we tell. So I applaud you!

I'm looking forward to what others have to say - and, again, Welcome :)

steph beck said...

Hi Janet
Thanks for the welcome! I'm very happy to be here this weekend. I think a lot of us writing romance do feel stigmas at times. I've heard from a lot of other writers who are very deeply into their pen names because of worrying over their employers and friends finding out what they write. That wasn't a worry for me, so the faith part was what made me pause. I laughed for a week after that sermon, but I've felt very comfortable in my genre ever since.

Valerie Mann said...

What a fantastic blog! I'm glad that you are comfortable with your writing and hopefully confident as well, now that you have some publishing under your belt! I think you have a remarkable writing career ahead of you!

steph beck said...

Thanks Valarie! I've had a lot of really great support from the writing communities I've found. As writers we're all on the same lake in our little boats, trying to write better and get noticed. It's been amazing to find out just how many other writers are willing to help and prop you up when uncertainties arise. When you find a friend in writing, they are one more blessing :)

Heather said...

I have always felt that part of my reason for reading is to learn. Whether it is distant lands, customs, history or about relationships. Last year I read several erotic novels and the common point in each was the strength of the relationships. I read mostly regency era romance and I am always looking for the communication between the characters. As long as there are a few strong relationships in a book then the rest of the plot can only serve to strenthen that relationship.

I enjoyed visiting your blog earlier this week and reading your post today. Thank-you.

Karyn Good said...

Welcome to the Prairies, Stephanie! We all need the confidence to stand up for we want to write, no matter other peoples opinion on content or a particular genre.

Congratulations on your release and standing by your words.

steph beck said...

Thanks Karen. I am so thrilled to be a guest on the Prairie. The blogs here are always so helpful and uplifting.
I think there will always be a stigma on writing romance from some people's viewpoint, but we romance writers are usually fun, intelligent, and playful people. If we stick to those guns and smile and nod through the haters, I think we'll all do better :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hello Stephanie, welcome to the Prairies.

Your post is well written however it gave me the jeebies. And how'd you escape getting struck by lightning for thinking about BDSM in church?

I like reading romances between a man and woman. Yes, I read some steamy scenes if they're integral to the story and tastefully done, preferably on a marriage bed. However from what I read in your post, I couldn't trust you not to throw something unnatural in and say it's all under the guise of love.

But then, we're not anyone's keeper and everyone must decide for themself what they feel comfortable reading and writing because in the end you stand alone before God.

I wish you success in your writing career. I just don't want to think about how you achieve it.


Maeve Greyson said...

Bravo! Good for you for sticking to your guns, Steph.

steph beck said...

Hi Anita.
Oh I know what you mean! After I wrote it, I was ready for the lightening strike! And I think had it been any other topic of discussion that day, I would have changed it.
We all see our signs and guidance in different ways and find ways to make any action 'okay'. I still keep my eyes very open should the day come when I cross a line I'm uncomfortable with. Thanks for the well wishes and I hope you have a great weekend.

steph beck said...

Thanks Maeve! It's not always easy to decide which 'guns' are worth standing by, but I'm good with this one :)