The Midnight Man started with a nightclub scene.
At least it did in earlier drafts. In the scene we meet middle aged gay couple, Stanley and Francesco, as they pick up a guy to share their bed for the night. After that opener was an erotic sex scene in which we discover Stanley isn’t happy with his relationship.
I wanted to keep the nightclub scene because first chapters are displayed on online book stores, and I didn’t want to give the impression this was an erotic novel if the book started with the sex scene.
But this nightclub sequence didn’t ‘hook you in’.
I worked on several versions, yet it never was intriguing enough to expect a reader to click the ‘Buy Now’ button. Hey, these are things authors have to think about.
Then I remembered the advice my assessor for my first book gave me – a novel doesn’t have to begin at the beginning. So, the nightclub was cut. Now I had a new problem. If the preview is a sex scene, readers who love erotica will buy it and be disappointed as it’s the only one, while the Urban Fantasy audience who it’s written for will bypass it .
Solution: tone down the erotic nature of the text.
The purpose of this scene is to show how sad our protagonist is in his relationship. It now does a better job revealing this. And somehow, after I solved the problem, I stopped thinking of it as a sex scene.
As part of the IQARUS online book conference, I read a shortened version of the opener. I rehearsed and rehearsed, and proudly read the piece live to a YouTube audience. After I finished, a few mildly shocked faces stared back at me from my screen. I quickly explained ‘It’s a sex scene that’s not a sex scene.’ But one layer of my denial had been chipped away.
Yet the other layers stayed in place.
When I received the first edits back from Liz, I noticed a content warning was added: This book contains explicit sexual material which is only suitable for mature readers.
I instantly thought, ‘No it doesn’t’ and began an email to my editor explaining that this mistake has been made before with another of my novels, then proceeded to add an amendment I wanted to the novel’s text in the actual sex scene. The penny dropped. It is a sex scene. It may not be written to titillate, but it is a sex scene nonetheless.
I don’t usually write erotic passages. I’m not good at them. Yet somehow, the artiste within made me believe this is still the case.