Guest post by Donna Ison
Today, we welcome author, blogger, and playwright Donna Ison, who tackles a subject we've all stressed, sweated, and giggled about, but have never gotten on paper quite like this. Donna lives on a houseboat on a Kentucky lake and is a long-time friend of our own Susan Ishmael-Poulos. (We admit it! We went to high school together!)
When I initially shopped Twenty Men in One Night around, I quickly heard from a representative in the romance division of a popular publisher. The conversation went something like this:
"We really love your manuscript, but we just feel that it’s missing something."
"Really, what would that be?"
"In a word, sex. The title implies sex. We want you to add some erotic elements. Make it steamy."
"But, it was written to be funny, not steamy. It’s really a social satire about the unrealistic nature of romantic love in our culture and how we end relationships before they ever begin. It’s not about sex."
"Everything is about sex."
He hung up and I headed to my laptop. I explained to my muse that we needed to pen some “make you tingle in your private parts” prose. She called me a pervert and suggested I implore her slutty sister, Nympho, to inspire me instead. But, apparently, Nympho was already busy lending her services to E. L. James, so I was left to my own devices.
In my first attempt to spice up the book and fog up the monitor, I poured a glass of champagne, lit candles, and put Bryan Ferry’s "Slave to Love" (what I consider to be the sexiest song of all times) on the stereo on repeat. I thought if I could get myself in the mood, it would automatically translate to passion on the page. For a minute, it worked. I could see it all playing out in my head. I could feel it. I could smell it. I could write it! Then three paragraphs in, I ran out of synonyms for penis. I am fanatical about not using the same word twice in a chapter unless it is absolutely necessary. There are only so many terms for the male anatomy that don’t fall into the ridiculous range. No way was I going to use any of the following: man meat, Johnson, wiener, love shaft, passion pole, joystick, and the list goes on and on. There are also very few verbs one can substitute for intercourse. Attempt one—fail.
Next, I tried a different approach and rented porn. These people were professionals. I’d let them do the work and I’d just jot down what I saw and heard. I’d just be detailed and objective like an anthropologist studying the mating habits of hyenas. Later, I would imbue the vignettes with character and emotion. I sat down with a new notebook and Uni-ball pen and pushed “Play.” It should have been simple. But, I quickly realized I was more interested in the human condition than coitus. I couldn’t focus on the sex. I was too busy wondering how the baby-faced blonde ended up as an adult entertainer. Where did she come from? Idaho. I decided Idaho, where her father was an insurance salesman and her mother a piano teacher. She got pregnant behind the bleachers at a homecoming dance in high school and was labeled “white trash.” It had all gone downhill since then. Attempt two—fail.
As a last resort, I decided to actually try to document one of my own erotic encounters. Since trying to type and reach a climax simultaneously would require far more coordination than I possess, I opted to put a mini tape recorder under the pillow. Perhaps having the audio version of a voyeur present might even add a little kink factor to our lovemaking. All I had to do was narrate what I was experiencing and then dictate my notes into the appropriate chapter. To cut a long and humiliating story short, I got neither a decent sentence nor an orgasm out of the evening. However, poor Frank, got the idea that he might have married a schizophrenic. Attempt three—disastrous fail.
What I realized is that even though I would have sex with my husband on the back of a flatbed truck going through downtown Lexington, smiling and waving at gawkers as we passed, I just could not write about it.
So, I found a new publisher (which is now defunct—different story for a different blog) and a new name for the novel. My manuscript, sans sex, but with my own special breed of hilarity, can now be found on Kindle under the more appropriate title of Flirtini with Disaster: The Single Girl’s Guide to Self-Sabotage.
Readers: How many of you have written a sex scene and lived to tell about it?
Donna Ison is an author, blogger, playwright and career voluptuary. She has published two novels, The Miracle of Myrtle: Saint Gone Wild and Flirtini with Disaster: The Single Girl’s Guide to Self-Sabotage. Recently, she left her "big girl" job as the editor of skirt! magazine Lexington and moved to a local lake where she took up the mantle of Shanty Boat Queen, and lives full time on a pair of houseboats named Lakematized and The Muse with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. Her next work, Bourbonista on a Boat: From Glamour Girl to Off the Grid, a collection of outrageous essays chronicling the experience, will be available in early 2014. When not writing, she hosts all day champagne brunches; tap dances on the dock; argues politics & religion; and makes sure the Bluegrass State keeps its bourbon up to par. To learn more, read her Bourbonista Blog (www.thebourbonista.com) where she describes all the tipsy trials and tribulations of her lush life in Technicolor detail.