One word that can kill your romance writing career

Like many debut authors I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing my first book four years ago. All I wanted to do was tell a story.

I didn't know the first thing about marketing. I had no clue about the impact reviews and word of mouth had on an author's career. I certainly didn't expect to become my own worst enemy before the last word was even written.

I anticipated my struggles to hit the required word count. I worried about writer's block and dead ends in my plot. What I didn't foresee was the one thing that hit me unexpectedly one sunny afternoon.

I sat in front of my computer, my lovely fictional couple was getting ready to burn up the sheets, when ...*bam*...a picture of my mother reading the book popped into my mind. Instant word-count-killer.

My hands froze on the keyboard. Suddenly, my gnawing insecurities stopped revolving around my ability to finish and publish the book. I was no longer fretting about the uncertainty of my career choice. There was only one word that kept spinning around and around in my head.

Image.

More exactly the disintegration of my own image as a "nice girl", and the disappointment that would undoubtedly follow.

We all cultivate a certain image of ourselves either because we want to, or because we fall into the trap of meeting other people's expectations. Once we have accepted our image it is unbelievably hard to let go.

Take my own life, for example:

I am the baby in my family. My sisters—I swear this is true—still covered my eyes when there was a kissing couple on TV when I was sixteen. Poor things never realized I had been sneaking books from my mother's book stash of—wait for it— romance novels for some time. There you have it. And there I had it, worrying about my mother's reaction more than a decade later, when I knew she loved the genre.

Then again, romance was a different kind of animal in my mother's day and age. I guess I could have begged her not to read my books. But what about my ex-colleagues at work? My old neighbours? Existing friends? My husband? My children, twenty years from now. Someone I knew was going to read my books eventually. And then...

SEX she wrote. *gasp*

Horrified, I went back for a round of impromptu revisions and edited the entire build-up of sexual tension. I changed the terminology of my sex-scenes to be less offensive. Made the writing more palatable, more washed-out.

Made sure nobody thought I was running around wielding whips and chains at night. (I'm exaggerating. Maybe.) 

In short, I was being stupid! More so, because I didn't feel the need to whitewash a particularly graphic medical scene. For some reason I thought I would get away with (fictional) torture easier than I would get away with two people making love.

What is wrong with the world that nobody asks if Agatha Christie had some skeletons in her closet, yet the same people assume a romance writer is giving an exact recount of their own bedroom fantasies? It's fiction guys! More than that, it's those bedroom fantasies that guarantee romance readers will pick up a book. So here I am today, saying proudly.

Yes, I'm writing sexy times. Image be damned.

Readers, enjoy. Only, maybe not my mother, please.