Today we're talking to M.E. KEMP, author of Death of a Dutch Uncle, Hilliard and Harris (web site: Hilliardandharris.com for more information)
1. Marilyn, as a writer, what do you think about the way sex is written nowadays? I don't mean the moral aspect of it, but do you think that writers do a good job when they write about it?
A. Sex is probably the hardest thing to write, period. It's easier to write murder scenes. I don't claim that I write good sex scenes but I write funny ones -- I'm writing from experience here -- use what you know....
2. It's a good thing you don't write your murder scenes from experience, then! Tell me more about your novels.
A. My detective, Hetty Henry, is a lusty woman -- she's young, widowed twice, and when she likes a man she doesn't hesitate to go to bed with him. Hetty is a Puritan from Boston, and is much closer to historical truth than the narrow-minded Puritan of stereotype. The Puritans were Elizabethan, not Victorian, and they enjoyed a good romp in the hay as much as they do in the daytime soaps. In my new book, DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE (Hilliard and Harris), Hetty gets it on with a hunky Mohawk (Native American.) She's the animal and he's the suave sophisticate in bed... or beneath the pine trees, as it were.
3. Mmmm, I know which book I'll be buying next! Do historical novels usually include sex writing?
A. Medieval historical mysteries usually have monks (i.e. Brother Cadfael), nuns, priests and other religious as detectives so there's very little sex there. I decided to have a Puritan minister as my detective --Increase "Creasy" Cotton is a little naive but there's no doubt he likes women. Creasy Cotton and Hetty Henry are antagonists at first but they are learning to work together to solve crimes. There is some sexual tension between them -- they had 'pity sex' in the first book, MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM (Xlibris) but they're really involved with other people.
4. What in your opinion is the difference between "contemporary fiction" (where it's not uncommon to find sexual encounters, e.g., the Stephanie Plum series), "erotica" and "porn"?
A. Contemporary mystery novels are pretty tame when it comes to sex -- it's more of a tease than 'erotica'. I like classic erotica but I haven't read any since Edith Wharton. As for porn, it's just stupid and unimaginative. But then I don't really read the 'noir' type mysteries by contemporary writers-- except for Tony Hillerman -- I read the cozies. In my limited reading experience, I haven't found any male writers who know how to write a good sex scene -- but then I haven't found many women who can do it, either.
5. How does your favourite writer handle sex in their books?
A. My character Hetty was really a reaction to historical mysteries where the handsome hero and lovely heroine are stuck in an isolated cabin, they are attracted to each other, but all they share is a passionate kiss. Now I admire Anne Perry no end, but her theory is no sex without marriage, and then it's only implied. A single kiss is more romantic to her -- well, it is romantic but it's not realistic. If our ancestors were all Saints, we wouldn't be here today. As for Janet Evanovitch, whose work I really enjoy, the biggest disappointment was her sex scene between Stephanie and Ranger -- after an amazing amount of tension build-up it's strictly 'bang-slam-thank you-sex.' Maybe my Mohawk hunk, Billy Blue Bear, is a reaction to that, too. (Blue Bear has a big 'war club' that he offers to show Hetty almost from the start of the book.)
6. LOL. Anything else you'd like to add?
A. I really enjoy smashing some of the myths about our ancestors -- I do my research and my research shows they were a bawdy lot. They also drank vast amounts of liquor -- even a Puritan minister from Boston could drink any of today's toppers under the table --and they drank strange concoctions of it. The men had more fashion sense than we do today -- all those silks and laces and gorgeous colors didn't make a man any less manly. Check out the birth rates!
Marilyn, thank you for your time. And now I'm off to explore 'war clubs' on http://store.hilliardandharris.com/1-59133-185-4.html.