Author L.A. Merrill Talks About “Sweet” Romance and Her New Novella!
People ask me—in tones of voice ranging from curious to accusatory—why I don’t write sex scenes into my romantic stories. There is no one answer. It’s more an accumulation of reasons and personal preference, and since I explain things better in writing, let me try and break down a few motivations here. (And then the next time I get asked, I can just direct people to this blog post…)
I never meant to end up in the romance-writing field. When I thought about romances, I thought of the hetero-Harlequin-type stories, and my feminist mind recoiled. There wasn’t enough empowerment for either gender in those books to appeal to me, and not nearly enough diversity. (Not to mention the dialogue makes me shudder.) And everywhere, everywhere… sex scenes. Often very poorly written sex scenes that seemed to spring up like mushrooms after a rain of arguments and bad feeling. How did these characters get there in their minds, I wondered? I didn’t know anybody who felt like jumping into bed with a guy they hated, two days after meeting him. Few and far between were romance writers I admired, like Jennifer Crusie and Rainbow Rowell. (Technically, Rowell is classed as a YA author, but I think of her as primarily writing stories about relationships.)
I was elated to discover the LGBT+ romance genre. Finally, I thought, diversity! And after a few false starts, I wrote a story that was accepted in an anthology and I was on my way. I’ve always tried to follow the famous advice of Toni Morrison (“If there is a story you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”), and the stories I wanted to read were diverse, funny, humanist stories about real, relatable characters who have complex lives and sometimes fall in love. And I wanted to write stories that everyone could read.
The LGBT+ romance genre has just as many, if not more, sex scenes in stories than our straight romance novel cousins. Talking with other writers and readers on Twitter, I discovered a growing number of people, especially younger people, who said they “didn’t like romance bc of all the sex.” They were embarrassed to read it; it made them uncomfortable; the mental images were triggers for them. Asexual people wanted realistic representation or at least stories they could get into; bisexual people wanted to end the stereotype that they’d jump into bed with anything that moved. Teens and young adults wanted more stories like the ones being told on Welcome to Night Vale, where gay, lesbian, transgender, and genderqueer characters were portrayed living their lives like everyone else, and the “normalcy” and absence of sexual situations in the narrative allowed them to share the stories with their families as a way to ease the transition into being out and accepted.
There is a pervasive stereotype of hyper-sexualization hanging over the LGBT+ community like mist, and it’s drifting in from our media representation. I’m all for sexual empowerment and will fight anybody who says you can’t do whatever you want with your body and another consenting adult (or two), but we are so much more than our sex lives, and I think we need more stories that not only show multiple sides to characters but that don’t even touch on sex. Not just to shift focus from sexual stereotypes, but so we can explore stories of romantic love that everyone—young, old, out or not, identifying anywhere along the rainbow spectrum—can read, share, and enjoy. Stories for everybody, about every body—and mind, and soul, and every kind of love.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
By L.A. Merrill
David Marks is looking for the perfect place to film his new web series and recover from his latest failed relationship. When reclusive writer Michael Sharp opens his Montana ranch to paying guests, David knows he’s found the right place—but he doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right too.
Forty years ago, Michael Sharp’s father was murdered in front of him. No one believed a six-year-old boy’s testimony against the powerful Carver brothers. For years Michael has lived in self-imposed exile, the only living witness who can bring down the Carver criminal empire. But now the money is running out, and he’s forced to play host to a troupe of temperamental web actors and their energetically attractive director in order to stay alive.
The Carvers aren’t about to stand for rebellion. Michael has outlived his usefulness. Now Michael and David have to find a way to end this fight once and for all, finding justice for Michael’s father and meeting David’s funding deadline—all before one or both of them ends up dead.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is available now! Follow the link to buy your copy, and be sure to check out the L.A. Merrill’s other stories and the rest of the States of Love series!
L.A. Merrill is a tiny blonde woman who loves a good story. She has worked as a tour guide and an assistant stage director, and spent one memorable summer as a camp counselor. After five years in vocal performance, production work, and arts education, she now writes full-time. Her work has appeared in
Kansas City Voices magazine, on the YouTube series The Blank Scene, and online. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is L.A.’s fourth story with Dreamspinner Press, and her first published novella. (There’s an unpublished novella, about murderous husbands and Scottish ghosts, written when she was thirteen, that is sitting in a file at home. It will likely never see the light of day.)
An avid knitter, she has yet to follow a pattern and has made some interestingly shaped hats as a result. L.A. makes handknit and crocheted blankets and hats for local charities, as well as leading a LGBT+ writers group in her hometown. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she can usually be found reading, writing, and making things up as she goes along. Follow her on Twitter for feminism and fangirling at @la_mer92