Friday, April 18, 2014

Tessa Bailey: How Much Sex Is Too Much/Too Little in New Adult?

by Joyce Lamb)

(Photo: Entangled)

Tessa Bailey, author of Unfixable, explores what level of sexual activity readers expect from characters in New Adult romances.

Tessa: How much sex is too much sex in a New Adult read? I posed the question on Twitter and concluded that there is no correct answer. Some say it depends on your audience, others say there can never be too much. To be fair, those final responders are likely my audience, because if you're asking me, the answer will almost always be "the more the merrier." That goes for sex in my reading material, white wine and Jason Statham movies.

At this point, I've written exactly one and a half New Adult novels, so I'm far from an expert in the genre. However, based on these one and a half books of mine, there is no way to draw a conclusion about the acceptable amount of sexual content either. They are vastly, freakishly different books. The same person wrote them (me), so how can this be possible? It's possible because these books contain two different couples. Two different sets of personalities, beliefs, pasts, presents and futures. Each one of them is unique.

While Willa and Shane from Unfixable disliked each other on sight, thanks to some hefty guilt weighing on both their shoulders, the couple I'm currently writing acknowledges the attraction from Jump Street and then proceed to … jump each other … in the street. While Willa and Shane let the attraction simmer until it boils over, my current couple basically said, "Screw that, life is too short. And so is that skirt."

Here's the thing, though. While these couples had two entirely different paths to the Promised Land, they each worked in their own awesome way. Each path would have been wrong for the opposite couple. There shouldn't be a formula. It should be based on your characters, where they are currently in life, what they want as opposed to what they need.

One writer I turn to when I read New Adult is Jennifer Echols. I love her sense of humor. One book in particular, Such a Rush, came to mind when I thought of pacing in terms of sexual content. Much like my characters in Unfixable, her characters in this book sized each other up like prize fighters for most of the story, until resisting became too hard. I found that pacing incredibly sexy. It had me begging toward the end of the book for them to get it on. For these characters, who had a lot of baggage to sort through before it was emotionally healthy for them to have sex and remain true to themselves, this worked. You also have authors such as M. Leighton whose characters engage in sex earlier and with more frequency, such as in her title Down to You, but it worked for those characters. It worked for the story.

The question of too much/too little sex in New Adult continues to be debated because the characters are younger and don't know themselves as well as characters featured in adult romance. They are still learning about themselves and are perhaps not equipped yet to decide if going to bed together will help or harm that personal progress. Again, this goes back to the personalities and pasts you're dealing with when you create your protagonists.

So, how much sex is too much sex in New Adult? In the end, the only answer I can come up with is to keep writing and hope my characters guide me. : )

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