Ian Fleming, Larry McMurty, Mario Puzo — these were the people who taught me about sex when I was growing up, writes Karen Frankola…
I started sneaking my father’s racy novels off his bookshelf even before I was a teenager. The Spy Who Loved Me, The Last Picture Show, and a dog-eared paperback of The Godfather made the biggest impressions on me. I was a bookworm who had never even been kissed, and some of the sex scenes were downright frightening.
When Jacy, the teen bitch-queen of Picture Show, loses her virginity to Duane, and tells him afterward to stop making such a fuss, I wondered if that’s how I would feel after my first time. Although those three books were written by men, they all included a female perspective which made their sex scenes seem real. Or at least that’s how I feel looking back on them as an adult. I definitely remember the sexy parts more than anything else in all three books, probably because I read them over and over again!
Once I became an adult, I didn’t really search for “dirty” books. If there was a good book with a well-written sex scene, I certainly enjoyed it, but I never developed a taste for erotica. And then Fifty Shades of Grey came out and I had to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn’t really understand the attraction for any woman who wasn’t into S&M, spanking, or bondage. Even if you were, the rest of the book moved very slowly.
So when I wrote Appetites, I had a tough time trying to figure out how much sex to put into it. The first version had one fairly graphic sex scene because it was so instrumental to the plot. Sarah, the heroine, fulfills a long-recurring sexual fantasy, which endangers two of her key relationships.
But my sister (a great sounding board!) said that sex scene came out of nowhere and I should either tone it down or add more. I decided since the theme of Appetites is about desire and passion, I had to be just as honest about the yearning for sex and the consequences of bad decisions as I was with Sarah’s and Max’s appetites for food or drink. So sex became a bigger part of the book.
The biggest compliment I’ve gotten on the sex scenes are that they are realistic. Sex exposes a great deal about a character and the reader can miss out on character development if you decide not to reveal too much. On the other hand, I find too much description of the in-and-out and talk of fluids boring. All the sex in Appetites is one-on-one, between a man and a woman, with no one tied up. Perhaps it’s harder to make that type of sex exciting than something more kinky, but I’m guessing that’s the kind of sex most people actually prefer.
I do have to say writing the sex scenes were challenging, but very enjoyable! I hope they turn the reader on, but more importantly, I hope they help readers understand why Sarah and Max have made other choices in their lives.
And finally, putting sex into your book can be a little embarrassing. You can’t write about sex wondering what your mother would think if she read it! But if someone like Lena Dunham can be so honest with her writing and displaying her own body in Girls, I think I can handle watching my fictional characters create a little steam.
When Sarah suddenly hears from Harry, the Brit she almost married twenty years ago, she decides now is the time to change her life. Sarah has a great job in Manhattan, but she considers herself too fat to have a boyfriend. Harry is visiting New York in four months and she wants to turn back into the girl he fell in love with. Since she can never stick to a diet, she comes up with a drastic solution.
Sarah asks her sister Max to lock her up in her basement and feed her nothing but healthy meals. Max, a struggling waitress, agrees begrudgingly. She’s skinny, but has her own set of appetites—for drink, drugs, and great-looking losers. Sarah thinks a summer in Max’s basement will give her a new body, a chance to reconnect with Harry, and the friendship she’s long craved from her sister. But things quickly go wrong. Max’s drinking leads her to neglect Sarah, who figures out how to get out of the basement. Sarah develops an obsession with Max’s boyfriend and manages to fulfill a sexual fantasy by pretending to be something she’s not. Can Sarah turn back time with Harry or will she and Max kill each other first? Can either sister ever learn to say no?
Karen Frankola spent much of her career writing very short stories at news organisations like CNN and MSNBC, so creating a novel was challenging. She now does a variety of writing for corporations and non-profit organizations. Karen is lucky enough to work mostly from home, with her dog Rascal curled up under her desk. Karen grew up near Pittsburgh, where she spent much of her childhood reading books in the cemetery that bordered her family’s backyard. Karen moved to nine different States and England. Some of her favorite jobs were teaching journalism at the University of Missouri, working as a television news director, and handling video shoots for Deloitte around the world. She also spent a summer repairing motors at a steel mill and hopes to soon publish a coming-of-age memoir about that experience. Karen and her husband Troy now reside in Durham, North Carolina, where they enjoy watching deer in the woods behind their house, lots of live music, beautiful biking trails, and great neighbors. She is working on a sequel to Appetites.