Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Sex and Romance in a Limited Time
Thirteen years ago, I spent two weeks in Hong Kong, and I've never forgotten the monasteries I visited while I was there. Whenever I've traveled, I've always most enjoyed religious sites, and this is partly because there's a wordless sense of communion in these places. Locals mingle with tourists and tourists from all parts of the world mingle with each other. Some people are there because the guidebooks told them to be, and others because they have sincere religious feeling, but I've never felt that these different purposes take away from the experience.
When I saw the call for Kristina Wright's XOXO: Sweet and Sexy Romance, which asked for very short pieces of erotic romance, I thought of travel right away. In so many fantasies, vacations unite these three elements—limited space and time, eroticism, and romance. As I began to ponder what sort of vacation would do the trick, vivid memories of Hong Kong came to mind.
I was 19 when I visited there, and I remember meeting a man who lived in the same state I did. We had a twenty minute conversation about how exciting it was to be "from the same place," and it struck me as funny. I knew I didn't feel general affection for every fellow resident of my fair state when I was at home. Traveling, however, changes definitions of same and different. The inherent time limit imposed by plane tickets also won't allow would-be lovers to dawdle or build up a slow burn.
I didn't take a new lover in Hong Kong—I had traveled there with my lover at the time, but I've hooked up while on vacation, and I recall the urgency and romance of it. I have always had the knowledge in the back of my mind that I can't afford to be foolish and lose sight of the fast-approaching end. When the vacation is over, I have never wanted to walk away with a broken heart. But my story in XOXO indulges the fantasy that this time it's different.
I didn't think the fantasy was enough on its own, though. I wanted to show why these two people were right for each other—why they needed to stay together beyond the vacation, when they would return to the everyday definition of common ground. I wanted the reader to believe it would be worth the five-hour drives required for them to hold onto what they found in Hong Kong.
First, I showed them traveling to a couple of the places I loved most.
The "Big Buddha" is near the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau island. (The picture here was taken by Mimihitam and posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license). It's a very touristy site, and what I remember most was the long, terrifying bus ride required to get there. My characters meet on this bus, and this is where they first feel a connection—a sense of joy and freedom that might be the vacation, but just might be the result of being together.
Once they've established that connection, they decide to continue traveling together, and they visit the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. (The picture here was taken by CPJoseph and posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license). This is the most incredible place I've ever been. As you can see from the picture, the statues go on forever, and as far as I could see each is different. Each has its own lesson and story. I remember climbing the stairs to the monastery already aching at the knowledge that I would forget much of what I was seeing.
As far as the story, I wanted the idea of unified difference to come through for the characters. And this is the location where they have their first kiss.
Soon, Amy, my heroine, knows she is falling for the hero, and begins to struggle with wanting more but knowing how naive it is to believe that this relationship can last beyond the trip. This is where I bring out the erotic aspect of the story. Together, these characters aren't just passionate, they're sweet and playful. Part of what I love about writing erotica is that I believe sex offers some of the best possible opportunities for characterization. It's my hope that seeing the way these two are in bed with each other helps the reader believe in them.
Often, writing involves taking fragments of my experience and remixing them in ways that seem surprising and mysterious when I consider what I've decided to throw together. "When the Vacation Is Over" is a good example of that process. Each part of the story, however, comes from something in my heart that's vivid and cherished. I'm so pleased to have been included in XOXO (this is my first time appearing in an anthology edited by Kristina Wright, and I'm stoked to be part of one of her excellent books).
This is part of the Won't You Be Our Valentine? blog tour for XOXO: Sweet and Sexy Romance.