This past weekend, during a swelteringly hot spring day, I hid inside a coffee shop with Lindsey Kugler (as writers are wont to do) to discuss her recently published book, HERE, sexual exploration through writing, and N’Sync fan fiction (yep, that’s right).
Is sex writing scary?
No. I have been doing sex writing for a long time because it has been a big fascination. I first learned about sex by reading my mom’s Harlequin romances. When I was first writing about sex it was online. I would have cyber-sex in chat rooms. That was where I first started expressing my sexuality and exploring it.
I’ve been hyper-sexual since I was young. I had feelings of shame over this until I started expressing it outwardly. It’s still weird, but only because of people’s reactions to it.
How do you stop self-censoring? Do you worry about your parents reading your work?
We are taught, specifically as women, to censor ourselves. We are supposed to be quiet and nice and not graphic, and this is how you are supposed to write. I am an open person, but I’m conditioned to write this way. Sometimes I won’t realize I’m censoring myself until I start editing. Knowing that you’re censoring yourself is the bigger battle. You won’t break ground if you only censor yourself.
You have to think of your audience and what you’re trying to get across to them. I want to say, “Don’t censor yourself,” but professionally, if you want to keep a job, you have to. Although, here in Portland it’s easier. I don’t think I would have been as supported in writing HERE if I weren’t in Portland.
Some family members read it. My mom made the choice not to read it. She wanted to support me as a writer, but didn’t want to read this. My ex heard about the book before it was published. He was supportive of it. He told me he was glad I finally wrote it.
What is the best response you’ve received from your audience?
It’s all really new to me. It’s weird when people tell me they’ve read it. When the book came out, I was dating a lot. I would tell dates about my book. They would go out and buy the book. One date accused me of using dates to sell my book.
I’ve gotten nice comments from people about how honest or raw the writing is, which means more to me than a compliment on the craft. It strikes me how much people like how honest it is.
Do you think that men get away with more when writing about sex?
Yes. There’s the normalcy of “boys will be boys.” There is the dominant male culture and then there’re the rest of us, and it’s the male group that gets more air-time.
Do you ever write about sex in fiction? How has that experience been different from writing it in non-fiction?
Most of my fiction is about children and familial relationships and exploring that. When I was younger and wrote about sex, I wasn’t dating. I wrote about it for myself. It was a very safe experience for me. I wrote a lot of fan fiction—for anime, video games, even N’Sync.
Now, I think it’s a realistic part of my experience. When I wrote about it before, I was writing from fantasy and not reality. Now that I’ve experienced all kinds of forms of love, romance, and sex, it makes the writing more complicated. I have friends who write romance novels to make money, and I constantly fight with that. I don’t care about that narrative. I get really bored with writing that doesn’t explore and take risks. I want to do something uncomfortable and interesting.
What’s the best advice you have for other women interested in writing about sex?
Do your research, it’s important.
Own it. That means, if you choose to put it out there, put it out there. If you choose not to put it out there, that’s okay too.
Come back in June to read the next Girl on Girl interview with Zazen author Vanessa Veselka.