GIRLS ON TOP: SEX IN CRIME FICTION (PART 1) with STEPH BROADRIBB & SJI HOLLIDAY #GirlsOnTop

 

Today it’s time for something a little different. Susi (SJI) Holliday and me, in conjunction with CrimeTime, have been thinking about sex in crime fiction. You can read our thoughts in a few places – the first half of our conversation here on the CTG blog, the second half over on Susi’s blog HERE, and the full article over on the CrimeTime website HERE

Once you’ve had a read, we’d love to know your thoughts – do you like a sprinkling of sex with your crime? And, if you do, what’s the most memorable sex scene in a crime thriller for you? Tweet us at @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday using hashtag #GirlsOnTop to let us know.

[STEPH] Let’s talk about sex. Sex in crime fiction, specifically. Okay, so I’ll go first – I’m not embarrassed – there’s a couple of sex scenes in my debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD. One is more of a cut away as the action happens, but the other one, towards the end of the book, is very much the action as it happens; my protagonist Lori Anderson riding a male character cowgirl style. I put it in because the scene felt right for the story and (I hope) conveys something about the characters, adding additional conflict and raising the emotional stakes of the decisions they’re about to make and the (negative) consequences they could have for their relationship. That’s a whole lot of subtext to put on a sex scene, but that’s my rationale.

Back when I was starting to write my novel, I was told that sex and crime fiction don’t mix, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I can think of memorable sex scenes in the crime thriller genre like Lee Child’s The Affair – Jack Reacher has sex as a train thunders along the tracks – and that chilling sex scene in Gone Girl between Amy and Desi – the book, and the slightly more bloody film version! But, now I think about it, I can’t think of many detective stories that have sex scenes playing out in full in them unless the sex itself is the crime to be solved. Surely there must be more and my memory is just playing tricks on me? To help, I’ve enlisted crime writer S.J.I. Holliday – author of the Banktoun series – to answer the question, do sex and detective fiction mix?

[SUSI] I really don’t see why not. When you ask people about this, you get very mixed responses. Readers (in general) are absolutely fine with serial killers, blood, gore, death and destruction. But throw a blow job in there and they’re skimming the pages faster than a quickie in the stationery cupboard.

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The Slice Girls [L-R]: Alexandra Sokoloff, Steph Broadribb, AK Benedict, Louise Voss, Susi Holliday, Harley Jane Kozak

Personally, I love a bit of sex. Slotted in at the right time, it can help add to the tension of your story, especially if the characters are having sex with people they shouldn’t. In all three of my books, there is a hint of sex – an encounter reminiscent of 9½ Weeks on a kitchen table in BLACK WOOD, where various food items are strewn around the kitchen… In WILLOW WALK, there’s a first-timer’s sex scene down by the river which I thought was quite touching (so to speak) and entirely relevant to the plot. There’s actually less sex in THE DAMSELFLY than in the other two. A thwarted BJ and an illicit scene in a lock-up that’s kept mainly off the page. It totally depends on the story. It definitely shouldn’t be shoehorned in if it doesn’t advance the plot.

[STEPH] Seems like Susi and me are on the same page about sex-on-the-page, but what about other crime writers, what do they think? We asked a few to find out.

Neil White – From the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre) – said, ‘Never written a sex scene. Too buttoned up. My mum will read it’ and Mason Cross – The Time To Kill (Orion) – said, ‘I’ve only included PG13 sex scenes so far, although I may need to change that for plot reasons in the new one. But Jeez, my dad reads these!’ So it could be the fear of family members reading intimate scenes is in the forefront of some writers’s minds (and limits them going all the way) but that’s not all. Chris Ewan – Long Time Lost (Faber) – said, ‘I almost wrote one yesterday and then … just cut away again. Performance anxiety.’

It also depends on the character. James Oswald – Written In Bones (Penguin) – said, ‘I don’t put much sex in my books. Tony McLean is incredibly repressed anyway, so there’s that too … on the other hand there’s auto-erotic asphyxiation and death by priapism in my latest, so maybe I do write sex after all.’

Andy Martin – Reacher Said Nothing (Transworld) – said, ‘Sad to say there are few explicit sex scenes of note in Reacher Said Nothing. I only looked over Lee Child’s shoulder while he was writing Make Me. I think there is the occasional manly handshake. But Lee – as straight as a die – had some wry remarks to make on the subject. “Never sleep with someone you know,” still resonates in my mind. And more recently he said that the most erotic experience he had ever had was a brief encounter on a train. They shared a moment but had no actual language in common. I think I may have been influenced by Childean minimalism, that “zero degree” of writing recommended by Roland Barthes. I was at a Norman Mailer writers colony in Wyoming recently when a brilliant Indian writer devised an elaborate sex scene about a dozen pages long. I wrote one, rather shorter, that went like this: “We had sex.” It’s not exactly lyrical or spiritual but it gets the job done.’

It seems, from the guys we spoke to, that male crime thriller writers generally prefer not to write on-the-page sex and to cut away before the act takes place. Mark Edwards – The Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer) – bucks this trend, he wants more sex in crime fiction, and said, ‘we Brits are notoriously squeamish when it comes to the squelchy bits. Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our great detectives were as skillful in bed as they are at solving crimes? Don’t you think there should be more people handcuffed to beds in thrillers because they like being handcuffed to beds?’

To find out what the female crime writers thought, why Susi hates ‘panties’ and what the trick to writing a good sex scene is, hop over to Susi’s blog HERE then come find us on Twitter @crimethrillgirl and @SJIHolliday and tell us your thoughts on sex in crime fiction using hashtag #GirlsOnTop

And check out the article in full on Barry Forshaw’s CrimeTime at www.crimetime.co.uk  and check out his Rough Guide to Crime Fiction here

Buy DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb here

Buy THE DAMSELFLY by SJI Holliday here

And you can buy books by our contributing authors by clicking the book titles below:

Neil WhiteFrom the Shadows (Bonnier Zaffre)

Mason CrossThe Time To Kill (Orion)

Chris EwanLong Time Lost (Faber)

James OswaldWritten In Bones (Penguin)

Andy MartinReacher Said Nothing (Transworld)

Mark EdwardsThe Devil’s Work (Thomas & Mercer)

 

More about Steph and Susi:

Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now. Find out more at www.crimethrillergirl.com right here!

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up near Edinburgh and now lives in London. She works as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and writes books set in a creepy and claustrophobic small town in Scotland where the crime rate is apparently higher than in New York. BLACK WOOD, WILLOW WALK and THE DAMSELFLY are a mix of psychological thriller and detective fiction, featuring the terminally unlucky in love, Sergeant Davie Gray. You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com

 

You know you need another bookcase when …

many books!

many books!

 

I love books.

It’s a simple fact.

The problem is, even though I’ve got a Kindle, I’m still hopelessly addicted to hardbacks and paperbacks.

And that’s a problem. I’m always running out of shelf-space and so my books begin to take over the floor – I think the photo speaks for itself!

What’s your solution to an ever increasing book collection?

Daily Ponder: Reading is like …

postcard illustration by Sean Freeman

postcard illustration by Sean Freeman

I adore this postcard. It’s been proudly displayed on my bookcase ever since I picked it up at the fabulous Goldsboro Books.

Credits to: Pan MacMillan, 2666 by Roberto Balano, postcard illustration by Sean Freeman.

Love Reading: do you get a daily fix?

I love books

I love books (Photo credit: jamarmstrong)

I love reading, but what with my day job, my Creative Writing MA studies, drafting my novel, and all the usual day-to-day stuff to fit in, it can be tough to grab much time to read.

I’m lucky that I’m a fast reader, especially if the story grips me from the outset and carries me along, but I reckon that it’s only around an hour a day that I manage to read for in the week, and that’s split into short bursts – a couple of minutes as I drink my first morning coffee, a few minutes at lunchtime, a little longer if I’m soaking in the bath. I usually get to read for longer at the weekends, although it never seems like long enough!

What about you?

Do you read every day, or just at the weekends?

Bookish Magic: what does it for you?

magic in the pages image

magic in the pages image

There’s something magical that happens when you’re reading a good book isn’t there?

It’s as if you’ve been transported to another place, into another life, experiencing things that you don’t usually, and piecing together situations that, in real life, might be terrifying, but from between the pages of a book are fascinating.

For me, the thing that always grabs my attention, and my imagination, is a good puzzle. A locked room mystery perhaps, or a really compelling ‘why dunnit’. Once there’s a puzzle to be solved, a puzzle with high stakes and lots of tension, then I can’t help but read on.

What does it for you?

What keeps you reading?

Sometimes you just need a bit of DEXTER

Dexter books

Dexter books

Things have been a bit hectic with the ‘day job’ of late.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling knackered and in need of a ‘pick me up’ I have a few favorite novel series that I turn to. And one of those series is DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay.

The deliciously deadly Dexter, and his complicated life of serving Blood Splatter Analyst (by day) and Serial Killer serial killer (by night) is always a joy to read about. The quirky voice of the character immediately pulls me into the story and lets me forget the world for a while. And sometimes we all need that, right?

Of course, if I’m feeling more like watching than reading I can always dig out the series box set (I have them all!) and watch a few episodes too.

Perfect to chill out to, don’t you think.

What’s your ‘chill out’ book or series?

New website for Agent Hunting

Agent Hunter website

Agent Hunter website

 

If you’re an author aspiring to publication and you’re hunting for an agent, you might want to check out the new Agent Hunter website that’s been created by those clever people over at the fabulous Writers Workshop.

 

Agent Hunter is a site packed with details of agents, agencies and publishers which allows you to personalise your search to find the ideal ones for you (you can specify agents who handle authors of crime fiction, for example). You can sign up for a free trial, and if you like it  you can take out a yearly subscription for £12 a year.

 

I’ve had a nose around the site and I found it super easy to navigate and packed with useful info.

 

So, if you’re on the search for an agent or publisher you might want to hop over to http://www.agenthunter.co.uk/ for a look see.