“Fifty Shades of Grey”… My $.02 from an authors perspective

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Two movies are coming out this Valentine’s weekend. Which one will you see?

Years ago when the whole “Shades of Grey” trilogy hit the scene, I was deep into writing my clean romance novel Broken Smiles. In my world, those risqué books seemed to be everywhere and the topic on every woman’s tongue, both religious and not. My employees were gushing over it, their mothers were gushing over it, and most of my friends were googely eyed over the smokey, dark, hero. Curious, I read a synopsis and a couple teaser chapters. Whoa, this is what some of my sixteen and eighteen year old employees couldn’t stop talking about at work?

But… I’m a sucker for romance and some friends said it spiced up their love life, so I teetered on if I should read the books or not. I knew it went against standards in my church and I knew it would mark me with a scarlet “R” for Reader (of sinful things). But… I’m a curious, inquisitive creature and so on my day off, I went down to my local grocery store where I had seen them for months staring up at me saying, read me/don’t read me. Read me/no… don’t. That particular day I finally rolled my eyes, grabbed the first book, and shoved it between milk cartoons and bread and continued to shop for food for my family. I was a crazed author by night, a full time working mother by day, and a broken soul constantly. I needed a get-a-way, and I’d heard this book could give me the escape I needed.

Something happened to me in the produce department. A feeling washed over me. I’m not even going to beat around the bush — no, it wasn’t a feeling, it was the spirit. At that time years ago, I was in a dark, vulnerable place. I hadn’t felt the spirit for a very long time. I was going through a personal, gut wrenching faith crisis. Writing my book Broken Smiles was my way of saving me and sorting out who I was. Consumed in the creation of my words. I stopped in my tracks as the burning heat coursed through me. I had felt it before, and recognized its source. A voice came powerfully to mind. “If you read that, it will taint your characters and go against everything in your novel that you have been trying to achieve.”

For a woman who was writing a clean romance, that slapped me across the face. The spirit knew how to reach me. It knew to not scold me, or make me feel guilty. It simply and with profound urgency continued to say, “you can do better. The world needs your books, not this. You need to be a light. Not a darkness.”

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(image found on Uploaded by user)

I placed the book back down and consequently, the debate of reading it or not, dissolved and I didn’t think about it again. In fact I had gained more confidence behind my words and when publishers told me I needed to add more sex to sale my book to their publishing house, I would think back to that day in the grocery store and shake my head and with assured resolute say, no, I don’t. You are wrong for me.

Okay, so fast forward over three years or so. Through a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, two of my books were published, including Broken Smiles. Recently, there was a free book exchange I stumbled upon, and staring up at me again, was a free copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. I honestly hadn’t thought about reading it since that day in the grocery store, although I had heard about it everywhere on the news, in my book clubs, on radio and talk shows. Most of the comments were negative.

I stood there debating, then picked it up. I didn’t have a strong impression one way or another about reading them. In a way I felt numb. I wondered why that was, as I have been actively trying to rediscover my faith in God and sincerely trying to live with the spirit. I stood there a while. This is where some woman would have placed it back down, this is where some woman would have jumped for joy at their free find. But I stood there curious as to what caused this crazed phenomena in our culture – enough to produce a movie and multiple best seller lists. Finally, I shrugged my shoulders. Hey, it was free and my husband was taking the kids out of town, so it found its way home with me.

What. The. Hell. Is that romance these days? I am not that old in body and mind to be that out of touch. No wonder my book sales haven’t been what I would have liked. Seriously, women, tell me, is this what readers want? I know I’m years late on this debate and quite frankly, I’m glad that I am. I read it objectively, without the crazed fans, the whirlwind of promotion, and the opposite seething negativity. I couldn’t get through half of it, not because of the kinky bits or the atrocious writing, but my fierce feminine warrior wants to fight this. The strong, independent woman inside me hated the hero. Hero? I laugh — he is a romantic hero? I would love to slay him. I did plenty of eye rolls (oh no!) and laughed at parts that were not meant to be funny.

Needless to say, I will not read the rest of the trilogy and I actually threw away my copy because it is not even worth reading if it’s free. It’s different, reading this through the eyes of an author, I think. It shouldn’t be — we should all be able to see it for what it is.

I get why women love to read about romance. A woman I loved very much was a widow for many years. After her funeral, when we were going through her things, we found 13 boxes full of romance novels. We had no idea. I get it, I understand. But these books… these books are a whole other level.

I do not wish to offend my friends who are into these books. I am only stating my own experience. In preparation for this blog post, and to attain other opinions, I sent a draft of this post to some of my fellow author friends who I knew wrote erotica and all different levels of heat in romance novels. Some points were brought up that I did not know about and want to touch on here. Click on this link for studies about how the books promote unhealthy behaviors. Click on this link for the numbing effects that this kind of literature has on future generations.

It angers us authors who work so very hard to learn the craft and then this comes along, trumping us all. Here are some of my author friends thoughts: (I have kept them anonymous, although I have their permission.)

“…I wrote a XXX once on a dare, and I won’t do it again. The characters were shallow, the plot lacking in energy and it was boring to write. It did, however, give me a much-needed income boost at the time. My opposition with FSOG (Fifty Shades of Grey) has much more to do with an author who essentially stole the characters, wrote a very badly presented story that needed a LOT more editing, and her lack of knowledge on her subject could be dangerous to the health of those reading it if the try some of the things she portrays. She is an irresponsible author.”

“I write stories for other publishers that want heat in their story lines, too. It is part of the business. I read those three books to see what all the fuss was about when I could not ignore the phenomena any longer. It angers me. The writing is horrible and the storyline… well, a bit of one finally shows up in the third book. The rest of us struggle with our craft to improve it. These books come along and make millions. To each his/her own. I am not a censor. I am not jealous. Just frustrated all writers don’t take the care to do their craft to the best of their ability and give more thought to the readers who will be influenced by what they write.”

“It’s porn, and badly written porn at that. No, no, and no.”

“We struggle to give our readers a quality product and along comes sloppy writing that makes millions. I actually cringe for the dumbing of society to know how many people read it and thought the quality was great.”

“The snippits I have read of it were poor at best. I almost cried when I mentioned the poor writing to someone and she stated that she didn’t notice it and found the trio very engaging and a wonderful read *head desk*”

“I’m a bit more liberal in my reading and writing in that to me it’s just words and it’s about the craft and I either like something and will read it again (or similar stuff) or I hate it and will not. BUT. And this is the BIG BUT here. The author (by her own admission) did NO research into the BDSM culture. Thus, some of the things she portrayed are actually considered DANGEROUS. So on that level, people emulating the book can potentially hurt themselves. As to the writing, well, it’s horrific.”

“I know a lot of NYC authors who really would rather not write sex scenes. But I think the pendulum is going to swing back a bit quite soon.”

“I think it’s a little unfair to fault EL James, though. I mean, she just wrote the book. It could have died on Amazon like millions of other books, but it was something that hit a sweet spot (no pun intended) with the readers and became successful. She gave the world what it wanted at the moment. I think that with the internet generation, we want 2 things: 1) to see horrible stuff (American’s funniest Home videos comes to mind… laughing at other people’s pain) and 2) to be part of the crowd. The big draw to 50 Shades was people saying, “OMGOsh, have you read it?” And no one wanted to be left out so they read it and whether they liked it or not, they said they liked it (most of them) because they wanted to be ‘in’. To be honest, I never even thought about reading it until I kept reading Christian or other author sites talking about how bad it was– and THAT is what got me interested.”

The last comment, especially the last sentence, reminded me of conversations I’ve had over the years. It reminded me of the times that snippets of the books were read secretly between women in church services. I think back to the many hushed conversations I’ve had with guilt ridden women at book conferences, book and critique groups, and small gatherings.

I could have kept my admission about reading this awful book a secret, like so many others, but what good would that do? I’ve always read a massive amount of books — it’s another title on my long list. So be it. The problem is the effect it had on me afterward.

Do I regret reading it?

Yes. A part of me died. A hope in me, dimmed.

It leaves me to wonder what is next in the literary world. What is the next shock factor?

My friend, out of a joke, sent me a link to an article about a woman who writes erotica with  dinosaurs, bigfoots, and sea creatures. Haha! I laughed and laughed until I read the article. People, she makes $35,000 a month selling her books!!! What! That is not funny, that is depressing and sad. Her books have been pulled from Amazon and other online sites because of the questionable material. Oh great, every author knows that if you have a banned book, it is a guaranteed seller. How do these books find interest with people?

That, my friends, is the evolution past “Shades of Grey”. The next shock factor.

I’ve hesitated to hit the publish button on this blog post. Both because of the fear of being marked with a big red letter R (Reader of garbage) and because I don’t want to be thought of as a prude. That has been the story of my life though. I’ve always teetered in grey areas. Maybe it’s the critic within me and being the victim of criticism, that has made me not care what people think of me anymore. Or maybe it is the warrior woman which screams against my skin — that does not see grey when it comes to this topic. I want to slay this ugly, dirty, abusive monster. I have even created a new romance rating system and wish books would adhere to the ratings I have shown HERE.

I want to produce books that can go into epic battle with books that hide in the shadows, but somehow end up on grocery store shelves in plain sight. I am building an army of like minded authors. I have had at least a dozen people contact me after reading the pre-release of this article, encouraging me. There have also been people who have said my words encouraged them to also speak up. That makes me happy and more courageous.

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Who’s with me! I yell in battle gear with sword pointed to the sky. I gaze across the battlefield to the opponent bound in straps and chains, with whips and leather as weapons. Upon my steely gaze they look helpless and weak, but don’t be fooled. It will be bloody, it will demand courage. I know this post has started the war for me. Fiery arrows will come early, followed by cannon fire, then hand to hand combat. But I stand on this pre-war hill with hope and determination that “The world needs our books, not theirs. Be a light. Not a darkness.”

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(image found on fromwingsandthings.com)

I’d love your comments, even if they are different than mine and the other authors on this post. However, I do demand respect, as this is such a heated topic.

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara

57 thoughts on ““Fifty Shades of Grey”… My $.02 from an authors perspective

  1. Way to go Tara! I agree and am not afraid to say so! I also was curious, but did not want to read the book so I read the synopsis on Wikipedia. That was all I needed. BDSM, dominant/submissive relationships, signing a contract to have sex. THIS IS NOT LOVE! Our society is so messed up. The main woman character is a weak insecure girl. Mr. Grey is a controlling, abusive jerk. I can in no way see how their relationship is something desirable. This was embarrassing to me as a woman how weak she is. Women should be stronger and demand respect and love! I was disgusted just by the synopsis. It makes my blood boil that they would have the balls to release this on Valentines day, insinuating this is a movie about love. I am not a fool. I see Satin’s work here. He does not trick me and will not trick my family or my kids!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you and I couldn’t agree more. Yea, it’s crazy how acceptable this is. We went to the beach a few years back and a whole group of girls about 14 or 15 were reading it together. How sad that those books are their first introduction to love and intimacy.

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  2. AMEN!!!! Tara, you are right on target and I support you 100%. I am deeply saddened by the downward spiral of our society. This book is pornography. Sadly, the majority of our society are naive and uninformed regarding the deep and long lasting affects of pornography on individuals and their intimate relationships. I am proud of you for taking a stand!!

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      • I thought I replied earlier, but it is not showing up. I just said that I have been thinking a lot about my book and actually feeling overwhelmed with the idea of the task (as you know, I am not an author and lack any skill in that arena) but I do feel that my story needs to be told. I think too many people are living with their heads in the sand in regard to pornography. Anyhow, I have considered telling my story through a blog instead of trying to actually write a book. What do you think?

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      • Dude, we need to chat. Yes, start a blog among other things. I have some friends who are very immersed in writing articles for newspapers. I can show you the ropes 🙂

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  3. Have not read FSOG and have no plans to.
    I have read several articles ABOUT the author and her trilogy. Some of those have highlighted the amateurish writing.
    I guess I’m wondering his this author will explain all this to her grandchildren.

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  4. It has always puzzled me why women would read and revel in books that glorify violence against women. As an author of clean romance (every book should end with a kiss), I’ve had those struggles–would I sell more if I sell out? But ultimately, I realize my “real audience” is…me. And I want to write what I’d be happy to read. And I have CHILDREN…and if they are also my audience, I want them to be proud of me. That is my motivation for keeping it all in the light and bright. Escapist fiction with characters who keep their morals can still be fun and funny and engaging. I sold thousands of copies last year of just that type of book. Not the millions that FSOG sold, but unless we keep the good stuff flowing, there will be nothing to combat the sludgy tide of pornographic violence-against-women filth.

    Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tara, I’m so glad you’re making your voice heard. This was a great article so thank you. It is horribly sad what a hold pornography has on our society, and if we don’t stand up and speak out against it, what hope is there?

    I so loved your book Broken Smiles. I love books and it’s so wonderful to be able to pick one up and not feel like you have to skip through ‘those parts’ or try to block images from your mind for the rest of your life because of what you read!

    May I just comment on one idea brought up in your article. It seemed a couple authors made the supposition ‘that’s [pornography and other garbage] is what the general population wants’. This may be true – a huge number of men and women are addicted to pornography. But make no mistake, this is NOT a reason to write it! Lots and lots of people are addicted to cocaine and other awful drugs, does that mean it’s alright for you to sell to them???

    Absolutely Not.

    Same goes for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment and for reading my book 🙂 As for those comments about what the general population wants, I found it interesting that they made the most money on those kinds of published books. There is a demand, so I wanted to see how it looked on the other end by being the author of romance in all the varying levels of heat.

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  6. Great article! I’m proud of your warrior voice. I also enjoyed the comments. Especially the ones about writing what we want our families to be able to read. I gave up along time ago trying to fit in with the crowd and my life has been so much happier since then. I’ve been married for 36 years, but only the first twelve of those years could be compared to most marital relationships. Our relationship changed due to a near fatal car accident 24 years ago, which made me not only a wife, but a caregiver. My love has grown by leaps and bounds as I take care of him daily. Romance isn’t about sex! Romance comes from the love and care you give to one another.

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  7. Tara, you are an inspiration to all. You said a part of you died or dimmed, but with your stand for truth and righteousness you will become more alive and stronger than ever! Keep it up! Thank you for sharing this! I’m proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You will enjoy Julia Andrus’ Blue Moon Chronicles. In editing right now. I’ve read an early proof version. I was amazed at how much unfaltering “goodness” was packed into such an epic story.

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  9. I am so proud of you!! That was a courageous article to write. And the thing is, it’s not just 50 shades. I’m pretty sure all of HBO is just as horrible.
    In the lunch room at work I hear my co-workers talking about shows they watch on cable and I’m absolutely shocked at the things they share…and so are they. They’re disgusted, horrified and grossed out but they can’t look away. They can’t watch it!!!! You’re right…when does it end? Scares me a lot!!

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  10. Thank you so much! We warrior women need to stand together! I have many friends who have loved this book since before it was a book, and just a Twilight fan fiction. They have fueled this frenzy and I have been silent. They know I do not read those kinds of books. Then as they have squealed over and over again over the movie being made, I still kept silent. Finally I broke my silence this week. And I started by saying I make no apologies for my feelings. I shouldn’t have to apologies for speaking my mind. They don’t apologies for inundating my social media with pornography. The way this book and movie have escalated into mainstream frightens me! I cleave unto my other friends who feel as I do. It gives me a shred of hope that while I am in the minority, I am not alone. I hope others can come to see the light and realize this kind of garbage is not worthy of our time, energy and money. I am going on a group Valentine’s Day date to see the movie old fashioned, just to do my part to show that some people still want clean entertainment. Some people still cherish chivalry. And with that… I will now go and buy your books!

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    • Thank you! I love everything you posted. We shouldn’t have to apologize. I sat on this post for a couple months because I was too scared to post just because of the fear of speaking up. But just look at the response I have gotten! We are not alone!

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  11. I’m in! Thanks so much for your rally cry, Tara! I often say that I wrote Good Pictures Bad Pictures so that kids could grow up to experience true romance! Ultimately we need to make romance about the heart and head more than the body, because in the end, that is where true love lives or dies.

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  12. I will admit I was blissfully ignorant of this book until the movie came out. I haven’t read it and won’t at this point.. My only comment would be this. Sex written into a loving relationship can enhance the scene. Our imaginations usually do a better job. Sex as raw animalism diminishes the act and in many ways denigrates us as humans. I’m not saying it can’t be enjoyable because it is. I suppose what I’m saying is, shouldn’t we be striving for something better?

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  13. Tara, you write a great post and THANK YOU! Thank you for saying what most of the rest of the world doesn’t want to hear and scoffs about. Thank you for saying I know to be true!!

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  14. Pingback: 3 Things Your Kids Need to Know about Fifty Shades of Grey | PornProof Kids™

  15. Thank you for your super women honesty. I love Joan of arch and feel like you we need to fight this new drug. Porn is so deadly and when it ok to show off to everyone. So some may think. What happens to the innocent children. Thank for your stand again I agree. Never read the book never will. Porn almost destored my marriage and family. So know I really am gratiful to you as writer to say no and have standards.

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  16. I know nothing about the book except what I’ve heard. I do want to say, though, that I value and respect your proud stance against what you have judged to be evil. Props, Kudos, and blessings in your battle against the devil and his servants.

    Also, thank you for standing up for women. I wish there were more like you.

    God bless you, whether you still believe in him or not.

    And finally, you may enjoy Lynn Kurland’s Nine Kingdoms novels, based on what you’ve posted here. Clean, sweet, and plenty of adventure.

    with respect and admiration,

    ~Josh

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  17. I dropped by because you visited one.of my blogs, and I thank you.Not only for your kind comment for for this post.
    I have to agree with everything I read here, from you and from your friends. Although I am religious,I am not a prude.I have not read 50 Shades but heard enough about it, especially from a disturbed semi-family member who tried very hard to shock me. I believe it IS the shock value and an “Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome; no one wants to be considered a fuddy-duddy.
    I believe we went through the same type of experience several times in the past…immediately coming to mind are the nude scene at the end of “Hair”,(actually, most of “Hair”), and “The Thorn Birds”. Anything that anyone will use to tear down morals and want to seem ‘hip’, they’ll go for, just to be part of the crowd.
    I have not read your books…yet..but I know quite a number of romance writers and most keep it clean. Sex is part of life but so are other bodily functions! Besides, it should extremely personal and in addition to a true spiritual bond between two people,(preferably for life). Using sex to sell books shows not only a lack of respect for oneself and others, it is often used by lazy and/or poor writers to get sold. 50 S of G goes beyond this to encourage dangerous and downright demonic behavior. And most of the bandwagon-jumping fools who read it don’t even realize that they are , in the vary least, rotting their brains, if not their very souls.

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    • Spoken like a boss! Great comment, thank you. Yes, I found it interesting that my friends who do write erotica and go for the “shock factor,” didn’t enjoy writing them. I think some of the most powerful romances don’t say much about the act of sex, but leave it to the readers imagination to fill in the blanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: 3 Things Your Kids Need to Know about Fifty Shades of Grey - Protect Young Minds

  19. I am totally impressed! Thank you for standing up for truth. It amazes me some of the women I LOVE and adore who do not see this book with a clear perspective.

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    • Thank you for your comment. Although this post is almost a couple years old, it brought up so many feelings. It’s hard to believe that a second movie will be coming out. I really hope it it a flop!

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