Thursday, May 8, 2008

In-laws, Erotic Writing, and Paganism

My in-laws are about to descend for a four-day weekend. So my husband and I have been scrambling to get the house clean, pick up extra groceries, and all the usual in-law type preparations. Fresh tulips on the mantle, fresh lilacs on the coffee table, and all that.

But as usual, I’ve put off the most important tasks till last. My husband’s parents don’t know I write erotic romance, or that our entire family’s pagan. They’re old. My mother-in-law has heart trouble. My father in law has cancer. And as my teenage daughter said when she took her Teen Witch and Living Wicca books off her shelf earlier: “I’d better put these away before grandma and grandpa get here. Grandpa’s such a snoop, and although I feel so ick hiding my books, I don’t want to give them a heart attack or anything.”

Like my daughter, I’ll put away my books on paganism, as well as the erotic romance and erotica titles in my to-be-read pile, and the dry erase board by the computer which includes a hefty amount of information about my writing. Incriminating details such as book titles, and all that. And like my daughter, I’ll feel “ick” when I put things out of sight till after the visit.

That’s why I always leave the task till the last minute. And I wonder how bad it could really be to just come out and tell them what I write. Well, not the details, of course. No one from their generation really needs to know the gritty logistics of m/f/m ménages with double penetration, or the art of including m/m sex within the context of a ménage scene. But I wonder if their hearts might just be strong enough to handle the erotic romance bit. And wow, as for being pagan, it would sure be nice not to get Christmas cards every December.

But they’re old. And sick. And stressed. So instead, I’ll put away my incriminating dry erase board, and make sure the manuscript my husband’s reading for me is tucked securely into a drawer. I’ll put away my erotica titles, along with my dog-eared copy of Circle, Coven and Grove and any other books likely to make a pair of devout Catholics fear for their grandchildren’s souls. And I’ll remind myself that they live far away, and we only see them once a year.

But I’ll still feel ick, because I'm an open sort of person, and don't make a habit of hiding either what genre I write in, or my spiritual inclinations.

So what about all of you? Anyone have personal details they feel they can't (or shouldn't) share with relatives?



Zena Wynn said...

Hey Eden,

Both my mom and I are Christians so I don't have the religious thing you have going on, BUT, I'm a lot more liberal in my christianity than my mom. For instance, I write what she calls "sex books" and she fears for my soul.

We don't discuss it. She knows I had a book published. She hears me and kids talking about them and sees the royalty check envelopes coming in the mail, but I don't discuss it with her.

She never liked me reading romances. Called them things like "trash." So no, what I write is not open for discussion or "judgement" because I don't feel the way she (and a lot of other Christians) feels about erotic romance.

As for your in-laws, yes it makes you uncomfortable but they're old and they're family and what you're doing is showing love and respect for their faith and values, even though it goes against your conscious. That's a good thing

Eden Rivers said...

Hey Zena,
Thanks for stopping by. Helps to know someone else has a family member with uncompromising values to deal with. I never understand how society has such a high tolerance for violence in books, TV, and movies, but then calls love and sex "trash." Guess I just don't think like most folks. As for the in-laws, you're right, just not nice to shock sick, old people. Only four days... That'll be my mantra for a while.


Tuesday Morrigan said...

I've been lucky enough to have a very supportive family, maybe too supportive. :-D. My mom is a very strict Christian and she raised us all to be pretty strict religiously. She prays everyday and looks for God in everyday circumstances.

She raised us by herself and has (because of the circumstances of a single parent household and her genuine love) become our best friends. For the first six months of my writing career, I didn't tell her a thing. It tore me up not to tell her what I wrote so I gave in.

Her response floored me. She not only wanted to read my stories, she's told all her friends I'm published and write romance. She's more excited about my accomplishments than I am. I know I'm lucky and I appreciate her all the more because of her openness.

According to my mom, my ability to write about "real" relationships is a god-given talent and I should not be ashamed. *grin*

Trista Ann Michaels said...

I have a supportive family as well. They know what I write and are excited for me but on the flip side, i won't let them read it. My mother and grandmother both can't understand that, but it just feels too weird to me. The thought of my mother and grandmother reading a sex scene that I wrote just makes me shudder...LOL

Eden Rivers said...


What a beautiful thing, for your mom to accept what you write and support you like that! I'm lucky that my husband and children are incredibly supportive of my writing (though of course my girls only read the "straight paranormal" stories, none of the hot stuff!). I think the important thing is to have at least one person who totally believes in what you do :-)


Eden Rivers said...


When I told my mom I'm published but don't feel comfortable sharing my pen name, she chuckled and said, "Oh, you write the kind of books you don't want your mother to read." You bet, lol! She's proud that I'm published, but also keeps urging me to write children's books. I think she'll be glad when I finally publish one under my own name and she gets to read something I've written. That's one of my goals with the Urban Fantasy I'm going to start as soon as I turn in Broken Pentacle.


Lena Austin said...

My mom knows and pimps me out. My father and stepmother know, but even though my stepmother owns an indie bookstore, she won't display erotic romance of any kind there. She will order books for customers who ask, and keep them behind the counter in discreet bags. LOL!

My mother-in-law is a different matter. While I personally don't care if she knows, I am reluctant to be open about my paganism and my writing for my husband's sake. He doesn't need the lectures. (She knows better than to go after me directly.) Would I put away my references and pagan books if she showed up at my house? Probably not. My house, my rules. So far, it hasn't been an issue.

All in all, it's a fragile peace.

Lauralyn said...

My family is conservative as well, and I think it helped a lot that the first M/M I wrote was a sexless young adult novel. My mother shakes her head and asks to read an edited version of the later work, and when I pointed out that the edited version would only be about two pages long she did that same funny little eye roll she's done since I was born.

However,I see nothing wrong with not being confrontational about lifestyle choices as long as they don't hide a sense of shame that should not, and ought not, to be felt by an adult who has made choices that are no one's business but her own.

I feel for you sweetie, and for your daughter most of all. Tough to explain old people to kids...

Eden Rivers said...


Lena, "a fragile peace" is an outstanding summary of my in-law relations. It's so much more complicated becasue they're my husband's parents, not my own.

Lauralyn, yep, grandparents can be hard on kids, lol. My older daughter decided to put her books on paganism back on her bookshelf last night (with our blessing--we'd never ask the kids to hide who they are for their grandparents' sake). So, if grandpa goes snooping, could turn out to be an interesting weekend.

If nothing else, family relations provide a fascinating blog topic! What's been neat for me is seeing how many people have familys who are okay with what they write.


Rowan said...

My dad is retired military and my mom is pretty conservative and religious. Because I was sure they'd flip out, I'd had this sprawling five-year plan meant to ease them into it.

Then one day I'm sneaking a peek at my brand-spanking new book cover featuring two hot half-naked men, and I hear this inquisitive Korean accented voice behind me, "Are those men hugging?"


I totally froze, then blurted out that it was for my book and explained to her what genre I wrote in without getting into the gritty details. She literally nodded, patted my head, and asked if I wanted ice cream. That was that. Since Mom tells Dad everything, he knows too, and they both seem fine with it.

They raised me to be open minded and were always supportive of anything I did, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised with how cool they were. I don't have any inlaws myself, but I think that's an entirely different situation and it's nice of you to take their beliefs and health concerns into account when they visit.

-- Rowan McBride

ps: I do, however, often get the "Why don't you try writing children's books?" question. :)

Eden Rivers said...

Wow, what an experience. Very cool that your mom handled the m/m cover with the universal, "Would you like some icecream?" response. I bet that's served a lot of moms in a lot of situations over the years :-)


Minx Malone said...

I hope things went well over the weekend Eden. Keeping peace in the family is never easy but it sounds like you guys are doing what you have to and trying to keep peace. Sorry it has to be so hard though.


PS You're it = You've been TAGGED by Minx Malone

Eden Rivers said...

Thanks, Minx. It was the type of weekend that reminds me exactly why things are so strained with my in-laws that my husband and I choose not to share personal information with them. Nuff said. Glad it's over!


cyn said...

My sisters know what I write and that I'm pagan. My dad still has hopes that I'll convert back. (Not a chance.) He however understands I write romance, but he never read anything I wrote, unlike my mom. I don't make it a big deal to my dad, because he won't get it.

Luckily for me, my male in my life understands the erotic stuff and encourages me in my writing. We have issues regarding beliefs a bit, but he doesn't decry me.

I hate that you have to hide what you are. I'm sorry, but I don't care how old anyone is-- if they truly love you and the family, they're going to understand that you all are not going to believe the same things. The erotica stuff- I can understand because of the time with my dad who about keeled over when I was younger and I was reading some steamy stuff.

*hugs* It's not easy, but you do what you must for those you love.

Eden Rivers said...

Hi Cyn,

Thanks for your supportive post, especially regarding dealing with both being pagan and writing erotic romance. I think those go together a lot, since pagans lack the Christian notion that sex is sinful (outside of wedlock, anyway).

The in-law factor complicates matters, especially since, way back in ancient history, my husband left the Catholic church around when he started dating me, and his parents equated the two events.

But bottom line, I'm getting sick of tip-toeing around extended family regarding both my family's religion, and what I write, and once my husband's parents are in better health, I'm at the point where I just may come out and shock them and get it over with.

What's the worst that can happen (right, don't answer that, lol).


Lise said...

Your post was beautiful Eden, and summed up the difficulty of participating in a spiritual life that so many cannot understand - or condone. While my Mother accepts my Wiccan lifestyle (accepts - not understands - she thinks it is silly) (and she is not a practicing Christian of any sort, so has few objections re: my soul, etc.) my brother is the one I have to pretend otherwise for. Given the number of my pagan books all I can feasibly do is close the door. He is the one, too, who looks down his nose at my romance writing. He has no details so the intense and graphic erotica can't piss him off. But the worst are the Catholic and Christian co-workers, who blithely assume that I want all the "Jesus loves you" chain e-mails. I've not "come out of the broom closet" to most - just a select few friends whose attitudes are familiar enough that I don't risk the burning in hell speeches and such. I envy you your close family and spirituality. At times it can be lonely to be a solitary eclectic green witch!

Nice blog - nice thoughts and beautiful books! Blessed be!

Eden Rivers said...

Hi Lise,
Thanks for your wonderful comments. Yes, a solitary path can be both challenging and lonely at times. Moreso when extended family members are hostile to a chosen path. I find that many familys aren't big on "unconditional love." Sad, but what can you do...
Bright Blessings,

Stephanie Beck said...

I have a whole box full of notebooks that hold stories I've been writing over the years. They started as nice little romancie type stories and as I've gotten older, they've gotten naughtier and I like that. I've also started moving forward with them, wanting them to be read by others, ideally published one day.

That said I can commiserate with your issue with your mother in law. While I would love to have one of my stories published, my name bold as brass under a picture of an emboldened embracing couple I live in constant fear that my mother in law will stop by one day while I'm emursed in my stories and ask, "Hmm, what's all this?"

I love the woman, she's great. She's a reasonable woman, I think she'd probably be proud, really. Then she'd want to read them and even that wouldn't be so bad until I had to look her in the eye, knowing she'd just read about some very explicit involving three brothers and the woman they had claimed.

I'm sure even though our in laws would be scandalized, they'd be proud in a way. How can a person not feel pride when someone they love does well and is apreciated by others?

Eva North said...

Hi Eden, I whole heartedly agree w/the why should you hide from family what religion you are and what you write? However, like most everyone else's posts I've read, you do what you need to do for the ones you love. I am not pagan/wiccan but am not against it, and I've started erotic stories for god only knows how long, my husband has read some of the stories I've started and likes them, however, I'm trying to figure out how to continue writing them and getting them out and possibly published, I'm not sure how, so if you'd be willing to give me some advice froma published writer to a novice writer that would be wonderful. God bless and blessed be.