I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post ever since I received a nasty comment from an anonymous troll a few weeks ago. I’d just announced the release of The Virgin Billionaire and the Evil Twin, and someone left a comment that went like this: “You actually named him after a pornster?”
Yes. “Pornster” was the exact word this idiot used, and not in a positive context either. I’ll comment briefly on this “pornster” reference for a second, and then go into the post. The adult entertainment industry is now a billion dollar industry, which means someone’s looking at it, reading it, and buying it. No one admits to it. But obviously someone is doing it.
With that said, the main theme of this post is context with regard to erotic romance. The character in Virgin Billionaire and Evil Twin, Gage Weston (Luis’s twin brother), changed his name (just like Luis) when he moved to New York and reinvented himself. Gage was stuck at home, caring for elderly parents in Tennessee, watching them wither away and die. He wasn’t openly gay in Tennessee, he had no social life, and he fulfilled his obligations and put his own needs aside until his parents passed away and he was free to leave. They were already devastated enough because one of their sons, Luis, was gay, if Gage had admitted he was gay it would have killed them even sooner. And I wanted Gage to have strength of character, and yet I wanted him to appear slightly innocent, too. Which is why I named him Gage Weston. I did it with an almost satirical concept. Gage, who knows nothing about social rights or wrongs, who knows nothing about New York, thinks the name is perfect.
Unlike what the troll who commented about Gage Weston being named after a “pornster” thought, my movtivation behind his name had nothing to do with porn, porn stars, or the porn industry. It had to do with innocence, life-change, and learning how to survive in New York alone as a gay man. He wanted to reinvent himself as someone exciting, slightly dangerous, and he wanted a name that was nothing like Eddie.
In the wrong context, I can see how anyone would assume he’s named after a pornster. But that’s why making assumptions without reading a book can be dangerous. Assumptions are usually wrong. And people who assume without knowing facts, are usually either dumb or one card shy of a full deck.
No author I know does anything by accident. At least I don’t. Trust me, even when it might look like an accident, it’s on purpose. We spend much too much time figuring out our characters so no one can make stupid comments about them. If a character is named after a “pornster” then nine times out of ten the author has a valid reason for doing this. And this, once again, is one of the most important things when it comes to writing erotic romance: context, context, context. Anything taken out of context can be viewed in a different way. Just look at Anthony Weiner and his debacle. If he’d been sending those photos as a joke, it would have shed a completely different light on his situation. He would have been embarrassed, but no one would have been calling for his resignation. But because he was allegedly sending them to strange women, it become an entirely different game.
And it’s no different in erotic romance. For some, erotic romance is all about the emotion. I agree. Erotic romance is about emotion…to a certain extent. I do think that when some reviewers slam good erotic romances for lack of emotion it’s just an excuse to make them look good while writing a bad review. Like authors, they always know what they are doing. But it’s bullshit and they know it…or it’s a private matter they need to discuss with their personal therapists. For most, erotic romance is about escapism and fantasy, which has never hurt anyone. And if a character name, or a scene, is taken out of context by someone who assumes without knowing facts, it becomes something completely different.
It’s happened to me more than once. This incident with the troll is one of many I’ve experienced in the past twenty years. And I’m sure it will happen again. I’m also sure it’s going to happen to other authors who are reading this blog post right now. And the only way to be sure you’re getting it right is to think about the context with which a scene or character is written. And to think about your readers and to know what they want. In the end, only one thing matters: knowing you, as the author, got the context right for your readers.