I can pinpoint the exact moment I split in two: True Blood, S1:E2. Beaten and left for dead, Sookie Stackhouse latches on to Vampire Bill’s gushing wrist and guzzles his life-saving “V” straight from the source. I was grossed out, turned on, and changed forever.
I’ll admit, I’ve lived a seriously “vanilla” life. Raised by loving Midwestern parents who instilled a solid work ethic and offered every opportunity, I met my husband at age 17, married at 21, and worked in public accounting before raising two kids in an idyllic suburb of Boston. Please, I’m not complaining by any means, but I was a “midlife awakening” waiting to happen.
Whether hormones or vampires were to blame, off I went down the rabbit hole that led to my secret identity. Cloaked in my invented fanfiction.net screen name, I went scavenging for the longest True Blood—and eventually, Twilight—stories I could find. The more I loved those characters, the more I ached when the story was over. I’d never possess the “real” Edward Cullen or the lovely actor who portrayed him. Heck, I couldn’t even have the “Faux-wards” my favorite writers had created. Hundreds of stories later, it struck me: the only Edward I could control and possess was one I created myself. [I soon learned this, too, was a fallacy.]
Okay, then. I would write! I opened a Word doc, uncaged my feistiest plot bunny, and watched him trounce on my keyboard. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was a woman on fire! I wrote my first chapter in a matter of hours [a whopper of a wet dream, because let’s start off with a bang], edited myself [another rookie mistake!], and clicked that thrilling button—publish. [With no outline, no second chapter, and not a lick of support.]
Wow! How liberating … until sheer terror set in. What if people hate it? Worse—What if nobody ever reads it? With hundreds of thousands of Twilight fanfics online, how would readers find mine, and why would they bother with an “author” they’d never heard of? I somehow collected a few decent reviews, but my new “career” was nothing to write home about.
That first story was PG-13, but I quickly identified my signature theme—Edward Cullen as sexual dominant. It wasn’t a leap from vampire to dom, as many others [you may have even heard of!] discovered, but the genre married a long-standing fantasy with my current favorite character … and I was off and running! My second story, a kinky Cinderella-Twilight mashup, caught the attention of a mega-blog; suddenly, readers around the globe read and reviewed my daily posts. The behemoth of a sequel—over 500k—drew a couple thousand hits each chapter. I turned people on and told their truths and drilled my characters into their hearts. Virtual strangers shared intimate stories, asked my advice [imagine!], and extended outrageous invitations to chat rooms and private scenes. Heady stuff! The earth rumbled again, splitting the chasm between my halves even wider.
“Secret me” stole increasingly more of the total. I’d bolt from bed to computer most mornings and write furiously as much as the day and night allowed. Less sleep, more double espresso vodka. Thousands of strangers knew more about my secret fantasies than anyone in my “real life”—with one important exception—my husband. He’s read [almost] every word, accepted and supported my obsession, eaten cereal for dinner when he couldn’t pry me from my keyboard. No need to pity the erotica writer’s husband, though. *wink*
At times, my secret threatened to burst out—no more so than on the day my tennis teammate asked me if I’d heard of “this Fifty Shades book” [formerly the uber-popular fanfic that helped inspire my kinky trilogy]. My “OH SHIT” meter hit a solid 8.5 out of 10. What were my country club people doing in my secret world?
Five years into this, my “real life” friends and family members know (generally) what I write and understand why I don’t send them my stories, but I’ve inadvertently hurt feelings by holding back pieces of myself. A pout usually accompanies the predictable, “I like sex, too.” Sure, but what if I tell you my best piece is a Male/male BDSM story? How do I share enough without handing over the keys to the castle? What about professional colleagues? My husband’s? My kids’ friends? Is it fair to toss my skeletons into their closets, too? On the flip side, most “Twihards” don’t know my real name, even many I’ve met at conventions. Much like my most recent protagonist, a closeted MLB pitcher, part of me is always shrouded.
Funny thing, the seams between my two selves are fraying. “Alternate me” feels awfully familiar these days—giving back through writing and creating meaningful interpersonal connections—while leaking a little more adventure into “real life me” every day. I’ve met fellow romance enthusiasts from online friendships spanning the globe, introduced myself to strangers as a writer *gasp*, and struck up a wonderful friendship with the two gorgeous—and also talented and brilliant, by the way—men adorning one of my book covers!
Here’s the thing—I’ve written a manuscript, and I hope to publish under my real name [see byline]. Is it sexy? Heck yes! Life is sexy, especially when you’re Cupid! I’d love to share this book enthusiastically with both worlds because I am tired of leaving half of myself behind. Wish me luck, and please, try not to judge that buttoned-up auditor scouring your books … she might just be the author behind your favorite bodice ripper! Follow me on Facebook for updates!