Shannon Stacey

Menage a…deux?

Oh, the woes of being vanilla.

I write erotic romance, and in the world of erotic romance, menage a trois and menage a more are HOT! Whether it’s M/F/M or M/M/F or Vamp/F/multi-penised alien, they sell and they sell well.

In the tiny little chum bucket the muse keeps for story ideas she’s not allowed to touch while already juggling multiple projects, a story idea was born which essentially was two couples finding love together. All together. In many different combinations. Oh wait…that’s the sex. But they end up bonded in love. It’s a contemporary, and I think I’ve built a believable, realistic situation for the couples.

And that’s where the muse started spinning her wheels. (Hey, I guess my muse is a car today. Lovely.) I can’t buy into the HEA. I’ve tried and tried and tried, and I can’t buy into four adults living happily ever after together. I can’t make it work for me. The entire story is there—deep in the recesses—like a movie playing on the screen behind your car at the drive-in. But the ending keeps skipping and eventually the reel comes to a screeching halt.

If I can’t buy it, how the hell can I sell it?

Should I even try? I believe in writing for your market. If I wanted to write for my own gratification, I’d keep a journal. But the HEA is the most important thing of all (for me, anyway), and I have to believe in it. If I wrote it anyway—to grow the readership and all that jazz—would my lack of conviction be apparent to the reader? I can’t see how it wouldn’t be. And isn’t it better to write an emotionally true book for fewer readers than an emotionally untrue book for more readers, leaving the menage books to the authors who do make them work?

Because I can totally buy into it as a reader. Strange Attractions by Emma Holly. Victorious Star by Morgan Hawke. Both smokin’ hot books that left this HEA junkie satisfied. So I know it can be done and done wicked well. Just not by me, apparently.

Maybe it’s just this story. Maybe my muse is trying to let me know it’s not going to work, so I should save myself some typing. In a couple of other books waiting to be written, I do have menage scenes planned, but they’re secondary characters and/or a voyeuristic thing. I think the setting makes a difference to me. In a fantasy/SF world where I made my own rules, maybe I’d feel differently. And I’m certainly not saying I’ll never write one. Never say never.

But right now I feel like a big old scoop of vanilla plopped into a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

12 comments to “Menage a…deux?”

  1. Anna Lucia
      · May 25th, 2005 at 3:56 am · Link

    Can’t tell you what you should do, of course.

    My own reading experience is that menage-a-multiples is bloody hot, but, for me, it tarnishes the love story, throws me out of the relationship, and yes, threatens the HEA. I still like to read them :devil: but that’s when, for me, the story crosses from romantica into erotica. I’m reading it for the sex, not the romance.

  2. Diana
      · May 25th, 2005 at 6:35 am · Link

    I can buy very few multiple happy LOVE stories — the sex is all well and good, but it’s the happily ever after that gets to me. It usually needs to be motivated by making the characters somewhat *other* than normal human beings.

    Like TANDEM UNIT, by Evangeline Kelly. It’s sci-fi, and it makes perfect sense that those people need that lifestyle. But regular old, today’s society people? I don’t get it. Just me, though.

  3. Kitty
      · May 25th, 2005 at 7:58 am · Link

    You should read The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s a fantasy novel but it has the couples foursome in it. Of course they’re all telepathic and the wimmins are twins but it works well :nookie:

  4. PBW
      · May 25th, 2005 at 8:25 am · Link

    Not all of us are into Chunky Monkeys. Why not go for being the hottest vanilla on the market?

  5. Charlene
      · May 25th, 2005 at 9:20 am · Link

    I’m with PBW. Some of us like our vanilla served HOT, thank you! You can’t write what you don’t believe. Or, you could but the lie would be there in the story. Just write your stories.

  6. Candy
      · May 25th, 2005 at 10:43 am · Link

    Not that I would ever, EVER disdain or put down vanilla, since it’s such a large part of my diet and I love it so, but if you’re really interested in what is essentially polyamory and you have a hard time buying into the HEA, how ’bout doing some research on the dynamics of happy multi-couple partnerships? There are on-line communities you can join (and lurk in), websites you can check out, etc.

  7. kate
      · May 25th, 2005 at 3:08 pm · Link

    hot vanilla works, and works hard.

  8. Jaci
      · May 25th, 2005 at 7:16 pm · Link

    Then again there are all kinds of lifestyles out there that, while we don’t live it and can’t understand it, works for those involved.

    Believe me, I’ve written some ‘out there’ stuff that doesn’t mesh with my personal lifestyle, but the key is…does it work for your characters? If it does, then just do it, darlin’


  9. Shannon
      · May 26th, 2005 at 12:20 am · Link

    Thanks for the reassurances that it’s okay to be vanilla. :woot: And for the book recommendations, too. I’ll be checking them out.

    Candy, if the story doesn’t let me go, I’ll probably eventually do that. It’s not that I can’t buy into the multiple-couple HEA because I don’t believe it exists. I know there are many, many people out there who are very happily living lifestyles different from mine. Unfortunately, not only am I vanilla, but everybody I know is, too. I have no freakin clue how that kinda thing works.

    I’m also not sure, upon further reflection, if I’m having trouble envisioning this story’s HEA because I can’t figure out the logistics. Housing arrangements, children, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Probably time to broaden my horizons. There’s a good chance if I start researching polyamory (starting with the definition as I think I read this word for the first time like two days ago) and the relationships, I’ll see how they can live happily ever after.

    For know I’ll just be vanillalicious! :thumb:

  10. Jill
      · May 26th, 2005 at 9:35 am · Link

    Enjoyed this post and the responses, and from one vanillalicious babe to another, you just gotta do what works for you.

    PS That said, I loved Strange Attraction, my first Holly book …

  11. Shannon
      · May 26th, 2005 at 9:51 am · Link

    Thanks, Jill!

    And I’m loving that word vanillalicious! :woot:

  12. Patrice Michelle
      · May 30th, 2005 at 10:31 pm · Link

    Going for the HOT vanilla works too. Hehehehe. Seriously, if it’s not working for you it might just be the story line. Or, you can be creative with love scenes (especially in paranormal worlds) that make can still work just as hot as a menage.

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