Is The Pendulum Swinging Back?

Universe - A Love Story by Florence Witkop
Universe – A Love Story by Florence Witkop

I’m showing this cover for a couple reason.  The first is that I like it.  Thanks NASA, I love looking through pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and as soon as I saw it I knew this was right for my first on-line short story The Eye of The Universe.  (In case anyone wants to read it, it’s available free from Smashwords.  Amazon charges .99 because they don’t do free unless a reader finds something free somewhere else and tells Amazon about it.  Then they’ll change it to match the lowest price elsewhere.  Hasn’t happened yet.)

The second reason is that there are no people in the picture, even though it’s a romance.  Which is okay because it seems that some people are getting tired of naked and half-naked people on romance novel covers.  When I chose this cover, I didn’t know that.  I just knew I wanted this cover so I added a blurb to tell potential readers that it’s a romance because they couldn’t tell from the picture.

I thought I was going against the tide by choosing a cover without an obviously in-love couple on it.  But I’ve since discovered that, as happens with every trend including romance novels, there is a small mini-trend bucking the huge, mega-trends in romances.  That trend is called ‘clean romances’ and it’s what I write.  Sort of.

‘Sort of’ because as of yet there’s no precise definition of a clean romance beyond that there are no sexually explicit sex scenes.  Some purists feel that there shouldn’t be any profanity either, or any pre-marital sex at all.  None.  My work doesn’t qualify on those counts, I do include premarital sex and profanity where it fits, but I don’t follow my characters into the bedroom and give a blow-by-blow description of what happens next.  No particular reason why not.  I like sex and have  no problem with writers who do erotic stories.  But I find it hard to write while rolling on the floor laughing and that’s what happens when I try to describe the sex act.  Too many body parts.  Too many positions.  Too much work.  Guess I’m lazy.

This new trend has been in existence long enough that there are groups on Goodreads (where I first ran across the term) and elsewhere and there are a growing number of reviewers who specifically mention that they will review clean romances.  And there’s an e-publisher dedicated to publishing just clean romances.  Astraea Publishing is very clear about what they will and won’t accept.

Which is good news to writers because not every romance writer wants to include specific sex in their stories.  And maybe I’ll be able to use more covers from NASA.  I really, really love those pictures.

4 responses to “Is The Pendulum Swinging Back?”

  1. I’m not sure choosing a cover that has nothing to do with your story is the best marketing strategy, but I do agree that there’s plenty of books out there with half nude men and women on the covers. We don’t need more lol.

    And yeah, explicit sex scenes are… well, I suppose it’s the difference between watching pornography and watching a movie where people kiss and then walk into the bedroom. We know what happens both ways, but they’re both for different purposes and audiences.

    Read For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway. I haven’t read a lot of love scenes, but the best one I’ve come across is in there. It’s a full on sex scene, but it’s absolutely clean. I don’t know how he does it, it’s brilliant, emotional, powerful, compelling, and far, far more romantic than anything explicit ever could be. The power of suggestion is much more intriguing and exciting than the gritty details. To me, anyways.

    Keep going! And congratulations on your work.

    1. Yep, that’s the way a lot of people feel and I’m glad. I’ve read some sex scenes like you described that are wonderful. It’s like you said, they are written by gifted, hard-working writers.

  2. I have an awkwardness describing the sex act in writing myself. In my first book (written during my very liberal days of college), I pulled an old-time Hollywood movie and during the sex scene, described the wind and the waves around them.

    Now, I’m approaching a pivotal sex scene (actually between two teenage boys) in a story I’m writing and I simply don’t know how I’ll handle it. I’m Puritan enough to avoid graphic description, but I need to be clear enough about what happens because it impacts the identity and behavior of the main character through the rest of the story.

    We’ll see..

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Read the sex scenes in The Thorn Birds or any other book by Colleen Macullah. (I’m not sure if her last name is spelled right.) They might give you some ideas. She’s a master at sex scenes and can say a lot without being too explicit. You know what’s happening without having to read the graphic details.

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