Thursday, July 26, 2012

Do Sex and Biblical Fiction Mix? Reader Survey

Reblogged from Heather Hummel July 16, 2012

Too Sexual for a Biblical Tale? Rachelle Ayala Stops by to Chat about MICHAL'S WINDOW

This was an interview I didn't want to pass up! Rachelle Ayala is here to talk about her somewhat controversial book, MICHAL'S WINDOW - the big question is, are the love scenes to sexy for a biblical book? Let's find out...

Heather: MICHAL'S WINDOW is your first novel (and by the way, I love the cover!). What inspired you to write it?

Rachelle: Believe it or not, reading the Bible. Michal is a relatively unknown character, one that everyone loves to hate. Perhaps it's because she was a princess, but in any case, Michal's life is about loving to the fullest and losing everything for that love. The Bible depicts her as assertive, cunning, and opinionated. In a time when women's feelings were not important, she not only loved David, but acted quickly and decisively to save his life. Later on, she dared to speak her mind to her husband even though it displeased him.

Michal would have felt more at home in our century than her own times, and I felt this remarkable woman's voice had been suppressed for way too long.

Heather: Since this is a biblical story, did you expect it to have controversy around it?

When I set out to write Michal's story, I decided to make it well-rounded and gritty. I would immerse the reader into her innermost emotions and feelings and not "hide" anything that might be unsavory or deemed sinful.

I was not trying to write a sermon or a Sunday school lesson, but a novel that had historical elements woven with imaginative subplots in a way that would allow the reader to share Michal's experience.

Heather: MICHAL'S WINDOW has been criticized for being too sexual in nature, going against it's biblical category. Do you consider the scenes to be sexually explicit or are you shocked by the reactions from some readers?

On the whole, the vast majority of my readers (including several pastors' wives and Sunday school teachers) have enjoyed the story including the steamy bits. Of course there are those who have never been exposed to any semblance of sex in a story with Biblical characters, and I understand how they may feel. I stand by my rating of "mild", because most of the descriptions are metaphorical and deal with what Michal is thinking and feeling. Of course, David's descriptions tend to be a bit more physical. There is one scene in particular where it got a bit hot and heavy, but this was written from David's point of view. A man just sees sex differently than a woman.

Sex is an integral part of the relationship between Michal and David. I debated leaving it out, but I would not have been able to show the reader the intensity of their attraction, obsession and yes, love, because they did love each other deeply. At the end, the reader should hopefully understand viscerally how it felt to be Michal, a woman ruled by love but caught in the challenging situations of her life.

Heather: Do tell about your second novel that's in the works. Is this going to be a series?

Oh, I'm having fun with this one, Broken Build, a romantic suspense set in Silicon Valley with a software build engineer as the protagonist. This one has a simple premise. Could a man ever love a woman who had harmed him in the worst possible way? And I don't mean broken his heart, or stolen his money, or cheated on him with his best friend. But something much, much worse. I'm not going to tell you what it is because I structured this story in a way where things are revealed at the same time the character who is most affected by it finds out. It is a story for reader participation, whether throwing their e-readers into the wall, or laughing until their sides split, or howling and screaming at my characters while racing with them to solve the mystery.

On the surface, it's about broken software, broken cars, and broken lives. But it is a hopeful message that has a quirky ending. I'm not sure about a series yet, but there are quite a few characters that can be developed further (of the ones that aren't killed off or arrested).

Heather: Besides writing, what are your passions? Your muse?

I have a lot of passions, probably too many. I love music, playing the violin, mandolin and mountain dulcimer: classical and folk music. I've also made 23 mountain dulcimers, but I left off when the writing, revising and editing chores got too time consuming.

Nothing beats the first draft, and that's where my muse is. It's slinging words onto the screen without abandon, love-at-first-sight-daring, eating, sleeping, and dreaming my characters, and living through them. And most of all, it's the raw agony, the yawning void or the pressure-cooker fury, and blissful love with starry eyes, and having those emotions dictate the story. Too bad I only get about a month or two of first draft fever, then it's off to critique groups and the grind of revision and polishing.

I don't try to be controversial, but I also do not think about guidelines when I write. I go where the bare, naked emotions take me and I like to go deep. Just today I was commenting on someone's blog where she felt bullied by people telling her that she overstepped some line in her writing. Here's what I told her:

If you don't have some people hating what you're doing, you're not doing it passionately enough. - Rachelle Ayala

Author Bio:

Rachelle Ayala was a software engineer until she discovered storytelling works better in fiction than real code. She has always lived in a multi-cultural environment, and the tapestry in her books reflect that diversity.

When her hyperactive imagination is not in the mind of her characters, Rachelle enjoys social networking, reading and music.

Rachelle lives in California with her husband. She has three children and has taught violin and made mountain dulcimers.

What's your opinion? Should Bible characters have sex or keep it behind the scenes? How explicit compared to contemporary romance novels? Compared to historical romances? How necessary do you think sex is for the love connection? Do you want to be shown or told?


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  2. The bible clearly mentions plenty of sexual encounters. I think it depends on the comfort level of the reader. If there is clearly a content advisory stating mild sexual situations,blood and violence, and you're not comfortable with it, pass it up.

    When properly done, and not a sex for nothing,erotica, BDSM... but clearly told in a tasteful way, such is told in the eyes of Michal, then I feel there is nothing wrong with it. It enhances the reading experience. I don't think it matters whether it's contemporary or historical when it heightens the way your heart feels when you're reading.

    There are always others ready to throw anything different under the bus. But, such is life. Controversy.

    Maybe some should take a look at the scriptures and see what's mentioned over intercourse.

  3. I certainly don't think the topic should be avoided, but I don't think it should be overly dwelt upon either. The sexual activity can be alluded to or discussed with limitations without going into detail that is not totally relevant. The passages pertaining to sex should be intended to elucidate what is necessary to do so and not stimulate or delve into prurience for the mere sake of titillation of the reader.

    This is a topic that I've likewise considered since sexual content is often something that is so desired by many readers.

    Wrote By Rote

  4. Hi Lee, true, the passages are for characterization and not description of body parts. More of her thoughts and feelings. On David's part, more of his thoughts on how he's making her feel. So definitely not prurient. But I think some people don't want any mention and others want it hotter!

    And everyone's definition is different. I personally get bored of body parts and descriptions of how each item of clothing is removed and each position is attained. The emotions and viscerals are more interesting to me, as well as the internal thoughts and metaphors, because it gives me insight on the characters and themes.

    Michal really is a passionate, flawed, and obsessed person and I had to show that, even in gory detail. And of course the sacrifice at the end isn't as painless as other writers have written without the lurid scene that bordered on violence and self-mutilation through sex. All part of immersion into her tragic story so we can feel her PAIN.

  5. I'm a new follower -- I found your blog via your interview of Vanessa Morgan (great interview, btw).

    I think there's plenty of room for sex in a biblical story. I mean, how else did our current generation get here? :) The bible is fairly explicit about characters having sex, and 'Song of Solomon' is an ode to carnal pleasure. Just my two cents!

  6. Hi Nickie, nice to meet you too! Don't you just love Song of Solomon? And he calls his wife, my sister, my spouse.

    So I'm gaining a male audience with Michal's Window, getting tweets from guys who appreciate the realism and frankness I portray. "alive, human, not afraid to make it real."