Patrick Somerville's first book of stories, Trouble, was published by Vintage Books in September of 2006. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, EPOCH, GQ, The Barcelona Review, and Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007.
His debut novel, The Cradle, hits bookstores on March 9th.
From Somerville's June 2007 with Bookslut:
How do you feel about writing sex scenes, and how do you handle it?Read the complete interview.
My basic approach to writing sex scenes so far has been to write, “They fucked,” or some variation of the same thing, and to be done with it. Which is cheap. Like most writers, I’m a little afraid of writing sex scenes, only because, like sex itself, the whole mood can go so wrong, so fast, with just one misstep. Fiction is an illusion you don’t want to be jolted out of, and I think that readers are paying extra attention when anything sexual is happening. The stakes are much higher, as are the chances of really bombing. I remember reading an airport-book by Ken Follett, who is usually pretty good, about five years ago, and I remember the female protagonist looking at her love interest’s crotch and imagining the “fire hose” inside of his pants. There goes everything. It was a good demonstration of how an inopportune metaphor can destroy about twenty-five pages of story in either direction, just because it was so bad, and drew so much attention to itself, and was so not sexy. Suddenly you’re sitting in an airport terminal, holding a book, thinking about the dude who wrote it and why he made this error rather than continuing to be immersed in the story.
My teacher Stephanie Vaughn always used to note the moments when people opted out of writing sex scenes and challenge them to at least think about why they’d done so. She called it the Victorian Curtain lowering down over the story. I think the basic idea is that drama comes from conflict and confrontation, and if two of your characters are having sex, that’s certainly a confrontation. The fear of getting it wrong is usually not enough of a reason to insert a section break and start up again when everyone’s smoking cigarettes.
Learn more about The Cradle.
The Page 69 Test: The Cradle.