Despite Our Shadows is a revised re-release of an earlier title of mine, Lambs Hide, Tigers Seek, a noir mystery. Shadows is one of the sexiest stories I’ve written so far, and when I originally wrote it, I was concerned that the story would be too sexy for mainstream consumption. So I intentionally toned it down and put some of the more racy scenes through the “fade to morning” filter, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks. But when it came for the rewrite, I rethought the idea of editing out or glossing over the sex scenes.
Though it may have been standard operating procedure for most of the 20th century, today’s media is less afraid to show and tell what goes on behind closed doors. Television (especially American pay cable) has undergone a sexuality renaissance, displaying more skin and (formerly) private areas, and allowing sex to leave its behind-the-curtain and offstage past and proudly take center stage.
Likewise, literature has gotten sexier, and sexual scenes have become almost as explicit and descriptive as what was traditionally considered porn… and this material is still sold over-the-counter to anyone—specifically, any pre-adult—with the money to pay for it. Sex, it seems, isn’t the forbidden fruit it used to be; or, rather, it still is, but whereas the media used to timidly wave that forbidden fruit at the audience for titillation’s sake, now it thinks nothing of hacking up pieces and serving them to the audience with cream cheese.
Finally, the less constricted realm of ebooks has opened the doors to authors who previously could find no outlet for their unconventional or sensitive works. Publishers are known for editing and repackaging material for the largest common denominator, as well as toning down content considered too racy or controversial for the mainstream; to the independent author, that constraint no longer applies. Authors are free to write and release what they want, no matter how wild or unconventional; and customers have a much wider range of novels to enjoy, without worrying that a story has been watered down to satisfy the sensitivities of an octogenarian spinster in Ohio.
With that in mind, I decided to put back whatever I’d left out of the original release. Now, Despite Our Shadows has essentially been restored to its original intent, and the sex that very clearly makes up a major aspect of the story and characters is no longer veiled and hiding strategically behind the rocks and columns. The characters are much more believable now; more well-rounded, more fleshed-out, more passionate. And all in all, it makes for a more well-rounded story as well, even if it might be too much for the mainstream.
We’re witnessing the earliest moments of this experimental phase, with independent writers pushing at the old publisher-imposed boundaries and seeing how far they can break through. Those old boundaries, for most of a century a close approximation of the G, PG and R ratings of the movies, may soon find themselves being abandoned for a completely new set of guidelines, or perhaps, none at all. In time, the advent of ebooks and self-publishing could well be as revolutionary to book content as it has been to delivery.