Out of My Comfort Zone

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Anyone who has been following the “Aliens that Look Like Aliens” thread on the romance forums of first Amazon and then Romance Forums, has probably seen my skeptical comments on multiple-partner romances. Sometimes called ménage romances or reverse harems, they usually involve a female heroine with multiple male heroes.

When I started out reading romance as a young adult, this wasn’t a thing. At least, not in the romances I ever saw, though it was probably quite common in erotica even then. Now it is relatively common, particularly in the paranormal romances that I’ve been seeing in the last five or six years.

My attitude towards this hadn’t changed as rapidly as the market for it. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t judge anyone who likes this type of romance at all. Believe me, I’m not one to judge others for what they like. When I first started asking for recommendations for alien romance where the aliens actually look alien, I got some pretty judgy comments, myself. You like what you like, and don’t care if other people don’t. In my case, I wasn’t a fan of multiple-partner romances, but I was happy to see recommendations that others could enjoy, because it kept the thread alive and even allowed it to grow. Win-win for everyone!

Of course, over time, some of those recommendations began to peak my own interest. The stories sounded amazing, if I could only get past my initial objection to the concept of the hero sharing his heroine with one or more other heroes. I started reading a few, only because they received so much buzz that I couldn’t ignore them any longer.

And you know what? I liked some of them. The stories were really good. The characters were well-defined. The intimate scenes were often quite tastefully done, certainly in comparison to what I was expecting.

Of course, I found some that were not to my taste, but I realized that I could try something that was out of my comfort zone, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a negative experience. I don’t think I will ever be a huge fan of this type of multiple-partner romance, but I know that now, if I see a recommendation for a book that sounds interesting, but has this trope, I will still be willing to check it out.

But, I am a writer as well as an avid reader. I like to explore situations that I’m not always comfortable with in real life with my writing. Sometimes, I like to push my own expectations. Sometimes, I like to challenge my own boundaries. Writing gives me the freedom to explore different concepts and perhaps gain an understanding of different perspectives.

And after reading some of these multiple-partner romances, I had come to certain conclusions about what I liked—and what I didn’t like—about them. So, I set out to see if I could write one that had all the elements that I liked, but avoided those pitfalls that soured me on the romances I’d read.

About three years ago, I was deeply inspired by this very challenge, and even better, I had a world I wanted to set it in. A world that seemed ideal for this type of relationship to grow and thrive. I had dreamed up this world as a pocket-dimension of another universe I had created—the very same universe where my upcoming alien romance is set.

The book came together surprisingly fast. I knew what I wanted it to be, and what I didn’t want it to be, and the characters and their backgrounds had already been created for another story that I never ended up writing. Within a month, I had a complete, 70,000-word manuscript.

That I was never going to publish.

It sounds crazy that there could be anything I’d be afraid to publically attach my name to after the unconventional nature of some of my published books. Yet, there it was. Back then, I was hesitant to put this particular manuscript out there, because I feared it would be just too bizarre, too “out-there” to be acceptable. Not just because of the multiple-partner romance aspect, mind you, but also because the heroes are the least like humans of any of the heroes I’ve ever written.

Yet, I loved their stories, their worlds, their cultures and influences. I wanted to share them!

Ironically, while I was hesitating to share my own story, other authors were putting out books with heroes that were just as alien, if not more so and from cultures that were just as unusual, with even more polyamorous romance, and the authors were becoming wildly successful with them.

In fact, by now, my heroes are nothing new (they are different, but the inspirations I used have been used by other authors as well.) Whenever I see a new book come out with elements that are similar to the ones in my book that made me afraid to publish it, I want to kick myself for being a coward! I should have put this out years ago! I should have had the courage to do so, and perhaps I would have been the trailblazer, instead of the one trailing behind.

The thing is, I left my comfort zone to write this book, but I was still safe because no one would ever see it. I didn’t take the real risk. I didn’t put it out there. I’m thinking about changing that.

Since this book is connected—although tangentially—to The Scorpion’s Mate, I’m thinking that I will add it as a bonus book to that one. As in, I’m still a bit of a coward. I’m too afraid to let it stand on its own, but the upside is that anyone who reads The Scorpion’s Mate will get to read this one as well. Honestly, I want to share it, and I had even debated publishing it on this blog as I did Morbidon’s Bride, but I don’t like to publish 18+ content on my blog. So, into my other book it will probably go.

I would love to get feedback on what you all think. Do you have trouble leaving your comfort-zone? In reading, or writing? Do you challenge your own tastes and interests to try something new that you’re uncertain about? I’d love to hear your stories about that.

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