by Amy Andrews
I’ve written 50+ books the last decade. I’ve written medical, contemporary, women’s fiction, romcom, urban-family and noir. I’ve written secret babies, fish-out-of-water, friends-to-lovers and all kinds of off-limits tropes from little sister/big brother BFF’s to my most recent bodyguard hero in The Colonel’s Daughter. I’ve written millionaires and Greeks, CEO’s and Italian counts, movie stars and the guy next door. I’ve written reunion romance and a fairy tale retelling.
In short, I’ve covered a lot of the genres favourite tropes and archetypes and I’ve loved them all. But I’ve only ever written two virgins. The first one was my 25th book. Yes, it took me 25 books before I popped my virgin cherry. The second one is my latest – my fiftieth something book (I’ve officially lost count).
I guess that says a lot right there. Why have I only written two virgin heroines out of 50 + (and a big fat zero male virgins) when they are one of the most popular romance archetypes even in this day and age when the losing of ones virginity seems to be no big deal.
I guess the answer to that is virgins are difficult.
Difficult to find a good motivation for being one – “saving yourself” is just not a concept that many people aspire to in contemporary times. Difficult to get the right age – how old is too old? Difficult to deflower because expectations (both from said virgin and the reader). As Ivy from The Colonel’s Daughter laments – “She supposed virgins were probably a lot of hard work and not necessarily a good bet.”
There’s a lot of traps there for a writer. A lot of ways to screw up in the readers eyes. And I don’t like being a screw up to any of my readers.
For me I think the biggest issue is the question of age. I’ve been lucky because mostly I’ve written older heroines so virginity has never been an issue because frankly, the older the heroine, the harder it is to write a believable virgin in these contemporary times. I’m not saying there aren’t older virgins, I’m just saying it’s not the norm.
So, how old is too old? My first virgin was 23. I grappled over that age for an inordinate amount of time. This is just one paragraph out of the four that made up an email I got from a reader regarding this book –
“I don’t know what planet you are living on and in what century but the rest of society are living in the 21st century and in the 21st century women have sex and relationships. I don’t know why you sexiest pigs have a real issue with portraying women as sexual human beings and with sexual needs. The claptrap that you sexiest pigs come out with to justify a woman not having sex or is a virgin at the ridiculous ages of 25, 28, 30, 32 and even 34 years old is an utter disgrace. You should feel ashamed of yourself.”
Yes, she did call me a sexiest pig. Eight times in fact.
Let me tell you, that email warmed the cockles of my heart. Not. No wonder it took me another 25 odd books before attempting my next one who is also (gasp!) 23.
Really? Is 23 really that old? I’m baffled….
The problem is, readers have very definite opinions and expectations with a virgin heroine so getting it right is incredibly fraught. And yes I know it’s impossible to please everyone all the time but I do like to avoid emails that make me sick to my stomach if possible.
Then there’s the deflowering scene. Both times I’ve written this incredibly pivotal scene in a book have been polar opposites. The first time it was loving and gentle. In The Colonel’s Daughter it’s actually more like hate sex. There are reasons and I promise no virgins were harmed in the writing but it’s not a typical deflowering scene. I think it’s sexy and powerful but it is very different and I’m expecting it to not be well received.
For damn sure it’ll probably take me another 25 books before I write my next one.
I do know I’d love to write a contemporary male virgin but I think this is even more fraught than a female virgin and I have no clue how I would even go about it. I know one day a plot will pop into my head along with an amnesia plot (please let it be so) but in the meantime I’ll be over here writing my older, more experienced characters and loving it!
I’d love to know your opinions/experiences with the virgin archetype. Are you a fan? Does age matter? How old is too old? Read any really good deflowering scenes? Would angry-sex deflowering have you on your PC writing to me? Does the word deflowering make you shudder? Anyone got a better word?