I was thinking about when I first started wanting to write romance and erotica, and it occurred to me that I was, probably, about 9 or 10 years old. What I remember is drawing very, uh, lurid cartoon people having sex in a variety of positions. At the time I was hanging out at my father’s job, sitting on some boxes in the warehouse. When I was done with the drawing, I folded it up and tucked it into a flap of a box so that where ever it was shipped, someone would open it and find hand-drawn porn authored by a child. o.O
I relate this story with a sense of embarrassment and horror, but I have to add that my childhood was fairly idyllic in the sense of being an only daughter who was loved and cherished by my parents. Nothing genuinely bad ever happened to me in my childhood. There were issues (huge issues) with my parents and yes that affected me, but the act of drawing cartoon porn at that age doesn’t seem to have been born out of that stuff.
My parents had been surprising progressive (for the 1970s) insofar as teaching me about being a girl, such as buying me books like “Where do babies come from?” and something about “what to expect during puberty!” that was my first exposure to the fact that boys get erections…sometimes involuntarily (I thought the whole thing delightful, in a cruel, mean-girl sort of way).
But I’m not sure when it went from “boys are different and weird and all MY plumbing is on the inside where it belongs!” to “wow, hubba hubba tab A slot B.”
Admittedly, I hit puberty early. Early, as in I was 10 years old when my period started. So chances are good that I drew that little cartoon at a time when hormones were flooding my very confused brain. I was probably driving the bus on pre-teen automatic, so to speak.
But it really was just the start. I stole my neighbor’s father’s Hustler not long after, and stayed up for nights re-reading the infamous “letters” section. When I got into fandom and started going to cons at about 13 years old, I tripped over slash fanfic (Kirk/Spock, of course, as this was about 1983, okay?) and never looked back.
I haunted the “A” section of the literature racks at Dalton’s Books (in the mall…remember?) through most of my teens. Why? Because all the erotic literature was written by “Anonymous”. You do the math!
So this urge started early. I walked away from erotica during college (I know, seems oxymoronic) and instead during my 20s and 30s did a fair amount of sexual exploration. When I dropped back into fandom in 2007 I took up the Slash Flag and ran with it. Eventually it led to a book deal with Dreamspinners Press and my emergent career as a romance author.
I don’t have kids myself so I wonder if my experience was unusual. Who knows, because really, our culture tends to pathologize sexuality in all age groups and talking about stuff like this brings out the worst in people.
Still, I think that it is all part of how I got here, and shows that this kind of story (romantic, erotic, “love without boundaries”) really is a fundamental to who I am as a writer. It’s taken a long time but I’m okay with that now.