April 1, 2022
An Ice Queen whispers in my ear. She has since her birth in the summer of 2018. Sometimes her voice is the low rumble of a winter wind across the mountain ridges. Other times, it’s auditory frostbite, a quiet freezing of my eardrums and my insides.
Dr. Sonja J. Storey is the protagonist of my upcoming debut novel Strange Attractors. She’s a frosty professor who’s used to being in control of her mind, emotions, and body. Dr. Storey and I have been arguing back and forth for years now. Somewhere down the line, she had become accustomed to winning those arguments with me, at least when it came to me revealing her most intimate details (or not revealing).
When it comes to S.E.X. Dr. Storey insists that I F.T.B.
Sonja has a tendency to ice me out if I don't Fade to Black (FTB). Meaning....she won't talk to me. Sound crazy? To me too, so much so, I can't believe I'm telling you this. Shush, please. Tell no one else.
Let me get this out of the way. I’m not a prude. I specialized in sexual health communication in my doctoral program, led sexual health workshops, and taught classes at the university on sex and sexuality. I'm not the kind of person who giggles or goes quiet at the mere mention of sexual acts, needs, yearnings, and beliefs.
Still, Professor Storey’s whispers in my ear have been relentless. I couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time striping her down and re-dressing her in pleasure, comfort, and connection. Eventually, I came to realize that my drive to write FTB scenes weren’t as much about my embarrassment as they were about my protagonist’s need for constant control.
Well, enter the magnificent Lee Winter. Lee was not only my content editor for Strange Attractors, but she was my mentor when it came to S.E.X., and I had no clue that I needed one — but I did. Lee has written masterfully about the need for sapphic representation in books. Absolutely, I agree, but for some reason, when it came to frosty Professor Storey, I was at a lost for how to do just that.
Lee helped, partly by asking a seemingly simple question in her Ylva blog post:
“What does sex mean to your character?”
For Ice Queen Sonja, sex has been an imbalanced transaction, an exchange where one person takes power and one loses it. Hey, don’t blame me. I’m simply Professor Storey’s biographer in some ways.
So, when Sonja's (excuse me! Dr. Storey's) fundamental belief systems are challenged in extraordinarily intimate ways, she revolts against me, demanding that I FTB. Maybe she was ready to lower her defenses with one person, but she sure as hell wasn’t ready to lower her defenses with me—and especially with future readers.
“Writing sex scenes is hard,” Lee writes, and now I believe her. Having an Ice Queen whispering in my ear while I’m trying to undress her for the world makes it even harder.
Ultimately, Sonja surrendered, letting her guard down with me. Her hissed protests transformed into murmurs of trust. Maybe my Ice Queen came to respect me a bit more when she saw that I wouldn’t have her do stunts or engage in forced performances in hopes of driving up readership.
Instead, sex may become one way for Dr. Sonja Storey to enter a spring thaw. Of course, as the seasons continue, she’ll remind us all that she’s always been—and will be—an Ice Queen.