Obviously, the answer is everything.
Sex has everything to do with it. Sex IS it. Sex sells, right?
I'd like to amend that oft-said statement with this: Good sex sells.
You'll find, if you've read MEN LIKE THIS, that the sexy time all happens behind closed doors. That's not to say it isn't spoken of, thought of, or occurring within the story. But as far as the action goes, you're left to your imagination to come up with the fun bits.
I'm not against sex scenes, as a rule. I don't have a religious or moral reason for leaving out these steamy happenstances. Rather, I look at it like I'm doing my readers--and my ratings--a big favor.
Writing is a thing that takes practice, and so it follows that writing a sex scene--a good sex scene--is something one shouldn't come at without a certain tool-set. Because no matter how much sex you've had, how good it was, or how well you can play out the fantasies in your mind, putting that shit on paper is a whole different animal.
I blame words. For all our words, there are only so many that work well here. A sex scene can range from flowery and poetic to clinical and rigid, and it all comes down to whether the author got the words just right. There's that elusive middle ground--sensual, but not too ridiculous when it comes to naming various body parts. (If the word "mound" is used, I just can't take a scene seriously.)
And until I can get the words just right, until I write a scene that's so good the words sort of fall off the page, and you're left with just the feels (sexy feels, if you're doing it right) there won't be sexy time in my books. Not on scene.
But I have turned up the dial, so to speak.
With every book I write, outside of the Long Shot series, which I believe each book ought to maintain the same heat level, I turn the knob just a fraction. More importantly, I've made sure that when it happens, it happens to move the plot forward. Sex for the sake of sex just isn't in my wheelhouse, and I don't think it ever will be. For instance, a dominant woman in the throes of fighting feelings she doesn't want to have might give into sex with an edge of anger, a rough surface to an act that can run the gamut from sweet and sensual to straight-up violent. And later, she might allow herself to be vulnerable, which would change the tone considerably. Not just a sex scene, but a scene like any other that demonstrates something about the character, or helps her grow in some way that, as readers, we're able to see, feel, and comprehend.
Sex is a vital part of our lives, and I don't intend to leave it off the page forever. But what I do promise, is that when I'm ready to go there, I've put in the work to make it a worthy read.
And on a finishing note, it's worth mentioning one of my most favorite and well-written scenes comes from Susan Elizabeth Phillip's "Ain't She Sweet."
MEN LIKE THIS is on sale at Amazon right now.