When I was a teenager, my friends and I spent our Friday nights in a book shop.
Yeah, we were those guys.
While our peers were out drinking €2 cider in a field, we were getting our buzz from complimentary espressos. We would wander around, usually looking for something weird to read, because we were also those guys.
And so began our fascination with romance novels. You know, those cheesy little books of pseudo-pornography that housewives read between their morning mimosa and their liquid lunch?
We would read the titles and back covers and laugh our heads off. “A Cowboy to Marry”, “A Firefighter’s Cinderella”, “Rancher and Protector”, all the entertainment a growing boy needs.
And so came about the bet that if any of us had the guts to write a cheesy romance novel, they would win €100.
For years, none of us did anything with this bet. I was repressed enough to think that vagina was a bad word, so the the kind of filthy double entendres required in a romance novel were beyond my ability to conjure.
I had completely forgotten the bet, to be honest. I was born in the nineties, nobody expects us to remember things anyway. Blame MTV, or the internet, or whatever. But recently, a friend with which I had made the bet brought it up in conversation. He assured me that the bet was, very much, still on.
I thought it over, and assured him that I would begin writing one immediately. I didn’t begin immediately.
But it did get me thinking about romance novels. So when I, with a completely different friend, was getting coffee and saw a pile of cheesy romance novels just sitting out, I pretty much had to flick through one.
It just so happened that the first book I picked up (Look What The Stork Brought ) had a scratch card in it. And that scratch card just so happened to be a winning scratch card. The card assured me that I was entitled to four free books and a “simulated pearl drop necklace”. There was just one problem. The book was published in 1998.
So, of course I took to the internet. As it turned out, the company is still going, publishing smut for another generation of frustrated upper-middle class women.
And I wanted that pearl necklace, God damn it.
So I sent them the following email:
To whom it may concern,
I recently picked up a copy of your 1998 title “Look What the Stork Brought”, and won a prize in the enclosed competition.
There is no expiration date on the competition card, and I am desperately hoping that I may still claim my prize (Four free books, and a ‘simulated pearl drop necklace’).
I notice your address has changed in the last decade, so I was wondering if it would be possible to send the prize card to your new address, and get some of your wonderful books for myself to enjoy.
Thanks you so much for your time,
Tragically, the company didn’t think it was worth their time to respond to my fairly tongue in cheek email. Dreadful customer service.
So the next day I had another look at their website and it turns out they take submissions from unpublished authors. And they have a new imprint (Nocturne Cravings) that specifically requests “bold, exciting, erotic paranormal romance short stories”. The also mentioned that “authors should feel comfortable exploring any and all sexual scenarios and shouldn’t shy away from graphically sensual situations.”
There was not one part of me that didn’t see that as a challenge. I was going to write them the strangest, least publishable short story ever created. I would win €100 and spite them for not giving me the necklace in one extremely inappropriate manoeuvre.
I gave myself a timeline of three days and got to work.
Sadly, this is where my story ends. I got up to half of the required word length (about 7000 words) before my time ran out.
I won’t lie, it got weird. Very weird. My Grandparents would have heart attacks and die weird.
I’m never going to publish this story in it’s entirety but I will tell you that the title I settled one was “Whorelocks: The Hunter’s Touch”.
Maybe some time in the next few months I’ll fill out the word count and send it off for evaluation. Maybe. But right now I have far too much real-life-actual-human-being-work to be doing.