Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University. She has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites are what inspire her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a fulltime writer living in the mountains of California with her husband and a garden of over two hundred roses. Visit Michelle online at www.michellemoran.com to watch a video trailer for Nefertiti: A Novel and learn more about Nefertiti’s ancient world.

Sex Sells...But Is It Necessary?

I grew up in a world I now consider “wholesome,” where sex wasn’t thrust in my face...

When I first began writing my debut novel Nefertiti several years ago, I was working as high school teacher in California. Partly because this was a public high school, it was not at all unusual to see girls draped over their boyfriends like scarves, hanging on them before, during and after school. Many young girls came dressed in skirts so short that no matter which way they would cross their legs, it was still possible to see what color underwear they had chosen for the day. If I caught them in the halls, these young ladies would end up receiving a “dress code” violation, which meant going to the office to receive a short lecture and a warning not to do it again. Of course, the next day they would be back in a different micro-mini, flirting with the young men around them and tottering across the campus on their platform heels.

My own students, however, dressed more decorously. I can’t remember a single instance after the second or third week of school in which I had to reprimand someone for the clothes they were wearing. My students knew I didn’t approve of their dressing as if they were going to be a part of an MTV special, and I tried to show them through rigorous learning that the mind could be more attractive than the body. This was why, when I began writing Nefertiti, I knew that there could never be any hot-and-heavy sex scenes in my novel. Not only would it have been inappropriate as a teacher of underage students, it would have compromised my faith.

As the daughter of parents who are Christian and Jewish (one set of grandparents are Catholic! How’s that for a melting pot?), I grew up attending a variety of services. I went to Bar Mitzvahs, attended Christian school, went to Christian services on Wednesday and Catholic services on Sunday. I grew up in a world I now consider “wholesome,” where sex wasn’t thrust in my face with every book I read and movie I watched. I read books like Are you There God, It’s Me, Margaret and The Diary of Anne Frank. Although I don’t mind reading steamy scenes today, I didn’t want to be the author of a work which would expose young adults to more sex and sexual innuendo than they already encounter on TV, in magazines, on the radio and at the movies. I especially wanted to show that just as sex appeal isn’t necessary on a school campus, it isn’t necessary to sell a book.

True to my instinct, Nefertiti sold to Random House in a two book deal even without the explicit sex. That’s not to say that my book

doesn’t have romance, or that there aren’t any sex scenes between the characters, but the scenes I did write are decidedly mild. My editor asked if I might like to spice the book up a bit, and when I told her why I couldn’t, she didn’t challenge the decision. But when it came time for book interviews, you would have thought I had depicted by characters as asexual rhizomes. Where was the steamy stuff everyone wanted to know. One reporter even went so far as to tell me that he had flipped through the novel looking for the sex scenes, and when he didn’t find any, he put the book down. “No offense,” he added. “I’m sure it’s a great book, and I’ll still be able to write the article.”

In some ways, the reporters couldn’t be faulted for expecting more explicit romance in a book on ancient Egypt. Hollywood tells us that Egypt is a sexy subject, a message not entirely conjured from thin air. The women on the tombs do indeed wear transparent garments and ancient dancers were portrayed as being completely naked with the exception of slender belts. Still, I felt uncomfortable writing graphic scenes knowing that my students would be reading my words.

For my second book, The Heretic Queen, I was no longer teaching. The old reasons for not including graphic sex didn’t apply, but when another author asked if I would use this opportunity to “spice up” my books, I told her no. I’ve decided that even without the conflict which arises from having a teacher who is also a writer, I simply don’t see the need to write explicit scenes in order to sell books. A romance between two characters can be just as sexy with the scene fading to black as with the lights on and blaring. After all, when Rhett Butler swept Scarlet O’Hara up the stairs in the classic movie Gone With the Wind and the next scene showed Scarlett humming happily to herself in bed, I doubt any viewer was confused about what happened in between. We didn’t need to see them tumbling in the sheets. And perhaps the fact that we didn’t see any tumbled sheets at all made it even more erotic. After all, there’s nothing more fertile than our own imaginations.

The Heretic Queen