Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing Love Stories without Sex, by E.M. Tippetts and Giveaway!

Page Count: 354
Release Date: 6 December 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
: Contemporary, Chick-lit, Romance

“Ohmigosh!” Lori shrieked so loud that I had to cover my ears. Not easy with a cup of hot chocolate in one hand.

“Lor-” I said.

But I was cut off by more shrieking up and down the line. I turned and saw that the girls on the other side of us had collapsed. One of them sobbed. The other just shook. “I love you!” someone shouted.

Lori dropped to her knees.

I turned around, and found myself face to face with Jason Vanderholt. He was just like his publicity shots, blue eyes, tanned skin, toned physique. He looked at me, one eyebrow slightly raised. Around him were several guys with cellphones out. An entourage.

So begins E.M. Tippetts's delightful romp of a novel, Someone Else's Fairytale...

Jason Vanderholt is Hollywood's hottest actor. Chloe Winters hasn't bothered to see most of his movies. When they meet by chance, he is smitten and Chloe becomes the woman every other woman in America is dying to be, but it just isn't her fairytale.

Writing Love Stories without Sex, and Why It Shouldn’t Matter

Chloe, my main character of Someone Else’s Fairytale, is a virgin all the way to the end of the book, and reading people’s reactions to that has been fascinating and at times disturbing. Karielle asked me to write about how Chloe got her guy, and as I thought about this, my mind kept coming back to the sexual issues in the plot and what people have said. I guess I’ll take this as my opportunity to put my views out there about what her abstinence had to do with her ability to get her guy. In short: It didn’t matter. Now I’ll opine at length about why it didn’t and shouldn’t matter, and why saying this doesn’t make me a bad Latter-day Saint (Mormon).

First let me talk about why Chloe is abstinent. People who see my religious background will often assume that I had to write the book this way in order to keep it “clean.” Chloe, however, is not a religious character, nor is she political. Her chastity isn’t about that at all, but rather has to do with the tight emotional control she maintains in her life. As someone who’s survived a lot of adversity, she gets by in life by carving it up into bite-sized pieces and working through each one at a time. Sex is too big for her to tackle at the moment. She cares about grades, graduation, getting into a good grad school, all concerns that will pass in a few years and then she can think about sex. She’s not out proclaiming her virginity to the world. She’s just at a place in her life when she chooses to be celibate.

People have all kinds of reasons to be abstinent, and there are some bad ones. Actually, there are a TON of bad ones, and that’s why chastity and abstinence are mocked so routinely. People who practice abstinence and then move on to have healthy sex lives all have one thing in common: their abstinence wasn’t about not having sex. It was about timing, creating the right conditions, and planning ahead. And really, I think that works in a religious context, like the way I live my life, and outside of the religious context. If Chloe had been abstinent because the idea of sleeping with a man was repugnant, frightening, or icky, then her abstinence would have mattered to the guy. He’d be driven away by it. So that’s the first way in which I’ll say her virginity didn’t matter. It wasn’t a symptom of her inability to ever have a healthy sex life.

Second, a lot of conservative and religious people believe that delaying sex until marriage helps ensure that you end up with the right man. I won’t argue with that, but all too often this argument develops in a deeply squicky way. The “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” argument, or in other words: “Ladies, don’t sleep with a man because then he’ll never commit to you.” What’s even worse is that a lot of men parrot this without really thinking about it, and I know I shock people by replying, “Really? You got married to ensure sexual access? That’s what it was all about?” Needless to say, the guys all say no to this. So let’s be clear on this one. Abstinence is not about withholding the one thing men want so that they’ll feel compelled to marry you. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life with a person like that. No, the truth has a lot more nuance to it. The right man for you will respect your personal decisions, and if your relationship has a good, solid grounding in friendship, able to endure tough times, you will have a fulfilling sex life even if you wait until marriage. It may or may not start well, but if you have the requisite level of trust and mutual respect, you’ll get there in the end. In other words, it won’t matter that you waited, and it won’t matter for Chloe, even if she spends her entire dating life celibate.

Third is the flip side of that argument. Some would argue that waiting until marriage to have sex shows that you value yourself. Again, taken one way this is true. It shows that you aren’t afraid to life your life your way, on your terms, and ask for that level of respect. But this too can go squicky, with the “sex is dirty and shameful” line of reasoning. A friend of mine would jokingly say, “Kids, sex is a terrible, awful, disgusting thing you only do with the person you love,” and his point was that this is what society often does tell young people. Whenever someone refers to a graphic sex scene as “gross,” or turns their face away from a love screen on film and says, “disgusting,” they’re shortening their line of reasoning in a harmful way. Sex is not disgusting or gross. The exhibitionist portrayal of it might be. The circumstances under which people will have it might be. But the act itself is anything but. Furthermore, any man with the puritanical belief that you must be a virgin, or you’re damaged or soiled in some way, is not a good man. So in this third way I posit, the fact that Chloe’s a virgin in this book doesn’t matter to the man who loves her, because he really wouldn’t care if she wasn’t.

Am I saying it doesn’t matter what sexual choices people make in their lives? Absolutely not. Those make a huge difference, and here I won’t moralize. If you care to know more about the Latter-day Saint view on things, invite in those young men who knock on your door wearing nametags, or go to What I will say is that it’s the reasons behind the decision that are key, not the act itself. Chloe’s chastity doesn’t matter in this book because 1) she had a sensible reason that didn’t involve an unhealthy hang-up, 2) it won’t hurt the quality of her future sex life, and 3) the man she ends up does not care that she’s a virgin, nor would he have thought less of her if she’d slept with him.

One last thought that the ladies reading this should consider. What people say and what they do are often quite different, and men are no exception to this rule. Hearing what men say about sex will give one impression of their values, but you’ve got to watch what they do to see their true beliefs. A good number of women complain that this book is “unrealistic” because of how it ends. I can’t give details without spoiling it. Several men have read the book, though, one of whom has the top rated review of it on Amazon, and do you know what they’ve all said to me about the ending? That it was predictable. Obvious. Chloe was unbelievably clueless. “Does anyone get surprised by that, Emily?” they ask. These men are from varied religious and cultural backgrounds. Now, go read the book to fully understand what every single one of them, religious or not, is actually saying

About the Author

My full name is Emily Mah Tippetts, and I write chick lit as E.M. Tippetts and science fiction as Emily Mah. I got my start in writing at the Clarion West Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Obviously, I wrote before I attended, but that's the first real credential I earned. From there I joined the Critical Mass writers group, an invitation only group that I had the privilege of working with for ten years. My first sales were to science fiction and fantasy anthologies and magazines, including Black Gate and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. I've gotten a few honorable mentions in the Year's Best anthologies for both fantasy and science fiction.

As for my chick lit writing, my first novel in that genre, Time and Eternity, came out in 2008 from Covenant Communications, a small press that caters to the LDS market. My second and third novels, Paint Me True and Someone Else's Fairytale, I wrote and left to sit on my hard drive, because they were chick lit, the genre that no one was buying at the time. When the indie publishing movement got going, I decided to jump in and sold twice as many books as I had traditionally. My next book, Castles on the Sand, was the first book I wrote with the intention of indie publishing it. The sequel to Someone Else's Fairytale, entitled Nobody's Damsel, was released January 5, 2013, and the sequel to Castles on the Sand, entitled Personal Demons, will be out in the spring.

I'm originally from New Mexico, have a bachelors in philosophy, politics, and economics from Oxford University, and a juris doctorate in business law from UCLA. I also design jewelry (and no, that doesn't fit in with any of the other stuff I've listed here). Currently, I live in London while my husband does his PhD. I was born November 8, 1975; given my age keeps on changing, that seems like the easiest way to let people know how old I am.


Thank you so much for a fabulous post, Emily! It was a delight having you over. Readers, tell me:
What do you think about abstinence in a chick-lit heroine? Turn-off? Turn-on? Like it all the same?
At first, I personally thought it would be unappealing because I like romance and spice in a book, but Emily's intellectually stimulating, well-written post is giving me second thoughts! I have read chaste romance novels that I ended up loving, so I won't ever say never. The religious aspect sometimes does get on my nerves (there are WAY bigger things "Christians" should be worrying about, than the whole sex before marriage shenanigan), but all the arguments Emily brings up, especially the one regarding how it shouldn't matter to a man if he really loves you, are compelling.

What do you think? Leave a comment on Emily's guest post with your own insights for a chance to win a print copy of Someone Else's Fairytale. You can keep track of your entries using this handy-dandy Rafflecopter form:
Rules and Disclosure:
Giveaway ends April 16th at 11.59 (your time).
Open to anyone with a mailing address—that includes you, international! Woohoo!
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be chosen.
Although I will be selecting winners, I am in no way responsible for the prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus, you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!