November 26, 2015

Tour Day: Erotic Romance takes Matthew J. Metzger by Surprise

This week Foreplay and Fangs welcomes author Matthew J. Metzger, touring with his new release Thicker than Bone. Matthew is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. Matt writes both adult and young adult LGBT romance, with a particular focus on the gritty situations and people often left out of the typical romantic set-up. When not writing, Matt can be found crunching numbers at his day job, sleeping, or pretending that he owns his cat, rather than the other way around. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook and occasionally at his website.

Matthew J. Metzger
"And Then Sex Happened"

When I started writing Thicker Than Bone, I had absolutely no intention of it being an erotic romance.

Indulge me for a second: Thicker Than Bone details the clash between Ali's boyfriend and Ali's brother. In short, Ali's brother is a paid-up member of various racist white supremacy groups active in the UK, and Ali's boyfriend is from Iraq. You see the problem.

I had no intention of showing any sexual interaction whatsoever. It wasn't necessary. Where did I need to show that Ali and his boyfriend (Yazid) had a sex life? Nowhere. They could have both been asexual and the plot wouldn't have changed. I set out without any intention of including sex scenes, and -- for the first few thousand words -- I didn't question that choice.

And then halfway through a flirty scene which had (for plot) to be interrupted by a phone call from Ali's mum, Yazid got down on his knees and gave Ali a blowjob. In which he decided to go into a lot of detail about exactly why he is a huge fan of sucking cock.

Something clicked. I hadn't intended to write it; Yazid had done it, and I had sat back about halfway through the scene and gone, 'What? Why am I writing this?' But I liked what I had, so I finished the scene, sat back again, and looked at it.

And suddenly, the dynamic between Yazid and Ali made so much more sense to me. The way that these two personalities rubbed along together was suddenly clearer -- one so laid-back, easy-going and a touch manic; the other more of a perfectionist, more inclined to a hot temper and passionate responses. How they screwed showed me much more clearly who these people actually were, and how they would respond to the events that the plot was throwing at him.

Through his preference for control, the sex games he preferred, and the way Ali would talk when dominating in sex play, I found that the character was far mentally stronger than I had previously imagined. Suddenly, this guy would argue with his racist brother. This guy would vocally stand up for his partner. This guy might still loathe the decision he was having to make, and feel torn between condemning someone to die and saving the life of a would-be murderer, but he was perfectly capable of either outcome.

Likewise, the way Yazid would compromise to Ali's preferences, his own leaning towards more vanilla, gentle sex, but his simultaneous enjoyment of sex-from-nowhere attacks and turning flirts into fucks whenever he felt like it, showed me a man still celebrating he'd survived. His easy-going nature was evident, but also where he drew the line.

And without Yazid having decided to go down on his knees in the middle of a scene I had planned to include nothing more than a couple of kisses, I wouldn't know that about my own characters. I would have dithered about the end game. I probably, truth be told, would not have finished the book.

So what's my point?

My point is there's a whole debate in erotica, erotic romance, and romance, about how much sex to include in a book. Some people plump for none unless it's strictly necessary to the plot. Some people plump for shoving as much screwing in there as possible.

But I think it depends on the book.

To say all romances need sex is wrong, in my eyes. Real relationships, real romances, can and do exist without sex, and can be every bit as fulfilling, intense and passionate. I am currently working on a book about two asexual characters (people who don't experience sexual attraction) in a relationship. There is absolutely no sex involved, but it's a sweet, funny story and every bit as deserving of the romance label as a book packed with shagging. That book could not exist with sex, because it would be completely against the entire point of it.

But Thicker Than Bone, as I learned when writing it, could not have been written without sex.

Nothing changed by showing Ali and Yazid's sex life. Ali still made the same decision. The book still ended on the same note. Aside from one scene where Ali's brother catches them in the act, whether or not Yazid and Ali ever had sex at all never impacted on any of the other characters in the book.

But it impacted on Yazid and Ali. It changed what I knew of them. It changed what they were capable of doing, feeling, and saying. It changed them.

It didn't change the plot. It didn't really change the book. But that book ended up with much stronger, clearer characters...

...and the plot could not have been written properly without them.

If you could save someone's life, would you? Anyone's?

Ali's older brother has a swastika tattooed on his knuckles, a prison ID number for nearly beating a man to death for the crime of being Middle Eastern, and spent his teenage years ruthlessly persecuting Ali for being gay.

Blood may be thicker than water, but Ali has spent most of his life desperate to prove that he is nothing like Tony. A committed vegetarian, charity-supporter, and blood donor, Ali would do anything for anyone, and is frequently teased by his partner, Yazid, for being too soft-hearted. Ali may share parentage with Tony, but he is determined not to share anything else if he can help it.

So when Tony contracts leukaemia, and Ali is the only match for the urgently-needed bone marrow transplant, Ali is caught between two equally awful choices: to refuse, and condemn a man to death, or to donate.

And in donating, save the life of the man who nearly murdered Ali's Iraq-born boyfriend?

Click here to find out more, read a sample, and (of course) buy a copy of your own.

Yazid gave up trying the moment that the clock on the wall ticked over to seven. Tracy cheered. "Get yerself on the other side of that bar!" she crowed, shoving Yazid hard in the back. "G'wan, yer ingrate, yer not one of my staff no more!"
Danielle, his pink-haired replacement, giggled and started pouring a Guinness before Yazid could even ask for it; he laughed and whipped off his work shirt to the delighted shrieks of a hen party just starting up in the corner.
"Put that away!" Tracy jeered, her strong accent turning it into 'pertharraway.' She tossed Yazid his backpack from the storage cupboard under the till, and he obediently offered the hen party a little self-indulgent flex or two before tugging a t-shirt over his head and 'putting it away.'
"Knock it off, you lot, 'e's a gay-boy!" Tracy shouted, and the bride-to-be, one of their regulars, whistled even louder.
"Even better then, get it back out and give us a show!" she yelled back and Yazid laughed.
"Speaking of gay-boys," Tracy said, "where's yours?"
"Family thing," Yazid said, grinning at Danielle when she plonked the liveliest Guinness he'd ever seen in front of him. "His mum's birthday, I think. Maybe his sister's. I dunno, I wasn't listening."
Tracy crowed with laughter; Lee, one of the kitchen skivvies, loped past and clapped Yazid so hard on the back he nearly hit the bar.
"Lucky you, getting to escape this place," he said, and Tracy hit him with a packet of crisps. "Oi! Cow!"
"Pick yer knuckles off the floor and get movin' with them bar snacks!" she retorted. Yazid snorted as Lee was scolded back into the kitchen, and downed a third of his Guinness in one gulp.
"Steady on, love," one of the other barmaids said. "No plans later, then?"
"Nah," Yazid said. "Starting the new job next week, but the other half couldn't get much time so our little party's at the weekend."
She blew up into her fringe. "That's disgusting."
"Didn't fink you was 'omophobic or nuffink," Danielle said in her thick London accent. She was a student working to pay her fees to the University of Leeds, and was routinely mocked for the way she spoke. She didn't seem to mind.
"Nah, the bit that's not right is that he gets a bloke like that, and I don't," the barmaid said.
"Like what?" Danielle asked.
"Like that," came the significant reply, but before Yazid could work it out, a pair of arms slid around his shoulders and a kiss landed against his temple.
"Hello, gorgeous."
"Hey babe," he beamed, twisting to offer a one-armed hug. Ali slide onto the stool next to his, a broad smile splitting his wind-flushed face. He looked stunning, and Yazid — emboldened by the fact he'd never have to step foot back in this place if he didn't want to — leaned across to kiss him.
"I made some excuse to Mum," Ali said. "Wanted to come and see you instead."
"Damnit, I was going to get with Lee round the back later," Yazid whined, and Tracy shrieked with laughter.
"Now that would be sick," she said. "What can I get you, my love?"
The bar was empty but loud, the hen do and a couple of lads at the pool table making it seem busier than it actually was, and as the evening shift drifted in for their own patterns, Lee and Lizzy, one of the cleaners, clocked off and joined them for a toast to Yazid's new job and 'escaping the madhouse' when Tracy was out of earshot. Yazid's good mood was bolstered by a win on the fruit machines, and then the hen party staggered off to start their bar crawl proper, and their little party of four squashed into the abandoned booth.
"Gonna be almost feminine without you, mate," Lee said, clacking their glasses together messily. "Won't be no blokes left!"
"Yazid doesn't count as a bloke," Lizzy argued. "Gays don't count!"
"More bloke than any of you tarts," Lee snorted.
"Definitely all bloke," Ali said. "When you're not being a princess," he added snidely, and Yazid laughed, dropping an arm around him faux-casually.
"Princess Yazida, that's me," he agreed, to Lee's good-natured ribbing and Lizzy's alarmingly high giggle. "Lizzy, he just means nobody to discuss the football with without having to compete for you girls."
"Sorry Lee, you just ain't my type," Lizzy said, and waggled her fingers in front of her chest with a leery grin. "You just ain't got the knockers!"
"Neither have you, you flat-chested tart!" Lee retorted, and Yazid laughed. He waved to Danielle for another pint, feeling at ease and relaxed, and quite prepared to get a bit wankered now Ali had shown up and would steer him vaguely homewards at closing time. Maybe with a detour to —
"What the hell are you doing here?!"
Ali's angry voice jolted Yazid out of his happy buzz, then there was a fist in his t-shirt and he was jerked from his seat to the wall, the slightly sticky paintwork hitting him too hard in the back and his quarter-pint of Guinness crashing down his trousers to the floor.
"What the—"
"Shoulda known it was you," Tony Barraclough snarled at disturbingly close range. His teeth were yellow, and he stank of cigarettes and weed.
"Oi!" Tracy bellowed from the bar.
"Get off me," Yazid snarled, and shoved. Tony was either too stoned or too surprised, and staggered back a good couple of feet. "You're barred, now get the hell out," he snapped, the good mood thoroughly gone. He'd had quite enough of this. At least at the new job, he could shove the bigoted idiot's hand in a deep fat fryer if he came knocking.
"Tony, get out of here!" Ali shouted.
"You skipped out for him?" Tony growled. His voice was hoarse and raspy.
"I have a life!" Ali shouted, throwing up his hands. "You should try one, now try it elsewhere!"
"Now," Tracy snapped, stalking over from the bar, all five foot nothing of her. "Yer barred, now get out before I 'ave the police in 'ere."
"You skipped out," Tony snarled, ignoring Tracy entirely, "for this Muzzie piece of—!"
Lee started up violently from the table, his dark skin burning to black in instant anger. "You shut your—!"
The noise level started to rise, Lee and Tony both yelling over each other, and Tracy's shriek demanding Danielle to get one of the bouncers in, or call the police. Yazid found himself straightening his own back, squaring up to Tony's aggressive stance. Okay. Thug wanted a brawl, he'd get one. Yazid was sick and tired of this utter crap.
"Tony, piss off!" Ali shouted, riled up maybe the most by his brother's appearance, and Tony's lip curled.
"You skip out on your own sister for this bit of halal meat, s'at how it works, Ali?" he snapped right back, and Yazid opened his mouth without thinking.
"Nah," he said, making an obscene gesture at his own crotch. "Halal drains the blood out, not pumps it up full. This meat's all haraam, babe."
Tony moved. His arm lashed out, something flashing in the dim light of the bar, and there was —
There was a blur of motion, and then pain and heat exploded across Yazid's face. The room spun; he felt the wall against his cheek, then his arm, and then he was sitting on the floor and people were screaming. There was hot liquid running down his face, and the entire world was red and black, splashes and round dots vying for his attention. He felt himself sway, and put out a hand to catch the wall, only to miss and slump against it head-first. Pain. Pain-pain-pain. There was —
There was a loud bang, and the bouncer — N...Ni... — the bouncer was shouting, and then there were dark shapes and Yazid could feel his stomach rolling.
"Bucket!" someone yelled. "Trace, get me a bucket, he's gonna hurl!"
There were hands on his arms and shoulders, and Yazid closed his eyes, feeling sick and shaky from the spinning. The heat was still coming, and his hair and clothes felt wet. He could smell Sol — and that was it, he opened his jaw and threw up painfully. The clang of metal and the stench of vomit said the bucket had been dutifully got, and the screaming was morphing into the shrill call of a siren.
"What—" he tried.
"Easy, mate." Lee. "Easy. You'll be all right."
"It's okay." Softer, gentler — higher. More frightened. Yazid twitched with the need to stop that fear, and curled his fingers around a hand that found its way to his. Ali. "It's okay, you'll be okay, you're okay, oh my God..."
Then the pieces slotted together — and Yazid realized, just as he recognized the heavy thunder of police boots on the weak boards to the main bar area, that he'd been bottled.
Then he blacked out.

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