Monday, May 9, 2011

Rusty Nipple: The Outing of Author Judy Mays

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an intelligent reader in possession of an inquiring mind, must be in want of a good book," to liberally plagiarize our girl Jane Austen.

What constitutes "a good book," is certainly open for debate.  For some, the best reads include murder and/or mystery; for others, they take place in outer space or in an alternate universe; for others romance, with or without explicitly erotic scenes, is a must.  Others are happiest if fangs or fur are involved.

To satisfy readers, obviously there must be writers. The vast majority of published and unpublished writers are not John Grishams or J.K. Rowlings,  but ordinary people who write in our spare time.  While waiting/hoping to "break through," we work a variety of day jobs: shopkeepers, attorneys, accountants, editors, soccer moms, and yes, teachers.

Grant Woods' American Gothic from Wikimedia Commons
Yet some people would like to forbid, or ostracize writers of material they deem "offensive."  Oddly, this is rarely about violence.  Stephen King coached his son's Little League team and nobody once questioned whether the number of fictional people he'd killed in various gruesome ways made him too creepy to be allowed around impressionable children.  Because that was fiction.

But, sex?!  Oh, the horror of exposing children to the idea that the adults in their lives may have had sex!  That said adults may still think about sex, might fantasize about it, even write about it!  (Forget about whether they actually still do the deed.)

Get the pitchforks!

To that end, some mothers in a small Pennsylvania community, who discovered that one of their local high school teachers was a published author of erotica and erotic romance under a pseudonym, embarked on a campaign to embarrass, discredit, and hopefully end her teaching career.

In Publishers' Weekly, Ms. Mays addresses the controversy: 
As some, maybe many of you know, I was recently “outed” in the school district where I teach by some disgruntled mothers who felt the content of my books made me unacceptable as a teacher.  They contacted one of the local news stations to which they revealed my identity as a writer of erotic romance.  It seemed to create quite a hullabaloo.  The television station did try to contact me.  I got an email at school somewhere around two or two-thirty in the afternoon.  It was very short outlining what the parents had reported to them and would I please contact them to give them my side of the story.  That was not something I was willing to do on the spur of the moment; and, before I could turn around, I was on the five o’clock news and then every half hour for the rest of the night.
Now, every writer would like free press - but being ambushed on the local five o'clock news is not what most of us imagine.  She continues:  
However, the entire fiasco backfired on the parents who complained.  The support I have received from around the world has been unbelievable. Two complete strangers started a support page for me; and, the last time I checked, it had over 9000 “like” hits. However, it’s been the support from my current students, many, many former students, and their parents that has humbled me and warmed my heart.  I was always pretty sure I was respected, but the outpouring of support from “my kids” has brought tears to my eyes more than once.  They have rocked my world.
I was one of the first to "like" that page, and I too was impressed by the many students, former students, and former parents who sprang to her defense because she's a really good teacher.  Many more supported her, I am sure, than were requesting she cease teaching.  It's good to know, that even if there are still some ready to sew a red "A" on the chest of those who don't confirm to their views of what's moral, there are others ready to rip it out of their hands.

I sent Ms. Mays a very brief e-mail of support, as the Tweetmosphere was burning up over this, and she took the time to send me back her thanks, despite what must have been a wild time at her home with phones and e-mails and everything else buzzing, chirping, and demanding her attention.  That speaks volumes to me about what a kind and gracious lady she is.

And - back to Rusty Nipple - Judy's a very talented and funny writer.  Along with many others in the romance community, I decided to show my support not only by Tweeting and posting on FaceBook, but by buying her work.  Rednecks and Roses was the first book I read, and I laughed my head off (as well as experiencing other emotions at the pertinent places.)  Rusty is a country boy recently turned vampire, complete with red hair, beard, and flannel shirt discovered by a woman who's retired to the Pennsylvania rural area to write a novel.  Instead of being terrified, she's thrilled with the scoop (as a writer, I am right there with her,) except this darned fellow doesn't want to behave like a proper vampire.  But she'll teach him.  Maybe even get him to dye his hair, shave, and dress better.

How can you not love a vampire named Rusty Nipple?  After my darling friend Kate's Michael Gilroy, I think that's my second favorite vampire name.  There were a few places where the writing was a little over the top.  I had a hangover in the beginning before they'd even finished the margaritas, but on the whole, I really liked it, and am glad I bought and downloaded it to my Kindle.

And Perfumed Heat was a beast of a different scent altogether, though equally tasty.  I'm looking forward to collecting and reading more of her work as time goes on.

I think it's wonderful that there are a variety of writers willing to tackle a variety of subjects.  As writers and readers, I hope we'll always support the freedom to imagine and write about subjects that may be controversial.

Your thoughts?