Not that type of girl

Photo, K.A. Mitchell, Image provided by author
K.A. Mitchell, courtesy of author.

Once upon a time (make that five years ago) in a little village (okay, a conference hotel in a region with a population of 1,000,000) I attended a romance writing conference. As we walked through the hotel courtyards to arrive at the lecture hall, we passed other events, a 40th college reunion and a wedding. During a break in the evening workshop on story structure, writers in casual or business-casual attire milled about in a hallway. Every few minutes, people in semi-formal wear would stick their heads around the corner. Being the friendly helpful sort, I started to point out the way to the nearest lavatory. “Oh no,” the other event attendees said repeatedly. “We just wanted to see what romance writers look like.” One went so far as to lament the lack of evening gowns, candles, or boas.

Barbara Cartland is a tough act to follow.

“Our little K.A.” The first time my mother-in-law read a few pages of one of my books, there was that endless refrain, tinged with tut-tutting surprise. “Our little K.A.” I felt I might have sprouted some sort of scarlet letter on my chest. After all, I was the only one at her dinner table who didn’t participate in off-color humor about passing meat, juice, pie, or cream. Then I realized that was the problem. The K.A. who goes about interacting in the world of coworkers, family, and friends is apparently not that type who would also write about people falling in love while also explicitly detailing the thoroughly delightful and almost universally appreciated activity of sex.

I guess I should have remembered the way my grandfather remarked, “You look more like a schoolmarm everyday” (I was a teacher, Pop-pop) or how merely stating that I loved rollercoasters and take vacations to experience them prompted a coworker to gasp and bleat with the sort of shock more appropriate to the virgin-blood bathing practices of Countess Bathory. I recall feeling the bun made up out of my waist-length hair and looking down at my ankle-length dress. I guess I did look a bit like a postulant nun.

It couldn’t have only been my teaching attire or my behavior at my mother-in-law’s dinner table that earned me this sort of reputation for propriety. When I was in my early 20s, people seemed to find my being a vegetarian or owning a waterbed far too bohemian to match their impressions of me.

Now that I’ve left the staid halls of academics for the tempestuous waters of erotic romance writing, I think I’m in need of a make-over. An extreme one. But it’s too uncomfortable to start wandering around in an evening gown. As for a boa, I think I’m allergic to feathers and pink does nothing for my complexion.

Perhaps there’s something that will alert fellow participants of my yoga class or the other computer-tapping denizens of the local coffee shop to the true nature of the mind beneath the bun with a pencil stuck in it or what the eyes behind the librarian glasses are actually picturing. Since an “I have tumescent organs on the brain” pin might not get the job done, what is needed is a light-up tiara where glowing crystals spell out “Naughty Stories” with an accompanying downward arrow.

Yeah, I’m thinking finding the right kind of make-over would save me a lot of time and effort. When the inevitable questions of surrounding my means of making a living come up (“Really, what do you write? Do you have anything published?”), saying “My December release is a BDSM erotic gay romance about hidden desires” won’t create any shocked looks. I won’t have to explain that under my sweater and jeans and friendly smile lurks a feather-boa wrapped heart driven to tell stories of love and growth and commitment, stories which include what are to me life-changing aspects of those relationships. All that would be needed is to press the button to light up those crystals and we could skip all that in favor of “But you don’t look the type.”

Besides, I’m told I look cute in a tiara.

K.A. Mitchell

K.A. Mitchell discovered the magic of writing at an early age when she learned that a carefully crayoned note of apology sent to the kitchen in a toy truck would earn her a reprieve from banishment to her room. Around the same time, she decided that Chip and Ken made a much cuter couple than Ken and Barbie and was perplexed when invitations to play Barbie dropped off. She never stopped making stuff up, though, and was surprised to find out that people would pay her to do it. Find out more about K.A. Mitchell.

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