Thursday, September 13, 2007

Q & A Will Return Next Week

Two and a half years ago I was fortunate enough to meet author Monica Burns when she queried our agency. I immediately fell in love with her passionate, romantic work, and was thrilled to sign her on as a new client. Since that time, she’s become far more than “just” a client—she is a true friend. And I’m incredibly proud of her today because she’s posting a piece that displays true courage and yet has the heart of genuine vulnerability. I hope that you’ll appreciate the post below. Please note that she discusses a subject of a very sensitive nature

Romance by Monica Burns

Romance. I’ve been reading it since I was 12 years old. The first time I “fell in love” was when I read a Harlequin Romance. I think the name of that book was Beat of a Different Drum. Others romance books followed, and I believed in love’s happily ever after with all my heart.

I believed it right up until the night I was raped by the man who’d taken me out for the evening and then decided he was entitled to something he wasn’t. Right now you’re probably gasping in shock. Me—I’m sitting here teary eyed, wondering how to frame my words in way that make sense and yet don’t sound maudlin. I sit here wondering if sharing my experience is the right thing to do. Wondering if I really have the courage to post this. It’s a direct confrontation with all the emotional ugliness that still lingers inside me. I also have no doubts that there will be sympathetic people and those who will be cruel.

So why tell my story? I’ve considered doing so for some time now. I would read something about forced seduction or hear about the blurred line between erotic romance and erotica. I’d express my belief that while love and hope are constant themes running through romance, there is still a strong “fantasy” component in romance books. In all of those instances, I knew my experience had played a major role in shaping my opinions, but fear kept me from speaking out. I knew I’d be vulnerable, and I don’t particularly like people seeing the chinks in my armor.

But little things prodded me closer toward this moment. Things like a friend reading one of my novellas then telling me afterward, that while reading my book she felt sexy for the first time in her life. I’d already begun to acknowledge that my writing was helping me overcome some of my sexuality issues, but here was a new twist. My writing had helped another woman feel sexy and beautiful. I found it to be a damn powerful statement. It made me wonder what sharing my experience might do to help more women feel better about themselves.

Women like me who have great difficulty trusting anyone, who resist physical intimacy and who question their self-worth. I wanted to share the message that it’s possible to survive rape or domestic abuse and eventually develop a healthy romantic relationship with someone who loves you. I wanted to help other women understand that sex can be beautiful, fun, playful, loving and wonderful despite the past.

Was my “sex isn’t bad” revelation easy to come by? Hell no! I’ve been married 21 years, and my biggest challenges throughout my marriage have been trust and intimacy. I struggle with those demons on a daily basis, and on occasion my husband has paid a high price because of my struggle. Even when you’re with someone who loves you a lot, trust still doesn’t come easily. And physical intimacy is based in deep emotional trust. The fact that my husband and I are still together is a testament to how much he loves me. I would have left me a hell of a long time ago.

I’ve had family comment that they don’t understand how I can write explicit sex considering my past. Trust me; no one’s been more surprised by that than me. I didn’t expect writing erotic romance to be therapeutic, but it has been. It’s helped me reclaim some of my self-worth. As an erotic romance writer, I believe that love and hope are integral themes in romance books. I can believe in those themes and yet remain true to my belief that strong fantasy elements are always prevalent in romance books. There’s always the happy ever after, there’s the hot, hunky hero and the lovely, sexy heroine. They both have issues, but they manage to work them out in the span of a book. They ride off into the sunset, leaving the reader with that feel good sensation. In real life, it doesn’t always work that way, but that’s why I think romance books are so important. They give us hope. The make us feel good. They make us either believe in love or they give us hope that love might actually exist somewhere out there.

With erotic romance in particular, there is an even more powerful message. Erotic romance gives a woman a choice. She’s empowered to read on or put a book down. She’s able to explore her feelings about sex in a safe environment. In other words, she’s in charge. If a book’s content becomes too intense, walking away is perfectly fine. Erotic romance gives women permission to be vulnerable and explore subject matter that may be difficult for them. It’s a safety net for the reader who’s making a choice, not having something forced on her. When it comes to writing erotic romance, it’s safe because I simply delete anything I find frightening or uncomfortable.

Has writing erotic romance washed away all my pain, all of the darkness? No. It’s not some magical elixir. I’ll always carry the pain and darkness of the rape inside me. What my writing has done is empowered me. I’m able to take back some of what was stolen from me. I find it easier to believe my husband when he tells me I’m a beautiful, sexy woman. Five years ago, I didn’t believe a word of it. Does that mean I believe those words all the time? No, but with every page I write, it gets easier to believe I’m sexy, I’m beautiful and I’m worthy of being adored.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Monica,

Thank you for your honest and sensitive posting. Years ago I worked for a Sexual Assault Centre, and one of the most important things I learned was that rape, and sexual assaults, have NOTHING to do with sex. It's about power over another person.

Erotica and romance novels are about emotions which are tied into that delicious part of us, namely, sexuality.

Talking and sharing our experiences are so important and takes away the power of the perpetrator. Assaults can happen to any of us at any time.

I wish you continued healing, and good luck with your writing career.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:15:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only everyone could find the courage you did! Thank you for the reminder that the human spirit is so strong.
Deanna K-M

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:45:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhonda Stapleton said...

Wonderful, gut-wrenching post. I applaud you. Thank you for sharing your journey and feelings.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Keri Ford said...

Monica, while I can’t possibly begin to grasp what you’ve been through, I can certainly understand how writing has allowed you freedom to explore safely. That’s what reading is all about after all, or so I think.

You said something that really stood out because it’s one of the main reasons why I work so hard at my writing.

“My writing had helped another woman feel sexy and beautiful.”

I wonder if all writers feel this way? Thank you for sitting down and sharing your story. Keri

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monica, thank you for such heartfelt words. It was very brave to put yourself so out there. Bless you for realizing you are a survivor not a victim. You are very brave.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Wow. Monica, that was beautiful, enlightening and powerful. Thank you for your words, and may you find trust and peace in your world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:35:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kate Pearce said...

Thank you for sharing, Monica, and for finding a wonderful way to empower yourself and other women through your writing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,

You are a wonderful, fun, talented, giving, and beautiful person. I'm glad to know you. And I'm glad you're a writer.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 12:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...


Thank you for your thoughtful, kind comments. I almost emailed Deidre last night to scratch the post. But I remembered the sign I received yesterday. I watched a book video, (Strawberries in Winter)which had the following words on the first screen...

If you write it, you will be free.

I became a little more free this morning.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger MaryKate said...


What a brave, and extraordinary woman you are. Even in the face of horrible brutality, you haven't just persevered, you've triumphed.

You are an incomparable. I mean it in the very best way.

I've always said when I grow up I wanted to be you or Vivi.

I've never meant it more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:07:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Ember Case said...

Monica, you are an amazing, wonderful, and brave woman.
Thank you for sharing your story. I had tears in my eyes while I read that - not just of regret over what you went through, but of admiration for the person you have since become.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:12:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a brave and wonderful thing that you have done here. I can not even begin to imagine going through something like that. The courage to manage and try to overcome is awe inspiring.

You truly are a special person.

Sarah S

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tricia Grissom said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Seeing the power writing has to heal is inspiring and comforting.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 1:49:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Mandy M. Roth said...


You are one of the nicest people I have ever met. I'm so incredibly proud of the courage you've displayed by discussing this openly. I hope people realize what I already know, that you're an amazing writer, a true professional and that you're one hell of a woman!

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 4:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...

MK, Tricia, Ember, Mandy,

Thank you ladies for your kind words. I don't feel brave at all. I just feel like me. *smile*

All the emails off-line and here and on my other blog have been amazing. So many women are sharing their stories with me, and I feel so blessed to know so many strong, wonderful women through my writing. You all are the amazing ones.

Hugs, Monica

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 4:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Bookstoredeb said...

Thank you for sharing with us. I have to say that I admire you even more for sharing and having the strength to overcome.

May you continue to grow in love and happiness!


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 4:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Keziah Hill said...

Great words Monica.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 4:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Thank you for sharing that with us, it takes great courage to do what you did. I wish you continued sucess and many happy years with hubby!

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 5:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Sharona Nelson said...

Mon, you know that I know exactly what walking in your shoes feels like. It does become easier to deal with the feelings you have after you "come out" about your rape. It took me twelve years to admit that's what happened to me.

You are a brave, funny, talented woman. I'm here for ya, babe.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 5:19:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking about it is such a brave thing to do. I have never experienced what you have gone through, but I know what not being in control is like.

When I was in college, I was stalked. I couldn't go anywhere alone. I would receive telephone calls at all hours.

I am still not quite over that and I think I will always be looking over my shoulder. I still do not like to go anywhere alone.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 5:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Mandy Leigh B. said...

Monica, just wanted to show my support for you- and your wonderful post! I had a similar assault happen to me, and I know how terrifying it is to talk about it because you feel like you're going to be judged. I thought you were very courageous in sharing, and very smart when you were talking about how erotic romance empowers a woman to explore subject matter that she is uncomfortable with in a safe environment. You definitely made some very strong points and I am impressed!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 6:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tess Harrison said...

I admire you're courage and honesty, Monica. Words are power. Thank you for sharing your's with all of us.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 6:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cassidy McKay said...


You're beautiful inside and out.

What a wonderful thing you've done to help other women who may have been through the same thing but were too scared to write or talk about it, or have just hidden it away in a dark closet like a dirty secret.

We *can* overcome adversity. I'm a survivor thirteen-year old should have to go through something like that, but poo happens. I don't mind talking about it, but I know that for some, it festers and destroys from the inside out.

I've found writing erotic romance to be cleansing, also. At least we can write the endings in our books the way we choose to.

Bless you for realizing that we can either dwell in the past or celebrate the future -- I'll celebrate with you, my dear!

Cassidy McKay

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 6:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marley Gibson said...

Monica...thank you for sharing the "chink in your armor." You're a very brave and courageous woman and I wish I could reach through the computer screen and hug you tight. Keep pouring your emotions into your writing -- your readers appreciate it.

Hugs from a Sistah,
Marley = )

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 7:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Pam said...

Monica, my hope for you is that posting this has let out more of that darkness, and allow you to feel freer to take back all that power stolen from you. A Wonderful post, wishing you all best on towards the light.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 7:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...


Thank you all for your kind words and thoughtful posts. I'm truly overwhelmed at the response.

I'm receiving emails off line that leave me hurting for other women who've experienced similar or worst events in their lives. And while my experience was horrible, I can't begin to equate it with what a 12-yr-old must have endured, or with family who didn't believe the daughter. My heart goes out to all who've shared their heart and soul with me.


Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 7:23:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Husband said...

Just wanted everyone to know that for 21 years it has been a pleasure to be called a husband by Monica. She is the strongest and the most courageous lady that I have had the pleasure of knowing.

With all my love

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:16:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...

And when you shine my love you shine. Thank you for that lovely tribute.

All my love, Monica

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Monica, I think, perhaps, you have found your fantasy and your HEA after all :o)

Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 11:28:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Michelle M Pillow said...


You already know I think your great! Your bravery in itself for standing up and being honest is inspiring.


Friday, September 14, 2007 at 12:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Minx Malone said...

Wow. I don't think this is a "chink" in your armor Monica, if anything this is just another layer of strength you've shown today.

Bravo for sharing something that has helped so many.


Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:48:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...

Thank you all for the kind and supportive words. Yesterday was an emotionally draining day. Sharing something like this was not done lightly, nor easily. Everyone's support here and my beloved agent's lovely introduction have warmed my heart and aided in the ever ongoing process of healing. You all are wonderfully caring women, and I believe women need to share their stories with other women to help each other heal.

Thank you again so much.


Friday, September 14, 2007 at 10:16:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Monica, Thank You for sharing your story.


Friday, September 14, 2007 at 12:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Liane Gentry Skye said...

Such a beautiful, empowering post. Thank you.

Friday, September 14, 2007 at 3:43:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was wonderful. You are incredibly brave. To me rape is very different than having sex or making love. The lines often get blurred. But it's wonderful you haven't let your rape take over your world and found a way to take your sexuality back.

Thank you for posting Monica.

Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:23:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Nadia Aidan said...

Thank you Monica for sharing your story your words were truly empowering. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you. And I am SO amazed by your courage your strength. The journey to healing as you know is lifelong but by having the courage to do what you just did I KNOW you have made someone else's journey that much easier and I applaud you for it.

Sending you a heartfelt hug and a sincere thank you again for finding the strength to share you story of survival.


Friday, September 14, 2007 at 8:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Monica. Love - whether it's sexual or platonic - is healing in so many ways. You're an inspiration.

Friday, September 14, 2007 at 8:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Celeste said...

It takes a lot of courage to talk about something that terrible, and a big person to walk away from it with her head held high and make something worth sharing from it. More power to you!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 11:04:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Darcy McKenna said...


You're a very wonderful and courageous lady.

aka Renee Russell

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 11:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...

Thank you ladies. I would like to urge everyone to visit Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors
at Liz is an inspiration as well.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 3:15:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Imogen Howson said...

As Monica's editor at Samhain Publishing, I already know her as an accomplished writer and a charming person--and a sweetheart to work with.
I now know her as someone with immense courage as well.
Monica, thank you for talking so honestly about this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 12:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jess Dee said...

Monica, Wow!
How incredibly brave of you to come out like this. I am so happy you have found your writing therapeutic.
Thank you for sharing your story. Oh - and your hubby sounds like a real life hero!


Friday, September 21, 2007 at 2:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Monica Burns said...


You already know that I think you're the BESTEST editor a gal could have!! Thank you for your kind words.


Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate it.


Friday, September 21, 2007 at 1:42:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home