Urban Fantasy author Jenna Black gives us the behind the scenes look at the making (and backlash) from what she calls the "Controversial Scene" from her title The Devil Inside. You can read the "Controversial Scene" and don't miss the GIVEAWAY after Jenna Black's blog post for a chance to win a signed copy of the novel!
When I was first asked to do this guest blog, I was asked to write something about the Morgan Kingsley series that my readers wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. The task was a little daunting, considering I’ve written five books in the series and done a fair number of blogs with each release. But then I realized there is one aspect of the Morgan Kingsley series I haven’t discussed before: the Controversial Scene.
There is one scene in the first book of the series, The Devil Inside, that seems to inspire more controversy—and strong reactions—than any other I’ve written. (I’m willing to bet that if you’ve read the book, you know which scene I’m talking about.) I’ve kept mum about it up until now, but now that the series has come to its conclusion, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the history of the Controversial Scene.
For those of you not familiar with the book, the Controversial Scene involves Morgan, my heroine, making a deal with Adam, the demon-possessed cop who’s the only one who can help her rescue her boyfriend from the bad guys. She allows Adam, who is a sadist, to whip her in return for his help. There is a definite sexual overtone to the scene, but it is not BDSM, per se—it’s more about Adam’s revenge against Morgan for having almost gotten him killed.
The scene was controversial from the very beginning, when my editor didn’t like it and suggested it wasn’t necessary. However, I felt very strongly that it was necessary, so I rewrote it in hopes that she would like it better. When she still didn’t like it, I called her on the phone so I could explain exactly what purpose I intended the scene to play in the story so she could understand why I wanted to keep it, and so she could help me figure out how to make it work. We discussed together how I could alter the scene in ways it could better fulfill its purpose, and I revised the scene again. I’m very glad I made that phone call, because that back-and-forth was just what I needed to get the scene right That second revision is the version that made it into the final book.
So, why was I so passionate about keeping that scene, which I knew would bother some people even with the revisions? One reason was because of the rich story fodder it would provide me for later books, as Adam and Morgan are forced to work together afterward. (I didn’t specifically plan for the explosive effect that incident would turn out to have in Speak of the Devil, but I knew I could use it to create lots of conflict.) But much more important for me was the need to more fully illustrate the dichotomy between how Morgan sees herself and how she really is.
There are many times throughout the book when Morgan expresses her negative opinion of herself—she calls herself a coward, and she thinks of herself as selfish and unable to be self-sacrificing. Some of her behavior in the book even supports her opinion, although I as a writer never saw her that way. One challenge about writing a first person narrator is that readers sometimes take the narrator’s word for things and don’t consider that the narrator might not be entirely reliable. I didn’t want readers to get to the end of the book and believe Morgan’s negative opinion of herself.
The Controversial Scene put Morgan in position to sacrifice herself for the sake of someone she loves. It was something she never believed herself capable of, and yet she never hesitated. Despite her own opinion of her self-worth, she has plenty of heroic qualities, and this scene allowed me to shine a light on them. I think that without that scene, readers might have come away from the book believing Morgan is as selfish and cowardly as she claims to be, and that was not the kind of heroine I wanted her to be.
Showing readers a glimpse of Morgan’s potential to act in a heroic manner was important enough to me to fight for. And to face the criticism of those who find the scene upsetting. I’m not sure if there is any such thing as a “right” decision in writing, not when the quality of a book is so subjective; but I know that the decision to keep that scene was the right decision for me. I can only do the best that I can do, and if I had backed away from the challenge and just cut that scene, I never would have felt as if the book was the best I could possibly make it.
*GIVEAWAY ALERT* Three readers will be chosen at random to receive a signed copy of Jenna Black's THE DEVIL INSIDE. To enter please e-mail Whitney@RTBOOKREVIEWS.com. To be considered, the subject line of your email must be "The Devil Inside Giveaway." Winners will be announced on April 29th!