Interview with Lisabet Sarai, Author of “The First Stone” in Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire

Forbidden Fruit Cover

Hello, long-neglected readers! I have a treat for you today: an interview with a fellow-author in a recently released erotica anthology. The anthology is called Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire, edited by Cheyenne Blue, and the author is Lisabet Sarai. Her story in the anthology is called “The First Stone.”

RLF: You clearly have a lot of writing experience and write in many different genres and styles. What is the particular draw of erotica? What is your favorite non-erotica genre or piece of writing that you’ve done?

LS: Oy! What makes you think that I have written anything that is not erotic?

Seriously, pretty much every story I’ve created as an adult has at least an undertone of sexual tension. What can I say? That’s just what interests and inspires me. You’re right about my sampling many genres. I’ve written erotic suspense, erotic humor, erotic historical, erotic steampunk, erotic paranormal, erotic multi-cultural and erotic science fiction – but that E-word is always in there.

Perhaps the closest I’ve come to a mainstream story is “Vegas” (available free at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/vegas.html), about the relationship between a female trucker and her black-sheep-of-the-family aunt. That tale doesn’t have any overt sex in it. However, it still has some erotic themes (not lesbian, I should add).

My husband keeps telling me I should switch to writing mysteries. Certainly that would be more respectable. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure I would succeed in keeping the erotic element out of any genre of fiction I attempted.

What is the particular draw of erotica? Nothing, in my opinion, gets so much to the heart of who we are. For me, sexuality and identity are inextricably entwined. I led a rather adventurous sex life in my twenties and thirties. Those experiences have shaped not only the way I relate to people but my views on morality and on spirituality.

Plus I’ll admit that I sometimes enjoy the shock value. It’s very liberating to shine the light of my fiction on topics so many individuals feel deserve to be relegated to darkness.

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RLF: You write beautifully on your website of your travel experiences; what sparked your interest in travel? When did you first learn what it meant to you to discover a new place?

LS: I think I was born a traveler. When I was about eighteen months old, my parents flew with me and my infant brother from the mid west where my dad had been working to the east coast where he and my mom had both grown up. According to family apocrypha, I spent the next twenty four hours announcing to anyone who would listen “I just flew on American Airlines!”

A confirmed bookworm, I spend my elementary and high school years reading about ancient times and faraway places. I used to fantasize about taking the train to New York City and staying in a hotel there. I could scarcely imagine something more exciting.

I didn’t actually get the chance to travel abroad until the end of college. My best friend and I skipped our graduation ceremony in order to spend five eye-opening weeks in Spain and Morocco. Ten years later, my husband-to-be seduced me with his backpacker tales of wandering in Turkey and Indonesia.

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RLF: Tell us about a story you’d like to write, erotica or otherwise, that deeply compels you, but which you haven’t yet figured out how to tell.

LS: I’ve been playing for a while with the idea of a BDSM erotic romance in which the mysterious hero – the Dom – turns out to be quadriplegic. My point, of course, is that desire, especially the sort involved in power exchange, is fundamentally a non-physical phenomenon. I’ve gone so far as to write the first chapter, but I’m really not sure I have the skill to continue. There are so many traps to avoid, so many groups I might turn off or anger – from those who’d accuse me of being politically incorrect or of exploiting the notion of disability, to those who’d be squeaked by what seems like the opposite of a happy ending.

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RLF: Your story in this anthology,The First Stonefeatures characters living at two extremes of sexuality: a celibate nun and a prostitute. What about this combination interests you? How do you think religion intersects with sexuality– in this story, or otherwise?

LS: Religion – at least most monotheistic Western religion – is pretty hostile to sexuality. However, I believe that the sexual and the spiritual are closely intertwined. Sexual energy ultimately represents our creative, generative power as human beings. Furthermore (as some eastern religions recognize), sexual acts can connect souls as well as bodies.

In some sense, denying one’s sexual self, as a celibate nun does, could be considered as denying her humanity. Even as a sort of insult to the Deity, depending on how you conceptualize the concept of a Higher Power. I understand the Christian argument that erotic desire can serve as a distraction from contemplating the spiritual plane, but I’ve always felt that doctrine held a fundamental paradox. According to Genesis, God made man and woman and “saw that it was good”. Who are we to say the the body is unworthy, arising as it does from the same creative power as the soul?

This topic is one dear to my heart. I could write tomes. So I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

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RLF: Tell us more aboutThe First Stone.What did it start with– an idea, a goal, a character, an image? Did you encounter any surprises in writing it? Please share an excerpt with us!

LS: Helpless love for a celibate priest is a long-established romantic trope. Remember The Thorn Birds? It’s hard to imagine a lover more forbidden that a Catholic priest (unless one is willing to consider incest). When Cheyenne told me about her theme, I almost immediately thought about a story featuring a nun (much less well-trodden ground, from a fictional perspective). And who would want her? What sort of person would have the greatest social and emotional distance? A prostitute would do nicely, especially given the New Testament stories of Jesus being criticized for fraternizing with whores and money changers.

A homeless prostitute, recovering from drug addiction, resident at a women’s shelter, where the nun worked performing service for those less fortunate… it was all taking shape quite well, when my imagination suffered a tectonic shift. What if, instead of telling the story from the prostitute’s perspective, I made the nun the narrator? A nun attracted to a prostitute – doubly forbidden, not only because of her vows of celibacy but also because of the taboo nature of Sapphic attraction.

At that point, the story practically wrote itself. I had that wonderful sense of confidence that we writers so rarely achieve – the sense that I’d really gotten it right.

But of course sometimes we delude ourselves. Only the readers can judge.

***

“Heard you were married once, Sister. That true?”

Oh, God! “Um – yes. More than ten years ago.”

“So you ain’t no virgin.”

Startled, I looked up from the meat loaves. Heat shimmered through me. Despite her tone of levity, she was not smiling. The knowledge I saw in her eyes scared me.

“No – Tony and I – we -” I choked on my own words as tears gathered.

“You can tell me, Sister.”

It poured out of me before I could stop myself, the whole sordid story. The fairy tale wedding of Kathy Gallagher and her high school sweetheart Anthony Manzetti, with both enormous families in attendance. The all-too-brief flare of passion. Then Tony’s cancer, diagnosed on our second anniversary, and the years of treatment: chemo, radiation, surgery, more chemo. Remissions and the rekindling of hope. Relapses and despair. I’d cared for him through it all: the sweats and the vomiting, the rashes and the sores, the terrible, terrible pain. Everyone praised my strength and courage. A saint, they’d called me.

Two days after his funeral, I’d slit my wrists.

I’d awakened in St. Margaret’s Hospital, bandaged and restrained. An elderly nun sat by my bedside, stern and sorrowful. The weight of memory crushed me.

“Why did you save me?” I’d asked, so weak I could barely whisper. “You should have let me die.”

“For shame, child. Your life is a gift from God. How dare you throw it away, when you could be using it to help others?”

“Haven’t I done enough, taking care of Tony all those years?”

“Apparently not, since your soul is not at peace.”

I shuddered at the recollection. Scalding tears streamed down my cheeks. Magnolia slipped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me against her pillowy chest. Lost in grief and self-pity, I scarcely noticed, at least for a moment.

She stroked my cropped hair. “Poor baby. Seems to me that becoming a nun yourself – well that was a bit much, wasn’t it?” A sense of comfort stole over me. Her floral aroma mingled with the kitchen spices. “Maybe you chose wrong.”

She pressed her lips to my forehead. Terror and arousal streaked through me in alternating waves. I struggled against her entangling arms. “No, no,” I babbled. “Sin – suicide is a mortal sin – I had to atone…”

Magnolia released me with a deep sigh. “Ain’t you done enough penance, Sister?”

I rushed upstairs to my room without answering, her scent clinging to my clothing, the mark of her lips branded on my forehead.

****

To read more of this story, and all of my story, “Our Woman,” and a bunch of other terrific stories, check out the anthology. Details below!

The next stop on the Forbidden Fruit blog tour is Sacchi Green  http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com who is interviewing Emily L. Byrne.

Leave a comment on any post in the Forbidden Fruit blog tour to be entered into a random draw to win one of these great prizes.  Prizes include a paperback copy of Girls Who Score, lesbian sports erotica edited by Ily Goyanes, Best Lesbian Romance 2011 edited by Radclyffe, an ebook of Ladylit’s first lesbian anthology Anything She Wants, and a bundle of three mini-anthologies from Ladylit: Sweat, A Christmas to Remember and Bossy.  All of these titles contain some stories written by the fabulous contributors to Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire. You must include an email address in  your comment to be entered into the draw.

 

LAUNCH SPECIAL PRICE ONLY FROM AMAZON: for one week only, 5 – 11 September 2014, purchase Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire for the super-special price of 0.99c.

 

Forbidden Fruit: stories of unwise lesbian desire is available direct from the publisher, Ladylit (http://www.ladylit.com/books/forbidden-fruit/) or from Amazon, Smashwords, and other good retailers of ebooks.  Check out http://www.ladylit.com/books/forbidden-fruit/ for all purchasing information.

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