Please give a warm welcome to Lisabet Sarai, a successful romance author, who is here to talk about writing steamy fiction, what bothers her when it comes to romance fiction and finally, about her latest book, Necessary Madness. Welcome, Lisabet!
Thanks for inviting me to chat on your blog, Nikola!
Let's get straight to the point - how does one get into writing steamy fiction?
I don't think there's a single answer here. I've always loved to write (I penned my first short story at six and my first poem at seven), and I've always been fascinated by sex. I was a shy nerd during high school and college but "blossomed", sexually speaking, when I was in grad school. Making up for
lost time, you might say! My first erotic stories were fantasies written for a lover.
I was inspired to write my first novel, Raw Silk, after reading Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat. I loved its diversity and intelligence. Then I thought, "With my imagination, I'll bet I could write something like that." So I did! I now realize how incredibly lucky I was to have my first submission accepted by a top publisher.
The romance market is huge right now. What sets your books apart?
Well, for one thing, I don't tend to write real alpha heros. I'm more interested in nuanced characters who might not look like Greek gods but who have brains instead.
I tend to take genres and twist them into possibly unrecognizable forms. For example, I wrote a shape shifter romance (Serpent's Kiss) but the shifter isn't a were-wolf, were-cat, were-stallion, etc. He's the reincarnation of the Mayan god Quetzlcoatl, who takes the form of a half-bird, half-snake. My paranormal books tend to be minimalist in their allocation of power, rather
than playing off rival races of super-creatures. And I write BDSM that's simultaneously extreme (by romance standards) and intensely emotional.
Compared to many romance authors, I pay a great deal of attention to setting. All my books are set in real places: Bangkok, Boston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Worcester, Guatemala. With the exception of Guatmala, these are all places I know well. I feel that a rich sense of place helps better define my characters.
Your latest book, Necessary Madness, is your first full-length gay romance. What was it like writing it?
I really enjoyed writing the book. I felt a deep connection with both Kyle and Rob, but particularly with Kyle because of his experiences with the psychiatric establishment. I spent nearly three months in a psychiatric institution when I was in my late teens, and I drew on those memories to bring Kyle's anguish to life.
As far as the sex scenes are concerned, I believe that desire is a universal experience, so I don't have any problem writing about relationships between two men (or two women for that matter). My perspective is more or less pansexual. I'm obviously concerned about whether I've accurately portrayed the dynamics of gay sex. I've read quite a bit of gay erotica, written by men, so I'm hoping that I'm more or less in the ballpark.
What's the hardest thing when it comes to writing a romance?
I think the most difficult aspect is convincingly portraying the powerful emotional connection between the lovers. Real romance isn't about fun and flings. It's about a spiritual bond that goes far beyond the physical, even though it is expressed in the material world. As Joni Mitchell wrote:
I remember that time you told me
Love is touching souls
Surely you've touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time.
Touching souls. Conveying that mystical dimension of love is tough to do well --at least for me.
Is there anything that bugs you about romances?
They're too predictable. Because you know that the ending will be happy, it's difficult to create convincing suspense in a romance. I prefer to read, and write, stories with more ambiguous conclusions. My erotic thriller Exposure is a good example. It doesn't have an unhappy ending--you just don't know what the main character will decide to do.
Romance these days also has an unfortunate me-too quality about it. Vampire books are popular, so everyone writes a vampire book and after a while, they all sound the same. Originality does not seem to be highly prized. Now M/M romance is
the latest hot fad. My M/M work sells much better than my heterosexual work, but I really don't want to confine myself to writing one genre. I enjoy variety in both my reading (as you obviously do!) and my writing.
What's the process like when it comes to hot covers?
Usually the publisher will ask you to submit ideas for the cover, with a questionaire that covers things like the appearance of the characters, the setting, the tone, and so on. Very often the author will get to see the initial draft of a cover and have the chance to request changes. That happened with my latest cover, for my upcoming (in August) vampire menage Fire in the Blood. In the first version of the cover, two of the characters were perfect but I thought that the third looked kind of like a zombie! (He isn't.) I requested a change and the final version is far better.
Necessary Madness was an interesting deviation. I had found photos that I used to build my mental images of Kyle and Rob. The artist agreed to use them on the cover, a rather unusual situation. My favorite cover, I think, is Raw Silk. I love Exposure, too. The former was designed by Ann Cain, who is also responsible for the graphic design of my website. The latter was done by Stella Price, who's also a romance author.
What's next in store for Lisabet Sarai?
Well, despite my comments above about not wanting to be typecast as writing only M/M, I'm currently at work on a M/M science fiction tale. It's a dystopic tale of the near future, set after a devastating plague that is blamed on the gay community. It's fairly political, as you might guess. I don't want to say any more, though.
Since you've given me this forum, I'd also like to mention that I'm the series editor for the Coming Together Presents series of single-author charitable erotica. We've already published two volumes, by M.Christian and Remittance Girl. I'm currently working on two more, which I
hope will be out by the end of the year. The first two books support Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, respectively. As an erotic author, I'm proud to work for the benefit of responsible sex education, women's rights, and free speech.
That is so great! Lisabet, thank you so much for this chat and the very best of luck with Necessary Madness!
Lisabet has graciously offered a choice of two e-books to be given away to one lucky person. The winner will get to choose between the contemporary M/F novel Getaway Girl and the M/M Tomorrow's Gifts.
Giveaway rules are as follows:
-ends July 25th
+1 for tweeting about this contest
+2 for following my blog (old and new followers)
+2 for adding the link to the sidebar
+4 for posting about it
+4 for visiting Lisabet's site and coming back with the title that you found most titillating!