Ashley Lister talks to Lisabet Sarai


As She's ToldThis month celebrates 10 years of Lisabet Sarai’s erotic fiction. Back in April 1999, Black Lace books (the Virgin Publishing imprint of erotic fiction written by women for women) published Lisabet’s first erotic novel: Raw Silk. Since then she’s repeatedly revisited the novel (Incognito, Ruby’s Rules, Exposureetc), made a name for herself with her sultry short stories (Butterfly, Vows, Incurable Romantic—and countless other), and even worked as an editor/anthologist (Sacred Exchangeand Cream: the best of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association). Lisabet kindly took time out of her busy schedule to talk a little about her passion for erotic fiction.

Ashley Lister: Before we begin properly, could you please advise our readers how they should correctly pronounce your surname?

Lisabet Sarai: Well, since I concocted the name myself when I was searching for a pseudonym, no pronunciation would be strictly incorrect! However, when I pronounce it, the first syllable rhymes with “fa” (the fourth note in the musical scale) and the second with “lie”. Stress is on the second syllable.

Ashley Lister: Congratulations on your anniversary of a decade in erotic fiction publishing. It’s quite an achievement for any author to remain in a genre for such a length of time yet you still manage to produce stories that are well-crafted, explicit and exciting. How do you manage that with such consistency?

Lisabet Sarai: Thank you, Ash! For one thing, I don’t write full time. I have a fairly demanding day job, so my writing time is precious. I try to make it matter. I’m selective about what calls I’ll respond to, or what publishers and editors I will work with. Since I can’t generate the quantity produced by some erotica authors, I try to focus especially hard on quality.

I also enjoy challenging myself by attacking new sub-genres, but with an original twist. I just published my first erotic vampire story, “Vampires, Limited”, in the Black Lace Lust at First Bite collection. (Well, actually, my story “Prey” might also be classified as vampire erotica, but that’s really outside the mainstream.) My vampire is rather non-traditional. He’s not ancient, he’s not predatory, and he can venture outside in the day time. He also offers a new explanation on how one becomes a vampire.

“Shapeshifter” erotica is currently very popular—were-wolves, were-bears, were-stallions and so on. I decided to take the genre in a new direction. My new novella Serpent’s Kiss, due out in May, is my initial attempt in this area. My character shifts from human form to half-snake/half-bird—the form of a Mayan god.

Lately I’ve been working with ePublishers. Their notion of a short story is a work ten to fifteen thousand words, complete with chapters! This has taken some adjustment on my part, since most print anthologies will not accept anything longer than 5K. Paradoxically, the experience has made it easier for me to produce short works, but more difficult to pack an entire story into the limited word count. I think I may need to rejoin Storytime and focus on writing Flashers again.

Ashley Lister: Reflecting on your career as an author over the past ten years, which of your personal publications would you rank as the most satisfying—both on a personal and professional level?

Lisabet Sarai: My personal favorite novel is Incognito, mostly due to the interleaving of past and present. I’ve always been fascinated by the Victorian era. In that sense my heroine Miranda mirrors my personal interests. I’m also very proud of my short story collection Fire, though it hasn’t been as popular as some of my other works—largely, I think, because it’s a bit more “literary” than the sort of short stories that are currently in favor. When my husband read it, he compared me to O. Henry! I was extraordinarily flattered, though I am not sure that the comparison is deserved. Finally, with all due humility, I think that Cream was one of the best erotica collections to appear in years. It was a privilege having the opportunity to expose some of the talent that hangs out at ERWA to a larger readership.

Ashley Lister: I recently read and enjoyed Exposure. In this story you’ve deviated from the typical limitations of the genre and created a noir style narrative that is fun and sexy but also has the threat of a darker side. Could you explain a little about Exposure and tell us if that edginess was deliberate?

Lisabet Sarai: Very deliberate. I actually wish I could have made it blacker, cranked up the tension and the foreboding another few notches. In fact, it’s pretty tame compared to the typical crime novel. I’ve only read a few erotic thrillers—the work of M.J. Rose comes to mind—so I didn’t have much in the way of models.

I’ve never been very comfortable writing dark erotica. My view of sex is so positive, I find it difficult to meld it to negative themes. So Exposure was definitely a challenge.

Ashley Lister: Aside from your extensive publishing history of fiction, you’ve also read and reviewed many, many titles over the past decade. Are there any titles that particularly stand out as favourites?

Lisabet Sarai: Well, I obviously tend to remember the things that I’ve reviewed fairly recently. High on that list, I’d include Donna George Storey’s Amorous Woman and Helen Madden’s Demon by Day. Oh, and I have to mention Andre Aciman’s wonderful Call Me By Your Name. Looking back, I also remember being astonished and aroused by Julie Hilden’s novel 3. It must be more than five years since I read it, but I still recall its intense eroticism.

Ashley Lister: After you’ve finished celebrating this anniversary, what do you intend to write next?

Lisabet Sarai: I’d like to write a sequel to Raw Silk. I actually began this project about five years ago, but then my publisher Blue Moon folded and I lost interest. Now Raw Silk has been republished and I have a whole new target readership: the erotic romance community. Furthermore, I would like to think that my writing has improved since that first, breathless foray into the world of erotica.

Raw Silk now sounds stiff and cliched to me, at least in parts. I’d like Tiger Marks (working title) to be more graceful and mature, while still retaining the erotic intensity. And I want to use the book to further explore the dynamics of BDSM, which continues to fascinate me.

Visit Lisabet Sarai at: Lisabet Sarai’s Fantasy Factory

Ashley Lister
April 2009

“Between the Lines” © 2009 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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