Hi, everybody. There's a new anthology of lesbian romance out called Forbidden Fruit. Today I'm pleased to host Axa Lee, who has interviewed one of the contributors - Laila Blake. Enjoy!
Who are your influences as a writer?
There is no greater influence than the writers close to me. From my friend and sometimes co-author L.C. Spoering to anyone I've been lucky enough to share space in anthology with. They are the people I learn from, and who push me – consciously or less so – to become a better writer, to work harder, to do better.
As for famous authors, it's hard to say. I always feel like the writers I admire most are the ones I could never hope to match, or those with just a very different skill set or interests. And I don't remember ever having read that one book that made me want to write: writing came long before I was aware of influences. If anything, I would say that my favourite writers mix genres very eloquently, break rules, and I think I always try to do that in some way.
Which books are on your “damn I wish I wrote that!” list?
Which books are on your “damn I wish I wrote that!” list?
A lot. For very different reasons: Momo by Michael Ende. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
It's those books that feel like they could have come from me, if I had that skill. Books that express the things I try to express, or hit on points I feel strongly about. I'm sure there are a lot more.
What do you wish you’d learned or put into practice in your writing career sooner?
This is a hard one to answer. I feel like I still am very early in my writing career: I started writing what would become my first finished novel about two years ago. In January 2013, my first ever short story was accepted into an erotic anthology (fun fact: that anthology has not yet come out, lol, but it's scheduled for this November). So maybe I haven't reached the stage yet, where I look upon my younger self with sage advice.
I think we learn all learn our lessons when we are ready to learn them, though, and I have no doubt that there are many more on the horizon for me. I have made good decisions and bad ones, but not one that I regret to this day. Writing is a journey of discovery, and you do the best you can at any given moment.
Who is your ideal reader?
Through long reiterations of trial and error, beta readers and book reviews, I have come to the conclusion that my ideal reader is a person who enjoys something just a little bit different (mostly because the people who love my work best, always tend to praise me for this, although I am never quite sure what they mean). They are a person who is interested in the world around them. In issues of equality and diversity. Someone who enjoys the way a story is written as much as what the story is about.
Tell me about your story.
The premise of Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire gave me the chance to write something that's been spooking around in my head for a while. I am not usually a fan of historical novels, but I quite like period movies and series. And like a lot of people, I am quite taken in by the charms of Downton Abbey.
Now, dirty minded as I can be, I always liked the scenes of the maid, dressing the young ladies, the easy intimacy between them, the trust and the blossoming friendships.
The Law of Reciprocity isn't quite set in the same time as Downton Abbey, nor are the characters anything like the ones in the show, but that's definitely where the first spark hit. It follows the story of Hannah, a young maid desperately in love with her mistress, and the swell of feelings she harbors for her servant in return.
But why don't you check out this excerpt of The Law of Reciprocity?
I just want to be close to her.
The letters were the awkward, hesitant scrawl of the barely literate, written shakily on a scrap of paper. The knuckles of Hannah’s fingers were white and bloodless around the feather. They trembled as she held it, and a drop of ink dislodged, painted an uneven circle on the paper. Hannah blinked, watched the writing swim in and out of focus before her eyes.
“Now give it to me,” the gypsy woman said. She held out her hand, white, wrinkly, and covered in gaudy jewels. Her wrist jangled with glittering bracelets.
Instinctively, Hannah closed her hand around the scrap of paper and pulled it closer to her body, to protect it, to hide the terrible desire. The gypsy woman raised her brows. There was a mocking quality to her painted face. She was old, and spoke with an accent that Hannah didn’t recognize. The woman’s accent, her air of mystery, her colorful tent, the golden thread and coins that had been worked into her glittering headscarf, the aroma of spices in the sticky air—all made Hannah dizzy.
“Give it,” the gypsy repeated. “Mama Katsu keeps all her little friends’ secrets.” Almost suggestively, she ran her finger over the small stack of coins on the table: two weeks’ wages for a heart’s desire.
Hannah pressed her eyes shut as she extended her hand. She could feel the heat of the flame that burned in a little bowl in the center of the table. Then the gypsy plucked the paper from her hand.
“Don’t...” Hannah whispered, but it was too late. The old woman’s eyes were already scanning her words. The wrinkles on her forehead seemed to multiply, to pile up in ridges and plunge down into crevasses of skin.
Then she tossed it into bowl of fire. The paper curled and blackened.
For a second, the words stood out in sharp relief and then everything crumpled to ash. It dispersed in the oil, darkened it.
“Now the name,” she said, and Hannah was sure her voice ran colder than just before. A shiver ran down her spine, and she rolled the feather between her thumb and index finger. The second scrap of paper lay on the table before her and Hannah stared at it, at the fraying edges, the beige color, the visible fibers.
The feather scratched on the paper, louder than the old woman’s rattling breath, louder than the sound of the fairground outside the tent, louder than the laughing, drinking country folk.
“Give it,” the gypsy repeated impatiently.
Again, Hannah reached across the flame. She watched the wrinkled hand approach, watched the firelight dance ominously on the shiny rings and bracelets. They too moved in and out of focus;
Hannah felt woozy and sick, and she couldn’t breathe, as if the incense were coating the inside of her lungs.
With a last effort, she wrenched her hand from the center of the table and cradled the scrap of paper against her chest.
“I... I changed my mind,” she breathed, stumbling to her feet. From the corner of her eye, she saw the old woman slip the coins off the table, and then Hannah made for the tent flap and the open air.
It was almost dark outside. The bonfire threw sparks like stars into the spring air; skirts swished and flew in dancing circles. The music was louder here, so too the laughter and rhythmic clapping.
Hannah fought for air. Someone offered help, pushed a mug of ale into her shaking hand, and the paper fluttered away. She could read it, just for a second, before the wind tore toward the fire: Lady Rose Talbot.
The next stop on the Forbidden Fruit blog tour is Niki Crow who is guest posting at Lesfic and Lipstick http://lesficandlipstick.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/forbidden-fruit-stories-of-unwise-lesbian-desire-and-a-visit-with-niki-crow-and-sacchi-green/ and who is interviewing Sacchi Green.
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.
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.