April 27, 2009
All my life I've been addicted to words. My parents taught me to read beginning around age four. I haven't stopped since. Even before then, they read to me and to my brother, stories and poems. My father made up rhyming songs for us, about dancing goldfish and clarinet-playing cats. Very early I became attuned to the rhythms of poetry and prose, the way words breathe, the way they sing.
I was the kid who lay on my bed reading, even on the sunny days, ignoring my mom's injunction to “go outside and play”. I was playing, tripping through the worlds of wonder between the covers of my books. I still remember the places I visited. Eleanor Cameron's mushroom planet. Evelyn Sibley Lampman's and Honore Valintcourt's city under the back steps. Nancy Drew's sleepy town full of secret doors and underground passages. I toured ancient Egypt and revolutionary America, met Betsy Ross and Helen Keller, Juliette Gordon Low and Sacajawea. I recall spending days in the Chateau D'If with poor, suffering Edmund Dantes. I wandered the red planet with Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and journeyed through Middle Earth with Frodo and his band.
As I read, I also wrote – my first poems around age seven, my first stories no doubt even younger (although unlike my poems, none survive). I wrote plays about the Beatles and the 1964 U.S. presidential election. I wrote part of a novel about woman who falls in love with a ghost in a haunted mansion by the sea. Delighted by the music of the language I was studying, I wrote verse in French.
All through school I was the bookworm, the egghead, the shy girl with the coke-bottle eyeglasses who got all As but few dates. This really didn't change much until I got to graduate school and “blossomed”. In the interim, I wrote dozens of angst-ridden poems about my unrequited loves.
It's surprising to me now, but I never really planned on being an author. I was going to be a famous scientist, like Marie Curie. Aside from some work published in my high school newspaper, my writing was mostly private. As my career goals morphed and I became a computer scientist and software engineer, I continued to write – research papers, proposals, specifications, manuals, marketing blurbs -- interspersed with more creative work. I tried my hand at a romance but foundered, not really knowing the genre. Under the tutelage of the primary man in my life, I began to read erotica, including quite a lot of BDSM. I wrote fantasies for his pleasure. I penned a couple of science fiction/erotica tales and toyed with the notion of a collection.
Still, I didn't actually write anything for publication until I was in my forties. I happened to pick up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while I was traveling. I found it intelligent, imaginative and above all arousing. Then I thought, “I'll bet I could write something like that.” About eighteen months later, my first novel, Raw Silk, was published by Black Lace. The rest, as they say, is history, albeit a minor footnote! (My full publishing history is available at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/pubhistory.html.)
Since then I've published four novels (with a fifth due out next week) and dozens of shorter works. I love to write. I began in the erotica genre but now I also write erotic romance. My earlier works tended to be realistic and contemporary, but as I gain more experience I'm starting to experiment with paranormals, historicals, thrillers and other sub-genres.
Nevertheless, my first love is still reading. There's nothing like thrill of finding a book that takes you over completely. I recently had that experience with Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale. Both the language and the story held me spellbound. Of course, I probably appreciated the novel all the more because it is about the magic of the written word, about stories and the difference between literal truth and emotional truth.
Words have power. They can inspire. They can wound. They can crystallize entire new worlds out of mere thought.
These days I'm proud to be a bookworm. I consider myself fortunate to have discovered the joy of reading at such an early age. I look forward to the many books waiting for me in the years ahead.
For more of Lisabet's views and writing, please visit Lisabet's Fantasy Factory (http://www.lisabetsarai.com) and her group blog, "Oh Get A Grip!".