It started from a dirty little teenage fantasy: a sexy, half-Sicilian teacher called Maria develops an overwhelming crush on her beautiful 16 year-old student, Nadia. As my deviant mind dwelled deliciously on this idea, it evolved from what was, initially, an erotic short story to a sincere, deeply sensual, emotional rollercoaster that is pure, unadulterated pleasure to write.
Everyone I tell about my novel must be able to see the vaguely perverted expression on my face as I’m explaining the erotic storyline, because theirs do one of two things: either slide into a knowing smirk with an arched eyebrow for smooth approval, or lips sew together into tight little purses, eyes rearing with nervousness.
Friends will nod with understanding and encouragement but I can’t help but enjoy the squirming reactions of curious strangers; made all too soon regretful of their polite small-talk when they comprehend the depth of my sordid imagination. My dear, middle-class family members are similarly awkward, conservative and Christian, but I’m fairly sure that declaring myself as an author of lesbian fiction was relatively mild a shock for them compared with my coming out.
Positive reactions to my novel are followed by keen inquisition: I’m usually asked first if it’s based on any personal experience. It wasn’t at all – in reality, a teacher-student relationship would make me nauseous, so then I have to explain why I would choose to create such a controversial affair. All I can say is what happens between these characters is not a choice. Their love is so strong, they are compelled to be together and I am compelled to make that happen through writing their story for them.
I feel so passionately about Maria & Nadia, it’s almost as if they write themselves. When I sit down to write, I’ll put on some instrumental music like classical or jazz so that lyrics won’t interfere with my words, even dance music, depending on the mood of the particular section I’m writing. I can generally only write when I’m in the appropriate mood, and then it will simply gush out of me.
I’m most comfortable writing in bed or a deep armchair, with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, but I can’t write if I’m drunk – I tried that and ended up weeping into my keyboard. I’m easily caught up in the emotion of the story, probably a good sign that readers will be too. I must look mad muttering to myself as I whisper out their conversations. Sometimes I have a little chuckle to myself when I’ve written something funny, and then, when I’m writing a sex scene, I admit I become flushed with heat and arousal.
I prefer to be left alone, that goes without saying, but I’ve learned how to zone right back into the story if I’m disturbed. Partners have varied in their support: some were impressed with my focus, but sat twiddling their thumbs until I stopped and could pay them attention again; some have been jealous I had an artistic project and would try everything to distract me. I’ve resented being distracted; sadly, several of my real-life relationships have been sacrificed for my fantasy one.
Yes, I’m protective of my story, I never let anyone touch my laptop, I have read a few chapters to some friends just to see if I’m on the right track but I’m a perfectionist and I won’t let it go of it until I’ve completed it to the best of my ability. I’m constantly adding and changing things, researching other lesbian erotica and movies, checking out the competition. When I meet people who remind me of my characters, I observe their mannerisms and might select a few traits to use in my book to make my fiction more realistic. The biggest problem I’ve encountered so far, however, that research has not really provided any answer to, is that I cringe every time I have to refer to my characters’ genitalia.
Now, I’m really no prude, but having come so far from its original porn styling, I’ve struggled to find words that adequately describe one’s lady parts that aren’t too clinical (vagina, vulva, clitoris); too crude (snatch, clunge, gash), or too silly (beaver, minge, fanny). I even set up a Facebook group to ask my girlfriends which words they wouldn’t mind reading in a genuine, romantic novel and the feedback was both helpful and hilarious; suggestions included ‘prawn taco’, ‘meat flaps’, ‘fish mitten’ and ‘penis pit stop’. Online research proffered even worse: ‘pink truffle’, ‘lobster pot’, ‘fur burger’ and ‘whisker biscuit’ (the latter, I was mortified to realise, was my nickname for my dog).
Even The Vagina Monologues couldn’t help me: I’m all for empowering femininity but using ‘cunt’ and even ‘pussy’ for my characters feels too insensitive, never mind ‘coochie snorcher’. So far I’ve used safe options like ‘between her legs’ and ‘inside her knickers’; I think I’ll be okay with descriptive comparisons of textures: (velvet, silk, slippery); shapes: (pearl, petal, pocket); fruit, flowers and fluids work too: (rosebud, lotus, peach). ‘Lips’ I like, but then I think of teeth and the last thing I want to imagine when I’m reading a sex scene is vagina dentata. Maybe I’ll just call the damned thing ‘V’.
WAS IT WORTH IT?
Absolutely, yes, I’m stuck in this hot, sticky saga and I love it. I’m 20 chapters in, and it’s just getting to the juicy stuff. Maria and Nadia have made physical contact, with disturbing sensuality, yet they still haven’t discussed it, can’t discuss their feelings. Writing these characters is nothing but pleasure, Maria is beautifully tortured, and I’m trying to take the reader on her journey so they feel exactly how she’s feeling. I really like that the reader only knows of the student what Maria sees of her, so it remains a question throughout the length of the novel if Nadia’s intentions are genuine or if she is playing some game.
I’m thrilled the end is within sight, I literally can’t stop now. If only one person reads and enjoys it, it will be worth the years of sweat and tears, and repetitive strain injury in my w***ing hand… (that’s writing hand, you perverts). This novel is my labour of love, my lifetime achievement. If I never finish it, you’ll know it’s because the process is too much of a pleasure to give up.
Read a sample chapter at tinyurl.com/sourcevirgins
WORDS BY REBECCA LA ZARO
illustration by bukioe at bukioe.com