What do you get when you send an over-educated pervert to a conservative seminary? Sounds like the set-up to a joke. And perhaps it was a joke, me in seminary. Not that there's anything wrong with going to seminary. I'm a semi-devout Catholic who loves reading the works of G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Merton, and Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury--don't judge me). It should come as no surprise then that I once spent several years working toward a Master's in Theology. Well, it might surprise you given my current career choice. I'm an erotica writer of the BDSM variety. And yes, I do my own research.
God have mercy.
Like most teenagers, the only God I believed in was my own smug self. But in college I fell madly passionately in love with two men whose names both started with J. J #1 introduced me to J #2--Jesus. Although fascinated by religion all my life, I'd never had the proverbial "personal relationship" with God. Once I started attending church with my boyfriend, I started to see the appeal of the Christian faith. There was something so profoundly beautiful about Christ on the cross...His one perfect sacrifice that forced everyone who looked upon to ask himself, "Would I submit to that for someone I loved? Even if that someone was the one pounding in the nails?" Christ humbled me which might be proof enough he is a miracle-worker.
For all that newfound devotion, I never ceased to be my usual irascible self. The J who introduced me to Jesus bore little resemblance to his supposed God. Where Christ seemed the epitome of forgiveness and loving-kindness especially to fallen women, my boyfriend had a bad habit of demanding perfection of everyone but himself. God's love and blessings were for him while judgment was reserved for me. Even my Anne Rice novels were proof I wasn't the perfect girl for him. Boyfriend J went by the wayside. But Jesus Christ, him I decided to stick with.
I stuck with him so much that a favorite professor of mine suggested I attend seminary. The church needed more female professors in its schools. And I thought Dr. Tiffany Reisz had a rather nice ring to it. Other women my age were determined to get their MRS degree. I wanted my Ph.D.
Seminary and I looked very good together on paper--one who loves God and loves studying would, naturally, love the study of God, right? Alas I'd never been more miserable. I had a devout heart and a liberal brain, and I couldn't get on board with the anti-choice and homosexuality-is-a-sin theology. My professors were fairly free-thinking, but my fellow students were of the borderline fundamentalist variety. I had one friend who felt equally out of place at school and could hardly restrain her anger when she was told her love of Bridget Jones movies was a sign her heart wasn't right with God. We commiserated over out sense of being entirely out of place over ice cream and episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
My friend and I had each other and we had books. We also had the Internet. And one night my friend sent me an erotic story she found online and said it was the sexiest thing she'd ever read. I read it. Not bad but I told her I could write something hotter with my eyes closed. After all, single students at my school, despite being legal adults, weren't allowed to have sex. That would be fornication after all. Any sexual activity had to be reserved for marriage. I didn't even have a boyfriend so I found a useful loophole. I could have sex on paper. I wrote my first story over Spring Break--a 9000 word explosion of borderline rape and erotic violence and posted it on the Internet. A handful of people loved it. I added a chapter. More people loved it. I wrote a whole book. Hundreds of people loved it. I wrote another one and people started sending me gifts and naming their cats after my characters.
My writing gave me a deep peace and a sort of satisfaction that contrasted sharply with my frustrations in seminary. I knew I had something. Not a day passed that someone didn't comment on a story or email me to tell me how much they loved my writing style, my dialogue, my sense of humor. Sure, they loved the sex scenes but the stories themselves were what they came back for again and again, hounding me for more and more words. I didn't have time to work on a Master's degree and write fiction. I had to pick one or the other.
Christ have mercy.
There's a line from the movie Chariots of Fire that has always stuck with me. The main character, Christian runner Eric is trying to describe why he runs. "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."
I asked myself, when do I feel God's pleasure in me? I certainly never felt it in Greek class banging my head against the wall over the Koine words. But I did feel it when I wrote a perfect sentence or put a vicious cliffhanger chapter ending into place. God had given me a gift and it would have been a sin not to use it.
I dropped out of seminary, got a full-time job, moved into a friend's closet and started to write a new book. And into this book I poured my sexual frustrations, my theological convictions, my love of Christ, my hatred of the religious hypocrisy that divided all the women of the world into the categories of virgin or whore. This book would eventually become THE SIREN, a work that has more symbolic religious content in it than The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. THE SIREN released in late July to the best reviews my publisher has seen in years. If the subsequent books do as well as the first there's a good chance I'll be able to fulfill a long-standing dream of mine...returning to school to finish my Master's in Theology.
Lord have mercy.
Tiffany Reisz, author of THE SIREN and THE ANGEL, lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her boyfriend (a reformed book reviewer) and two cats (one good, one evil). She graduated with a B.A. in English from Centre College, and dropped out of a conservative Southern seminary in order to pursue her dream of becoming a smut peddler. She has five piercings and one tattoo. She has only been arrested twice.
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