Authors Talk Sodom and Gomorrah and Texas Lesbian History

Lesbian authors Justine Saracen and Shelley Thrasher talk about fictionalizing history.

BY David Artavia

June 06 2013 6:00 AM ET

Justine Saracen and Shelley Thrasher have very similar minds. Both are fascinated by history, and both love to change the mold of gay characters in literature. Not to mention, they both write killer fiction.

Thrasher recently released her first novel, The Storm, set in 1918 East Texas, and she’s writing a second one, set in 1972 Paris. A native Texan, Thrasher is also a poet, essayist, and editor at the LGBT publisher Bold Strokes Books. Her novels blend women’s history and romance, featuring sophisticated, educated lesbians who push society’s boundaries.

Saracen has had multiple careers — as a university professor, opera manager, and editor. She eventually began writing fiction full-time and found it was just more fun, and has since released seven books. Her third, Sistine Heresy, won a 2009 Independent Publisher Award. Just released is Beloved Gomorrah, which reveals the "truth" about Sodom and Gomorrah.

Saracen: I love your new novel, The Storm, and wondered why you chose the historical genre.

Thrasher: Thanks. And I admire your latest, Beloved Gomorrah. The Storm initially centered on the conflict between my grandmother and her mother-in-law, a Civil War survivor. Researching the World War I era showed me how typical their story is and how crucial those years were to women’s increasing independence. I’ve set my work in progress, French Toast, in 1972, to share some of my memories of Paris and because it makes my story seem more romantic. Revisiting the past is like taking the same trip again, equipped with the age’s proverbial wisdom and time’s panoramic lenses. But I’ve worked with you through seven novels, each of them historical. Why is that?

Saracen: I choose historical settings as a way to make up for our being ignored in the retelling of history. Gays and lesbians have been present at every moment in history, with Caesar’s legions, in the Crusades, in the Sistine Chapel with the doge in Venice, in Hitler’s Berlin. I simply retell those events with us back in the scene. If that means I have an agenda, then so be it. Do you feel you have one too? I mean, do you think we’ve influenced each other?

Thrasher: Yes. Your agenda is important and has influenced mine. I want to show how women have supported each other throughout history, like you and I do with our writing. Members of minority groups often undermine each other, but many women-loving women share power and contribute to our advancement. In The Storm the mother-in-law hoards her power while Jaq initially aids the soldiers in WWI. But after seeing the sham of the war, Jaq joins the U.S. suffragists. Then she helps her injured husband and his widowed father and ends up influencing another woman to escape her suffocating lifestyle.

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