By Judy Clabes
She was in a Greek class in a conservative seminary when she decided she didn’t belong there. She has been a book reviewer and a roller derby girl. She has five piercings and one tattoo. She has loved and lost. She has been arrested twice and laughed about the handcuffs. She is not a dominatrix but has “done a lot.” She is religious and writes “edgy” women’s romance novels. She has had some real “complicated relationships.”
She is, in fact, a complicated young woman.
Tiffany – honestly, her real name – Reisz of Lexington is author of “The Siren,” a debut novel described by publisher Harlequin as an erotically risqué tale reminiscent of E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s a novel, the publisher says, that “explores the illicit desires of the BDSM world.”
And Harlequin likes it so much that they’ll be releasing the sequel, “The Angel,” on Sept. 25; the third in “The Original Sinners” series, “The Prince,” on Nov. 13; and the final, yet unnamed and unwritten, in early 2013.
Speaking by phone from the Romance Writers of America conference in California, Reisz, 34, talked about her life, her developing fame as a novelist – and her passion for writing.
She grew up in Owensboro. Her parents now live in Philpot, her dad a contractor and her mom a manager of real estate. She graduated from Centre College with a degree in English. She intended to finish seminary and become a teacher of theology, but the call of “The Siren” drew her to the “private indulgence” of her keyboard. She had to write.
“I have never had a conflict between religion and sex,” she said. “I am a Christian who is pro-sex in a very spiritual way. I think sex is the best proof of the existence of God.” Especially, she added, “female sex” since orgasm has nothing to do with procreation.
Her characters have religious convictions (unlike most fictional characters, she says) and something else. A sense of humor. Just like the author.
“My stories are not dark. They are light-hearted,” she said, adding that it is more realistic for people to have both religious convictions and a sense of humor.
And the arrests? Both paperwork errors, she says with characteristic good humor. In one case, she didn’t have her insurance card when she was involved in an automobile accident and the officer gave her a wrong number to fax it. One thing led to another and there was a no-show to court citation issued. In another, the fine she paid for a traffic violation wasn’t recorded properly so a young Nicholasville officer showed up and apologized for the requirement that she be handcuffed.
“It’s not my first time in handcuffs,” she responded cheerily, and they both snickered.
She isn’t making this up, but clearly she wasn’t all that put out about it. A writer needs experiences, after all.
And, yes, she did practice with the Rock ‘n Rollergirls of Central Kentucky and very much admires the intense contact sport and women who aren’t afraid to get hurt. She is currently reading “Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby.” Expect roller derby to figure into her next books.
Her four-book series, she explains, follows her protagonist, erotica writer Nora Sutherlin, through complicated (the only real kind) relationships, starting with editor Zachary Easton. Both have a past. She has a private club and as sinful a reputation for sexual play as for her skill with torrid prose.
It takes four books to get Nora to a “happy ending” because happy endings aren’t as easy, Reisz says, as traditional romance novels make them. “She has to earn her happy ending; she’s got to work hard for it.” Along the way, just like in real life, there are twists and turns, a love triangle, and surprises, complex characters and sexual compulsions.
“The main couple in the series has known each other for a very long time,” she says, “and it’s not a simple relationship. The story is about what it means to fall in love – and how it doesn’t just happen.”
This, she said, is realistic.
Reisz is working on some of that realism in her own life. She is seriously dating a book reviewer who moved from Iowa to Kentucky to be with her. She’s working hard to have her own happy ending.
“The Siren” is available now at Morris Book Shop and Barnes and Noble. Reisz expects to have book signings in Lexington in the fall.