Interview & Review Chat | Love Relived by Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

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loverelivedPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace, Feb. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Friendship
Pages:  198
Website:  authormoniquebeingtruethonas.wordpress.com

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

interviewreviewchatlogoFriendship and love go hand and hand…or does it? Photographer Mahogany Williams and head museum educator Cheryl James are testing this theory after being childhood best friends, then later lovers — and watching their connection crumble over the years. Can they get it back together? I had to find out from Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas, author of LOVE RELIVED. So read on to see what she thinks about love and friendship in this Interview & Review Chat. The transcript follows below:

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, Miss Monique?!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am here.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Hey, how are you?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I am wonderful and antsy.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Don’t be. It’ll be painless, I promise.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, so…let’s start with how long have you been writing?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been writing poetry since I was five years old and short stories from seven years of age.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So basically most of your life. What were you writing about at five years old?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes, I have been writing since I could put together words. My mother encouraged creativity and she always pushed me to read and write as much as I could. I used to sit at her desk and fill up yellow legal sized notepads with lines about my best friend at the time and my love of anything that had to do with basketball.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Oh, so this could have been the basis for Love Relived? Maybe?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Hmmm (inserts smile) I shall never tell.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol!

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: To be truthful my first girlfriend was at the age of seven and she was not my bff.

Sistahs on the Shelf: 7, huh? I was still dreaming of girls instead of kissing them at that age.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I had already had my first and second kiss that year.

Sistahs on the Shelf: *smh* *but impressed*

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now about Love Relived, bffs in love. Tell us about your book.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Love Relived is a story that came to me as I was working on another book idea. The main characters are Cheryl and Mahogany, two women who were best friends throughout adolescence. My focus for the storyline was the aftermath of friends becoming lovers. Most people think that it can be an easy move to just get into a long lasting relationship, especially if the friendship had been so strong. That I believe is a myth that starts the relationship of wrong. Once Cheryl and Mahogany crossed the line the conflict began and there are really no answers for years leaving both with questions.

Sistahs on the Shelf: All very true.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Especially when one partner is struggling with her sexuality, like Mahogany, while the other knows who she is, like Cheryl.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Exactly! Mahogany is dealing with her own personal struggles. As close as she is to her friends not even they know that she was dealing with her sexuality. She feels as if she has an obligation to her family to be someone that she is not. She is strong but like so many of the strong she has a weakness. In Mahogany’s case it is her grandmother Mama Hanna. She knows her grandmother to be a God fearing woman and being gay is something that Mahogany doesn’t think she will accept.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Acceptance is something a lot of us have struggled with as black lesbians. I think you wrote Mahogany’s struggle realistically.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I tried my best to make sure that Mahogany came across real. We may not care if society accepts us as black lesbians but there are people who are close to us that we wish would love us no matter who we love or what we do.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But the crazy thing is where we think we’re hiding ourselves, some of our family members knew our tea before we poured it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes! I have found that the only people in the “closet” are the ones that claim not to be in one.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yep!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of realistic, is Cheryl and Mahogany’s relationship based on your or anyone else’s relationship?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: No one has asked me this question so kudos to you. (smile) When I first set out to write this book I had no particular thought process. I just let the words flow. It was not until I read the first draft back to myself that I realized that this was subconsciously personal.

Sistahs on the Shelf: How so?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: For one thing I have been in a situation where a friend and I have crossed an emotional line that was way beyond friendship. Although I explained my reluctance I did not shut down the feelings that I knew were growing. I tried to act as if I could use my charm and full blown cocky arrogance to move past the feelings and continue our friendship as if nothing had changed between us. That proved to be unrealistic and problematic. The line had been crossed and the friendship became difficult. When someone tells you they want to move forward with you romantically and you don’t it is a difficult thing. When said person is a very good friend the stakes are high. You have to deal with feelings of rejection, hurt, and anger. It is a dangerous game.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: So like Mahogany, I decided to run.

Sistahs on the Shelf: So what happened?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: We have both moved on. The friendship is done. We have not talked in years. We have mutual friends and it is crazy because we respond to their posts on Facebook without talking to one another. Life is something.

Sistahs on the Shelf: It sure is.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But crossing that friendship line…do you think it can be worth it?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is the billion dollar question isn’t it? The friends and lovers debate has been going on for years. For some it works and for others it is a disaster. I believe that it can work but when before a dating relationship can begin a conversation has to be had. You can’t bring up everything that pertained to our friendship. As I used to say all the time, once the line is crossed it is a different ballgame. The” me” you knew as your friend may not be the “me” you want as your mate. You really have to think about it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: If I was a jerk to all my girlfriends, don’t assume that I will treat you different because we have a history as friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Huh, ain’t that the truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: But having that history is “supposed” to make the relationship easier, let some people tell it.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That is foolishness. Maybe for some that was the case and I applaud them. Most however don’t remember the way they watched you treat your other mates until something happens. By then you can’t bring it up because you were warned way in advance. As a matter of fact you as the friend had the clearest crystal ball of them all but for whatever reason you chose not to see. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that everyone can change. I know that personally. I am just speaking truth.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of being true, throughout Love Relived, Cheryl is stayed true to herself regardless of the changes Mahogany put her through. I loved that about her.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you so much. Cheryl’s weakness is Mahogany. Though that is the case she refuses to let Mahogany’s confusion cloud her decisions and break her heart further.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I remember a line from your book that said, “It’s the crime of stealing hearts.” I loved that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: That line is from a poem I wrote when I was around 18 years old called, ‘Robbing the broken’. It was really me boasting that I could say whatever, do whatever and still like a boomerang I knew the girls would come back. I used to be arrogant beyond. When I was writing that particular scene in Love Relived the line came to me again. Now that I am older it has a completely different meaning.

Sistahs on the Shelf: What meaning does it have for you [now]?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Now that I am older and have lived through a few trials in my life the line is a symbol of knowing that I didn’t want the love I was receiving but instead of saying that I took it anyway. That is a crime. Those girls could have spent time with someone who was worthy of their admiration.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow. That is some truth right there.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you. I have learned lessons and through the teaching that my wrongs have showed me I am better.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Writing has helped tremendously. I can see certain characters clearly because of my experiences both personal and through friends.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I agree. Writing and reading especially have always opened my eyes.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Yes indeed!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Now Mama Hanna. I want her to adopt me, since I have no living grandparents. She is a hoot and a great sounding board for both her granddaughter Mahogany and by extension, Cheryl.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I love when she tells Mahogany: “Girl a pot unstirred never made good stew. It just sat and burned.”

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I adore Mama Hanna. She is lively, blunt and doesn’t miss a thing. She is the true meaning of unconditional love. The lines that she says in the book are me all day. I can make up a saying in a second.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I know that’s right! I follow you on Facebook.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Ha! Ha!! Yes I like to think I am a wise clown.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yes, you are. Mission accomplished.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: LOL! Thank you.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay so one last question (I think). What new projects are in the works?

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: First let me just say that Lisa, a character from Loved Relived has her own story, In its Rawest Form, which is currently out. I began 2014 by putting out my latest Feeling for the Wall. This one is for those who have been in real love. I mean that kind of love that makes you smile but question. It also deals with what happens when after years of being together how life can get in the way with the day to day love. What happens when routine overwhelms us. I have two other books that I am working on now that I will be putting out sometime this year. One will be released this spring and the other in the fall.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You work hard, Monique.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I have been blessed with a partner who has made it so that I can live my dream.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I also have a short story collection and a few novelettes available as well.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I would like to add something if that is okay.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Sure, go ahead.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: The end of 2012 was one of the hardest years that I think I have ever been through. I was holding it together for the masses but inside I was scared and falling apart. I had a serious health scare and I lost my job. I was nervous to the point that I wrote out a will. I didn’t know if I would be here for 2014. Having already had one stroke due to stress I was told that I was on the verge of having another. That is why I dedicated every moment of 2013 to writing and family. I opened my eyes wide and really looked. I realized a lot of things about myself and I also learned how much my babe truly loves the heck out of me. I have gotten healthier and have learned to clear my mind and return to the “me” that I am. For that I will forever be thankful and I will not give up this chance to share my love of writing with the world.

Sistahs on the Shelf: That is heartbreaking and beautiful and inspiring. Your hard work is paying off.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I hope that it does. I didn’t want to leave this world without more of my work published.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You’ll have plenty of time to share more, I’m sure. I truly believe that.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: Thank you! I am in much better health and have moved back into my positive space.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m glad.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: As am I. I have more time to clown *lol*

Sistahs on the Shelf: *lol* You slay me, Mo.

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas: I try.

[rating-report]

Reviewed/Interviewed January 2014

About Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas

Monique ‘Being True’ Thomas is a native New Yorker who has been in love with the written word since the third grade. At the age of fourteen she was a teen journalist for youth magazine, FCYU, writing featured articles about the trials and triumphs of youth in the New York foster care system.

She currently has 7 books available: Forever Tangled; Volume One: a collection of poems and short stories from the heart and between the thighs; Forever Tangled Volume II: Caught in the sheets of Emotion; Love Relived; In Its Rawest Form; Notes of Seduction; An Unexpected Gift; Feeling for the Wall.

Although Thomas began with a flair for writing short stories based on mystery and murder plots, she currently writes romance and erotica for all those lovers of love and temptresses of lust. She has also been a featured radio host on Lesbian Memoirs blog Talk radio show.

Thomas has been featured in lesbian anthologies Life, Love, Lust 2011 and Life, Love, Lust 2012 published by LM Inc. She was also a featured poet in Her Voice also published by LM Inc.


Interview & Review Chat | Turn Me Out by T. Ariez

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turnmeoutPublisher/Date: Amazon Digital Services, June 2013
Genre(s): Romance, Stud 4 Stud
E-Book Short

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

interviewreviewchatlogoAfter reading T. Ariez’s TURN ME OUT, I had thoughts — and questions — about the characters and Ariez’s motivation for writing this book. This resulted in an interview/review chat, and the transcript follows below:

Sistahs on the Shelf: Hello 🙂

Author T. Ariez: Hello!

Sistahs on the Shelf: How are you??

Author T. Ariez: I’m great and yourself?

Sistahs on the Shelf: I’m lovely.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Thank you for agreeing to this interview/chat.

Author T. Ariez: oh no problem at all, thank you for thinking of me.

Sistahs on the Shelf: You’re welcome. I did enjoy your book.

Author T. Ariez: Cool. May I ask where/how you found the book at?

Sistahs on the Shelf: I was searching Amazon.com for black lesbian books (as I often do) and came across it there. I purchased it that morning.

Author T. Ariez: Oh okay. That’s cool. I know I haven’t done as much advertising as I should, so I was really surprised when I saw that you were reading it.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Well, I troll for new books, so… 🙂

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, I have a few questions for you…

Author T. Ariez: Okay, shoot

Sistahs on the Shelf: Give readers a small background about you as an author.

Author T. Ariez: Well, I like to think of myself as someone who is not afraid to talk about the hard issues. I pick things that can be considered taboo or away from the mainstream because I know the real world, at least my real world, doesn’t work that way. Also I have been writing all my life, but it only been in the last 5 years, that I began to write for an audience.

Sistahs on the Shelf: What other books have you written or been featured in?

Author T. Ariez: Zane’s Busy Bodies: Chocolate Flava 4 and Stories in the Key of Erotica, which will release November 25th.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Sounds like you’ve been very busy. What does writing mean to you?

Author T. Ariez: Yes, I stay busy. Writing is like breathing for me. Even when I am not physically writing (or typing) I am always in my head thinking up another story. I have one project that I hope to have published by the end of this year and another that I am currently working on as we speak.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Is it a sequel to Turn Me Out, perhaps?

Author T. Ariez: Hmm, well… There is not a sequel, but I do bring the characters back in another book. It was important for me to let readers know what Ace and Angel are up to.

Sistahs on the Shelf: I definitely agree. I feel like Angel and Ace’s story has not ended yet.

Author T. Ariez: No it hasn’t. These characters mean a lot to me because they live a life a lot of people cannot live in peace. They have a conflict within themselves that many of us will probably never explore solely because of the “rules” in this game.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Very true. I really felt the conflict Angel felt in not fitting into the femme/stud box. But tell readers more about Turn Me Out. What’s it about?

Author T. Ariez: Turn Me Out is about a lesbian stud or a masculine of center female, Angel, who is starting to realize that she has developed feelings for her best friend, Ace. Ace is also a stud and for the two of them, their relationship has always been strictly platonic. When Angel realizes that her feelings are more than she should have for a best friend, she decides to risk losing it all and go for what she really wants, regardless of what anyone else might think about it.

Sistahs on the Shelf: And she does go for it. 🙂

Author T. Ariez: She definitely goes for it.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Lol.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Yet she does have reservations: about being in a relationship with her best friend, but mostly, being with another stud.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Stud-4-stud relationships are becoming more common, but we still have a way to go to acceptance of any relationship that doesn’t look like the mold not stud/femme model.

Author T. Ariez: She does. I don’t know if it is as bad now, times have changed, but 1, it could have been a really dangerous situation for her, and 2, being with another stud, for Angel meant doing things in bed that she wasn’t used to.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Did you think about this while writing TMO?

Author T. Ariez: Yes, I did. Writing TMO was honestly, a hard, but very exciting write. It was difficult writing from a first-person POV and having to put myself in the role as Angel. Initially I thought about what others would think of me, if they would think that I was also S4S. But by the time I finished I realized that it didn’t matter what others thought of me. The only thing that mattered is that maybe I could help someone who might be having these conflicting stories. When I first wrote it, I sent it out in an email to about 10-15 people. Most told me how good it was, but one said the story made her cry because she had struggled with being a stud and feeling more like she was fem.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Wow.

Sistahs on the Shelf: One of the things that I thought while reading was how true this story was, and how many “studs” struggle with their roles like Angel did.

Author T. Ariez: Yes. There are these unspoken rules that I have only noticed in the African-American lesbian community. It is really sad that we constrict ourselves to what I know now is hetero-normative roles, and we are, simply said, NOT heterosexual people. So why follow their gender and relationship roles?

Sistahs on the Shelf: Very true. It’s still hard for some black folks to see, and our own black lesbian community can be judgmental at times.

Author T. Ariez: Yes, we are extremely judgmental and that needs to change. We need to learn to be more open and accepting so that we can be a more happy people.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Shoot, we could be happy if we just minded our own business and lived by the expression “to each his own.” Or in Angel’s case, her own.

Author T. Ariez: Right! You will get no arguments from me on that one. Lol

tariezSistahs on the Shelf: So here’s the million dollar question: How much of yourself did you put into character Angel?

Author T. Ariez: Lol, that a good one. A sprinkle here and there. Even if I try to mold a character completely after me, they end up taking over and telling me who they are. So, probably just the stud part LMAO

Sistahs on the Shelf: You mean the stud-on-stud part??

Author T. Ariez: No, I mean the stud part lol. I am not stud-for-stud, and in a great relationship of 8 years tomorrow. She couldn’t be stud if she tried lol

Sistahs on the Shelf: LMAO…well, that answers my next question! j/k

Author T. Ariez: haha, really, I think my personality alone may be way too dominant for another stud, even that of a soft stud.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Speaking of personalities, what are your perceptions of what a stud really is?

Author T. Ariez: Well that depends because you have a whole range of studs, from soft to the very hardcore and touch-me-nots. I think that what I have learned over the years is that there really is no one perception or description really. Now when I think of another stud, then I usually expect them to be masculine of center and more “masculine” personalities and dress. But again, that isn’t the hard and fast rule anymore so there is a wide variety.

Sistahs on the Shelf: There are so many variations of both studs and femmes, and everyone has different definitions. I just wish people would accept that.

Author T. Ariez: I agree.

Sistahs on the Shelf: Okay, final question. What do you think a story like Turn Me Out does for lesbian visibility?

Author T. Ariez: Well I hope that it would bring much more visibility to the community and at least on a positive note. It certainly sheds a light on stud-for-stud relationships that that is something to me that can be akin to down-low brothas. We know about them, but we don’t talk about them much. I want people to start having that conversation and at the end of it, realize and understand that one person’s choice does not make or break you. Just let people live and let them be happy!

Sistahs on the Shelf: AMEN!

Sistahs on the Shelf: Well, thank you so much for this interview/review/chat.

Author T. Ariez: Well you are welcome and thank you. It was really a pleasure.

Sistahs on the Shelf: For me, as well.

Sistahs on the Shelf: And early Happy Anniversary! 🙂

Author T. Ariez: aww thank you.

Sistahs on the Shelf: –End chat–

Reviewed/Interviewed July 2013

About T. Ariez

T. Ariez is a Texas native currently living in Dallas. He has been writing since the second grade but only started exploring writing for an audience a few years after graduating high school. He enjoys reading in his spare time, playing board games with his family and watching football.