In our feature, Catching Up With…, Sistahs on the Shelf is pleased to bring you updates on your favorite authors, ones who have new books or projects in the works.
Revisit with Renee Bess, whose new novel, Re:Building Sasha, describes the pain of a woman in an abusive relationship. Renee has always has a flair for writing slow-building, satisfying novels.
Your newest novel, Re:Building Sasha, is a love story with a sordid twist. Tell us about it.
A “sordid twist,” really? Thank you…I guess. I enjoy writing lesbian romance novels with plot twists because I like to write about complex characters that engage the reader’s imagination and emotions. Re:Building Sasha is about a forty-something woman, Sasha Lewis, who has a successful career and a less than successful relationship. While she experiences fulfillment in her professional life, she’s being torn down as a person by her lover. During the course of the book, we see Sasha come to grips with her destruction as she begins to believe in the possibility of building a connection with someone who values her just as she is.
Why did Sasha stay so long with Lee, her destructive partner who clearly had mental issues?
First, let me state that Lee, the villain of the story, does have “mental issues.” But, like most villains, she possesses characteristics and behaviors that will seem familiar to many people. Her villainous deeds are motivated by a previous bad relationship as much as by her mental state. In some ways, Sasha was so used to Lee’s emotional cruelty, she was numb. Perhaps she stayed in the relationship because she’d lost her family members and she couldn’t face the specter of being alone.
What advice would you give to a woman in Sasha’s shoes?
I’d encourage her to work with a skillful therapist. Or…I’d suggest she list all of her strengths and talents, and then list the reasons she was still in a relationship with Lee. Hopefully, the first list would be longer than the second and steer her away from such a destructive bond.
How did you get inspired to write Re:Building Sasha?
Generally I find my inspiration in the characters I create. They lead me to the plot. Some writers are able to outline a novel. So far, I haven’t followed that technique. The only thing I knew when I began “R.S.” was that I wanted to explore the theme of a woman recognizing and being open to a gentle offer of love after become inured to spirit-crushing meanness.
What’s next on your plate, Ms. Bess?
I’m involved in a long-term writing venture whose characters haven’t decided yet if it’s going to be a mystery-with-romance or a romance-with-a-mystery. I’m happy to say I’ve brought back Detective Johnetta Jones, a character I like very much, and one I’ve always wanted to see develop more fully.
Sistahs has heard you’ve branched out into blogging. What do you write about?
I write commentaries for www.blezbian.com. Those kind women have given me permission to write about anything I wish. My topics are usually LGBT-centered. Sometimes they’re quite personal, and they always arrive at my door spontaneously. Recently I’ve returned to an early love, poetry. You can find a few of my poems at www.lesbianmemoirs.com, a wonderful website featuring creative writing primarily by lesbians of color. As you know and the readers of sistahsontheshelf.com are aware, this is such a tremendous time for those of us who are engaged in the written and spoken word. I am grateful for all the outlets provided for us.
Interviewed February 2009