Jekyll and Hyde

by | December 21, 2019 | General | 11 comments

When I started in this business, more than twenty years ago, I wrote mostly literary erotica. Despite the sometimes extreme sexual situations in my tales, I tried for a sense of realism. My early novels spent a lot of time setting the scene and conveying atmosphere. They offered fairly complicated plots with a myriad of characters. In penning my short stories, I focused on original premises, character development and conflict. Given all the poetry I’d written before I started publishing prose, I guess it’s not surprising that I was very aware of linguistic choices, rhythm and prosody, connotations and allusions.

These days, I still write literary erotica – some of the time. I like to think that my Asian Adventures series, my speculative fiction (The Last Amanuensis, The Antidote) and my paranormal work (Underground, Fourth World) all offer some measure of “redeeming social value”.

Sometimes, though, I have the urge to write pure smut – stories where people get involved in all sorts of outrageous carnal activities, with only the most minimal motivation or conflict. My stroke stories make no pretense of realism. The male characters are capable of astounding numbers of erections. The multi-orgasmic females never get tired or sore. Nobody uses condoms. Nobody gets pregnant.

I offer only the faintest nod to social convention; it’s not at all unusual to find my characters getting it on with one another within five minutes of meeting. In public, even! Also, the people in my more pornographic works are incredibly open-minded, from a sexual perspective. They’re willing to try anything – partner swaps, multiple partners, same-sex encounters (both MM and FF), sex toys, spanking, dominance, submission, gang bangs, pegging, you name it. (Sometimes all in the same story!) To be honest, after writing inside the rigid box of traditional erotic romance, I love their experimental, gender-bending ways.

So I’ll spend a few weeks or months indulging myself, penning some absolutely filthy story that nobody could call “literary” (though I do try for readability and correct grammar). Then I start to feel embarrassed, even guilty. I’m pulled back to write something more traditional, something I wouldn’t be ashamed to show my real world friends (though most of them don’t know Lisabet Sarai exists).

Before long, though, I have get the itch again, the rampant, ungoverned Mr. Hyde of my imagination taking over, forcing the more refined and craft-conscious Dr. Jekyll into the shadows.

For instance, about a month ago, I decided I wanted to publish a holiday story for my fans, most of whom are romance readers. Cherry Pie and Mistletoe was the result, a sweet, hot, painfully realistic tale about the attraction between two sexagenarians.

No sooner had that book hit the virtual shelves, though, then Mr. Hyde reared his head. I got an idea for a stroke story entitled Santa, Baby!, about a nerdy young guy who’s hired by a dominant older woman to play Santa at a very naughty holiday party.

I hope to finish Santa, Baby! this weekend. (I’d better, because Christmas is next week!) But Mr. Hyde keeps pouring out the smut. The story’s already over 10K. I might not even announce it to my usual readers; they might find it too raw. That actually doesn’t seem to matter; my stroke fiction seems to sell much better than my more literary efforts.

Maybe after the book’s out, Mr. Hyde will fade back into the shadows.

But maybe not.

Meanwhile, this dual identity is a major marketing pain. I mean, what’s my brand? Exquisitely crafted, poetic prose that tugs at your emotions? Or wildly over-the-top fucking and sucking?

I’ve heard that readers like consistency. They want to know what to expect when they pick up a book from one of their favorite authors.

With me, you never know. Will it be Jekyll, or Hyde? I guess what I really need is to find the readers who enjoy both my alter-egos.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Delores swallows

    Hi Lisabet

    Great post.

    To get around your dilemma of romance fans being shocked by your stroke, or your stroke fans being disappointed that your romance doesn’t have gangbangs, why not use a different pen-name?

    If I were ever to write ‘romance’, I’d use the name Millicent Spits 🙂

    I’m not suggesting you choose a completely different one for the smut to the one for the romance (and all the hassle another ‘social media persona’ would bring), but something that would tell potential readers what to expect between the covers (as it were).

    Maybe Lizzy Sarai could write the smut…

    Or you could give Mr Hyde a male name, something like ‘Lisabet Sarai writing as Dick Delver’.

    Hmm… Maybe not.

    Good Luck with finishing Santa Baby in time for the filling of stockings. I loved Cherry Pie & Mistletoe.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Hi, Del,

      Unfortunately, I’d have to republish a dozen or so titles, something I *really* don’t have time for The other thing that occurs to me is that in some cases I’m not sure whether a book belongs to Lizzy or Lisabet. This suggests that the divide isn’t as clear cut as I’ve suggested in this post.

      I *did* finish the story and hopefully will get it up on Smashwords today. It ended with a bang ;^)

      • larry archer

        It’s up I just got my copy.

        • Lisabet Sarai

          Thank you! Check out the dedication…

          • larry archer

            I did and thank you. It’s an honor to guide you through my world of smut. Check your email for a message.

  2. Larry Archer


    As a firm believer in smut, I personally think that you really shine when you write with your “dick” in your hand, so to speak. A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste and while you may want to write nice stories once in a while to assuage your conscience, doesn’t it feel good to just write stories about F&S’ing?

    I think the average pervert who reads erotica wants to be excited and read stuff that excites the excites the more primitive parts of the brain and not the higher thinking parts. Like it or not, you have a dirty mind and to me, that’s when you really shine. Which seems to be borne out by your “my stroke fiction seems to sell much better than my more literary efforts.” comment.

    I fully realize that our dabbling in swinging has changed my outlook on sex in general. “They’re willing to try anything – partner swaps, multiple partners, same-sex encounters (both MM and FF), sex toys, spanking, dominance, submission, gang bangs, pegging, you name it.” is something swingers do on a regular basis and while not “normal,” is common with the perverted crowd we run with.

    I encourage you to spend more time writing in the bathroom as that’s where you really shine. Just don’t forget to lock the door.

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Well, I have to admit that my recent smut has been very much influenced by your work – and your stories!


      • larry archer

        I’m honored! It’s nice to know that I’m a bad influence on others.

  3. Rupert

    Sounds like an excellent case for two pen names. You are not alone. I also have two styles. One rooted in the real world, one closer to Cloudcuckooland.

  4. Rupert ramsgate

    Sounds like an excellent excuse to use a different pen name. I have the same dichotomy of styles. One is very “correct” and rooted in reality, the other is in fantasyland.

    • larry archer

      Part of the problem is that multiple pen names cause more work as you have to push sales on two different authors and that doubles your work. Personally, I don’t have the time or motivation to deal with two pen names, plus you have to develop a mindset that corresponds to the pen name’s style of writing and that, at least for me, would be two different personalities to deal with.

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