What inspired you to write Love’s Forbidden Flower?
One chilly fall afternoon I curled up and watched an obscure counter culture film called The Buttercup Chain. In it, two cousins, related through identical twins—thus making them genetic half-siblings—have a strong attraction. She is fine with the situation while he is a huge ball of denial. The entire film I waited for the obvious to happen. When the film ended and the man was heartbroken I felt a huge opportunity had been squandered. Clearly they were soul mates, and never once did we find out why he was so freaked out by his emotions. All you could believe was that he hid from who he was because of society. What a horrible world we live in where love is wrong.
The sadness of the situation stayed with me, as did my anger at the author for not taking the story where it needed to go either by explaining the problem or by facing it. Upon doing research I discovered that there are so many biases toward the subject that I could not find a single book that really tackled it non-judgmentally. Yet the more I dug, the more common I found the real-life situation to be. The proverbial gloves came off and I started writing Love’s Forbidden Flower. What started as a story ended as a chalice in which I placed my heart, all the while asking why we make love laws. How we can tell others it is wrong to love, I will never understand.
What is something you would tell readers that may make them more willing to read this book?
Love’s Forbidden Flower is not an incestuous work of erotica. It is a New Adult Romance novel about soul mates and the unfairness that society makes love laws. If you read the reviews, the general consensus is that the taboo nature is not shoved at you. I’ve actually had several people tell me they kept forgetting about the blood relation. Chapter one is posted on my website because I respect people’s comfort zones. I encourage people to take a gander. If you can handle the first chapter, you should be fine. If not, I appreciate the time you took to read it. http://dianerinellaauthor.com/loves-forbidden-flower-chapter-1/
Was it a topic that required a lot of research?
To a degree, yes. The statistics used in the book were researched and are accurate. Since many of society’s biases toward sibling relations are similar to views once held on homosexuality, some of the perspectives and events stem from real situations involving homosexuals. As far as the relationship goes, the only research was to see what “causes” siblings to fall in love, because there are theories. I went out of my way to avoid those scenarios and detached myself from thinking of Lily and Donovan as being anything other than soul mates. Many readers have commented that because of that their views have either been challenged or changed. Also, real life sibling couples have contacted and thanked me for my compassion and accuracy. That is the best review I could ever ask for.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
We are told what to believe. Society dictates right from wrong, and we are supposed to play along. In fact, we are conditioned to do so. In Time’s Forbidden Flower Lily jumps on her soapbox about the mixed messages society gives and how we are supposed to follow like herded sheep, zigzagging through the muck without question. I see a huge flaw there. I hope readers will leave the herd and ask their own questions, find their own answers. I hope that they will walk away questioning why we make love laws, even if they don’t change their views. If they see the world more openly after reading my novel, and many say they do, I have done something extraordinary.
What made you chose a first person narrative style?
That was such a tough decision. I wrote the story three times because of that. What it came down to was that only through the question of what was going on with Donovan could the reader understand how hard it was for Lily to stand by him and thus show the strength of their love. When the reveal happens, the impact is big and your heart suddenly goes out to him, and the enormity of what he went though hits you. That’s when many readers who were uncomfortable with the subject could sympathize. Judging from the notes I have gotten, it worked.
What did you learn anything from writing your book?
I learned several things. First, I got a lot of negativity from the industry for writing an honest love story about a transgressive couple, making me question my own sanity. Then I published and started talking about my work. People’s eyes bugged out. When asked if they wanted ARCs they practically screamed, “YES!” Now those ARCs are spawning sales. Going with your gut is invaluable. Second, my compassion deepened immensely while writing Love’s Forbidden Flower. I knew the situation was not exactly rare, but I had no idea how common it is. 10-15% of all collage age people have had some type of romantic relation with a sibling. Just because you choose not to see something, it does not mean it isn’t there.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Other than from myself, my toughest criticism came from my beta readers who are college literature students. Harsh! They totally whipped me into shape though. As for complements, there are two. From a writer’s standpoint it’s that several have said that my words flow beautifully, like water from a faucet. (Makes me so happy!) However, what really sends me is that Full Marriage Equality blogspot has spoken out heavily in favor of the Forbidden Flower series, praising how I have handled the subject matter. Recently they coined the term, “Friend of Lily,” to be akin to the term, “Friend of Dorothy.” So someone in a consanguineous relationship is now referred to as a Friend of Lily. From a writer’s standpoint, to have a term coined after one of your characters is incredible. From a personal standpoint, it makes me tear every time I hear it. I’ve had a little bit of positive impact on the world. It’s a huge deal to me.
What effect do you want the book to have on your readers?
I hope people will walk away seeing the world through new eyes. I’m not trying to sell anyone on anything. However, far too often we look at situations as black or white, and we do that because we are told to. If readers question their beliefs, regardless of if they change, I’ve done something extraordinary. There are amazing stories out there, including that of a German couple where the man has served jail time for their relationship, yet they refuse to part. How strong is a love where the people involved are locked up for it, only to be released from jail and return to the same situation, knowing they will wind up behind bars again?
Your novel touches on incest, but I think people might be surprised to learn that it goes much deeper than that. It resonates with others who are faced with not being able to freely express the love they have for someone, because of what society deems as unnatural, would you like to elaborate on this?
If you think of it in terms of homosexuality, the struggles are very similar. Not long ago, homosexuality was a huge taboo while now the bias is rapidly dwindling. Think about what homosexuals go through in terms of being shunned by friends and family, being ejected by society, being told they are deviants, or having to hide their emotions—all because of who they fell in love with. Have you ever had control over whom you have fallen in love with? I’ve never met anyone who has.
What about “the birth defect” argument?
The birth defect rate among products of siblings is about the same as those of a woman over forty, yet there are no laws discouraging those births. Plus, society forgets two very key things. First, you don’t have to be married to reproduce. Second, people involved in consanguinamorous relationships are no less intelligent than anyone else and are perfectly capable of making good decisions. Most of them that I have met have gone out of their way to ensure that they will not have children. Part of that is due to concern over health issues while part of that is due to the unfairness the social sigma would bring.
What was the hardest part in writing your books?
Deciding on a point of view. I tried third person, past tense, but it felt stale. First person present from both Lily and Donovan’s point of view gave away too much. Lily in the first person past still didn’t feel right. It was like watching a movie on a small screen TV. Once I switched to her in the present tense, I found Lily’s pain. When I shed that first tear I knew I had it right.