Title: Sweetest Taboo
Author: Eva Marquez
Release Date: October 1, 2012
Buy Here: Paypal (Book comes signed!)
Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they started dating, and 16 when she lost her virginity to him. By the time she turned 18 and went to college, everything had fallen apart.
This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends, or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student, but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
Join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world.
Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance.
Kayla: How does the title ‘Sweetest Taboo’ relate to this story?
Eva: As with most teenagers, much of their emotions and experiences can be captured quite well with ‘hit’ songs. Although ‘Sade’ is probably not the kind of artist that Isabel would be listening to at that age nor at that period of time (early 90’s), ‘Sade’ was a big inspiration when writing this book and the song, ‘Sweetest Taboo’ resonated incredibly well with this story, especially from the perspective of the main character, Isabel. For instance, Isabel is conflicted about her relationship with Tom (aka Mr. Stevens), she knows it’s wrong, she knows that society would frown against it and that Tom could potentially face prison time should they be caught in the act, but at the same time the relationship she has with Tom feels so incredibly good. For Isabel, what she has with Tom is the ‘Sweetest Taboo’.
I must admit, though, the book’s title changed several times as I edited and re-edited content. It started out as ‘Euphoric at Sixteen’, then it became ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me’ and the longest running title the draft manuscript had was ‘No Ordinary Love’, which is yet another ‘Sade’ song title. In the end, I felt very strongly about the book title being a chapter title from the book (which coincidentally, are all named after song titles). I decided, after several discussions with friends that had read the draft, that ‘Sweetest Taboo’ was the most appropriate title for this controversial book.
Kayla: Where did your inspiration for ‘Sweetest Taboo’ come from?
Eva: I grew up as an immigrant in a lower-to-middle class Southern California suburb. So I tapped into that experience in ‘Sweetest Taboo’, which chronicles the love affair between a young Hispanic schoolgirl and her much older, married teacher. I drew from my experiences growing up to develop several plot ideas. Romantic experiences are universal. Provocative, illicit and risqué contexts do not take away from the experience of love, and that’s what this debut book sets out to communicate.
I was also intrigued by the news of one of my former teachers being convicted of [sexual] misconduct with a minor. Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by similar stories making the news, but like many people, wondered about how these relationships originate and how they flourish under the radar. In Sweetest Taboo, I got to unravel one of these clandestine relationships, one exciting page at a time.
Kayla: How did you manage to write something so controversial (yet amazing J)?
Eva: Some of the best books I have read, and those I have enjoyed the most, are fiction BUT they delve into controversial topics (i.e. arranged marriages, under-age ‘selling’ of girls, sex work, homosexuality, child abuse, etc.). Perhaps I am most intrigued by controversial topics because of the controversy around them and the strong opinions that we see in the news, on television and on social media outlets. For instance, this whole ‘Chick Fil-A’ issue and homosexuality is very intriguing because people have strong opinions about it. What I enjoy the most, is understanding more about the social act that is considered ‘controversial’ and understanding it as a cultural or human condition or learning why that ‘act’ exists in our society, or how it unfolds. That is exactly what I tried to do with ‘Sweetest Taboo’. I wanted to delve deeply into a controversial topic we have seen on the news quite a bit and that hit close to home in my high school (years after I graduated) and unearth just how these relationships can develop, how they can blossom into something beautiful in the face of such opposition and scrutiny. In ‘Sweetest Taboo’, I made every attempt to present the perspective of a young teen completely ‘in crush’ with her coach and develop that relationship as I sincerely believed it had the potential to unfold.
Kayla: How have people who have read your debut novel reacted to it so far?
Eva: For the most part the reactions have been quite positive. However, I have been very forthright about the content of my debut novel to potential readers/reviewers and provide a bit of a ‘caution’ to those interested in reading my work. My goal is not to put this book in the hands of people who already have strong opinions on this controversial topic because they are likely to be enraged by the content or the love story that is presented in ‘Sweetest Taboo’. That said, I do encourage people who are on the fence about controversial topics to pick up my book and read it because I think it the book has the effect of giving a human face to these kinds of relationships and rendering them less horrible than what many may have pre-conceived.
Kayla: Is there going to be a second book continuing Isabel and Tom’s relationship or was this a standalone book?
Eva: Although I did not intend on ‘Sweetest Taboo’ being part of a series or trilogy, I decided that my next literary project would embark upon the story before the story, so to speak. Readers really want to know what Isabel was thinking when she became intimate with her school coach, they want to know how she could have gotten herself into such a mess, a mess that involved the authorities and potential prison time for Mr. Stevens, the man she loved most. So what I am doing is writing the prequel to ‘Sweetest Taboo’ that explores Isabel’s childhood and early adolescence as an immigrant in a Los Angeles suburb. Readers can expect complex and somewhat disturbing revelations, some violence, and definitely some tears. Then of course, there will be a sequel to ‘Sweetest Taboo’, where readers will learn about Isabel and Tom’s journey and what their relationship had in store for them. The stories I weave will always include trials and tribulations, but they will also include redemption and hope.
Kayla: What projects are you currently working on?
Eva: Aside from raising my two year old as a single mother in Southern Africa, directing a national HIV/AIDS program in Southern Africa and completing my doctoral dissertation (who said women can’t have it all J), I am working on writing the prequel to ‘Sweetest Taboo’. Although, I may put that project on hold and take up the ‘sequel’ instead since there likely will be more initial intrigue and interest in a sequel than a prequel! Depending on how life, work and dissertation writing go, I plan on completing the sequel by mid-2013.
Kayla: Explain to the readers in one sentence or less why they should give ‘Sweetest Taboo’ a chance.
Eva: If you’ve ever wondered how a teacher and student can keep their romance a secret, even under intense scrutiny, and manage to fall madly in love… dare to read ‘Sweetest Taboo’!
Kayla: How does it feel to have your debut novel coming out October 1st ?
Eva: It feels magnificent! I’ve had this literary project on a folder in my computer since 2006 when I wrote the first draft while holed up in my compound in Nigeria. I spent a few years editing and re-editing, seeking out expert advise, editorial feedback, and still, I was not ready to get it out to the world (I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I needed the manuscript to be just right). It wasn’t until early this year that I decided to change the ending to the story by adding an additional chapter and a prologue, which gave the story a completely different twist (if anyone is intrigued about this, drop me a line!), and these small touches were exactly what I felt the story needed…and wha-la! It feels amazing to have this project go from an exercise that originated from complete and utter boredom while living in a confined and dangerous place to an actual full-length literary work of relative quality.
Kayla: In your opinion, why do you think forbidden love is so ‘desirable’?
Eva: If I take myself completely out of the ‘Sweetest Taboo’ context and just think back to my own life and experiences, I think that ‘forbidden’ love may seem more appealing because it is out of the norm, something not commonplace and something that perhaps makes individuals feel more unique. For instance, a few people I have known in my life who have engaged in ‘forbidden’ relationships of any kind often did so because it made them feel as if they were living something extraordinary that no one outside the relationship could possibly comprehend. It made them feel special, feel unique, feel uncommon and therefore more interesting. However, I do sincerely believe that the first attraction is not the danger or ‘forbidden’ nature of a person, but the connection you feel that first moment (knowing or unknowing of the danger being with that person could hold in store). Going back to ‘Sweetest Taboo’, I think that Isabel and Tom were sincerely attracted to each other, innately attracted if you will, and unfortunately, they were two individuals who could not be together in the society they lived in because it was completely unacceptable, so they went underground and hid from the world. I don’t necessarily think that the forbidden nature of their relationship made it more desirable for either of them, but perhaps added a surge of intensity and adrenaline to their emotions.
Also, Eva has provided me with a Note from Tom to share with you guys, I thought you would like it. So, here it is:
Dear Readers of Sweetest Taboo,
I suppose many of you might have comments or even unanswered questions that you would like to ask me, given the opportunity to do so. With that said, I would like to take this brief moment in time to at least try to partly explain “my side of the story”, and what my thoughts were as to the decisions I made so many years ago.
I would like to start by saying, you don’t always have a choice with whom you truly fall in love with. For those of you who would like to argue the point, well, all I can say is…have you really ever been in LOVE? I am not talking infatuation, dependency, or that you have been with someone for such a long time you are “used” to them and you wouldn’t know how to live without them in your life. I am talking about the type of love that you KNOW, that you FEEL in every fiber of your soul, a feeling of comfort, of being “at home” in the arms of that person, knowing if you never saw them again, you would continue to love them unconditionally with all of your heart for the rest of your life? This is how I felt about Isabel, don’t ask me why…because I can not explain, it is just how it was, how it is, and how I feel.
The first time I saw Isabel from afar, I felt a connection. I don’t know why I should have felt anything at all, as she was just one of thousands of students I have seen on campus over the years. But there was something there, I know, you may be saying “but she was only 15”. I didn’t look at Isabel as an “age” or anything else, I just felt a connection of some sort…it was that simple. I didn’t see her until the following year on the swim team, where as you have read, I got to know her quite well. I NEVER set out to seduce her; it was quite the opposite as she flirted and made relentless advances by being near me every chance she could. Eventually things happened (against my better judgment I might add) as we got to know each other, as we fell in love with each other, and as we dreamed of a life together.
I will always say that Isabel was never a “school girl”, she was never an “age”, and she was never anyone I pursued. She just appeared in my life at that particular moment in time, and while the relationship that developed between us was strong, it only became stronger as time went on. To you, the reader, know that I love Isabel with all of my heart, with all of my soul, and with every fiber of my being. It can and will never be any other way for me. This I know.
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY! Eva has so very kindly offered up one e-copy of Sweetest Taboo to one lucky winner. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Thanks for reading the Interview and entering the Giveaway. Be sure to leave Eva a comment and let her know what you thought about the Interview.