Films, Fillies, Ann Then Some: Meet Author Ava-Ann Holland

September 21, 2014

Greetings, pals and gals.

I've got a plum assignment: today is my turn to bear forbidden fruit on the book's blog tour.

Please root for author Ava-Ann Holland, whose cherry-picked contribution to the collection is called "Hands Off," in honor of which I will now hand off the role of top banana.

Q: Hi, Ava-Ann, and welcome to Wonderland. Would you care to introduce yourself to your future fans? 

A: Hi, Allison. Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I should probably introduce myself since nobody will have heard of me. I'm Ava-Ann Holland and until quite recently I wrote exclusively in genres and contexts that are as far removed from erotica as you can imagine – until my dear buddy Cheyenne Blue cajoled me into testing the erotica waters as writer. I liked the temperature, and a couple of short stories later, I find myself in her Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire anthology with "Hands Off," alongside some seriously accomplished erotica authors. This in itself is amazing, but this is also my first time as an interviewee and I feel like an overexcited puppy. In a former job, I used to interview musicians for a monthly magazine and always secretly hoped that one day I would be the one in the other chair. I'm in the other chair. Yay! Fire away. 

Q: The protagonist of your piece is visiting a childhood friend who is now a silver screen star. If you could have a romance with any leading lady, past or present, who would it be and why?

A: Oh, man, this is hard. I tend to fall in lust with the way a person smells and how their presence in a room feels before anything else, so picking someone from a medium that doesn't really give an idea of either is hard. I genuinely can't think of anyone right now. I might come back to this one later.

Q: Your story is set in Rome. Have you spent a lot of time there?

A: Not really. I went there with my mother and sister for a long weekend some 15 years ago and it left a not entirely pleasant impression on me. Many people seem to adore the city. I hated it. It felt very oppressive and laden with history in a bad sense. On top of that the people were incredibly sour-faced and unfriendly. Part of me wants to go back one day and check out if it was more of a case of where I was at in myself at the time, but another (so far louder) part shudders violently at the thought. If I had cash aplenty floating around, though, I would. Just to test my perception.

Q: What are some of your favorite films?

A: Difficult. In an earlier incarnation within this life, I fantasized about becoming a film director and chose an appropriate route of study. I had to watch an awful lot of films and a lot of awful films. And I kind of overdosed, so I don't watch a lot anymore at all. Hence there isn't much on my list that's new. But here goes: Dogma. Clerks. Dark Star. Serenity. The Princess Bride. Dark City. The Birdman of Alcatraz. The Quick and the Dead. Pirates of the Caribbean I. Star Wars IV, V, and VI. Mad Max II. Emma's Glück. Alex Cox's Repo Man. How to Train Your Dragon I and II. Buffalo 66 … oh, hang on, that's it, my answer to question 1: Christina Ricci, I definitely would! ...  The Breakfast Club. 10 Things I Hate About You. Benny and Joon. Solaris (the original Polish one, not the Clooney version). Meet the Feebles. Team America. Labyrinth. Salute of the Jugger. Flesh and Blood. Ladyhawke. Moon 44. Nightmare on Elm Street III. If. Breaking Glass. Das Boot. The Secretary. Times Square. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Heathers.

Q: Your story is called "Hands Off." What hands-on activities (other than the obvious) do you enjoy?

A: Horse care. In all respects. Including mucking out, traipsing around paddocks in the pissing rain to collect manure or pull up poisonous weeds, dressing hoof abscesses, you name it. I've ridden since I was a preschooler, and four decades later, there is still nothing else (other than the obvious) that earths me like hanging out with horses and taking care of them. There were a few years, also referred to as my Personal Dark Ages (PDA for short), when I had no equines in my life and I became so positively unhinged I felt compelled to go and get a degree in psychotherapy.

Q: Tell me about your writing process. How do your ideas travel from the thought stage to the blank page? Speak specifically about bringing your contribution to Forbidden Fruit to life. Please include an excerpt from your story after your answer.

A: It really varies. A lot of the time I know the last sentence of something and then the story kind of comes along and attaches itself like a stray cat. Sometimes a character starts talking in my head. Sometimes I suddenly find myself in a daydream that claims it wants to be a story. It's hard to explain. I neither plot nor just start writing willy-nilly and see where it takes me. Most of the time the characters come knocking on my door with their story more or less fully formed and then I write it down. With "Hands Off," that was very much the case. But my own stuff will sneak into it somewhere usually – in this case my impression of Rome as a fairly hostile environment and also my personal experience of seeing fame hollow out a person, both of which are reflected in "Hands Off."

Excerpt from "Hands Off"

"Darling! Come in, come in. Sit down." The person flowing toward her in a silk kaftan of deep, dark red bore little resemblance to the girl who had boarded the plane to New York all those years ago.

She was skinny to the point of translucence with hollow cheeks that made her still remarkable eyes and mouth appear even bigger than Marianne remembered. Her obviously botoxed forehead made her look startled and lifeless, like any other person whose facial expression had been rendered impotent by toxic intervention. She walked in a cloud of light, floral perfume, which she left hanging on Marianne's jumper after the illusion of a hug had been accomplished. Even before she took the offered seat on the plush couch, Marianne's anxious anticipation of this moment had already turned to grief as she realized that Irene, her Irene, did not exist any longer and had probably been exchanged for this shell of a person a long time ago.

She wept rivers of invisible tears as the afternoon wore on, while she smiled and was introduced to David, Irene's current husband, whose occupation in the film business eluded Marianne, and a number of other people in Irene's entourage.

To be fair, she couldn’t fault Irene as a hostess. She was attentive and chatty and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about Marianne's life at the zoo and some gossip from back home. Yet all the while she remained distant, a specter playing a role, sucking energy from the room and from the life that Marianne was telling her about. Half listening, not really engaging. By dinnertime, Marianne felt drained, deflated, and ready to leave. She’d seen enough. She was also beginning to wonder why she had really been asked to come.

Just then the door to the penthouse opened and a breeze of cold, crisp evening air swept into the room.  The carrier whose clothes it clung to was a girl in her early twenties in turned up faded blue jeans and a white men's ripped singlet over which she had thrown a lumberjack shirt in lieu of a jacket. Her straight black hair was short on one side and cut into a neat, chin length bob on the other in the kind of asymmetrical fashion Marianne hadn’t seen in three decades or so. The girl’s whole style, down to the black Converse with different color laces, seemed to be a homage to the time of Marianne's school days. One look into her huge dark eyes told Marianne that if it had indeed been thirty years previously she would have fancied this newcomer to the penthouse something rotten. The girl smiled a broad, beautiful smile that illuminated the room, revealing a set of bright, slightly uneven teeth with large, almost goofy incisors.

"Sorry, I'm late," she addressed no one in particular as her eyes firmly made contact with Marianne’s. Marianne felt her pelvic muscles contract, exposing her lie: it wasn’t that she would have fancied her, she did. She was beautiful and real. She stood out in this room of bland designs, exotic fruit bowls, and affectations like a three-dimensional object in an exhibition of oils on canvas. 

I've got to hand it to you, Ms. Holland: not to polish your apple, but your story is a peach.

To reach the end of the Forbidden Fruit blog tour, visit the publisher, Ladylit. 

Leave a comment on any post in the tour to be entered into a random drawing to win one of these prize prizes: a paperback copy of Girls Who Score, lesbian sports erotica edited by Ily Goyanes, Best Lesbian Romance 2011 edited by Radclyffe, an ebook of Ladylit’s first lesbian anthology Anything She Wants, and a bundle of three mini-anthologies from Ladylit: Sweat, A Christmas to Remember, and Bossy. All of these titles contain stories written by the fabulous contributors to Forbidden Fruit. You must include an e-mail address in your comment to be entered into the drawing.
Forbidden Fruit: Stories of Unwise Lesbian Desire is available in ebook and print direct from the publisher, Ladylit, or from Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers. Check out for all purchasing information.

Curiouser and curiouser,
Allison Wonderland

Face Value

September 19, 2014

From now until the end of the week, Harmony Ink Press is offerings its First Time for Everything anthology for 35% off the cover price.

Don't kiss this deal goodbye - make up your mind to read "Kiss and Makeup" and the other stupendous stories in this collection.

Curiouser and curiouser,
Allison Wonderland

A Cross to Bare

September 17, 2014

I've been fixed up before.

But never have I been cruci-fixed up.

Until Cheyenne Blue peared up - er, paired up - me and Rachel O. Esplanade, with whom I proudly share space in the bowl of Forbidden Fruit, for the book's blog tour.

Virtual strangers, we were a match made in Heaven. In her interview with me, Rachel inquires about my writing in general and the heavenly creatures in my story in particular.

"Ungodly Ours" charts the road to romance for two young women from the ages of six to twelve to eighteen. Together, they take the "men" out of - and put the "fun" back into - Fundamentalism.

Come gay away the pray.

Curiouser and curiouser,
Allison Wonderland

Beyond Eye Shadow of a Doubt

September 14, 2014

Taking joy in life is a woman's best cosmetic. 
Rosalind Russell

The land of Roz is almost as joyful as the world of Wonderland. Today I'm queer - er, here - with an excerpt from my lesbian love story "Kiss and Makeup," which appears in the recently released anthology First Time for Everything, edited by Anne Regan and published by Harmony Ink, the young adult imprint of Dreamspinner Press.

My contribution falls into the Sweet Stories of Newly Discovered Love category. In it, Gina, a recent high school graduate, is committed to coming out.

Of her shell, that is.

Simone, a beauty consultant at a department store, is committed to helping Gina shed her shell.

As the girls grow closer, will Gina blush and concealer - er, conceal her - crush on Simone?

Or will she beaut-defy her fears and make a move?

Simone shifts on the couch, folding her feet beneath her. I am close enough to inhale the fragrance she is wearing but not savvy enough to identify it. "Favorite TV show?" she asks.

"I Love Lucy," I answer, twirling my bendy straw, watching as the grape juice sloshes against the glass. "Favorite candy?"

"Corn. Favorite superhero?"

"Pippi Longstocking, if that counts. Um… favorite horror movie?"

"Jesus Camp."

"That's a docu—"

"Favorite movie actress?"

"Oh, um, Joan Crawford."

"I need sex for a clear complexion, but I'd rather do it for love," Simone shares, gliding her thumb along the silver chain of her necklace. "Hey, can I see your room?"

The change in subjects is sharp and sudden, like an orgasm. I groan inwardly and push my thighs together as discreetly as possible, regretting my choice of thoughts. Dropping my eyes, I direct my attention to the denim-colored cushion of the sofa. Sex?  My room?

My parents are out (well, not like that) and even though I'm out to them, they trust me to be respectful. Somehow, I don’t think that having sex in their house with an older-than-me-by-two-years woman on our very first date qualifies as respectful. Or even wise. Oh, boy. Any minute now, my pores will instigate a mutiny and my face will be dappled with puffy pink pimples.

"Hey, I didn't say it, Joan did," Simone clarifies, doing little to relieve my confusion. She chuckles, squeezing my knee. "That was a quote," she elaborates. "I need sex for a clear complexion? Joan Crawford said that. It's true, too. It has to do with endorphins and circulation and the release of toxins and all that." She removes the bottle from my hand and returns it to the coaster on the coffee table, next to hers. "Let's see that room," she requests, unfolding her body from the sofa.

With an unsteady hand on her arm and an even less steady grip on myself, I escort Simone down the hallway, my pulse outpacing my footsteps.

As we near our destination, my anxiety kicks into high gear and I seek refuge in the bathroom.

"Gina, you all right?" Simone calls from the other side of the door.

My heart punches my ribcage, whap whap whap, like a fist connecting with a boxing mitt. "Yes," I croak, clutching the counter. I watch as the color disappears from my knuckles. "I just need a little bathroom break, that's all."

"You know," Simone remarks, and I can't tell if she's amused or annoyed, "when I asked if I could see your room, I meant see as in take a look at, get a load of. You know, the usual."

"Oh. Those definitions are doable." So saying, I resume breathing, curl my fingers around the doorknob, and tug. I wonder how I'm going to save face, considering that my face value has just depreciated considerably.

Simone's, on the other hand, has skyrocketed—there's a million-dollar smile on her face when I emerge. "What is it about bathrooms that makes them everybody's favorite sanctuary?" she ponders, following me into the bedroom. "You've got to teach me your stall tactics."

Forget stall tactics - the anthology is available now, in both ebook and paperback.

Because I don't know about you, but I hate to wait.

Fortunately, you don't have to.

And that's the beauty of it.

Curiouser and curiouser,
Allison Wonderland

Come Sale Away

September 3, 2014

Cheyenne Blue's anthology Forbidden Fruit may be stacked with stories of unwise lesbian desire, but if you're a desirous lesbian, it would be unwise of you to pass up the present price of the e-book.

From now until the 11th of September, you can delight in the F/F tales in FF for less than a buck a f*ck.

Curiouser and curiouser,
Allison Wonderland