Lesbian novelist Carsen Taite brings authenticity to her legal romance
Carsen Taite reads from ‘It Should Be a Crime’ at Borders, 3600 McKinney Ave. Aug. 20 at 7 p.m.
It’s a clichÃ© that all courtroom lawyers are failed actors… well, not all. Some are failed novelists.
And some are successful novelists.
That certainly seems to be the case with Carsen Taite. For most of a decade, she has plied her skills as a criminal attorney in Dallas; in her free time, she’d voraciously read all kinds of fiction, including lesbian romance books, imagining she could do it, too.
"I’ve had the bug for quite a while but never did anything about it," Taite says. Then she did do something about it, and she’s the first to admit she got very luck right out of the gate.
Taite — a pseudonym and near-anagram for her real-life counterpart, Teresa Cain ("It’s not a secret identity… although that would be cool, too. But I think you need a cape for that," she deadpans) — was methodical. She attended a lesbian literary convention; she researched book publishers and decided what kinds of stories were marketable.
Then, unsolicited, she sent her first manuscript, "Truelesbianlove.com," to Bold Strokes Books. Not only did they buy it for their new e-book series, they immediately commissioned two more books.
And that was just a year ago. Her second novel, the trade paperback "It Should Be a Crime," hits bookshelves Monday.
"I am very fortunate and grateful," she says. "I got a deal with my publisher of choice. It’s a very nurturing environment."
Set in Dallas, "It Should Be a Crime" follows a lesbian lawyer who begins a romance with a sexy law student. Both become embroiled in representing an indigent defendant in the high-profile murder of a prominent Dallas socialite.
There are frequent (and well-informed) references to the Lew Sterrett Center, to the Hotel Palomar and LaDuni restaurant and Campisi’s pizzeria … and more veiled references to SMU, Buddies II, Sue Ellen’s and other local landmarks. Taite preserves her discretion to invent as she sees fit, although she did not want to do that with the legal aspects of the book.
"I’m pretty good at suspending fact when I’m reading fiction," she says, but egregious legal errors in books and TV shows irk her. "I wanted the legal stuff to be based in truth: Would this really happen? All the vignettes are real — they have either happened somewhere to someone or are definitely possible."
Still, it was almost harder for her to write the legal portions than the steamy sex scenes. (Her first book was not courtroom-based; her next one will be.)
"What I thought would be easier — writing about something I do for a living — turned out not to be as easy because I took for granted some things."
While she draws from her own professional life, Taite stresses that the romantic entanglements are pure fiction — she and her wife Lainey have been together for six years. The erotic elements do serve a purpose, though.
"Lainey doesn’t read a lot of fiction, though she reads tons of non-fiction. But she has read my stuff," Taite says. If the sex scenes get her in the mood, "I know I’ve done my job."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 7, 2009.