Home       About Me       Review Index

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Author Interview: Tabitha Suzuma of Forbidden

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives--and the way they understand each other so completely--has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts on Tabitha Suzuma's controversial novel Forbidden. A story about a consensual incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. It was a heartbreaking story that I thought about for many weeks after I was done reading it. I had so many questions for Tabitha about Forbidden and her reasons for writing such a novel. So when I was approached about being apart of the Canadian Blog Tour for Forbidden I jumped at the opportunity. I have for you a Q & A that I hope will give you some insight in what Tabitha hoped to accomplish in this book.

1)  For me, reading Forbidden was difficult. Mostly because it was an emotionally taxing story, and I found it heartbreaking. Can you please describe how you felt writing this book?

I actually gave up on the book after writing the first few chapters because I believed that no-one would agree to publish a book for teens about consensual sibling incest. I was persuaded to keep going by my editor, however. But yes, the worry was there all along and the whole book was a battle between keeping the story as realistic as possible (i.e. not glossing over the sexual scenes) and writing a book that wouldn't be banned from every school and bookshop.
Writing the more explicit scenes was difficult because of the reasons mentioned above. But by far the hardest scenes to write were the ones where Lochan and Maya are suffering.

2) On that note. What was the most difficult scene for you to write? Did you ever have to take a break from writing a specific scene?

The hardest part by far was writing the end. By then, I was so caught up in the characters and the story that it began to feel like I was writing a book about something that had really happened. In order to portray the characters' emotions convincingly, I had to experience them myself, which was really painful and frequently had me in tears. As you can guess, the book does not end happily and writing the ending was one of the hardest things I've had to do in my life. I found myself spiralling into deep depression and would often end up in tears and have to take a break and pace the house alone at night, sobbing. I could scarcely bear to re-read what I'd written and it got to the point that I was so caught up in the book that the story became more important and more vivid to me than real life. This eventually led to me having a breakdown.

3)  I have read that Forbidden explores the question, "What circumstances could lead two siblings to develop romantic and sexual feelings for each other?  And how would such a relationship likely progress. . .and end?"' How accurate is this description? And what was your purpose in writing Lochan and Maya's story?

That's a fairly accurate description. Consensual incest between siblings is not common when the siblings are raised together and so I needed a special set of circumstances in order to make it plausible. My purpose in writing the book was to write a tragic love story, different from the others out there, and one that would hopefully stay with the reader, push them outside of their comfort zone, make them think and experience strong emotions. I hoped they would take away with them the realisation that things are not always as black and white as they might first seem, that everyone is different and it is often too easy and narrow-minded to dismiss something as disgusting or wrong. I hoped readers  would come to realise that in some cases, in some situations, something universally perceived as 'wrong' can actually be harmless. And that you don't choose your emotions, you don't choose who you fall in love with. I also hoped the book would make people more open-minded and less judgemental in general and would encourage readers to have empathy for others, particularly for those who are different, isolated or troubled and lead difficult lives.

4) There are a few fairly explicit sexual scenes in Forbidden, can you describe the process in which you decided to add those to your book? and why you felt they were necessary?

From the very outset, I made it clear to my publishers that I was very concerned about making the story as realistic as possible and therefore I was not willing to gloss over anything that might be deemed 'inappropriate' or doing any of tasteful fades to black. I had set out to write a story about consensual sibling incest and therefore, by definition, the book was going to have to contain at least one sex scene and several sexual scenes leading up to it. Anything less would have been unrealistic in my view. Glossing over these sexual scenes felt like a cop-out and completely unnecessary - they were not written to shock but rather to make the story more authentic. I simply wrote them with the same attention to detail and the same focus on emotions as the other key scenes in the book.

5) When I reached the part of Lochan's sacrifice in Forbidden, I thought immediately of Kit, and how this was going to affect his life. Any chance we'll be seeing Kit's story in the future?

I can't imagine writing a sequel to FORBIDDEN. I can only hope that eventually Kit comes to terms with the fact that what happened was not his fault...

Thanks so much to Tabitha Suzuma for taking the time to answer my questions I really appreciate it, and I appreciate Forbidden so much more now that I know what went into it's creation. Thank you also Simon and Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read Forbidden and being a part of the blog tour.

Forbidden is on sale in North American Tuesday June 28th, but you can read the first chapter here.

Happy Reading Everyone!


  1. Even after distancing myself while reading this novel, I still came away emotionally spent.
    While I can see where this novel will make the top of banned books lists, I also think that it's going to help a lot of people through tough times - and that's what really matters. After all, YA Saves.
    Major props to Suzuma for writing a novel with such controversial subject matter. It was a fantastic novel and one that I'll be talking about for quite a while.
    Great interview!

  2. Really amazing interview, Sara. You asked really thoughtful, excellent questions. I don't know if I could ever do an author interview because I would have no idea what to ask.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I loved Forbidden and was crying by the ending so I can imagine just how hard it must have been to write that ending and have to re-read it repeatedly to make it perfect.

    I'm following you back :)

  4. Thanks for the interview! I loved Forbidden so much and am glad that Tabitha didn't give up on its story! It might have cost her some nerves and tears, but in the end it was so worth it I think!


I love comments! So please leave them and I will make every attempt to return the favor!

"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl