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19 August 2011

Welcome special guest: author Lisabet Sarai

Foreign Affairs By Lisabet Sarai
     I want to start by thanking C.R. for giving me the opportunity to meet some of her readers here at her blog. I thought I'd use this chance to talk about one of my life's passions - travel - and how it relates to my writing.
     Anyone who's even slightly familiar with me or my writing knows that I'm a travel junkie. I've been to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. I'd rather take a trip than own a car, or a house, or a fancy smart phone, and my husband feels the same way. Nothing turns us on like the chance to set foot in a new country and experience a new culture.
     Needless to say, my travel mania spills over into my fiction. I've set novels in Thailand (Raw Silk), England (Ruby's Rules), and Guatemala (Serpent's Kiss). My short stories might take you to Prague, Provence, Amsterdam, Laos, London, or Bangkok, not to mention New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Minneapolis or Omaha, Nebraska. (Hey, exoticism is in the eye of the beholder!)
     Muse It Hot Publishing recently released another of my travel tales, this one set in Cambodia, among the ruins of Angkor. Citadel of Women draws heavily on my memories of the voyage we took half a dozen years ago to see the fabled remnants of the great Khmer empire. The plot and the characters are purely imaginary, but the tropical landscapes and the marvelous sights come from my own experience.

     Citadel of Women is a cross-cultural love story, though not, strictly speaking, a romance. Doa George is a bisexual New Yorker who's never visited Asia. When her female lover severs their relationship just before a long-planned trip to Angkor Wat, Doa stubbornly decides to travel alone. The magnificent temples and palaces from the long-lost Khmer civilization do little to heal the rift in her heart. Che, the mercurial young man serving as her tour guide, senses her loneliness and offers her comfort and passion. Their connection is far more than physical – but how can two people from such different worlds have a future?
     The path along which Che leads Doa and her fellow tour members mirrors my own steps. He starts at the gates of Angkor Thom, a moated metropolis that in the thirteenth century was the largest urban center in the world, with more than a million inhabitants. Images of the founder, King Jayavarman VII, adorn the city gates, which are precisely aligned to the points of the compass.

     Within the precincts, both we and Doa visit the ruined Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, the state temples of Phimeanakas and Baphuon, and the magnificent Bayon temple, adorned with dozens of serene faces simultaneously representing both the Buddha and great King himself.

     Of course the most famous and imposing edifice in the region is the enormous Angkor Wat complex. Doa visits it at dawn, following decades of tourist tradition. My husband refused to get up that early, especially when he felt the only reason to do so was the fact that this was what everyone else was doing. (He's definitely not a morning person and a bit of a rebel besides.) Even at the respectable hour of ten AM, the temple was amazing.
     The heart of my tale, though, unfolds in the lovely temple of Banteay Srey, a thirty minute drive from Siem Reap (the modern town closest to Angkor). This monument was perhaps my favorite sight on the trip.  The temple has been dubbed the "Citadel of Women" because it is fashioned of warm pink sandstone, rather than the cold gray granite of most other Angkor edifices, and because it is decorated with many sculptures and reliefs of buxom goddesses (asparas and devatas).
     Unlike the massive buildings closer to Angkor Thom, Banteay Srey was built to a smaller scale - a woman's scale. It features gloriously detailed carvings and lovely, graceful towers.
     My goal in writing Citadel of Women was to lead my readers on a dual journey: a real world trip to view one of the wonders of the world, and a voyage into the heart. It's a story about love and loss, about passion and the distance even the most intense emotional and physical connections cannot bridge. If you're interested, you can read a PG-rated excerpt at The story itself is sexually explicit but a far cry from the playful free-for-all you'll find in some erotica (including my own). If I've succeeded in my intentions, Citadel of Women will both excite and move you. And it might just make you want to embark on some foreign adventures of your own.
     Thanks again, C.R., for having me by! For more about me, my work, my travels and my peculiarities, please visit my website, Lisabet's Fantasy Factory ( and my blog, Beyond Romance (
     ~ Lisabet Sarai


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, C.R.,

Thank you so much for hosting me today. I love to talk about travel (as well as my writing, of course) so I hope your readers have some interesting questions for me.

heather said...

Hey Lisabet, Citadel of Women sounds so good. I think it's awesome how you travel so much and put your experiences in your books, I would love to travel anywhere and everywhere. I'm hoping my son will enjoy traveling, hiking, sightseeing, etc so we can enjoy it together but of course he's only 4 now so we have to wait a little while :)

susan said...

This sounds like a must read book. I love to read and travel but can no longer travel except by books. I put my two loves together so books makes me happy in two ways. I appreciate authors like you who allows readers this chance. Wish you lots of luck and thanks for a chance to enter for this great sounding book. susan Leech

tammy ramey said...

the cover of the book is just beautiful and the story sounds wonderful. i can't wait to read it.

Tamsyn said...

My husband and I travelled to Siem Reap this May and I totally agree with you. Angkor Watt is magnificant and so are a lot of the other temples. Unfortunately, it was raining when we visited Banteay Srey but in we went, umbrellas and all, and it was an experience! Each place we visited was unique and has its own history. It was like entering another world.
I'm sure Citadel of Women will be an excellent read. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Heather,

I think it's great to take kids traveling, and most children turn out to be far more resilient than then parents!

Lisabet Sarai said...


Thank you for coming by and commenting. I have to say that if you enjoy vicarious travel via reading, you should probably read some of my books LOL!

Seriously, I've traveled dozens of places in my mind that I still haven't been able to visit in reality. It's a big world (and I'm glad of that) - I'll never get to all the places I want to see.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Tammy,

I love the cover, too. Muse It Up has some incredibly talented cover artists.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi Tamsyn!

I think Angkor is one of those must-see places - you really can't appreciate it from the photos.

I was surprised by how green it was (though I did go during the rainy season). I somehow imagined it to be dry and dusty.

Did you go to Ta Prom, the temple that they've left in ruins, with all the trees growing out between the stones? Talk about atmosphere!

BY THE WAY - I'll draw a winner on Sunday night. Just to give people a bit more time to comment!

Mara said...

hi lisabeth,
My parents started taking me and my sisters to the Caribbean when we were little and I promptly fell in love. As an I travelled there for work. I haven't been able to go anywhere for years, but I love reading about it.
Please add my name to the hat.
marajbrandon AT gmail DOT com

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Sue Swift said...

I loved Angkor...thanks for reminding me of my own visit to an extraordinary place. My photos and stories about southeast Asia are in one of my travel blogs, Travel as Metaphor,

Jan Irving said...

I recently went to Italy and I'm incorporating some unusual destinations into my stories. I love being able to do that. This has made me want to visit Cambodia and see these, especially the women's temples. I like the more off beat sites, they somehow turn out to be the ones that stick with you and move you. Interested in the story!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Mara, Sue and Jan,

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment. I wish you happy journeys!

I've drawn the winner - it's Tammy Rainey! Congratulations. And thanks again to all.