Soon after I learned to read, I found beneath my bed a stack of mythology textbooks from a class my mom had taken once. Inside those books were all the demons, angels, saints, and martyrs I knew from my years in Catholic school -- plus tales from Egypt, Greece, India, China, Japan, the Americas, and beyond.
Reading all those stories together performed a strange alchemy on my young and impressionable brain.
For one thing, it completely transformed my ideas of religion. Until then I’d thought of God as something like a giant sheet of blue that hovered somewhere overhead, vast and unreachable and monolithic. But now there were gods everywhere -- in the rivers, under the earth, lurking in trees and forests and always willing to interfere in mortal lives. They could turn themselves into a white bull, or a feathered snake -- or they could look as human as the next person.
For another thing, there was the sex.
These stories made clear the connection between sex and babies -- a revelation to me at the time. They also depicted sex as an appetite, a hunger that must be sated. In saints’ stories, sex exists as a dire threat to the purity of the soul. In myth, though, sex is something people desire. And not just people, but gods, and nymphs, and heroes, and everyone else. And it can end badly -- if your name is Oedipus, Io, or Hyacinth -- or it can turn out pretty well -- if your name is Odysseus, Psyche, or Hercules.
And so I developed an appetite of my own -- for mythology and folklore. It pushed me through Milton in high school (so many allusions!), and sent me plunging into Latin and Greek classes in college. I found even those tales I’d thought were completely shocking as a kid were spotless in comparison with the glorious, unabashed smut you read in Latin love poetry. We always think that we modern folk invented degeneracy and sexuality and all that good stuff. But it turns out that people throughout history have a thing or two to teach us.
Eventually I started writing stories, as a way of working out answers to a lot of the questions I had about myth and history and people and romance.
And recently, a really interesting question occurred to me: is it possible to sin once you’re already in Hell?
Corollary: is it possible to sin if you have no soul?
It’s entirely probable that there is a very sound theological answer to these questions, but I am no theologian. Instead, I wrote a very steamy romance called Damned if You Do, about a demoness who is quite skilled with a whip and the deceased Regency lord she’s assigned to punish for the sin of lust. And of course they fall in love. And of course it ends happily -- though it took me a while to work out exactly how.
And you’ll just have to read it to find out.
Olivia Waite has an overactive imagination and a great deal more curiosity than is good for her. She lives in Seattle, shacked up with a dashing supervillain husband and a cuddly, curmudgeonly mini dachshund.