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UPDATED 01/23/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/23/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

>Sherry Sonnett

ON VIRTUE AND VICE

YOU MIGHT SAY THAT WRITING THE very, very sexually explicit Restraint was a religious experience for Sherry Sonnett. She began the novel while a graduate student at the Harvard Divinity School. "Here I am, someone who's concerned with spiritual and philosophical issues, and I turn around and write this dirty book," says Sonnett, 52, with a laugh. But wait, folks, she can explain. Restraint, she believes, is a novel about a spiritual awakening. "I'm writing about a woman who opts to push through fear, to push through who she has been. She's not afraid to see who she will turn out to be, and that's what spiritual awakenings are all about. But it's a perverse spiritual awakening because it takes her into illegality," believes Sonnett, whose interest in theology grew out of her undergraduate concentration in psychology.

A former scriptwriter for low-budget movies and for such TV series as Hart to Hart, Sonnett grew up in Teaneck, N.J., and moved in the late '60s to California, where she was married for six years to Christopher Trumbo, son of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton. Her former father-in-law, she says, gave her the confidence to begin writing. Sonnett, who has no children and lives in a "very '50s style" Los Angeles apartment with a fine view of the Pacific, is currently busy with her second novel, which, like her first, concerns a woman willing to go for broke. She's also busy fielding questions from her curious friends and nervous mom. "People want to know if I've actually had the sex I describe in the books," says Sonnett. "I've assured my mother it's all a work of the imagination."

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