Tuesday, May 26, 2009

When Characters Do Things That Make You Crazy

Today we welcome award-winning author Stephanie Bond to the lair. Stephanie left a corporate computer programming job to write fiction full-time. To date, she’s sold almost 50 romance and mystery novels. Stephanie currently writes the BODY MOVERS humorous mystery series. Today she'll share some reader reactions to her characters.


The characters in my first published romantic comedy were Ellie and Mark Sutherland. Over twelve years later, I still get emails from readers asking, “So what are Ellie and Mark up to these days? Any children?” Those emails make me smile, because it’s flattering when readers feel as if the characters I’ve created are real people, whose lives go on after the book ends.

By far, the character I receive the most email about in my BODY MOVERS sexy mystery series is Wesley Wren, the younger brother of the main character. Wesley is a 19-year-old man-child whose parents abandoned him and his older sister over ten years ago, and left them to fend for themselves. The Wren children were raised with silver spoons in their mouths--the best of everything, including private schools. At the time their parents skipped town to avoid being prosecuted for a white collar crime, Wesley was 10 years old and Carlotta was 18. Carlotta was barely equipped to take care of herself, much less her younger brother, who was traumatized by the sudden disappearance of his parents. To make things worse, Wesley was a slight, bespectacled child with a genius IQ, so he didn’t fit in at school, especially not when faced with the rude awakening of going from private school to public school. Carlotta indulged him--she was, after all, the one who’d held him every night when he cried himself to sleep after their parents disappeared. No one but Carlotta knows how much he suffered. So when Wesley’s behavior turned mischievous, she overlooked it. And later, when his behavior turned destructive, she was powerless to stop it. More than a sister, but not quite a mother, Carlotta can only advise, threaten, hope and pray.

Wesley is too smart for his own good. Instead of going to college, he opted to make his living cobbling together computers and playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker. He’s gotten himself in deep debt to two loan sharks, Father Thom and The Carver. But he’s not all bad…he loves his sister dearly, and he does all the cooking. He’s a lovable, down-on-his-luck, good-looking (think Leonardo DiCaprio) almost-man.

And apparently, from all the emails I get from maternal women who want to wring his silly neck, he’s very real to them. Most of the readers admit that they are mothers themselves, many with children older than Wesley, and they all have a remedy to cure his bad behavior, ranging from family therapy to tough love. I read all the e-mails with great fondness and big smiles because if Wesley triggers such high emotion from readers, that means he’s a real person to them.

I get a lot of email about Carlotta, too, mostly from people wanting to know which of the three men who are interested in her she will pick--the hunky cop Jack who arrested her brother and reopened her parents’ case, the sexy body-moving Coop, who is Wesley’s boss and has such a good influence on the young man, or the persistent Peter, her first love, who is now back in her life and trying to make amends for dumping her when her parents’ scandal broke all those years ago. I think it’s wonderful that readers have their own opinions as to who she should end up with. (As of this writing, reader feedback is running 49% Jack, 49% Coop, and 2% Peter.) That means readers are vested in her choice--Carlotta is real to them.

And then there are the, ahem, nasty e-mails. I’ve received a few about the sister-brother body-moving duo. There’s the reader who thinks the Wren children are “the most wretched people walking the face of the earth.” And the reader who thinks Carlotta “is a slut because she’s stringing along three men.” The same reader thinks Wesley “is a drugged-out punk who never learns from his mistakes. I hope he gets shot dead.”

Okey-dokey. Well, it’s one thing to be rooting for a character and hoping they’ll make this decision or that decision, and to be disappointed when they do something ill-advised…but to despise a character so much that you let them ruin your day…hm. That might be taking things a little too far.

Just remember--when characters do things that make you crazy, it’s a good thing. If characters were boring and predictable, you’d lose interest, right? When the first BODY MOVERS book was released, I was a guest at a book club discussing the book and one member commented, “Carlotta seems like the kind of character who’s going to make a lot of bad decisions before she makes a good one.” Then the reader grinned and added, “Gee, I hope so.”
How about you--do you let book characters make you crazy? Why do you think you’re critical of particular characters--do they perhaps remind you of people in your own life?

Stephanie is giving away a signed copy of 4 Bodies and a Funeral to one commenter!
__________
Books 4, 5 and 6 in the BODY MOVERS series will be released back to back April, May, and June 2009. (Books 1-3 are still available at all Internet bookstores.) For more information, go to www.stephaniebond.com. To read an excerpt of book 4 in the BODY MOVERS series, 4 BODIES AND A FUNERAL, click here. Stephanie is speaking at the June Georgia Romance Writers meeting on the topic "What are You Waiting For?" -- How to identify and overcome obstacles, real and imagined, standing in the way of taking your writing career to the next level.

After the GRW meeting, she'll be signing all 3 books in the Body Movers trilogy at the Barnes & Noble at The Forum.

113 comments:

Jane said...

Mine?

Jane said...

Hi Stephanie,
Congrats on new and upcoming releases. I think many readers become emotionally invested in these characters so we have strong feelings towards them. Sometimes we love them and sometimes we can't stand them. I've only read two books in the Body Movers series, but choosing a side, Team Jack.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jane! You ripped him out of Lime's clutches! You're one tough chicky!

Nancy, thanks for bringing Stephanie into the lair.

Stephanie, I'm sure you don't remember me but we met at the Australian conference where you were a terrifically popular guest a few years ago. You really do present a wonderful workshop! Why don't you come back again?

Love the sound of these characters. It IS wonderful when these people who are real in your own head become real in someone else's, isn't it? It always gives me a thrill when I get an email asking me whether Wolfram has had puppies.

Blodeuedd said...

Some I want to bite their heads off. They drive me insane, mostly it's the bitchy annoying ones. Or the creepy disgusting ones. They are just too bad for me to enjoy.
A good baddie I love to hate, I bad baddie I just loathe

PinkPeony said...

Hi Nancy! Welcome Stephanie! Jane, congrats on El Pollo Gigante!
I'm currently reading a book and the heroine is boring. Yes, she's supposed to be the nice girl, the dutiful daughter but even nice girls possess spark and wit. It has all the necessary elements..she's conflicted, the plot is interesting, there's a sub plot.. but she's about exciting as a bowl of cold oatmeal. I plan to keep reading and in hopes that she shoots someone, joins the Hari Krishnas or jumps the hottie she keeps staring at. At least he's interesting because his background has yet to be fully revealed. Also, her conflict/issue is mentioned so many times that I feel like I'm being beaten with a two by four. And it's not written in a deep POV and that really bugs me.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Hey, Stephanie! Good to see you here. I have to say that I love series where the same heroine has several different choices of potential hero. In addition to yours, Janet Evanovich's and Colleen Gleason's books come to mind.

I think it's the mark of a great writer when readers care enough about the characters to get worked up about them. So kudos to you! If it was a blah book or blah characters, they wouldn't care enough to write -- either to praise or diss the characters.

Helen said...

Well done Jane

Very interesting post Stephanie and thank you Nancy for inviting Stephanie along today.

I am one who really feels involved with the characters in the books I read and yes some I could give a kick to sometimes but that is what makes them so interesting for me if I didn't feel for the characters then I don't think I would be enjoying the book.
Congrats on the releases I need to get these books.

Oh and Anna yes I would like to know if Wolfram has had puppies? he is a very favourite character of mine.

Have Fun
Helen

Joan said...

Hi Stephanie!

Welcome to The Lair!

I don't get QUITE that vested in memorable characters (though I do love a good epilouge that shows the life down the road)and...ok...so on my first trip to Ireland I DID kind of...sort of....look around for Karen Marie Moing's Adam Black. :-) And yes, Pamela Clare's Morgan...hit a wee chord in me...but really I don't think that much about them..

Ok, so I do sometimes. I think that is the greatest achievement of a writer, to bring characters to life like that.

Joanie, who now immediately locks her car door due to Suzanne Brockmann's serial killer who kidnapped a girl dressed as a nurse...and kept eyelids in a Tupperware bowl...:0

Llehn said...

Some characters do drive me crazy. The ones that come to mind are the ones who are so dense they can't figure out what's going on when the readers already have. I SERIOUSLY HATE THOSE!

Kirsten said...

Hi Stephanie -- thanks for swinging by the Lair! I love your description of your characters and the funny emails. I think I would be a wee bit concerned about the mental health of someone who takes fictional characters quite so seriously!

I don't often go that far, but books definitely have the power to alter my day. Just last night, I started reading a young adult series and knew from the first few pages that it would be too intense and scary for me. (Yes, I did say YA! Too scary! Happens all the time!) So I put the book down, and...had a nightmare. It was like clockwork. So I can't read scary books.

I can't read sad ones either -- I was reading a Susan Mallary book this weekend and there's a subplot with the heroine's sister having liver failure. I couldn't even read those parts. Instant waterfall, before I even started the book.

A plot that has to do with children dying? Absolutely not. No way. I don't care how "redemptive" the ending is. It's not worth imaging a child dying.

Hmm. Now I'm starting to wonder about my OWN mental health...

No, I'm fine. Really. Just sensitive. Perhaps a bit highly strung... But really normal. I promise. ;-)

Thanks again for guesting on the blog, Stephanie! I'd love to take one of your workshops one day!

Nancy said...

Jane congratulations on taking home the rooster! Have fun with him.

I also am on Jack's team.

Nancy said...

Anna, do you get a lot of emails about Wolfram?

You have overlapping characters in two of your books. Do you think seeing characters more often makes readers care more about them?

Nancy said...

Blodeuedd, a good villain really captures the imagination, doesn't he? Darth Vader seemed to cast a bigger shadow than any other character in Star WarsMost villains in mysteries are around for one book before being arrested and sent off to jail. These latest Body Movers books have a villain who lasts longer, which I thought was fun.

Nancy said...

PinkPeony wrote: Also, her conflict/issue is mentioned so many times that I feel like I'm being beaten with a two by four.
I've read a couple of books like that. One was for a potential review, so I had to finish it, but the heroine bucked herself up with thoughts of her special destiny so often that I wanted to fling the book across the room. We ended up not doing a review because the book page was so small that the editor preferred just to omit books that would have unfavorable ratings.

The other book like that, I never finished. I'm glad the hero, at least, is interesting in the one you're reading!

Nancy said...

Hi, Trish--

I think the heroine facing conflicting romantic choices is hard to pull off. I read a mystery series where the hero and his sidekick both were interested in the same woman, who seemed interested in them but was engaged to marry someone else. The wedding never seemed to happen. It finally reached the point where I was ready to yell at the book, "PICK ONE!" Last time I looked at that series, she still had not chosen.

I think there's a real art to keeping a character balanced between choices over multiple books, and it's done well in the Body Movers series.

Nancy said...

Hi, Helen--

I wonder if that engagement with characters and that feeling that they're real is what keeps series rolling? Some series start and then seem to fizzle, while others pick up steam over time.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Welcome Stephanie! We're so happy to have you in the Lair! Love your series.

Nancy, great post, Stephanie, loved hearing about all the characters again and revisiting the other books.

As to Characters making me insane, that appears to be a given. Ha! They frequently go and do too-stupid-to-live stuff in the middle of the book and have to die - even though I had something planned for them later. This, of course, means a new character has to be created...wait, and that's a bad thing???? Grins.

Its such a fun part of the writing process to create interesting "people" who live and breathe for readers. So many of our Romance Bandits create those kind of characters, as do our guests, that it feels like the norm rather than the exception! ha!

Do you love getting the fan mail/reader mail? What's the best question you've ever been asked about the Body Movers? What's the funniest question about your writing you've ever been asked?

Nancy said...

Joan wrote: who now immediately locks her car door due to Suzanne Brockmann's serial killer who kidnapped a girl dressed as a nurse...and kept eyelids in a Tupperware bowl

Okay, eeew!

I agree with you that making characters come to life, so we care about them after "The End" is an achievement. The more real I feel a character is, the more likely I am to pick up an author's next book.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Llehn, we call those characters TSTL - too stupid to live. Ha! They make me crazy too.

Like the girls in the horror movies who get IN the car with the locked door and fogged up windows, even tho' just a minute ago, that door was unlocked...wasn't it... *twists hair around finger, looks dim* Oh, I mean there's like a killer loose and all, but hey, I need beauty product, I HAVE to go to the mall just before closing on a dark, rainy, foggy night. Yeah!

TSTL.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

I think you've hit on it Nancy. It's that sense of connection and of "what happens to so and so?" that makes a serie roll.

Nancy said...

Llehn, I never figure out the solution to a mystery, so I figure that if I've got it, the characters really should've solved it pages ago!

I gave up on a fantasy series I was enjoying because it was so obvious to me that one character was evil from the get-go, but the heroine was oblivious.

Christie Kelley said...

Welcome to the lair, Stephanie!

I love your books and the new ones sound great. I can't wait to read them.

As far as your question, yes characters can drive me crazy. Both the ones that I write and the ones that I read. But as long as there is motivation for the characters I can usually understand their craziness.

Nancy said...

Hi, Kirsten--

I can't read scary books, either. And yes, a YA can be too scary for me! I'm also with you on avoiding stories where bad things happen to children.

It does seem astounding that people would take a fictional character so seriously as to want to advise him or her, doesn't it? I figured this happened more with TV series, but I've found myself saying to series authors, "Does Michael get his own book?" or something like that.

A friend of mine has a hero she shelved because she changed publishing houses, and I want his story!

Nancy said...

Jeanne, you've recently come off a stint of characters making you insane--otherwise known as being on deadline--haven't you? Congratulations on finishing!

Nancy said...

Jeanne, speaking of TSTL--I recently saw the first episode of Buffy for the first time (I know, I know, and I really was on this planet the whole time. No excuses) and was aghast when her friend let Cute Boy, who was really a vampire, persuade her to cut across the dark, spooky cemetery en route to getting ice cream! In a town where she supposedly lives. Aack!

Nancy said...

Hi, Christie--

You did a nice job of letting the hero and heroine from Every Night I'm Yours reappear in Every Time We Kiss, and I was happy to see them. Sort of like having a visit from old friends of mine.

But I promise not to write you letters advising them. :-)

Nancy said...

Stephanie, I think it's interesting that you actually know what the breakdown is of readers favoring each romantic lead. I would've expected Peter to have a bit more support, though I admit he's my least favorite of the three. His low fan base surprised me.

I can understand why people are worried about Wesley, who really has behaved as though he needs a good jolt, but I can't understand writing you to scold you about any of it.

How do you deal with the readers who write you with advice for the characters?

Donna MacMeans said...

Nancy - Long, long ago, in my early years of discovering romance, I picked up a book and knew the solution to the conflict by the end of chapter one. I read the entire book because surely the right solution couldn't be so obvious. I was so mad to discover I had the right solution that I figured this writing stuff must not be so difficult (smile - I was wrong about that!). So I guess I owe that NYT author a favor - disappointing book but ever so grateful for the impact.

Donna MacMeans said...

Stephanie - I've been a fan ever since I heard you say you write while walking on a treadmill (still haven't mastered that - even with the alphasmart). We met at the Cleveland Rocks conference last year.

I love getting so involved with the characters that I want to rush out and find the next book in the series. If the character is TSTL or boring or shallow - then the book finda a new home. There's too many good books out there to waste time with the non-engaging ones.

Love the body movers series, looking forward to the next ones.

Nancy said...

Donna, that's a great story! That was how I felt with that book where I knew the character was evil. It couldn't be that obvious. There had to be a twist.

There wasn't. *sigh*

Treethyme said...

Joanie - that Brockmann book was soooo scary, wasn't it? She's a good example of readers getting invested in characters. How many readers when nuts over the obstacles that kept Sam and Alyssa apart? And I know Suzanne is still getting a lot of flak from readers who were upset with the way the current book ended up. I had been invested in the relationship that most people thought would come together in this book. Knowing how she writes, I suspected she was going to twist things around -- which she did. I loved the book even more, because she knew her characters so well that she could see those original match-ups would never work. That's one reason I love her books, and I feel bad that she's had some really negative comments because she stayed true to her characters.

Nancy said...

Treethyme, I wonder what it says about us as readers that we get so invested in a character, we feel a need to chastise an author if things don't go the way we hope.

I've been reading a military SF series in which the heroine seems to have a potential love interest that I'm hoping will eventually be a love interest. The last such series I read featured a passionate love affair that ended in the man's murder, which the heroine avenged.

Several books came and went without a new love interest, though there were some intriguing possibilities that didn't pan out. The author picked the one I absolutely did not want.

Alone, that wouldn't have put me off the series, but the books kept getting longer and longer, with more and more about the politics of the different factions, and the combination has led to a marked decrease in my willingness to shell out money for the books.

So maybe my view of this comes through the walls of my glass house? *g*

Stephanie said...

Jane--Team Jack? Made me laugh.

Stephanie said...

Hi, Anna! I do remember you...you're with Avon now, yes? My trip to Australia was amazing, wonderful, the trip of a lifetime. I'd love to come back sometime!

Too funny that your readers are asking about your animal characters...that speaks well of you as a writer.

Stephanie said...

Blodeudd--re: your comment about boring heroines. A writer has to be careful not to make the secondary characters more interesting. I wrote a book called I THINK I LOVE YOU about 3 sisters, with the middle one being the main character. I made the other 2 sisters so outrageous, she had to be the straight one...but that made her MUCH harder to write. So yes, make sure you don't give all the good stuff to the secondary characters...

Stephanie said...

oops Blodeuedd--your comment was about creepy, bad characters. I think a character has to evoke some kind of emotion...the most important thing is that a character, even a bad one, should have layers. Done badly, yes, villains come across as impotent cutouts.

Stephanie said...

PinkPeony--YOU were the one commenting on the boring heroine...also had to laugh when you said the heroine's conflict is mentioned to often and is jarring to you--that actually sounds like an editor adding to the manuscript. when I first started writing, I remember someone quoting the ridiculous stat that a writer should mention the conflict every 20 pages. That's nonsense. But you'd be surprised at the editors who believe in "hitting the reader over the head".

Stephanie said...

Hi, Trish! I have to say that giving Carlotta lots of choices has kept the series interesting to me, too. It's been nice to have several books to explore and unfold each character better so that both Carlotta and the reader get to see her men in different situations.

Nancy said...

Stephanie, you know I'm a Jack fan. But I can see virtues in both Coop and Peter--though having once ditched Carlotta for a snarky so-called friend doesn't weigh in the latter's favor. One of the things I'm enjoying about this series is that I really can't tell which way Carlotta is likely to go in the end.

I'm also enjoying the way book 5 picks up right after the end of 4 and six, right after the end of 5. A lot of series don't have that. I'm guessing the back-to-back-to-back releases facilitated that?

Stephanie said...

Helen, I should have said that I, too, like to get involved in characters in books I read. (And the TV shows I watch.) Writers are the worst to be convinced, so when I'm drawn into a character, I'm so thankful to the writer.

Stephanie said...

Joan...interesting that you would mention how situations and characters seem so real that they influence your behavior...me, too! But if it helps you be safer, that's great.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Nancy said: I think the heroine facing conflicting romantic choices is hard to pull off. It finally reached the point where I was ready to yell at the book, "PICK ONE!"I agree, Nancy. I think it's easier to pull off when there is a set number of books from the beginning (like Colleen's), not an open-ended series (like Janet's) -- though, of course, there a writers who pull off both types of scenarios. I still enjoy the Plum books, but I do wish she would pick. That said, I haven't read the one from last year yet and I think the newest hits shelves soon.

Stephanie, is your Body Movers series open-ended or do you have a set number of books in mind?

Nancy said...

Trish, I think the Plum books pull off the multiple love interests well, though I have to say I'm not in love with the short, non-numbered ones.

Not sure when the next one is due.

Stephanie said...

Llehn...I agree that the "too dumb to live" characters make me roll my eyes...so if you have a character who's clueless, you have to give them a believable reason to have a block, such as they're so in love with their husband, they don't see that he's a cad, or they're so traumatized by something going on in their personal life that they don't notice when their business partner embezzles...

Stephanie said...

Kirsten...I think everyone reads for different reasons, and everyone avoids certain plots and subplots for different reasons, because of something going on in their own life, perhaps, or something they've seen someone else go through. But generally, fiction writers should remember that readers read to escape--they want to be thrilled and chilled, but very rarely depressed. There is a market for "fatal fiction," but typically, those people only buy a couple of books a year. Hardcore fiction fans want to be entertained.

Stephanie said...

Nancy...thanks so much for inviting me to be here today.

Nancy said...

Stephanie wrote: I think everyone reads for different reasons, and everyone avoids certain plots and subplots for different reasons ...

I know that's true for me. There are certain types of books I won't read because they hit too close to the bone.

Re: "fatal fiction," the late Marion Zimmer Bradley used to have something in the guidelines for her magazine to the effect that writers had better not kill the protagonist at the end of the story. I agreed with that completely. I'm one those people who reads to be entertained, to get a lift and a feeling of satisfaction. If I'm bummed at the end of the book, I'm not picking up another one.

Nancy said...

And you're very welcome, Stephanie. I'm delighted you could join us.

Minna said...

This is what one of my friends would call "books you love to hate". I can't stand those revenge books where the man behaves like an ogre and the woman is a wimp, who is completely controlled by her hormones. And I just read one of those. The blurb seemed to promise something totally different. =P When I want to read about revenge, I pick First Wives Club or Arto Paasilinna's "Sweet Poison Cook".

Aikakone - Keltainen
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MAARIT Tuuli & Taivas (Wind & Sky)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDf5NDRRUoU

KEVÄT JA MINÄ - TOMMI LÄNTINEN
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV8cRMmMAFY

Neiti Kevät
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwIgXd6avWY

Pave Maijanen - Lähtisitkö
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLlNe6vyokI

Tomas Ledin - Sommaren är kort
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVdGOz_ptDg

Nancy said...

Minna, I'm with you on ogre heroes and wimp heroines. One of the things I like about the Body Movers series is that everyone involved in the romantic tug-of-war behaves like an adult. No one is spiteful or childish. Either of those traits turns me off to a character very quickly.

Virginia said...

Congrats Jane on nabbing that rooster!

Congrats on your new releases Stephanie! I love a good mystery so add a little humor to it and it should be great! I love the sound of your books.

Stephanie said...

Nancy, that's a good observation about the success/failure of a series being attributed to how much readers connect with/root for the characters. I guess readers do really need to feel as if they have a stake in the characters' decsisions, else why keep coming back?

Stephanie said...

Hi, Donna! Good to "see" you again. I haven't been "wrilking" (writing while walking on the treadmill) so much lately because I ran a half-marathon in late March and I had to run during my training workouts...and I haven't quite mastered writing while I'm running! But now that I'm tapered off and back to other workouts, I look forward to killing two birds with one stone...anything to make both things, the writing and the workout, go by faster!

Joan said...

But if it helps you be safer, that's great....

Fortunately, it did NOT put me off of Tupperware :-)

And I also stand in awe that you can write and treadmill at the same time.

Can you also pat your head and rub your belly :-)

Nancy said...

Hi, Virginia. As you've probably gathered, I like mysteries with humor, too.

And interesting guys don't hurt either. :-)

Stephanie said...

Treethyme--You bring up a good point that when authors create characters that readers fall in love with, the readers sometime take ownership of the characters and are angry if things don't go the way they'd hoped. It's nerve-wracking for an author because, for example, no matter who Carlotta chooses in the end, a lot of my readers are going to think she should've chosen another guy. It makes me hope the series goes on for a while because frankly, I don't want her to have to make that decision yet!

Stephanie said...

Nancy asked: How do you deal with the readers who write you with advice for the characters?


I thank them, because I really do appreciate their interest, then let them know that I don't know what the characters are going to do because they haven't told me yet!

Nancy said...

Stephanie, I've never managed to write and do anything else. I envy your treadmill multi-tasking.

I recently discovered, after having to avoid music during homework all through school because the beat distracted me, that music appropriate to the project seems to help me. I can focus despite the rhythm and melody. Can't handle music with lyrics, maybe because the song's words compete with the ones in my head. But that's as far as my dual focus can go.

Stephanie said...

Nancy wrote: I'm also enjoying the way book 5 picks up right after the end of 4 and six, right after the end of 5. A lot of series don't have that. I'm guessing the back-to-back-to-back releases facilitated that?

Yes, I wanted the spring trilogy of books 4, 5, and 6 to read like one long book.

Nancy said...

Stephanie wrote: I thank them, because I really do appreciate their interest, then let them know that I don't know what the characters are going to do because they haven't told me yet!That's a very tactful way to deal. I know what you mean, though, about readers being unhappy no matter who Carlotta chooses. I sometimes wish a character chose the other guy (or woman), but that just makes me want the one who loses out to have a big with an HEA later.

Nancy said...

Uh, that's big book with an HEA later. Urk!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

I dunno, Nancy, having a Big, with an HEA later would work too...

Snork.

Sorry, being a gutterbrain today.

Stephanie said...

Trish asked: Stephanie, is your Body Movers series open-ended or do you have a set number of books in mind?

I had always thought there would be 6 books, but when my editor asked me to do the back to back spring trilogy and introduce a new element just for books 4, 5, and 6, that meant postponing other story lines. I'd like to have at least 2 more books past 6 to finish up the series, but that's out of my hands. Hopefully, I'll know something soon.

Christine Wells said...

Stephanie, thank you so much for being in the lair today. What a great post!

I have to tell you how much I've enjoyed listening to your workshops over the years. You're an inspiration! It must be a wonderful affirmation for you that your characters are so vivid, people think of them as real people.

Characters...I'm a bit like that over-protective mother who needs to let the baby out of the nest, I think! But I do try to let my characters make mistakes, with the old Donald Maass "Make it worse" mantra in my head. They need to be well-motivated mistakes, though, or you start getting that "too stupid to live" comment.

Do any of those comments ever make you say, "oh, maybe I should tone Wesley down a bit" or whatever?

Jane, congrats on the Golden Rooster!

Nancy said...

Jeanne wrote: I dunno, Nancy, having a Big, with an HEA later would work too...Urk! You are a naughty person, Duchesse! *g*

Nancy said...

Christine, I have to admit "make it worse" keeps me turning pages. I've tried to focus more on that concept when a character gets into a tight spot. If I can make it worse, maybe the heightened stakes will keep the reader absorbed.

You did a great job of that, BTW, in The Dangerous Duke.And Stephanie upped her previous "trouble" quotient for the characters pretty dramatically at the end of Book 6. Which has me wondering when Book 7 will be out.

Tawny said...

Hi Stephanie :-) I love the Body Movers series and have gotten other readers hooked, as well. Always a fun thing!!

I'm always all about the characters and will totally root for them - its those character that will make me pick up the next book in the series--or not.

I'm curious (and haven't read all the comments, so if this has been asked, sorry *g*) how do you plot out such a long-arcing series? Do you have all of the books individually plotted ahead or do you simply know the character's overall story and use each book to move that story forward?

(btw, I'm rooting for Jack *g*)

Christine Wells said...

Thanks, Nancy for saying that about The Dangerous Duke.

Great question, Tawny. If I remember correctly, Stephanie, you're a plotter and you mentioned you had six books in mind, so before you were asked to do the 3 books back to back, did you have all six books mapped out? If yes, did anything have to change in the later books after you'd written the extra ones?

Suzanne Welsh said...

Welcome to the Lair, Stephanie! The Body Movers is a great series and I'm looking forward to picking up the three books that are out right now and in June!

I'm not one of those readers who lets characters drive me crazy, (unless of course they're the ones in my WIPs!) But sometimes a series of books or characters do linger with me after I've finished reading them. Often it's because I feel like I know them so well, and I want more of their story or world to continue. Jo Davis' firefighters series is one of those for me, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon's darkhunters, JR Ward's black dagger brotherhood, and Suzanne Brockmann's Trouble shooter teams.

PJ said...

Hi Stephanie! (waving)

Great to have you here in the lair. I love your Body Movers series and am looking forward to picking up books 4,5, & 6.

I do become invested in the characters of a well-written series and I love when I can catch up with their lives in subsequent books. I'm usually haunting the aisles of my local store on release day when another book in a favorite series comes out.

Stephanie, your workshop at M&M was terrific, the best one I attended. Will you be in DC this summer and, if so, will you be leading any workshops there?

Looking forward to seeing you again, if not in DC then at M&M in the fall.

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I think I told you, Wolfram still gets fan mail! I'm thinking I should write a story where every hero and heroine come back and they all get to pick a Wolfram puppy! ;-)

Nancy, I have a theory that readers have been trained into expecting a series of books even if a series isn't intended. And I had so much mail about Verity and Kylemore's fate from CTC that when the opportunity arose to catch up with them in Tempt the Devil, another story about a courtesan, I took it. Actually it was fun finding out what had happened - and people really wanted to know if Verity had a baby. Honestly, it was such a buzz to know that those characters took on a life of their own in readers' minds. I was happy to offer an update. I hope to do the same with the other characters in the books but it really depends on the story. It needs to feel natural.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Stephanie, how cool! You remember me. People still talk about your brilliant oven timer advice, you know? Wasn't that a great conference? We've got Mary Jo Putney this year - we do get the best guests! And thanks for those kind words about the writing!

A half marathon? Wow, you're superwoman!

Nancy said...

Hi, Tawny--I agree that the characters make or break a series. If I can't root for the characters and care about them, I may or may not pick up subsequent books.

I loved the way Coming on Strong and Going Down Hard had overlapping characters.

Nancy said...

Tawny, your interest in Jack wouldn't tie into your interest in Capt. Jack, would it? *g* 'Cause I'm on Jack's team, too, and I'm not as into Capt. Jack as you are.

Nancy said...

Hey, Suz--I notice that the series you cite all have ensembles. The lead characters in each book have comrades and friends. To tie into Kate's foxhole post from yesterday, they have company in their foxholes. I like that. When a character has loyal, decent friends, it helps me see that character as good.

Minna said...

no matter who Carlotta chooses in the end, a lot of my readers are going to think she should've chosen another guy.

Stephanie, this made me remember an Uncle Scrooge comic I once read. After reading a few pages you got to choose how the story would continue, I think there were 3-4 choises each time the story was about to take a new turn and in the end you got to choose, who would win: Uncle Scrooge or one of his enemies.

Nik Kershaw - The Riddle
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQYvGUL1OLA&feature=related

Kristiina Wheeler - Sunny Day
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ9dz9Cge1k

Nancy said...

Hi, PJ--glad you're going to be in DC. It'll be nice to see you without waiting for M&M.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Nancy said: When a character has loyal, decent friends, it helps me see that character as good...

And that also makes me want to read about their friends!

Nancy said...

Anna, I think you may be right about readers being trained to expect series. The form is so popular now, especially in mystery and SFF, that readers are acclimated to it.

I'm old enough to remember when series were the exception, not the rule. *sigh*

Nancy said...

BTW, Anna, I heard that kitchen timer workshop at M&M a couple of years back and found it very useful. It's especially helpful when I've been away from a ms. for a while and am having trouble getting back in the groove.

Nancy said...

Minna, I used to read Uncle Scrooge comics. I remember them fondly! And some of them are worth serious money now.

Alas that I no longer own any . . .

Tawny said...

Tawny, your interest in Jack wouldn't tie into your interest in Capt. Jack, would it? *g* 'Cause I'm on Jack's team, too, and I'm not as into Capt. Jack as you are. LOL - not quite, but I like the theory. I just don't picture Jack the cop as a gold-toothed pirate, though.

Nancy said...

Suz wrote: And that also makes me want to read about their friends!

That, too! *g*

Nancy said...

Tawny, I can't quite see Carlotta's Jack with gold teeth, either.

Or visualize him prancing across the deck. *g*

Minna said...

Minna, I used to read Uncle Scrooge comics. I remember them fondly! And some of them are worth serious money now.

Hey, they still make them. There's even a Finnish writer/drawer now. Disney Comics just seem to be more popular in Europe. And there's one relatively new Scrooge comic I've tried to find, A Quest for Kalevala by Don Rosa. Guess why I want one -or more...

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Nancy said: You are a naughty person, Duchesse! *g*

I know. I am. :>

Nancy also said: To tie into Kate's foxhole post from yesterday, they have company in their foxholes. I like that. When a character has loyal, decent friends, it helps me see that character as good.


This is so true. And Stephanie, I think you play on that in the Body Movers series so well.

And Nancy, I agree w/ you about Tawny's book. I stand in awe of her abilities. *bowing in Tawny's direction*

Tawny said...

And Nancy, I agree w/ you about Tawny's book. I stand in awe of her abilities. *bowing in Tawny's direction* ...

awwww, now I'm blushing :-) thanks ladies.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Stephanie, a hearty welcome to the Lair. Your BODY MOVERS mystery series sounds delightful. I think it's hilarious when readers get so involved with the characters that they're no longer "make-believe," but living, breathing entities. Means you've done your job well.

Nancy said...

Minna, I think it's cool Disney is adapting to its particular markets.

Nancy said...

Jeanne, I agree that the Body Movers books also use the ensemble cast well.

Nancy said...

Hi, Jo--for some reason, your comment about readers getting involved evoked the GR, the gladiators, and the cabana boys for me.

We all treat them as though they're real, but they're not.

I think. *g*

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

*shocked silence* Bite your tongue Nancy. Of COURSE they're real. :>

There's a cabana boy pouring Stephanie a drink right now. :> Cheers, Stephanie!

Nancy said...

Jeanne wrote: Bite your tongue Nancy. Of COURSE they're real. :>

Oops. My bad. Whatever was I thinking? Sorry, guys.

Treethyme said...

**gasp!** If the cabana boys aren't real, who was that giving me a massage earlier today??

Treethyme said...

I was just looking through a list of Stephanie's older titles, and I've read several of them - a long time ago! I also read her Christmas book (with Linda Howard) that came out last Christmas, but there are a few titles I've missed. The TBR pile continues to grow!

Joan said...

*shocked silence* Bite your tongue Nancy. Of COURSE they're real. :> ....

Not real? Well, I can see where you might have gotten confused from the other day when Lucien was massaging my shoulders and I murmured "This can't be real..."
and then BLEEEEEEEPPPPP

*blush*

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Joan said: Lucien was massaging my shoulders and I murmured "This can't be real..." and then BLEEEEEEEPPPPP *blush*

Joanie, you're so naughty!

Helen said...

Anna

I love that idea that everyone gets one of Wolfram's pups I would like one as well I am sure he would fit in nicely with my 3 dogs LOL.

I am one reader who loves to catch up with characters from other books the author has written and I love epilogues and seeing a bit into the future of the hero and heroine.

Have Fun
Helen

Helen said...

And of course the Cabana Boys are real they do give really good massages and make awesome cocktails and of course Sven is really good at the massages too

Have Fun
Helen

Nancy said...

Treethyme, ain't the truth about the TBR pile? Just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now that school's out, maybe I can start reading faster than I'm buying. :-)

Nancy said...

Joan wrote: and I murmured "This can't be real..." and then BLEEEEEEEPPPPP

See, it's Joan's fault! *g*

Gotta run out for a meeting. Back later.

Louisa Cornell said...

Late to the party, but I am a HUGE Stephanie Bond fan. Big fan girl SQUEEEE here! I have been a fan since I first picked up IN DEEP VOODOO ! Anyone who hasn't read this book needs to snatch up a copy ASAP!

And the Body Movers series is a real gem. So much fun and so very sexy!

One thing I love about talking to writers is that they understand completely when you say "You won't BELIEVE what my heroine said last night!"

My characters talk to me, harass me, and surprise me on a daily basis. I had one who ended up being a murderer and I didn't know it until she actually did it.

See that kind of talk gets you a fitted tuxedo that fastens in the back in the real world. Here in the writers' world everyone understands.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Stephanie! I'm a huge fan of both your books and workshops *g*

I've read a few books where the characters made me crazy but nothing as drastic as my wishing a character would end up dead :-)

The heroine in the book I'm writing now is a bit manipulative but I'm hoping her motivation is strong enough for readers to get past her sneaky ways *g*

Do you have any time management tips you can share with us? I'm always on the look out for ways to make the most of my time :-)

Gannon Carr said...

Hey, Stephanie! Love the Body Movers series, and I'm definitely on Jack's side. ;)

It's definitely the mark of a good writer when people get annoyed and worked up over a character. I feel that way when I'm reading and often about TV characters. I love when actors who play "baddies" talk about people coming up to them on the street and letting them have it, like they are actually the character they play. :)

I hope to see you at RWA in July.

Congrats, Jane!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Louisa said: One thing I love about talking to writers is that they understand completely when you say "You won't BELIEVE what my heroine said last night!"

Heehee. Yeah, that is a fabulous thing about talking to other writers! :> Had to Snork out loud about the tuxedo fastening in the back too. Ha!

chey said...

Hi!
The thing that characters do that drives me nuts is when someone whose house /workplace/car/school has been broken into and they have been attacked, and still s/he won't go to a safe place. S/he ends up endangering themselves and others, and diluting the workforce because someone has to protect the idiot.

Nancy said...

Louisa, isn't it weird how characters just up and do things? Sometimes it's fun, and sometimes it's a pain. And yeah, being in the company of writers means you can admit it and not be thought loony. :-)

Nancy said...

Beth, now I'm really intrigued by this heroine you're writing. I thought the characters in A Not So Perfect Past were spot-on in their reactions to their past difficulties and the people they'd become as a result.

Nancy said...

Hi, Gannon--At convention panels of TV actors, people in the audience frequently frame questions as "and then you did this. Why didn't you do that instead?"

Uh, because the script controlled the choices?

Nancy said...

Chey, I'm with you on the TSTL. Characters shouldn't do things that would, in real life, probably get them killed. Unless there's a really, truly compelling motive, as there often is not.

A corollary, which I'm taking from a friend of mine: The hero should not do things that, were he not the hero, would land him in jail.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Nancy said: A corollary, which I'm taking from a friend of mine: The hero should not do things that, were he not the hero, would land him in jail.

Amen, sister, amen! :> Or if he does, there better be one almighty plausible reason for him NOT going to jail and I do mean PLAUSIBLE!

Did you see National Treasure? "Well, now, you see Dr. Gates, somebody has to go to jail."

Grins.

donnas said...

Sometimes the characters do drive me insane. And sometimes I get embarrassed by what happens to them. But I think thats what makes you like the characters and story more. They are believable.

I havent read any of this series yet but they sound great.

Pat Cochran said...

I guess I wonder why a reader would
continue reading a book that causes
one distress in some fashion. I did
stop reading a book and just put it aside back in the day. It was just not for me and I realized that early in the book. I remember the name of the book and I just might see if I can find it in the library. This time I will finish it. After all, I am a grown-up grandmother now. I can do it!

Pat Cochran