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.