Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Susan Mallery is in the Lair!!!

By Kate Carlisle

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery to the Lair today!

Not only is Susan the amazing, beloved author of over one hundred wonderful romances (most of which can be found on my keeper shelf), she’s also a dear friend and the smartest, funniest person I know.

Today Susan is going to share with the Banditas one of her most closely held secrets. She's a reality show fanatic! But don't worry, it's all for her art. No, really, it is. But I'd better let her tell you all about it.

Without further ado, here's Susan!

I have watched every episode of every season of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette at least once. My finger’s dialing 1-888 as soon as the credits begin to roll on American Idol. Project Runway even inspired my February release, Sunset Bay.

I tell my husband that watching these shows is work. “It’s research, honey! I have to understand the human mind and emotions. This is what I do.”

I doubt very much that he’ll read this blog, so I’ll tell you the truth: I watch reality shows because I love them. LOVE them. Can’t get enough of them. If I could watch my neighbors 24 hours a day without getting caught, I’d probably do that, too. At heart I’m a voyeur. I’m fascinated by how real people behave when they’re under constant surveillance. I wonder how I would react. Would I climb into a hot tub and kiss a man – on the lips – even though I was relatively certain that he had kissed another woman the night before in the same hot tub and would probably do so again with a third women the following night?

So you can understand my excitement when I heard about Oxygen’s new show, Pretty Wicked. The promos said that ten beautiful women who used their looks to skate through life would be forced to rely on their inner beauty, instead. The producers would give the women a “make-under” to frumpify them and then send them out into the world. In another episode, the women would be challenged to make a good first impression on a group of blind men. It sounded fabulous! Pretty Wicked promised to fulfill both my need to watch how caged humans behave, and my love of talking about bitchy women behind their backs. What could be better?


I cannot get into this show! It has missed the mark with me. Turns out, I haven’t been completely lying to my husband, after all, because understanding the “why” behind my disinterest has led to new understanding about my writing.

Pretty Wicked underscores for me the importance of starting a book with empathetic characters. They don’t have to be perfect, by any means. (In fact, how boring if they were!) But they need to be people whom the readers want to stick with through the course of the book. The premise of Pretty Wicked, it turns out, is fundamentally flawed. Although it made me giggle and got me to tune in for the first episode, that was the extent of its value. In order to make that premise work, the producers were forced to begin by showing the worst side of all of the contestants so that viewers would be able to see how much they’d changed and grown by the end of the season. This made the women all seem very shallow, unappealing, and one-dimensional.

I am much more interested in people who are accomplished in their own way. The Titan women of my new series, Lone Star Sisters, each have something they excel at. They don’t rely on their beauty or their rich father to get ahead in the world. They’re strong, independent, ambitious, and talented. It’s not enough for the heroines to just possess these traits. I have to show it, and I have to show it fast so the reader will want to stick with that character for 400 pages.

Under Her Skin, the first of the Lone Star Sisters books, starts with Lexi Titan meeting with her banker, who tells her that she has just three weeks to come up with two million dollars to save her business. Most readers can relate to money pressures, which creates instant empathy. Lexi’s emotional reaction – frustration, embarrassment, but still with a splash of self-deprecating humor – makes the reader feel that she’s a good friend going through a rough spot. I hope this means the reader will lean back, put up her feet, and settle in for a fun read.

Lexi’s sisters, Skye and Izzy, will get their chance with my June and July releases, Lip Service and Straight from the Hip. In November, their best friend Dana will round out the series with Hot on Her Heels.

Take another look at a book you’ve recently read and enjoyed. Did you like the main characters immediately? Why? How did the author make you empathize with the characters in the first scene? I’d love for you to share examples with us here so we can get a fun discussion going.

Susan is giving away one autographed copy of Under Her Skin, the first book in her new Lone Star Sisters series, to one lucky reader!


limecello said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for visiting with us today! I love your books - and really enjoyed this post. I have mixed feelings about reality tv, and reading your post made me think "what if they had a behind the scenes of reality tv?" Or more, what if the scenes that were edited out were aired?
As for characters - I recently read a fantastic romances that focused entirely on the hero and heroine, and their romance. Yes it had a good plot etc, but the reason I read romances are the characters, and how the relationship develops.
I think what also helped was the two characters were admirable, but definitely human. (And without the TSTL moments, thankfully.) Both got angry or annoyed, but were fantastic and very likable.

PinkPeony said...

Hi Kate! Welcome Susan!
I love Project Runway and Top Chef. I go into withdrawal after the final episodes air. I empathize with most of the SEP's heroines, Phoebe Sommerville from "It Had to Be You"...the most recent read with a great heroine that captured my interest would be Jacobin from Miranda Neville's "Never Resist Temptation"...she was a pastry chef so maybe that had something to do with it!

Helen said...

Limecello he is staying home today again have fun

Great post Ladies I really love books in a series.

I don't watch much TV at all I read but there is one show that I never miss and that is Australian Idol I love it and always vote.

A book that I recently read and loved the hero and heroine straight away was Tawny's Going Down Hard I had met Sierra and Reece in Coming On Strong and really liked them in that book and then from the start I felt for Sierra because of what she was going thru and trying to do it on her own but of course Reece the wonderful hero he is stepped in and was just great (I don't want to give any spoilers).
I do love a book where I feel for the hero and heroine straight from the start.

I am looking forward to the release of your new series Susan and thank you Kate for inviting Susan along today.

Have Fun

Maureen said...

Hi Susan,
I do enjoy reality shows too but I do have to have some people I'm cheering for to win or I don't care what happens. I just read Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas and the opening scene has Emma, the heroine, getting a phone call from her mother telling her that her sister had a baby, left it with mom and that mom doesn't want the baby and Emma had better come get him. I did feel sympathy for Emma immediately because it only takes one scene to realize that Emmma's mother is a piece of work and a tough person to deal with.

Laurie G said...

As I go about my everyday life most of the people I see are average. (I work in agrocery store)The few standout "Beautiful" people are rare. But, rudeness comes from both the attractive and unattractive people.
Beautiful doesn't have to be synonimous(sp) with arrogance, conceit.

Your Titan series sounds delightful.

Books I just finished Janet Evanovich's Metro Girl and Motor Mouth had heroine, Barney(Alexandra Barnaby ) a mechanic! She was unique, funny, loyal, human. I loved her spontaneity!
I also just finished Julie Garwood's Shadow Dance. Jordan was also loyal, intelligent( a computer expert), independent.
I think the quality that I liked the most was that:
Both heroines had an inner beauty and seemed unaware of their attractiveness to the opposite sex. Basically, they were nice people!!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Hi Susan, can't wait for your new books to hit the shelves.

I am currently reading Mary Balogh's At Last Comes Love, the third in a series. I had already "met" the heroine in the first two books but liked her immediately, she raised her siblings on the death of her parents sacrificing much in the process. The hero, well, no, I didn't like him in the beginning but then I don't think MB planned on him being a favorite to start with. Another main character (the villian)gets you ticked off on the heroine's behalf to start the empathy going.
Very hard to discuss without throwing spoilers left and right isn't it?

pjpuppymom said...

Hi Susan! Welcome to the lair!

Love your books and have read just about everything you've published. I'm looking forward to the new series.:) I also share your love of reality TV - American Idol (love Adam), Survivor, Amazing Race, Dancing With the Stars (Go Melissa!), So You Think You Can Dance, Bachelor, Bachelorette, etc., etc. I love the human aspect of reality shows just as it's the human aspect of romance fiction that draws me into a story. Give me a show or a book without someone I can root for and I quickly lose interest.

Off to work. Have fun today!

Gillian Layne said...

I stuck out my hand on my (very) messy desk and the first book it landed on was Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey. It's one of my favorite's so no surprise it's within reach.

I loved Bobbie Faye immediately because: Everything in her life is going wrong at once--and we've all been there--and she doesn't cry or complain about it, she just keeps working through it while making me laugh. It's perfect.

Congratulations on your new series, Susan.

Caren Crane said...

Susan, so glad to have you with us! I have a secret penchant for reality shows, too. I can never quite figure out why people think it's a good idea to go on TV and let everyone witness their bad behavior.

I think it must boil down to what we all know in our hearts: we are each the hero/heroine of our own story. Each of those beautiful girls must believe that a fluke of genetics makes her genuinely more worthy of the world's attention - and of being taken care of - than the rest of us.

As to the instant empathy, I think you're dead on. Even the most wretched character has to be shown to have some redeeming qualities. I recall when my son was very young and Disney's Aladdin came out. At the beginning, we know straight off Jafar is searching for a "diamond in the rough", so we assume Aladdin will be one. The first time we see him, though, he is stealing bread in the marketplace. He is also completely unrepentent about it and he is mocking authority figures.

Now, as the mother of a very young child, I was the slightest bit concerned; however, before my fears could begin to blossom, we are assured the ONLY reason he would do such a thing is because: a) he's an orphan; and, b) he's starving. Just to top it all off, he eventually evades capture and gives the bread he almost died to get to a pair of starving young children who are foraging in the garbage heap for food. We see that not only is he good at heart, but he probably was in the same place as those children when he was younger.

This is Disney, so things are writ large, but I think we have to do the same thing with our characters. If we don't win them some sympathy right up front (no matter how tragically flawed they are), readers will not care what becomes of them.

Great topic!

Kirsten said...

Hi Susan! I love your books and I am so happy to have you here in the Lair! :-) You do write fantastic heroines (bless you!). I cannot get through a book that's entirely focused on a bossy alpha hero, with a wussy heroine as a foil for him.

Caren's comment got me thinking about the amazing Blake Synder and "Save the Cat." Anyone else remember his lecture (and if you're me, the book) from RWA? You build sympathy from the start by including exactly the sort of scene Caren describes. One where the hero/heroine climbs up a tree to save a cat, or whatever. Just to show us how loveable they are. Then you can have them do all sorts of horrible things, but they are forgiven, because you know deep down they are good.

Thanks again for visiting -- I will make sure to add this series to my TBR pile!

Kate Carlisle said...

Good morning! limecello, you did it again!

Interesting idea about a "behind the scenes" view of reality tv. I'd probably get hooked on that, too, if they visited my fave shows. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL PinkPeony! I'd probably find a pastry chef story irresistible, too, although I haven't read Miranda Neville's yet. And I love SEP's heroines! Phoebe from "It Had To Be You" is one of my all-time favorites, too. And I thought the way she wrote Sugar Beth from "Ain't She Sweet" was simply brilliant.

Project Runway withdrawals. I can so relate! I'm gearing up to go into withdrawals over American Idol, but very happy to see that 'So You Think You Can Dance' will be back again. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi, Helen! I love our American Idol and I vote too, so I'm right there with you!

I haven't read Tawny's new duo yet (they just arrived from Amazon this week!) but I adored her "Risque Business" and identified with the heroine from the very first page.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Maureen, that opening scene of Lisa Kleypas' book sounds like a real grabber. I haven't read it yet but it sounds like she created the perfect situation for readers to empathize with the heroine.

With reality shows, it sometimes takes me a few weeks to start identifying with the contestants. This season on American Idol. I didn't start voting until this week, where they're down to the final four.

Nancy said...

Susan, welcome to the lair! Didn't you do an RWA program called "Writing More, Writing Better?" Or do I have you confused with someone else? I did find it very helpful.

I have become a reality show watcher, at least for Project Runway and Top Chef. I used to sew, though not very creatively, and I don't cook, so I suspect compensation issues. Based just on my reactions, I think you're right that the character has to have empathy, or we don't care enough to stick with him or her. My reactions to some of the designers and chefs are based purely on whether they seem to be jerks, which I know is a function in part of editing.

Your series sounds great! Thanks for having her, Kate.

Susan Mallery said...

Morning everyone! You're up early. Congrats limecello. I've heard about the GR and that you are the winner of the day! Congrats!

Nancy said...

Kate, Project Runway is moving to Lifetime. This week, Bravo is launching its replacement, The Fashion Show. It'll be on immediately after the matchmaker show, which certain inhabitants* of the lair got me to start watching even though I'm not keen on the matchmaker and some of the millionaires strike me as totally unappealing--which I guess makes her job a challenge. But I do occasionally watch it.

*And no, I don't mean Demetrius or Sven.

Susan Sey said...

Hi, Susan! thanks for swinging by the lair today. Your comments on Pretty Wicked really hit home with me today as I struggle with the same thing at the beginning of every book. How to make it plain that this person needs to grow & change without making him/her unsympathetic? It's a difficult balance, & I struggle with it every single time. How do you manage it? Because your heroines really are wonderful.

I'm really looking forward to meeting Lexi & her sisters!

Kate Carlisle said...

Morning, Susan!! Yes, the GR is quite the catch! *g*

Hey Nancy, that workshop you mentioned is Susan's! Wasn't it fabulous? I still have the notes and the calendar from the first time she gave it, and I try hard to keep to that schedule. It really works!

jcp said...

I must connect with the characters in some way to read more than just one chapter.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Laurie, I have Metro Girl but haven't read it yet. It's on my TBR pile, and since you've piqued my interest, I'll be moving it to the top!

I work in an office and I can relate to what you said about rudeness and arrogance. It takes all kinds. :-)

Susan Mallery said...

Wow! I thought I was getting an early start, but y'all put me to shame. (I was just on book tour in Texas to promote the Lone Star Sisters, and it takes a little while for the "y'all" to fade away.) Thank you so much for the friendly welcome!

And now onto a few more comments...

PinkPeony - I love writing books with chefs, bakers, and chocolatiers. I spend as long as humanly possible in theh researc stage. So much chocolate, so little time.

Helen - I wish we could see Australian Idol and Idols from other countries on American TV. There are so many talented people in the world. Do you all get American Idol Down Under? The closest we came to seeing Australian Idol was when Michael Johns was a contestant on our show last year. Talk about adorable! You make some good men in Australia.

You said, "I do love a book where I feel for the hero and heroine straight from the start." Me, too! I'm a pretty easy mark emotionally. Advertisers can get me teary-eyed in a 30-second spot. Books need to hook me within the first couple of pages. Engage my brain, and my heart will follow.

Maureen - Emma's mother does sound like a piece of work. Her sister, too. So within a couple of pages, the reader knows that Emma has had a rough life in terms of her family, and - since of of course she'll rush over to save her baby nephew - that she has a big heart. Just your brief description shows a premise and a character that I'd be happy to live with for 500 pages or so.

Laurie - You're absolutely right! Beauty doesn't inevitably lead to arrogance. I know lots of beautiful people who are also nice (and talented and funny and intelligent. Hardly seems fair, but you can't hate them because their inner niceness makes you feel so darn warm and happy!)

You said, "Basically [the heroines] were nice people!" And we all like to hang out with nice people. That whole "warm and happy" thing again.

Dianna – You said, “can’t wait for your new books to hit the shelves.” Thanks! Under Her Skin is out now, and it’s doing great! I thank the cover gods for that. I just love the covers of the four Lone Star Sisters books. They have that fun, flirty feel, and the bright colors really add to the “beach reading” feel.

You’re right, it is hard to talk in depth about books without spoilers. But maybe this discussion will be all right because the only thing we’re “spoiling” is the first chapter, by talking about emotional hooks that will lead to readers running out to grab the books.

PJ – Adam on American Idol is sooooo talented! He hits notes that no human should sing. And he sounds good while doing it! If I tried that, I would A) sound like a banshee; and B) require immediate throat surgery.

Gillian – A character who can laugh while under stress has my immediate empathy. I want to be around people who approach life with humor. Very Bad Day is also just a Very Good Title. It sounds like the title of a children’s book, so I immediately giggle.

Caren – Hi! Thanks for the welcome. Good to see you here, too! I love your insight into Aladdin. That opening sequence allowed us to see that Aladdin was a starving orphan (instant empathy), and that he was clever and resourceful and, ultimately, noble.

Kirsten – Save the Cat! Yes! It’s such a simple concept but very effective. It’s not enough for me, as the author, to know that the character’s redeeming qualities. I need to show those qualities through the character’s actions and dialogue. I need to put the reader at ease right away, to let her know that this character is a person she will want to inhabit through the course of the book.

Kate – Good morning! You said, “With reality shows, it sometimes takes me a few weeks to start identifying with the contestants.” Sometimes I identify with one of them early on, and then as the weeks go on and that contestant reveals more of herself, I’m disappointed because she wasn’t the woman I thought she was. I feel more invested in the personality I made up than in her real personality. (I used “her” because I find the whole “him or her”/”he or she” thing tedious.)

This is great! I'm so glad you all invited me to stop in for a visit. I'll check in again in a little while.

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Dianna, no spoilers! But Mary Balogh's heroine sounds wonderful and likeable. And I've noticed in some series that the hero for a later book will be introduced early on as a true cad. I like watching the author turn him inside out and wring him all around until he emerges a true hero. :-)

Susan Mallery said...

But before I go away, I see we already have a few more replies...

Nancy - Yes, I do a workshop on how to write more. I'm glad you found it helpful.

I'll be watching both Project Runway and the Fashion Show. More of a good thing, I hope!

I know what you mean about some of the millionaires on Millionaire Matchmaker being unappealing. I also wonder about the women on that show, who go to a cattle call in hopes of attracting a man with money. Some of the women win me over, though.

Susan - It is a difficult balance, and I struggle with it frequently, too. By the time I start writing the book, I already know the whole story, so I know that the characters are wonderful people. I have to keep reminding myself that the reader is just meeting them. First impressions stick - in life and in fiction.

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi PJ! I love Adam too!! What an incredible voice he's got. Probably the most amazing voice in all the seasons of the show -- and a completely unique personality. Plus he's so gracious, always thanking the judges. He's got a great smile, too.

Gee, can you guess I'm voting for him? :-)

Susan Mallery said...

Kate - Adam's great, isn't he? He thanks the judges, listens intently to their constructive criticism, and he always takes the time to thank the band, too. It always looks like the band and the backup singers are having a ball with him!

Did you notice last night when Slash told him not to improvise quite so much in the higher register? Then when Adam came out, he really did limit his time up there in the rafters. He takes direction very well.

Susan Mallery said...

Romance Bandits is addictive. Must... go... write...

Anna Sugden said...

Yay! Susan Mallery is in the Lair! Thanks for enticing her to join us, Kate.

So excited that your new series is here, Susan. Hopefully the Amazon pigeon won't take too long to struggle his way across the Atlantic.

I love the shows where there is real talent competing to be the best at their craft - like Top Chef, Project Runway and Step it Up and Dance. But, I hate all the bitching that goes on.

I even had a ms that was based around reality TV (Gay by Day) that did really well on the contst circuit for a while. It was based on a hero who had to go undercover on a Queer Eye show to find out who the fake gay was *g*. Sadly, it missed the boat when they took Queer Eye off air.

One of my favourite books is your "Falling for Gracie" - Gracie is such a wonderful character who is caught up in a situation we can all empathise with. I also thought the three sisters in your Sweet series were really cleverly crafted. I don't know that I liked them all to start with, but I certainly was intrigued by them and was fascinated by how you untangled their issues and pasts to give them resolution.

Lisa Gardner's Kimberly Quincy is another favourite character who intrigued me and now I adore her.

There is one book I just read though, by a fave author, whose characters really didn't appeal to me from the beginning and even though I stuck with the book, I found it hard to like them or even empathise with them - I think because they'd become caricatures rather than characters.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Susan, welcome to the Lair! What a great article and I love that you're a reality show addict.

That seems to be the trickiest part about introducing characters -- finding the balance between likeable and flawed.

In the first manuscript I started (which will remain forever buried in my computer files) I wanted a damaged, but not broken heroine. Instead, I realized, I'd made her weak and unable to overcome what'd happened to her.

Your Titan series sounds great. BTW, love the surname!

~Drew said...

Hi Susan!

Can't say I am a fan of reality TV, but you make a good point about 'research' LOL!

One quick question, any chance you will be doing anymore historical romances? I loved your westerns! (Justin's Bride comes to mind, I know, that was a while back...LOL!)

Just got a box FULL of used romance novels, so I have been burning through them like a match to tinder.
Since my romance reading is tilted toward historical, I am reading a book from that box called 'Rides a Hero' by Heather Graham. I love that it pulls you right in, taking place at the end of the Civil War, she was for the North, he fought for the South, you get the picture.
Though they snipe and bark at each other, the attraction was there.
You immediately felt drawn to the characters. Especially the hero, as you read of his hardships through the war.
Nothing like a tortured, rugged hero who needs the love of a good woman to forget his past travails! That's what makes me empathize with characters!

I love the concept and plot for your new set of books, I will certainly look for them next I am out! Cheers~

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Gillian, Toni's book is another one in my TBR pile I'll have to move closer to the top. It sounds wonderful! I love a heroine I can empathize with while laughing at the same time. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Caren, for some cockeyed reason, part of the appeal of some reality shows is that question I ask myself as I'm watching -- "What were they thinking???" LOL. What were these girls thinking, going on national television and desperately throwing themselves at some guy? Is it all for show? I don't think so.

And I can't look away while it's happening! I'm really the best audience, in the worst way. LOL

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey Kirsten, I have the book "Save the Cat," too. I know there's more to it, but I love that those three words basically encapsulate the whole concept of establishing empathy in your main characters. Pretty smart!

Kate Carlisle said...

Nancy, it is interesting that many of our perceptions of the reality show characters have to do with the editing of the show. That becomes really clear on a show like the Bachelor, where we'll see some woman behaving very badly all the way through, yet the guy is crazy about her. (What that says about the guy, I don't want to get into! LOL) But then, as they get closer to the end of the series, they'll start to show that the girl really is nicer or smarter than the producers were willing to reveal in the beginning. It's all very manipulative, yet I'm not about to stop watching!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey Smoov, Susan's heroine's are some of my favorites of all time! She really is great at creating the empathy we're talking about.

One of my favorites of Susan's heroines is the first Bakery Sister, Claire, a piano prodigy who's been all over the world but never came home to visit her own family. She should've been completely unlikable but I loved her vulnerability from the very first page.

Unknown said...

Hi Susan,
Welcome to the lair. I am not big into reality tv but I do watch American Idol every week and want miss it. I do love this show.

I read a little of everything and your books sound great, so I am putting you on my wish list.

Jennifer said...

Hi Susan, I'm having one of those runs where the last couple books I picked up, I just couldn't get into. So your post got me to thinking--it's exactly as you said, I just don't feel the protagonist. She's not pulling me in, and I just don't want to hang out with her in her world for 3 or 4 hundred pages.

Which reminds me, I have to go to the bookstore!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi jcp, thanks for visiting today!

Hey Susan, I so agree about Aussie Michael Johns! So cute!

And wow, I hadn't even heard of Millionaire Matchmaker. You really are a fanatic reality watcher! LOL

Kate Carlisle said...

Susan, speaking of Adam...yes, I noticed he stayed away from some of the high ranges after Slash made that suggestion. He's such a sweet guy, I hope he wins.

Okay, okay, I have to do some work, too! But I really have to go read the EW review of last night's American Idol first...heh heh...

Julia Phillips Smith said...

The last book I read was 'March' by Geraldine Brooks - a through-another-POV book about the 'Little Women' father's untold story. I definitely related to him, as he is incredibly idealistic and massively stubborn. Just like me!

Susan Mallery said...

Time for my Romance Bandits fix...

Anna - Gay by Day sounds like a hoot. I'm glad you enjoyed Falling for Gracie. Gracie is a character who has stuck with me. Imagine having a whole town witness your Most Embarrassing Moment, and then turn it into a town legend over the years!

Jo - You said, "BTW, love the surname!" Thanks! The Titans of Texas has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It feels larger than life, which I thought would be perfect for a series set in Texas.

Drew - I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for historicals. When my editor asked me to write a historical prequel for the Lone Star Sisters, I jumped at the chance! It's an ebook called Wild Hearts, and you can buy it at or at I had so much fun writing that story! Alethea is a schoolmarm from back east who gets all the women of Titanville riled up with her talk of women's rights. The men in town beg Zeke Titan to seduce her so the women will get off their backs.

I'm getting dizzy from all this scrolling up and down. I'm thrilled with all the clients! Thank you all so much for making me feel so welcome. I'll be back in a moment with more.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Susan - Welcome to the Lair!

I spend most of my time in my back office these days. The TV back there only gets three stations (NBC, CBS & FOX)so about the only reality show I get to see is American Idol - and I'm hooked. Glad to hear "you think you can dance" is coming back.

I'm a strong believer in rooting interests in hero/heroines and like to watch the opening minutes of movies to see how they work them in (i.e. Caren's description of Aladdin). However, with a husband that has a quick finger on the remote control, I think I come into most movies about 10 - 15 minutes in and miss some of that initial character stuff. It really makes a difference in identifying to the character.

Guess that's one reason I look going to the big screen. That way I know I'm going to see the movie in the proper order *g* - I'm looking forward to the new Star Trek this weekend.

Susan Mallery said...

Back again!

Kate - You said, "One of my favorites of Susan's heroines is the first Bakery Sister, Claire, a piano prodigy who's been all over the world but never came home to visit her own family. She should've been completely unlikable but I loved her vulnerability from the very first page."

Thanks! I really felt for poor little Claire. All she really wanted was to be with her family, but she had such enormous responsibilities put on her shoulders from a very young age that she didn't feel she could break away. In essence, her talent turned her into an orphan.

Virginia - I try never to miss American Idol, either. Who do you think will be off the show this week?

Jennifer - Good luck on your trip to the bookstore! I hope you find some characters you want to hang out with for a while. There's nothing better than curling up with a good book for several hours.

Julia - LOL on the "massively stubborn."

Back to work. I'll check in again soon. (Probably sooner than I should. This is just too much fun!)

Pat Cochran said...

Project Runway, Top Chef, Chopped,
Dancing with the Stars - all are
favorites for me!

Recently read a book where the author describes a group of quiet Marines beginning a trip home on
the first page. Military theme
gets me every time, but quiet
Marines! I had to find out what
caused this and how it would be

Maureen Child said...

Reality TV........sigh. BIG sigh... they're doing away with writers! LOL...we should sooo not support this! =)

Susan, headed off today to pick up your latest! I never miss 'em, my friend!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Anna! Isn't it great to have Susan in the Lair? I agree with you about Falling for Gracie. I think that opening scene is a classic! :-)

Jo, I like what you said about finding the right balance between likeable and flawed, vulnerable vs. weak. That's the challenge, isn't it? If it makes you feel any better, I've got several of those too flawed characters who'll never see the light of day, also. :-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Drew, I meant to put the link to the download for Susan's western prequel to the Titan sisters series. I'm glad Susan put it here for all to see! :-)

How fun to get a whole box of romances!

Susan Mallery said...

Lunch break and time for more time with the Banditas!

Donna - LOL on the hubby with the quick finger on the remote control. Men are wonderful but can be maddening. The constant search for "something better" on TV. Have fun at the new Star Trek movie!

Pat - That does sound like an emotional grabber. Immediately you know that something horrible happened, and your heart goes out to these strong, brave men.

Maureen - Good to see you here! You know they've got creative people behind the scenes egging on the contestants, deciding which scenes to keep and which to cut... Those people are writers at heart even if they don't actually take the time to put pen to paper. Still, I'd much rather be at home in my office than with some of the people on the reality shows. They're fun to watch, but I'd rather watch from the distance. Thanks for picking up my book. You know I order yours as soon as they're available, too. Always a great read!

See y'all again soon! (There's that "y'all" again!)

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Virginia! I wasn't sure American Idol would be as good this year as it turned out to be. I'm hooked on it, too. :-)

Hi Jen!! Good to see you! I'm always so disappointed when I can't relate to the characters in a new book, so I'm feeling your pain. :-) But lucky you, off to the bookstore!

Barbara Monajem said...

I don't watch reality TV -- I don't watch much TV at all, actually. I work on my computer in the next room and shoot annoying questions at my husband and daughter when something interesting seems to be happening on TV. LOL.

It's true, you definitely have to root for the characters, whether on TV or in books... I just started a novella by Ronda Thompson. It's called The Forgotten One, and it's the last in an anthology called Love at First Bite. The heroine is bored and thinks she's boring (Tsk. Heroines are never boring. She should know that!) She sneaks out to ride the Yorkshire moors at night, looking for excitement, and of course she finds it. (Well, duh -- she's a heroine!) I've only read two pages, and I'm totally hooked!

Kate Carlisle said...

Ooh Donna let us know how Star Trek is! It looks very cool but I'll probably end up seeing it on TV. I don't get out much lately. *g*

donnas said...

Great post. I have mixed feeling on reality tv, some of it I really like but some especially the Real World types tend to get on my nerves. I actually read a great book by Ben Elton that took a live-in reality show and focused on how they edited it to make characters hated or loved. It really was a behind the scenes view and quite funny as well.

When it comes to romances, it depends on how the character is developed on whether I will get into it or like them.

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Susan, welcome to the Lair. I'll admit to watching some reality TV, most especially Survivor (though I fell out of watching this season early on), Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (always makes me cry), Deadliest Catch (LOVE it! Those guys are funny and nuts.), and Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment (I would last like a day, tops). With the exception of EMHE, I notice these are about pitting man against nature. That's something that I've typically liked in my fiction as well -- Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.

Helen said...


Yes we get to see American Idol on pay TV and although I don't watch that show like I do Australian Idol I have seen some of the shows and really enjoyed them.

I know you are busy writing so as I have another great book to read but Tawny's latest 2 books are awesome

Have Fun

Beth Andrews said...

Welcome to the lair, Susan! I'm a huge fan of both your books and your workshops. As a matter of fact, I need to listen to your Write More While Writing Better workshop again *g*

I read Nora Roberts' Vision in White over the weekend and I liked the characters immediately. The hero was especially endearing to me since he was a bit shy and clumsy but still very much sexy hero material :-)

Susan Mallery said...

Barbara - That's some good writing, to have you well and truly hooked after just a couple of pages. We can relate to that character because we all probably feel kind of boring. From the inside, no one's life is as exciting as it might seem from the outside looking in.

donnas - Was the Ben Elton book fiction or non-fiction? Sounds intriguing.

Trish - Hi! Good to see you! Thanks for having me. Extreme Makeover Home Edition always gets me, too. I hope the construction quality is good. The people who get those home makeovers don't need any extra headaches in their lives!

Helen - I wonder if I would be as invested in Australian Idol if I couldn't vote. It's an interesting thought. The surprise is definitely part of the appeal, so I'm not sure I would care to watch it if I already knew who had won.

Susan Mallery said...

Beth - Thanks for the nice comments. I'm glad you've enjoyed my workshops. I haven't been listening to my own advice today. This conversation is so much fun that I find myself sneaking away from my writing to pop in to see who's here.

Nora is a master. :) There's a very good reason why she's as successful as she is.

Kate Carlisle said...

Pat, hi! Is Chopped the show about motorcycles? See, I'm not as savvy on reality TV as some of you! :-)

That book about the Marines sounds very emotional. I'm sure it grabbed you from the start.

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Maureen!! No, we shouldn't be supporting TV without writers. In fact, isn't that how reality TV got started? During some writers' strike?

Oh well, now I'm hooked!

Kate Carlisle said...

LOL Barbara! Of course she finds excitement on the moors. Sounds like a very fun read!

And I had to laugh at the picture of you shooting out questions from the other room!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hello Susan! Welcome back to the Lair!!

I'm sort of picky about my reality TV. I mean yes the survivors look like they're starving, but I bet the sound men, camera men and every other person on the island isn't.

I do love The Amazing Race, (seems taxi drivers can screw it up every episode), but again, they're racing around, but the camera man is with them, so how much is staged?

Now, if it's something like Top Chef...then you've got my attention. I'm not into the Bachelor any thing similar, and thankfully, I miss those when I'm in patient's rooms, too!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Kate Carlisle said...
LOL Dianna, no spoilers! And I've noticed in some series that the hero for a later book will be introduced early on as a true cad. I like watching the author turn him inside out and wring him all around until he emerges a true hero. :-)
Oh Kate, I like to watch them get all twisted around too. MB is an expert at taking someone you don't think you particularly care for then by the end of the book you are in love with him. There have been a few exceptions but not many.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Susan, I don't know how I missed that the first one was out (actually I do, I have to have my RB fix before I go to work in the mornings so I did a skim read)but once I read the first one then I will be on edge waiting for the rest.

Kate Carlisle said...

Trish, I love Extreme Makeover Home Edition! I always cry, too.

Susan, one of the contractors on the show was inspired by the incredible speed at which they build the houses, so he now has a thriving business in my area called ONE WEEK BATH. They remodel your bathroom, do beautiful work and it's guaranteed to take one week! A friend used them and swears it's true. :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Susan, fantastic to have you in the lair! I hope you've pulled up a cabana boy and sipped at a gladiator... Uh, margarita! What a cute blog. I must say I can't get into reality shows - the people in general don't appeal to me and I don't believe in the setup. Which doesn't mean I'm not a voyeur in real life. Actually more than a voyeur, I'm an eavesdropper. Love to tune in conversations that have nothing to do with me! Yeah, you're right - it's not an attractive quality but at least I'm owning it!

Congratulations on the new release! I'm sure it will be another mega hit!

Kate Carlisle said...

Beth, I need to listen to that workshop tape again, too!

Uhh, but don't tell Susan I'm not on schedule. ;-)

Susan Mallery said...

Kate - You said "And I've noticed in some series that the hero for a later book will be introduced early on as a true cad."

Interesting you should say that! The hero of Hot on Her Heels is Garth Duncan, the Titan sisters' brother, and he's the villain of Under Her Skin, Lip Service, and Straight from the Hip. It was a real challenge to me to show his motivations well enough that the reader would see he's a good guy at heart. In fact, I worked so hard on making Garth empathetic that Dana, the heroine, wasn't nearly active enough in the first draft. I had to give her more to do during rewrites.

cheryl c said...

Hi, Susan! I am just popping in real quick to tell you that you have been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I have about 10 of your books on my "keeper" shelf. I always love your heroes and heroines in your stories. I think my very favorites were the h/h in Irristible.


Lois said...

Well, as of late, I've been doing a lot of rereading, and among them is Amanda Quick - and sure love her characters right from the start. And on the contemporary side, I dug out the Nerd books of Vicki Lewis Thompson, and since I haven't reread those until now, I don't remember them as much, but with the first, I can definitely say I've liked them right from the beginning. Definitely makes it easier to get into the book; sometimes I think we aren't willing to give things a chance, and if we don't like them from that first page, we might not keep going with the book.


Susan Mallery said...

Cheryl - Thank you for your sweet comment! Ten of my books on your keeper shelf... wow. That is very flattering. You made my day. :)

Anna - Hi! I'm with you on the eavesdropping. And cell phones these days give us an eavesdropping bonanza. People are fascinating when they don't realize anyone is listening. And then, of course, I build complete backstories for them in my head.

Suzanne - Somehow, I missed your comment last time I was here. All this scrolling is making me dizzy, but I love it! The Amazing Race is a reality show that I can watch with my husband and completely without guilt, embarrassment, or even the mildest chagrin. It's educational!

Did I miss anyone else? :)

Mari said...

Hi Susan,

I like reality shows too. I am currently way too obsessed with Susan Boyle. I listen to her clip on youtube every day! It is a guaranteed feel good way to start my day!

Kate Carlisle said...

Suz and Susan, my DH will usually watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition because it's all about construction and all that manly stuff that goes on. Except he's just as big a sap as I am and I hear him sniffling at all the sad parts, just like me! LOL

Oh Mari, I can't stop watching Susan Boyle either! (And tearing up every time!) What a dream come true!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

LOL, Susan. The Amazing Race is the only TV show my husband WILL watch with me, except sports!! He keeps wanting to go on with our oldest daughter. Let me tell you, those two would be high drama on that show if they went. I, of course, could never show my face in public if they did!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Lois! I love the early Amanda Quick books with her wonderful heroes and spunky heroines. I could read them over and over again. :-)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Susan, thanks so much for being with us in the lair today. We're excited to have you! Thanks, Kate for bringing Susan along.

Love the sound of your upcoming series, Susan. Really enjoyed the "Sweet" trilogy so I'll look out for this one.

The most recent book I read opened with the heroine up a tree while a slavering hound snarled and snapped below. She's lost her map and her waterskin, she's starving and her lips are parched. She needs to take something she stole and give it to someone in time to save her brother's life but she's stuck up this tree with a man she stole from hunting her. Pretty good way to get the reader on her side!

Also wanted to say how much I enjoyed your workshop on trilogies last year. I've been listening to workshop tapes lately and keep going back to it.

Congrats (once again) on nabbing the bird, Lime!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hey Christine, you've hooked me on that book, too! LOL

Wasn't Susan's trilogies workshop fabulous? I listen to the tape over and over, too. :-)

Susan, thank you so much for spending the day in the Lair with us! I can't wait to start the Lone Star Sisters books!

Susan Mallery said...

Lois - You said, "Sometimes I think we aren't willing to give things a chance, and if we don't like them from that first page, we might not keep going with the book." In an ideal world, readers would give us more than just a few pages to establish empathy for the main characters, but I think we all have short attention spans these days. There are too many other entertainment options out there - other books, TV, magazines... If the book doesn't grab us immediately, then continuing to read feels like work, and we want reading to be fun and relaxing.

Mari - I love Susan Boyle! What a story! I just loved the sparkle in her eyes after she sang. It was like she knew she had stunned the world. She knew she nailed it. What a fun moment!

Suzanne - Sounds like I'd have fun watching your husband and daughter on Amazing Race. Please, for me, encourage them to try out for the show!

Christine - Hi! That sounds like a riveting start. Starting out with a character in mortal danger, fearing for her life, is an effective way to build instant empathy. We can all relate to fear.

Kate (and everyone), thank you so much for playing host to me today. I really enjoyed myself. Felt like a day of pure socializing (although I did get some work done, too). Plus, it was Idol night! Don't pity little Allison. You'll see her again. At this point, I don't think it really mattered who got voted off. They're all going to get record contracts, and then we'll see.

Llehn said...

The last book I read was Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I liked the character immediately because firstly, she was a strong character, secondly she was thrust into a horrible situation but didn't give up and kept on fighting. I don't usually cried while reading books but I did here. Three times. Enough said.

Susan Mallery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Mallery said...

Sorry about that deleted comment. I misspelled "when" and couldn't let that hang out there in cyberspace, haunting me forever.

One last post to reply to Llehn...

Llehn - I love a good tear-jerker. As I said earlier, I'm an easy mark, but even as easy as I am, an author won't get me to cry until she's established some empathy with the character.

You know, I wanted to practice what I preached here, and think of a book that grabbed me emotionally right from the start. Debbie Macomber's Twenty Wishes did just that. In fact, Debbie created an empathetic character with her first sentence:It was six o'clock on Valentine's Day, an hour that should have marked the beginning of a celebration--the way it had when she and Robert were married. When Robert was alive.

Okay, that's two sentences, but you see what I mean. Right away, we feel for this woman. She's all alone on Valentine's Day - the night of Valentine's Day.

Wow. I'm going to blog with more thoughts about Debbie Macomber's Twenty Wishes on Fresh Fiction on June 1. I would love it if you all stopped by.

Thank you sooooo much for your warm welcome and for the rolicking conversation!

Llehn said...

Oh that is an EXCELLENT line Susan! Well, two lines, anyway! Thanks for sharing!