Character Comments: Michael

As an author, it’s very cool to have people I don’t know begin talking to me about my characters, either in person or via email or twitter.  What’s been interesting lately is the in-depth comments I’ve gotten on some specific characters.

In writing these posts, I’m not necessarily responding to specific comments or criticisms. I’m just musing on some things that have come to mind as I read remarks or speak to readers.

I’m beginning with Michael because he seems to elicit pretty strong emotions.  Early in the writing of Fearless, when the first critiquers were reading chapters, there was some heavy Michael love.  I still see quite a bit of that. . .comments and reviews that swoon over the wonder that is Michael.

But recently, I’ve gotten a few people write that perhaps Michael is too good to be true, which almost intimates that he isn’t realistic or sufficiently dimensional.

It’s important to remember that the Michael whom we see in Fearless is through Tasmyn’s eyes, and that view isn’t exactly impartial.  To Tas, Michael is the sun, moon and stars. . .he is everything she has always wanted and never even thought herself worthy enough to wish for someone like him. That he singles her out. . .that he loves her. . .is the miracle of her life so far, and so of course, when she talks about him, that shines through.

On the other hand, look at some of Nell’s comments about Michael, and you might see a different point of view.  As a matter of fact, stay tuned, because at some point, Nell might share a little of her take on Michael right here on this blog.

And in fact, as the series goes on, you’ll see some other sides of Michael. As Tas grows and changes, we’ll continue to see him through her eyes, and that will give us a slightly different perspective.

Speaking strictly as the writer, I will share this:  recently at an event someone asked him if the character Michael was based on anyone I knew.  Before I could think about it, I answered, “Well, he reminds me of my dad.”  I was surprised, but when I stopped to think about it, that makes sense.  My father had an almost larger-than-life quality in that he was universally regarded as an amazingly good person, someone who always did the right thing no matter what the cost to him personally. At his funeral and in the weeks thereafter, we heard innumerable stories of his kindness and decency. He wasn’t perfect, and neither is Michael.

All of my characters are shaped by their lives up to the time we meet them.  Tasmyn is shy, withdrawn and wary, because she has been repeatedly warned by her parents of the dangers the world poses to someone with her abilities.  Nell, abandoned at an early age, is determined to never be powerless again. Amber, bullied and ignored, grabs at the chance for friendship and inclusion when Nell offers it.

Michael, raised by two loving parents in a secure environment of acceptance and encouragement, is a good and decent person. I like him that way. . .I hope you do, too.

Playing the Numbers Game

When you write a book, publish it and send it out into the world to seek its fame and fortune, numbers become a huge part of your life.  Of course, I’m speaking from an indie author’s point of view, but I can’t think it’s that different for those who follow the traditional route.

You stop by Amazon almost daily, just to see where your book falls among the tens of thousands of others.  You check to see if you’ve broken into the top ten or the top one hundred.  And if you’re doing a free promo day, watch out:  then the fur really flies.  You have a real chance of cracking the top lists. . and we won’t even go into the download numbers.

Numbers are great.  When they’re in my favor, I’m more than happy to talk them up!  But they’re also capricious and unpredictable, and in the end, they don’t mean that much.

I was thrilled that Fearless was the number one contemporary fantasy for four days during its recent promotion. I was giddy when it stayed in the top 100 even after the promo ended. But if I based my entire satisfaction in my writing life on the lists and numbers, I’d be pretty despondent most of the time.

On the other hand, this weekend I received three wonderful, excited emails from three different young girls who had read both Fearless and Breathless.  They loved the books.  They loved the characters.  They can’t wait for the release of the third book.  They want to know what happens next.  And their enthusiasm reminded me that I write for them, not for numbers.

I’ll be ecstatic if my books do well in the numbers game, when I see them climb the lists.  But I’d rather have a single email from a girl telling me how much this story meant to her than I would a solid month on the bestsellers list.

Numbers are a game, but those emails are what it’s really all about.


Review and Win!

We’re experimenting with a new kind of giveaway this week:  if you leave a review on either Fearless or Breathless, on Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble and leave a comment here with your name and the link to your review, you will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card! You earn one entry for every review you leave, so if you review both books in both formats at Amazon, Goodreads and BN, you could earn up to eight entries! Make sure that you also mark your entry on the Rafflecopter form below so that you’re in the drawing.

Of course I love great reviews, but I’m more interested in your honesty here. . .a mediocre review has the same chance to win as a really terrific one.

If this giveaway is successful, we’ll re-run again occasionally, as a special thank you to my wonderful readers!
Here are the links to the review sites:

The Meyer Effect

The other day I saw an interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E. L. James where she said that she was inspired to write her book by the success of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.  As I understand it, the book actually had its beginning on a Twilight fan site.

I had to laugh.  Not at James, who is clearly parlaying this inspiration into incredible success; no, I was laughing ruefully at the latest and (probably) most famous example of what I call the Meyer Effect.

Visit any group of writers, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll meet at least one who will admit that Stephenie Meyer and the phenomenon that was the Twilight series gave her the impetus to write her own book. I myself am a member and admin of a writing support group that was once, in our early years, called the TwiWriters; we all met on the huge Twilight fan site Twilight Moms.  While many of us have drifted away from that fan site, a small strong core of us are still writing.

What is the Meyer effect and how does it work?  It is the situation wherein someone (almost always a woman) has read the interviews with the Twilight author wherein she describes how she came to write the books.  Meyer talks about a vivid dream and having to fit in writing down the dream between swim lessons and other mom activities.  That dream became a pivotal and well-known scene in the first book.

I believe that the way Meyer entered into authorhood–the juxtaposition of a story that would become a world-wide hysteria with the very ordinary elements of suburban mom–somehow made the idea of writing more accessible to millions of people.  The most commonly heard words are, “I decided if Stephenie Meyer could do it, so could I.”

We all of us hung on her stories of typing late into the night and at poolside during swim lessons. . .dropping the huge manuscript into a mailbox (that to this day gives her butterflies when she sees it!). . .getting miraculously discovered in the dreaded slush pile by an editorial assistant (who has since become a literary agent).  Again, it echoes in our minds:  If it happened this way for Stephenie Meyer, it could happen for me.

Had Twilight happened ten years ago, or ten years from now, I don’t think the Meyer effect would be as widespread. The combination of her story with the rise of independent publication has come together to create a perfect literary storm. For instance, JK Rowling’s stories of writing the Harry Potter books on a train didn’t launch a motherlode of new writers. I never heard anyone say, “If JK Rowling can do it, so can I.”

The ramifications of the Meyer Effect will be felt for a long time, as many of the authors whom she inspired are just now hitting the bookshelves.  Will it ultimately be a negative or a positive result?  Stay tuned.