Sunday, February 23, 2014

Writing Real Characters


If we are honest, we all have them. For instance, I have this thing where I like silverware to be separated. You know, knives with knives, forks with forks, spoons with spoons. It’s not a huge deal. For instance, if they are mixed up, I don’t lose my mind, but it’s something that I do when putting my dishes away.

When I was in high school, several of my friends didn’t separate their silverware. Instead, they just threw all if into a drawer, even if they had the silverware separator. If we were hanging in the kitchen at those homes, I would often rearrange their silverware drawer as we hung out. Sometimes my friends would good naturedly tease me, but they all just got that’s how I rolled.

A quirk.

One of a million things that I do that makes me…well…me.

So here’s my question to you: what are your characters’ quirks? What are those things that separate them from the rest of the people in your story?

Sometimes I hear people say, “We’ll, he has brown hair and he has blond hair.”

Okay, they look different, but are the characters actually real, different human beings?

I’m not suggesting that you go off and give every character some sort of weird trait and that they all look like they are a step away from a group therapy session, but I am suggesting that you think of things that will make them come alive on the page.

For instance:
In Pushing the Limits, Echo’s knees bounce when she’s nervous.

In Dare You To, Ryan often wears a baseball hat and would turn it around on his head before he went to kiss Beth.

In Crash Into You, Abby gives Rachel a quick either/or test to see if they are compatible for friendship (Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Disney World or Disneyland?)

These aren’t things that are pointed out on every page, but they are small items that are thrown in to show how your character’s tick—how they are separate from other everyone else on the page.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

More than Issue Books- a mini-rant- and Give-Away!

Attention readers, an ARC of Courtney Steven's fantastic Faking Normal will be given to someone who comments on this post. Pray that it's you, the book is that good! 

So, today I want to talk about issues, and issue books, and teenage issues, and most of all, how books get labelled. I guess my main point is to discuss my issues with the unofficial category of "issue book" and the book that I'm giving away today, Faking Normal, will be labelled and issue book by some. But I think that it's much more than that.

So what is my problem with issue books? Realistic YA is populated by teens who are coming of age. Therefore, they have issues. Have you been through puberty? Then you experienced a few issues. The teen years are huge developmentally, it's one of the reasons they offer writers such a wealth of opportunity.

But a teenager is not simply an issue, and therefore a (well-developed) teenage character is far more than just someone dealing with an issue.

The After-School Specials of Literature
To be fair, most of our teen audience will not understand the implications of calling issue books the after school specials of literature- sappy, over the top, and moral driven…that's what is suggested by after school special, and it's often implied by issue books. But teen readers are past reading for morals and most of the books that are categorized as issue books are so much more than that. 

There Can Only Be One
Another fault with issue books is that people have the misconception that there can only be one, that the "best" book is the one every library and bookstore should have, and after you've read it or stocked it, you don't have to worry about that issue anymore. We'll take suicide as an example. Certainly a pertinent issue, and one that's touched countless teen lives. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher is by far the most popular and influential book that tackles the issue of suicide. But it isn't the only one, and it shouldn't be the only one. Readers may also enjoy The Program by Suzanne Young, 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues, or countless other books. We can't throw out all the books that touch on this important topic because we 'already have one'.

Literature for Teens should be Fun Engrossing
I'm going to revise the above statement to Literature for Teens should be Engrossing. Teens are past being babied, they are learning about the real world. They want to know about real issues, and want them presented in interesting ways. All books have conflict. In contemporary realistic fiction, the conflicts center around coming of age and teen issues. But they are more than that. These books are stories that should resonate, entertain, force you to turn the pages, and stay with you long after you read them. 

I'm going to end this post by saying that I'm not going to review Faking Normal. I'm just going to tell you that whether you win an ARC from us, or just have to go buy it at your local bookstore, you want this book. I read it months ago and am still thinking about it. 

The contest- I'm not difficult- discuss my topic of issue books--or if it's been a tough week and you don't even want to do have a discussion-- just tell me how much you want this ARC. I'll randomly draw a name, and someone will win the book! If you could leave your email in the comments that would be awesomely helpful! 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I SEE LONDON Character Interviews

I'm so excited to introduce Chanel Cleeton, new adult author of the newly released I SEE LONDON! I had the pleasure of meeting my agency sister at the RWA conference in Atlanta last summer and we immediately clicked. She is an amazing person and from what excerpts I've read so far, an amazing writer as well--the next in my TBR pile! As soon as I finish a beta read for a friend, I am very anxious to get started on this one--I hear it is HOT! :)
So let's get started and meet these hot guys...I mean characters, from I SEE LONDON...
           "I See London is fun, sexy, and kept me completely absorbed." ~Katie McGarry, author of Crash Into You.

 Maggie Carpenter is ready for a change— and to leave her ordinary life in South Carolina behind. But when she accepts a scholarship to the International School in London, a university attended by the privileged offspring of diplomats and world leaders, Maggie might get more than she bargained for.

When Maggie meets Hugh, a twentysomething British guy, she finds herself living the life she always wanted. Suddenly she’s riding around the city in a Ferrari, wearing borrowed designer clothes and going to the hottest clubs. The only problem? Another guy, the one she can’t seem to keep her hands off of.

Half French, half Lebanese, and ridiculously wealthy, Samir Khouri has made it clear he doesn’t do relationships. He’s the opposite of everything Maggie thought she wanted…and he’s everything she can’t resist. Torn between her dream guy and the boy haunting her dreams, Maggie has to fight for her own happy ending. In a city like London, you never know where you stand, and everything can change in the blink of an eye.

This is a New Adult romance recommended for readers 17 and up.

Why did you want to study abroad?
I don’t know…I guess the easy answer would be that when I didn’t get into Harvard, I felt stuck. I’d worked so hard for four years thinking that it would be enough and it wasn’t. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a backup. Not a good one, at least.
I didn’t want to stay in South Carolina for the rest of my life, never getting to see the world. It’s silly, right? I have this thing I do—I’ve done it since I was a kid—I read travel books. Silly, I know. I’ve never been outside of the U.S., never been on an airplane, and yet I’m obsessed with travel books. But my dad is in the Air Force—he’s a fighter pilot—and I used to love to read about all the places he lived, all the countries he visited. And I don’t know, I guess I just wanted a chance to go somewhere too.
What is your favorite thing about London so far?
Honestly? Everything. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s big and overwhelming and it feels like everywhere I turn I’m learning something new and falling more in love. It’s an adventure and I’ve always wanted to have one.
Future plans?
Right now I’m just taking things day by day. I’ve never really done that before. I was always good in high school—boring, even. I just want to let go a bit and have fun.
Favorite workout?
Does reading count?
Are you dating anyone special?
It’s complicated. Really complicated.
Small town boy, socialite, or world traveler?
World traveler.
Blue jeans or ball gown?
Blue jeans.
Flats or stilettos?
Local café or fine dining?
Are you from London?
Born and bred :) I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday night?
At my bar, Cobalt, surrounded by my mates and a pretty girl.
Future plans?
I just got out of a long-term relationship so nothing at the moment. Just want to have fun.
Favorite workout?
I love to run and box.
Are you dating anyone special?
Sure, I’m dating lots of special girls ;)
Girl next door, socialite, or world traveler?
I’m open-minded ;)
Blue jeans, khakis, or dress slacks?
Dress slacks.
Chucks or loafers?
Golf or football?
Are you from London?
I was born in Lebanon—in Beirut—but I’ve also spent a lot of time in Paris.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday night?
Out at a club with friends.
Future plans?
Graduate university and go back to Lebanon to help with my father’s political campaign.
Favorite workout?
I’m not much for working out.
Are you dating anyone special?
It’s complicated.
Girl next door, socialite, or world traveler?
Blue jeans, khakis, or dress slacks?
Blue jeans.
Chucks or loafers?
Golf or football?
Football, but what you Americans refer to as “soccer” ;)

Thanks so much, Chanel for being with us today! More information on Chanel and I SEE LONDON below... 

Originally a Florida girl at seventeen Chanel moved to London to attend an international university.  In the four years that followed, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, learned how to dance, travelled through Europe, and made lifelong friendships.  Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever.  But fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise, when an American fighter pilot with smooth dance moves, swept her off her feet. 
Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in South Korea.  An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she is happiest curled up with a book.  She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband.  Harlequin (HQN) will release Chanel’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.
Barnes & Noble: