Getting to Know Your Characters

Tate Street

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Happy Friday, novelists! I hope you’ve had productive weeks. Today we’re going to talk about character.

Imagine sitting in an otherwise empty room with a stranger. The lighting in the room is bad–you can’t really see the other person, but you do know she’s there. Eventually, you start to tell the stranger about her life. The more you talk, the more definition she gains. She may have aspects of you and/or people you know. You do this for an hour every day for several months.

That’s more or less your relationship with the main character of your novel.

Getting to know your protagonist can be one of the greatest challenges of novel writing. You have to understand her motivations and likeliest behaviors in any given situation. If she breaks type, you have to know why. And while a lot of that work gets done internally and then on the page, it…

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Blog Tour Banner - Kindar's Cure-2

If you’ve ever participated in Author Photo - Michelle HauckQuery Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam or Sun versus Snow, you know who Michelle Hauck is. Through her query contests, she’s helped dozens of writers connect with agents, and her blog (found here) has tons of success stories that inspire writers to keep going even when the query trenches feel impossible to climb out of. Michelle lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Book Cover - Kindar's Cure

Book Blurb for Kindar’s Cure: Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block. No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times. Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess. With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.


Hi Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your novel! Kindar’s a middle child. Where are you in the sibling order? 

M: I’m actually the eldest of two sisters, so I get to be first to go through anything. I guess in Kindar’s world, I’d be the victim struck down early in the book. 🙂

Besides being stuck in the middle, we learn Kindar is suffering from a life-threatening illness, choke lung. To make matters worse, she’s blamed for the death of her sister (talk about a one-two punch). Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with the idea for this story and what kind of research it involved?

A bad cough gave me the idea for Kindar herself. And I’m a complete pantster. The rest basically came out of thin air as I was writing. I never have an ending in mind or do any outlining. I start with a first chapters and a direction and go from there.  As for research, I do remember checking out castles online for the terms to use. I also checked out poisons and things about medieval life, such as their idea of medicine. I’m sure my search engine must think I’m up to something dark.

Is Kindar’s Cure the first of a series? 

I always intended Kindar to be part of a series, but haven’t found time to write the second book yet. It’s why some things are left open-ended (like the rebels). It’s a project I hope to get back to in the future.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Action scenes have always been difficult for me. Dialogue flows easily and so does most description and character thought, but when you get down to detailing every movement to picture out a fight scene, that’s where I really have to work.

Epic fantasy requires an immense amount of world building. Do you create a storyboard or draw pictures to help you visualize the world?

I’m afraid I’m no artist and a whole lot of lazy. But many of the sites I use in the book are real places I’ve visited. The steamy setting of hot springs where Kindar goes to seek her cure is Yellowstone. The castle I describe is Leeds Castle one of the most beautiful spots I’ve got to travel to. A smaller description of wind blowing grass up a hill is the roads of South Dakota.

One of your readers said your book reminded them of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. How would you describe your writing style?

They did! (says the girl who doesn’t look at reviews) That’s awesomesauce because Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson are my heroes! I model my writing on their style of big, giant-sized epic fantasy stories. Lots of characters. Lots of settings. A big overall theme. Just a little romance. Like Game of Thrones without all the sex scenes but still with chopping off of heads is how my agent describes it.  

What other genres do you write, and what are you working on right now?

I only write fantasy, though I skip around in age categories. I have a middle grade and several young adult stories finished. I would consider Kindar and my latest WIP to be in the adult range or upper young adult. And my middle grade is set in the real world so it’s more urban than epic fantasy.

How long does it take you to finish a draft?

Ah, the sticky question. I’m a little ashamed to say I’m a very slow writer. It’s so cool to dash out a draft in a few weeks. It took ten months for Kindar and the last book I finished took eleven. Then only a couple of months of revision with my critique partners. One good thing about taking so long is that my first draft is pretty much the finished product.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like wearing your clothes backwards or using sock puppets to act out scenes)? 

Um, noooo… I don’t think so anyway. I always have to have music playing in the background. My family is utterly sick of my playlist because I play the same songs over and over. Hey, it’s what always gets me back to the right voice. I prefer to write in the morning. I like to envision a chapter in my head before starting it. I sit at the kitchen table and I can’t write in public. That’s pretty much it.

What are you reading right now?

I go through one or two books a week. Right at this moment, I’m reading a book for an agent I intern with. And I can’t say anything more about that.

Do you create a playlist? If so, what songs go with Kindar’s Cure?

I listened to a lot of Gavin DeGraw and Nickelback, some Theory of a Dead Man. It seems that Chad Kroeger’s voice matches my writing style. Though as I said before my family wants to kill me over this.

If you didn’t enjoy writing, what would you do for a living?

I would want to be a repeat champion on Jeopardy. Complete shyness will keep that from ever happening. J Or maybe something where they pay me to read!

And now some rapid fire questions: How do you take your coffee?

I don’t drink coffee. Make of that what you will.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

That’s too hard. I love so many. Gone with the Wind and The Three Musketeers stick out as my all-time favorites.

What author inspires you the most?

Brandon Sanderson

Food that should be banned from grocery stores:

Peas. Can’t stand the smell.

Food you can’t live without:

Chocolate

The word that describes you best:

Weird. Or so my kids always say.

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview. Please check out Kindar’s Cure (links below) and be sure to follow Michelle’s blog and find her on Twitter for great contests and more!

Twitter: @Michelle4Laughs

Blog: Michelle4Laughs: It’s in the Details

Facebook: Michelle Hauck, Author

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure

Tumblr: Michelle4Laughs

Kindar’s Cure on Amazon Paperback

Kindar’s Cure on Amazon Ebook

Kindar’s Cure on Amazon UK

Kindar’s Cure on Barnes and Noble

Kindar’s Cure at The Book Depository

giphyCLICK HERE TO ENTER THE RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

for a chance to win Kindar’s Cure

EXCERPT

“Princess Kindar, Her Majesty will see you,” a chamberlain barked from her mother’s bedchamber.

Kindar strode forward alone. As the door closed after her, she sank into a deep curtsey before moving forward to the center of the room. Empress Eugenie Stefanous sat before a large mirror, clothed in her undergarments. Seventeen when her first daughter was born, the empress was still young, her belly and hips pleasantly rounded. Her auburn hair fell in a thick mass of long curls around a delicately painted face.

After bearing three daughters, Empress Eugenie had retired her husband, not wanting to ruin the fortunate omen with another child. Now she confined herself to her own amores. The empress’ two current favorites lounged on a chaise. Young enough to be her children, they sported more paint than their mistress. Kindar pushed down irritation that these wretches sat while she must stand.

Behind her mother, the First Minister Hayden wore a military uniform which had never seen a day’s fight. He held a sheaf of papers from which to report his latest information. Information his extensive team of spies provided. “… and the disposition of the Cushwair rebels remains unchanged.” Minister Hayden cut off as he saw her, stooping to whisper into her mother’s ear.

Eugenie lifted her eyes to Kindar’s reflection in the mirror. “I hear your humours are clean this morning, Daughter.”

Suddenly, answers clicked in Kindar’s mind. The physician had been suggested by Minister Hayden as punishment for failing to show him favor. Kindar narrowed her eyes. From such men as this, her mother sought the advice that would dictate her children’s futures. But this meant her mother might be well-disposed toward her. Her optimism grew to a painful intensity. After all, Eugenie needed all three daughters to give weight to the omen. Kindar curtseyed again. “Yes, Majesty.”

“Strange.” The empress turned her eyes from contemplating her own face in the mirror to favor her daughter with a glance. “Your humours are seldom clean.”

“It is more auspicious for the wedding, Majesty, if I’m not bled.”

“Perhaps.” Empress Eugenie set down a thick rope of diamonds and picked up a necklace of pearls. “That gown doesn’t suit you. You look like a scrawny washed-out rabbit. Why did I ever choose it? Never mind, I suppose it will do for you. I have made a decision about your future.” The minister bowed, looking suitably impressed.

“Yes, Majesty.” Kindar waited with a fluttering heart. The throne could not belong to an unmarried woman; the law made that clear. In addition to making her a legitimate heir, a betrothal would give her certain freedoms, such as the end of these painful morning visits. Even if she did not care for the peer chosen by her mother, a betrothal would give her status. She would be higher than Ceria, instead of equal, and able to overrule her actions.

An Interview with Ivy Simone

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Ivy Simone, author of the Keeper of the Flame series. She recently released the third book in this Paranormal Romance NA series, Betrayed, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

Betrayed CoverJacket Blurb for Betrayed:

Kane has arrived in Shadow Hill, and Willow has a new challenge to deal with: keeping her friends alive. With her mother still in a coma and Logan worried about her safety, she struggles to juggle her feelings and her powers. When Kane starts to build an army, inviting more shapeshifters, werewolves, and vampires into town, Willow runs out of options. Her only hope is to trick Kane into thinking she’ll help him, or go along with his demand for her to make him a full vampire, endangering herself, her friends, and the entire town of Shadow Hill.

Hi Ivy, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your book!

Thanks so much for having me!

This series includes an array of interesting characters with special powers, including the main character, Willow. Can you tell us a little about her role in Shadow Hill?

Willow—a powerful witch who doesn’t know she’s a witch—is lured to Shadow Hill to help reverse an old curse that was put on all the paranormal entities in town. If she succeeds, all vampires, shapeshifters and werewolves will have full power as their paranormal selves. But, of course, the person who wants her to end the curse doesn’t have her (or the town’s) best interest at heart.

How did you come up with the idea for this series?

It’s pretty much a product of reading too many paranormal books and watching too many episodes of Vampire Diaries. But I’ve always wanted to write a book with vampires and other paranormals in it, so I figured I’d go for it!

How much research do you do before you write?

It depends on the novel. I love interesting settings, but most often they’re fictional in my stories, so I end up doing a lot of research of real towns to help me set the stage. For this series, I also had to do a little vampire, werewolf, and shapeshifter research. I wanted to make sure to include some of the common myths and break the mold for the rest.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?

Again, it depends on the novel. I write other genres, and I plot a lot more for those. For this series, I wanted it to be fast paced and have lots of twists and turns, which worked better not having a solid plot.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like climbing trees or eating raw eggs before you write)?

Ha! Eating raw eggs sounds like a tough way to start the writing day. No strange writing habits really. I hate sitting for too long, though, so I tend to set a word count, write that, and then make myself walk around or exercise for a bit before I start again. Actually, what usually happens is I turn up music really loud and dance around the kitchen with my dog chasing me and the kids laughing and following behind. Good exercise!

Rumor has it your fingers won the Indy 500. How many words can you crank out a day?

My numbers are all over the place. One time I wrote 10K in one day because the story had been on my mind for a year and a half and I finally had the chance to sit down and write it. But on a typical day, I average between 2-3K. I have a word goal everyday (except Sundays), so I work hard to get it, and once that’s done I keep writing if I have time or I’m on a roll.

I understand you create a playlist prior to writing and use the music to inspire you before you dive into your work. What songs are on your playlist for this series?

The playlist is pretty long for my Keeper of the Flame series because I keep adding new songs for each book. But some of the ones that have inspired me the most are:

Halsey – Empty Gold, Coldplay – Another’s Arms, Ms Mr – BTSK, LordeEverybody Wants to Rule the World, Julien-K – I’ll Try Not to Destroy You, Lonesome Animals – Harvesting, and Flight Facilities – Crave You

How long does it take you to write your novels from start to finish?

For this genre, typically 4-6 weeks.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

With this series, I had a beta reader but did the rest of the editing and proofreading myself.

Your web site mentions you have more books in the pipeline…(yay!) when can we expect the next book in the series to come out and how many will there be total?

My next book is still part of the series but it’s going to be a bit shorter and focus on two side characters who are also part of the story. Then I’ll get back to the main story for the fourth book, which should be the last. One will be out by spring and the other by summer.

If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Can I be a DJ? I’d love to do something in music because it’s such a huge part of my life.

Last question: Would you rather be a werewolf, shapeshifter, witch or vampire?

That’s tough! I’m probably going to have to be boring and say witch. In my series, the other paranormals don’t have much control over their abilities and it makes it hard for them to live normal lives.

Blog: www.ivysimonebooks.blogspot.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Ivy-Simone/e/B00JPF9Y0I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1420737742&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8151770.Ivy_Simone?from_search=true

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thanks for having me today, Jessica!

This series will be out at most retailers and available in paperback by the end of January 2015. If you haven’t checked out book one yet, here’s a summary to entice you!

Burned: a New Adult Paranormal Romance

Twenty-two-year-old Willow Donnelly can’t stop catching things on fire. When she’s enticed to come to the small town of Shadow Hill, she thinks she’s going to get answers about her new powers as a witch. Instead, she’s stalked by a vampire and a shapeshifter tries to run her out of town. She doesn’t think things can get any worse until she realizes she’s part of a decades old spell that makes it impossible to leave town. Not only that, she’s falling for two paranormals, and one of them isn’t telling her the truth.

Sexy and dangerous vampire Logan wants her to end the spell, and quiet and steady shapeshifter Ryan will do anything to protect her from Logan—and from undoing the spell. Willow is torn. Try to keep the spell intact and save her friends and the town from chaos, or end the spell and get answers to all her questions about her own powers.