Friday, November 18, 2011

Anita Clenney: Building Memorable Characters

A chance for two commenters (US and Canada) on today's blog to win a copy of Embrace The Highland Warrior.

My guest is paranormal romance author, Anita Clenney. She writes about some really yummy Scots. The ones I've *met* are the unforgettable types, and not just because they take up a lot of space in a room. None are the type to fade into the woodwork even when they're just sitting in the group. You get vibes of who and what they are--a bit at a time. I like Sorcha, but who I really want to get to know better in Anna. There's just something about her that draws me. 

Another fascinating character, seems on the surface, to be a bad guy.  Let's just say there have been some suspicious actions on his part which make me wonder. I've read both books (definitely 5 star reads and stories I can read more than once--oh yeah, that's my keeper shelf) and his actions make me wonder if someone has some sort of hold over him, or if he's protecting someone dear to him. Just a feeling, and I could be totally off base with this. I do know he has an agenda which is beyond what he appears to be. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series to see if I'm right or wrong...  

And this is the thing I like about certain authors and Anita in particular. The characters are like icebergs. You see them clearly enough to identify who they are, but there's always a hint of what's below the surface.
Anita's topic is about building characters who aren't easy to forget.

It takes several elements to make a good book. A great plot, intriguing characters, strong writing. All of these are important, but I don’t think any surpass the need for compelling characters. If the reader doesn’t connect with your character, she won’t care if you have the most spectacular plot in the world, or if you can string phrase together a paragraph in a way that makes her sigh.  Think about some of your favorite books, those that have stuck with you throughout the years. I bet they had great characters.

How do we make memorable characters? Let’s start with something simple, but still important. The name. A name is like a first impression. It defines who you are until someone--the reader in this case--gets to know you. The name Reginald gives an entirely different feel than Zeke or Bart. How about Faelan, Ronan, and Cody? They’re all warriors in my Scottish paranormal series. Let’s meet some of them.


There’s Faelan, the only warrior who’s ever been assigned two ancient demons. Born in the 19th century, Faelan was most powerful warrior of his time. He was trapped in a time vault and slept for 150 years, waking to a strange world filled with modern technology and even stranger…modern females. Then there’s Ronan, 6’3 inches of raw, sexy warrior, better than Robin Hood with his bow, and equally at home with a sword or a bonny lass. Cody, the only other warrior who’s been assigned an ancient demon, might have pretended to be the tough boy next door, and he’s good at hiding secrets, but his world will never be the same after he finds out what’s been hidden from him. Shane is quiet but the fastest with a sword, and Niall is a one-man army, with legs like tree trunks. Tomas is a clan medic and Brodie’s the prankster of the bunch, always getting into trouble. Duncan is brooding and frustrated, and Sorcha likes flirting almost as much as killing demons. Anna, a stunning beauty, has chosen to remain a warrior forever, but destiny has some surprises in store. And my heroines Shay and Bree are more than just mates to these sexy warriors. They have talents that will shock even them.

I like my character’s names. They seem to fit their personalities. But sometimes the “final” name doesn’t come to you until you’ve gotten deeper into the character, seen his or her strengths and flaws. And if you have two protagonists, make sure their names work well together. They need good cadence just like the words in a book. Originally, Faelan and Bree were Faelan and Erin. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I can tell you that by the time I realized how horrible that sounded, she was Erin to me. I couldn’t think of her as anything else. But I forced myself to change her name to Bree. Faelan and Bree. Isn’t that much nicer? It took a while to get used it, and I had to do a “find and replace” (Erin with Bree) before I submitted it to my editor, but now I can’t imagine the character as anything but Bree.

But fleshing out a character goes way beyond their name. We need to feel these characters, see the way they dress, their stance, how they move. Little tics that give their emotions away. I always think of those guys who can take a corpse’s skull and use clay to recreate the face. Writers take a skeleton character and add on layers until we have a face, a body, a real flesh and blood person.  And that’s just the outside. What about the inside, where all that motivation is growing? Anger, pain, hope. That’s the really good stuff. What’s the character’s history? What was his family like? Did he have brothers? Get along or fight? Was he a bully or did he stand up for the underdog? Did lose his parents at a young age, get his heart broken by a girl? Maybe he lost a child, or lost part of himself in a war. Layer by layer, we build our characters, inside and out, filling them with hopes and dreams and fears, until we have someone the reader will hopefully fall in love with and never forget.

  • My question for you is, can you think of a character whose name perfectly fits?


When the powerful demon that left Shay for dead discovers her empty grave, he comes seeking retribution, believing she possesses an ancient book he has sought for centuries. 

Knowing she can’t fight the demon alone, Shay returns to her clan and the Scottish Warrior who betrayed her…the only man she’s ever loved, where she discovers that betrayal isn’t always what it seems.

Sometimes it’s far worse. Excerpt 

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Anita Clenney writes paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Before giving herself over to the writing bug, she worked in a pickle factory and a preschool, booked shows for Aztec Fire Dancers, and has been a secretary, executive assistant, and a real estate agent. She lives with her husband and two children in suburban Virginia. 

To find out more information, please visit, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

INTERVIEW: Chatting With Jenny Brown

Do you love historical romance but are bored with the same old stories? I have just the ticket to relieve the boredom.

My guest is Jenny Brown. She's a fresh voice in historical fiction and her books have been highly acclaimed. Jenny writes a series called The Lords Of The Seventh House. Each book is set around a astrological sign--she's a bit of an expert in astrology. 

The stories are historically accurate in the details, which is refreshing after so many that aren't, offers rich historical layers, emotional impact, don't always use just the Ton for settings (also a refreshing change), and are fun and sexy reads. In short, they're not the same old rehashed story. Instead they're fresh and different.

I had a chance to chat with Jenny and enjoyed her thoughts on her writing.

Lovers or Enemies?

Captain Miles Trevelyan, on leave from active service in India, is heading out for a night on the town when he rescues a beautiful pickpocket from arrest. She's the perfect choice for a few days of dalliance--beautiful, cunning, and completely disposable. 

But Temperance has no intention of becoming the plaything of a man who wears the uniform of the solders who murdered her lover. Disarming Trev with a kiss, she escapes. But her sultry kiss opens the two Scorpio adversaries to an obsessive attraction that neither can elude--or possibly survive. Excerpt Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million

"This is Jenny Brown's second novel, but her exquisite characterization and unique sense of drama sparkles as brightly as that of a seasoned veteran. ..."[A] vividly emotional tale. " --Affaire de Coeur Book Reviews 

  • Tell me a bit about you? When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Tell me some fun things Jenny Brown likes to do?

My family used to laugh about how when I was in grade school I’d answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up” by saying, “A doctor on Mondays, a musician on Tuesdays, a writer on Wednesdays, a psychiatrist on Thursdays, and an Actor on Fridays.” They thought it was a joke, but I was dead serious and that’s pretty much what I ended up doing. That’s probably because my curiosity is my strongest characteristic, and what I find the most fun is learning something new.

  • How has your own romance colored how you write romance in your stories?

I always tell the Hero of My Own Romance that he’d make a rotten romantic hero because he provides absolutely no conflict. Day in and day out he’s loving, kind, considerate, and giving. But it wasn't until I found a man like that who taught me what real love is like that I could write heroes other women would find appealing—though of course to make the book worth reading I do have to supply lots of conflict. No one would read a book about a decent, loving man who never gives the heroine a moment of anxiety!

  • Did you try other genres before you chose this one?

I started out writing science fiction and historical novels, but when I discovered the wonderful historical romance writers of the 1980s and ‘90s like Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory, who wrote so brilliantly, I realized it was possible to combine the kind of historical setting I love with the kind of powerfully emotional story I most enjoy.

  • What do you still struggle with as an author?

I write slowly which makes it hard to cope with the demands of a genre where editors want a book every six months. I’m told most romance readers don’t care about many of the things I labor over—coming up with stories that aren’t just retellings of the same old story, getting the language just right, and respecting the details of the historical setting. But I care about them, and if a a book has my name on the cover, I want it to be a book that I’m proud of. That turns out to take a great deal of time and labor—which makes it hard to build up the kind of readership you need if you are to succeed in this genre.

  • What was the single best or luckiest thing that got you published?

One frigid January, when I was snowed in and bored silly, I checked out a brand new online critique site—Authonomy—that was filled with highly articulate, English writers with whom I exchanged critiques. I posted a version of a book I loved but had never been able to sell. The English writers, most of whom had never read a romance before, went at it energetically, and pointed out subtle things that confused them or slowed them down as they read.

I kept rewriting that manuscript until new readers on Authonomy were speeding through what I’d posted and asking for more. Then I submitted it again with all those changes. An agent snapped it up immediately and Lord Lightning sold two weeks after she sent it out to editors.

  • The Lords of The Seventh House are set around astrological signs. How much play did astrology really have in the 1800’s?

Astrology was surprisingly popular in the first decades of the 19th century. Astrologers advertised in periodicals in fashionable watering places and Astrology textbooks and ephemerides sold briskly, too. The reason I made my heroine an astrologer in Lord Lightning was that I wanted to tell a story about the kind of person who nowadays would be a therapist—someone who was an expert in other people’s emotions, but used her understanding of other people’s conflicts to keep from dealing with her own. Since there were no therapists in 1818, an astrologer seemed like the next best choice. It was my agent and editor who came up with the idea of doing an astrologically-themed series.

  • Do you actually chart your characters? If so, that would mean some pretty serious research time to incorporate where the stars were at the time of your characters’ births, wouldn't it?

Yes. All my characters have real astrological charts, and I provide their birth data in the afterward of each book. I go out hunting for charts that match the hero and heroine after I’ve sketched out the plot and major themes. Once I’ve found charts that match, I pore over the house placements, planets, and aspects they contain, which suggest new ideas I use to deepen the characters and make them more multidimensional and real.

  • I have to tell you, nothing ticks me off worse than getting the history wrong. I’m not nit-picky; I’m talking major things. How do you avoid that?

Most of my historical knowledge comes from having put in many years reading biographies of people who lived in the period I write about. I’ve also read many novels published in the late 18th and early 19th century. That’s given me a good basis from which to start. But once I start working on a novel, I have do a lot more specific research to get the details right.

For example, since the heroine of Star Crossed Seduction is a pickpocket, I spent a lot of time researching the Regency-era underworld and its slang, and found some sources different from the ones Georgette Heyer relied on so heavily which gave me some wonderful cant phrases you haven’t read in fifty other Regency-set novels.

I also read a lot about the British army in India in the Regency period since the hero’s story hinges on his experiences in the Third Maratha War. The undercover mission he’s involved in that plays such a part in the story, is based on actual cloak and dagger operations that were masterminded by a real English administrator who served in India in this period.

  • Star Crossed Seduction your current book. Tell me what YOU like about Trev and Temperance and what still makes you laugh when you think about them?

Trev and Temperance are two magnetic, attractive people whose difficult upbringings have taught them to use their sexual charisma to gain control over others. They are both survivors of harsh environments—Temperance of the mean streets of London and Trev of service in a war in a foreign land where has lived, as an outsider, since his teens.

I start the story by pitting these two wily survivors against each other in a take-no-prisoners battle of the sexes and then enjoy the fun as each of these masters of seduction finds themself realizing that they’ve finally met their match—in more ways than one.

I love how intense these two people are and how hard they fight against trusting what they feel when they finally meet someone who is just perfect for them.

  • You have a new book, Perilous Pleasures, due out in March. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Perilous Pleasures is the Pisces-themed book in the series. The hero, Lord Ramsay, is a Scottish lord with a tragic past who has taken a vow of chastity after falling under the sway of a mysterious mystical healer. I've paired him with Zoe, the ugly daughter of a cold-hearted courtesan.

Zoe’s virginity is essential to the rite that will transfer to Lord Ramsay the magical powers his teacher has promised him. So naturally, Zoe does what she can to rid herself of it—by seducing the mystical lord. Needless to say, trouble ensues.

  • Hmm, magical and fun. I like the idea of a the woman doing the seducing. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you Jenny for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. It's been a pleasure.

 Thanks so much for having me on your blog.

Find out more about Jenny Brown Website, Facebook, Twitter.

Monday, November 14, 2011


It’s Monday. I’m still debating on whether I want to trade it in on another day, lol!

Saturday was the opening day of deer season here in Missouri so the house was quiet for writing in the mornings while my guys were out hunting. Good thing, too, since I had gotten a bit behind in Nano after the chaos of Friday.

I use Nano to get my mind focused on writing a bit every day. I’m also using it to get a manuscript at least ¾’s of the way done. I’m not in a race to slap any words down for the sake of getting 50,000 words. The editing nightmare of that sort of writing sends me in search for bourbon and a therapist. I did get in about 3500 words this weekend.

While I have an idea of what my story is about and where it will end up, the specifics in between are fluid. I tend to plot as I go and that makes my writing a bit slower at times. There have been some surprises, too. Not really surprising as the characters develop and grow into real personalities. These are not so much tangents, although there have been a few minor ones, as much as realizing the characters wouldn’t naturally do what I first had in mind. I also had an epiphany for the whole structure of the villain and their goals and motivations. They have a something they need to accomplish, if they don’t the loss is great. Makes the story more realistic and villains are something that takes a bit of time for me to develop. I usually have my two main characters clearly in mind and a bad guy—in general terms.

This story is based on a legend and what if’s. The idea for this story came to me last year and I’ve had to do a lot of research, to get my world clear in my head—especially language, culture, the flora and fauna of the region I’ve set my story. Not that I’m using a lot of language but enough to make it realistic. That means also having a glossary of terms. The story has been a lot of fun and an adventure for me. I think my readers will enjoy it as well.

If I get stymied or tired I take a break, go for a walk sit out in the sunshine. I also drink plenty of water and munch on apples—brain food. Actually,the presence of fresh apples in your diet can improve your memory and sustain brain health. Yes, I still drink coffee and I still love chocolate, but I like to slice up apples and munch on them.


  • How’s your writing going? How’s the WIP coming along?

  • Whether or not you’re participating in Nano, or just trying to get your blogs organized and ready for the week—it all involves writing, doesn’t it?

Bloggers, anything special coming up on your blog this week? Guests? Topics? Do share them.