Characters are written about very extensively over the course of even one book, I would say. As authors, I imagine that you allow yourselves to uncover new things about your characters all the time, things that don’t necessarily get added into the books. What are some shocking or intriguing aspects or characteristics you’ve learned about the characters you’ve created that haven’t made it into your books?
Kendare: Hm. Well, I suppose there are little bits of trivia about all of them that reveals itself in the books but isn’t really said outright. For instance, Cas is scared of spiders. And he really likes The Rolling Stones, because his dad did. But I don’t think there’s anything shocking about him that readers don’t know. If there is, it’ll turn out to be another book!
Marta: Hi, Asher, and thanks for having us here at Paranormal Indulgence! You’re absolutely right about revisions. In early versions of my book, we meet Jane Williams when she’s ten and living in foster homes. She’s an incorrigible runaway and I had scenes of her in a homeless encampment. I really liked those scenes, which tied into other themes.
Lisa: My characters are always surprising me, and some of the biggest surprises, I can’t include here because they’re spoilers. There are a few things that haven’t made it into the books, but all the best ones have, of course.
So, as far as things that didn’t make it into the books, I don’t know how intriguing it is, but when Frannie’s brother died, her mother sort of checked out and she went to live with her grandparents for a few months, which is why she got so close to both of them. We see her interaction with her grandfather throughout all three books in the Personal Demons trilogy. Luc’s acquisitions numbers for Hell are larger than all of his Acquisitions “colleagues” put together. And my beautiful Dominion, Gabe, watched Frannie from afar for her entire life.
There have to be moments where there’s something particularly brutal or angst-ridden written into the scenes of your books. As writers, is it more difficult to enter into those kinds of scenes, to immerse yourself in them, or is it more challenging to walk away from them?
Kendare: When I’m writing the book takes over. I’ve got very little say about direction. So when the book says gore, there’s gore. Angst, there’s angst. Besides, I love reading a scene that really makes me FEEL those things. And writing them is the same.
Marta: I have no problem writing brutal or angsty scenes; however, my taste in literature has always been very dark and cynical. For a YA audience, I had to pull back, but there are still scenes that bother readers.
Lisa: I don’t write with an outline so I usually have no clue what’s going to happen next. In that aspect, I’m really a reader, watching the story unfold even as I’m writing it. It’s not unusual for me to end up in the middle of a scene that’s ripping my heart out, snotting all over my computer, and having no idea how I ended up there. So, to answer your question, entering into those scenes is more like falling into them, and once I’m there, I’m living it right along with my characters, so I’m definitely immersed. But because of the way I write, I can’t walk away until it’s completely done. I can only write when my characters have something to say. If I don’t write it right then, I’ll lose the thread and it’s gone forever. I don’t think that really answered your question, but…
Let’s work our imaginations a little bit more here. If your main characters’ role was switched with their love interests’, what would be one fundamental aspect of their personalities that would remain the same and one that would be shockingly different as a result of the role reversal?
Kendare: Let’s see. If Cas was a murdering ghost and Anna was a ghost killer, they would both still be lonely. And sort of damaged. But Cas would be less sarcastic and closed off. And Anna would be outwardly tougher than she is. Her vulnerable side wouldn’t show through.
Marta: If I tell you, I give away a major plot point! While there is romance, it’s not the main focus of the story. I will Let’s see, she’d still like pizza and she’d still love the birch grove.
Lisa: Frannie would always be fiercely loyal, even if she was to switch rolls with Luc and she was the demon. She would, however, be guilt-free, since guilt isn’t in the demonic repertoire of emotions. Luc, on the other hand, would still be cocky as hell if he were in Frannie’s shoes. What would change would be his utter intolerance of anything celestial.
When you have an especially tough scene to get through, do you teeter along the balance between wanting to get through it versus wanting to get it completely right? Are you more inclined to power through those scenes no matter how hard or do you push it off to the side in hopes that you’ll be ready to tackle it later? What’s one scene that, for you, embodies that struggle?
Kendare: I never skip scenes. It gets done, hopefully mostly right the first time so I don’t have to completely overhaul in revisions. A scene that was tough to write, was probably the final battle scene. Lots of emotion and lots of action, and action can often bog things down, make it start to read like stereo instructions. Then they did this, and then they did this, and insert the A rod into the C bracket. Grr. Arrgh.
Marta: Neither. I enjoy writing the scene and I enjoy stepping back, thinking about it, and working on it until it’s right. I find technical scenes, especially those involving multiple characters talking and moving, more difficult to finesse than emotional scenes because I want the readers to clearly understand each character’s action and dialogue.
Lisa: Honestly, as I said before, I write what my characters are showing me. If I’m writing something and if feels hard, it’s usually because I’m trying to force it. If that’s the case, I’ll scrap the scene and wait for my characters to be ready to tell it. It’s not unusual for me to write the middle first then seesaw back and forth, filling in the beginning and the end. Allowing myself to just go with the flow takes a lot of the pressure off. When it’s organic to my characters, writing is never hard. I’m definitely a perfectionist, so I tend to just take dictation as fast as I can as my characters are showing me the scene, and then go back and clean it up later.
Most of your books would be considered urban fantasy and all of them would be considered paranormal fantasy. Did you intentionally set out to write books that would fall under those genre labels? Would you say that your books define those labels or that those labels define your books?
Kendare: I set out to write something gory and violent. I didn’t think of it as horror until it was pretty much finished, and maybe that’s because I’m sick.
I understand the need for genrelization and labels. Someone asks you what kind of book it is and you have to say something. It’s horror, or it’s romance, or it’s science fiction. Of course just about every book has elements of more than one genre. But who’s got the time to list off so many?
Marta: My books really don’t define labels, nor are they defined by labels, because I don’t like coloring within the lines. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula was written as a social satire spoofing romantic clichés about vampires. Nancy’s Theory of Style was a contemporary romantic comedy.
The most common comment about Dark Companion is “this is different from anything I’ve ever read.” It’s an homage to gothics and includes classic tropes, such as an impoverished girl in an isolated setting; elements that reflect each other, or “twinning”; supernatural occurrences; past crimes; hauntings; blood as a symbol of family/background; and repressed fears and desires. I used those elements to address issues of privilege, poverty, sexism. That sounds so grim, but I snuck in a few comedic characters, too. I would hate to have to only write within the boundaries of one genre!
Thanks for having me here, Asher.
Lisa: Well…I’m not really sure if my books define anything… The books that really speak to me as a reader are contemporary. My first two trunk novels are YA contemporary. But Personal Demons started like all my other books, with a character talking in my head. The difference is that this character turned out to be a demon. (That would be Luc. Half of Personal Demons is told from his first person POV.) I started taking dictation and when I was done, I had an urban fantasy that many would call a paranormal romance. Totally unintentional and totally out of my control.
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Ahh, I love everyone's answers to my questions. Thoughtful, insightful, and they make me more interested in getting to know these awesome-sounding characters. Comment below if you're a vengeful ghost with a bloody dress, a faux leather-jacket-wearing demon, or own a gothic castle.