DRAWN HAUNT – Not All Bad

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I’m wrapping up the DRAWN Haunt party today with a post about writing those dark characters – the villains in our stories. Seems appropriate for Mischief Night!

If you’ve missed it, the DRAWN Haunt has been a month-long celebration for my award-winning novel DRAWN‘s 5th anniversary. You can explore through this past month’s posts to find lots of book-related stuff about writing, romance, ghosts, time travel and more. You can also subscribe to this site (see bottom of this post for how).  And for more about my novel DRAWN, click here. 

So, about those bad guys. Is it true that they’re…

NOT ALL BAD

Bad guys can be seriously tough characters for an author to write.  But every story needs them. What would Star Wars be without Darth Vadar? Or Harry Potter without He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?  But writing these characters in a way that makes them believable is tricky.

You want to create huge problems for your hero, and that requires a villain and some true evil. But write about a person who is all bad and you have a cardboard character.  Like those villains in the silent flicks who twirled their mustaches while tying the damsel to the train tracks.

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Literary Classics International Book Awards SILVER AWARD Winner; A Long and Short Reviews “Best Book”; A Night Owl Reviews “Top Pick”

In my novel Drawn I had to create several baddies. The book is about teen artist Michelle De Freccio, who moves to England hoping for a more normal life. Almost immediately she starts drawing a guy from the 1400’s. When she meets him (Christopher) at the town’s castle, things really get strange…and when she follows Christopher into the Middle Ages, well, stranger still. The novel needed villains in the present AND in the past, so I had my bad-guy work cut out for me.

The secret, I found, is to show another side to your villain. Even if it’s just for a moment, you want a glimpse of someone who means well at times, or who is wounded in some way, or who truly believes they are doing the right thing. If I can get the reader for just a moment to see this side of the bad person, then I know they’ll have a different view of things. That they may even understand how the bad person went so wrong.

Here’s a moment from Drawn when I try to do just that… In the following scene Michelle discovers that her visits into the past have seriously begun to alter history and to wound Christopher’s fate. At this point, she’s started to really fall for him, so seeing history books that accuse him of terrible things is frightening indeed. Michelle has pulled book after book off the Academy’s shelf, searching for answers. Her modern-day nemesis Constance takes this opportunity to get Michelle into trouble with Constance’s mother who is the Academy’s Headmistress:

I blink and see Headmistress Hunter looming over me. Constance peers smugly from behind her.

“Such disorder,” the Headmistress says between tight lips, taking in the jumble of books at my feet. She’s almost trembling with anger. “Horrific. We do not treat reading material so shabbily, Miss De Freccio.”

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry.”

“The Academy expects appropriate behavior both in school and out. We pride ourselves on being the best.” She sniffs as if I clearly don’t qualify.

Constance grins.

“Clean this at once,” the Headmistress is saying. “Understand, this will go on your record. And on your father’s. This doesn’t bode well for his future here.”

Constance’s grin fades.

“But this isn’t his fault,” I say and hate the pleading tone in my voice. “Please don’t let it affect my dad, Headmistress.”

Constance whispers, “Mother, I don’t think—”

“Are you criticizing me?”

“No, of course not.” Constance looks at the floor.

In that brief scene the reader knows that Constance didn’t mean to endanger Michelle’s father’s position at the Academy. We see Constance has some sort of a soul and some limits, and that she is terrified of her own mother.

As for the villains in the medieval part of the book? This was a tough one because there is a mystery intertwined in the plot. Who is the traitor? Who murders the Earl? And who is killing off all the courtiers? What if all signs point to Christopher, the young man (er, ghost?) Michelle has now come to love? I had to spread doubts and clues in a way that gave info but also made the reader (and Michelle) wonder who can really be trusted. I can’t tell you who the real villains are without spoiling the book for you, but when all is revealed, you can bet the reader understands why the bad ’uns are doing what they do.

Balancing good and bad in a way that’s convincing can be a real challenge for any writer. Put in too much good, and the villain is not a real threat. Put in too much bad, and you’ve created someone that’s ridiculous and unbelievable. I tried very hard to balance my villains for just the right feel… I hope readers will find it all works.

Actually, a review about Drawn that popped up on the site Author Chronicles says: “not a single character is one-dimensional—each one has flaws, strengths, and depths to them. Even the snotty ‘Queen Bee’ girl, Constance, who could easily have been a stereotype, has flashes of a soul at war with the front she puts up.”

Not all bad! 😉

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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DRAWN is a “Top Picks” Novel!

Happy spring, everyone!  Flowers are bursting out everywhere (and weeds too), and nothing beats being able to take a walk AFTER dinner and have it still be light out.  Love this.

SO busy here, what with all the writing, and visiting conferences, plus doing literary agent stuff like reading queries, pitching books to editors, etc.  All is SO exciting, but most exciting are some of the recent reviews I’ve been getting for my novels.  Before too much time sweeps by too quickly, I wanted to take a moment to share them with you all…

I’m seriously thrilled that my new paranormal novel DRAWN has been selected as a Night Owl Top Pick!  The reviewer said such amazing things, things I only thought my parents would say (if you know what I mean).  The review raved, “This is a thoroughly enchanting novel. The characters are beautifully written, and the story is witty, charming, and an utter delight to read. I could not put it down. This is a fantastic romantic and tender story that will continue to enchant readers for years to come.”  Okay, I admit I’m blushing a little… For the complete review, you can go here.

Nearly all reviews for DRAWN have been positive, which is so gratifying.  When you spend over 2 years writing a book, hearing readers say it was all worth it means more than I can say.  I was pretty disappointed to receive an only 3 star review, therefore, from Romantic Times Magazine this past week.  Blah. Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think it’s important for folks to know that writer’s lives have ups and downs and that it’s okay. We understand that one book isn’t for everyone.  Still, it does sting a little when it feels like you’ve gotten the reviewer who doesn’t “get” what you’re doing.  And when you’ve paid big bucks (well, big bucks for me) to have an ad in that magazine when the review pops up. Double blah.  Still (I note with a raise of an eyebrow), that review site also allows for readers to post their own review of DRAWN right there on the page.  So if you could add your own perspective on that site by visiting here, it would mean a ton.

For that matter, if you enjoyed DRAWN, you can really make a huge difference in supporting this title by simply posting your review of it on its Goodreads page here, or adding your review on its Amazon page here (did you know that DRAWN is currently ranked #87 in its category? Huzzah!) or on its Barnes and Noble page here.  Even clicking “like” on the Amazon page and agreeing with the book’s tags helps other possible book buyers to see it. (Don’t ask me how it does…it’s all very mysterious.)  You can do this sort of thing for any book you fall in love with, and truly help that author.  (Why do I feel like saying “Clap if you believe in fairies”?  Not sure!) My heartfelt thanks to anyone who goes the extra mile.  You are an author’s rock star!

Okay, back to the positive stuff now…  Also just a few days ago, I got this phenomenal review for DRAWN from Clean Romance Reviews: “The characters are all wonderful, filling in two worlds with real people and making you feel like you’re there. The main romance is heartrendingly sweet and will curl your toes.”  

There.  I’m feeling better now.

By mentioning this review, I’m jumping the gun a little here, since the review won’t officially post until 3/28, but consider this a heads up, and check out this great romance review site in the meantime!  After the site reviewer contacted me with the contents of the review, she wanted to know if I’d run a giveaway on her site…my response? HECK YEAH!  There will be a DRAWN giveaway on Clean Romance Reviews which will run April 19-27th, so check back there for a chance to win.

And to wrap this up on another cheery note… My other novel, the contemporary YA Over My Head, has some great news of its own.  This book recently cracked the top 10 in its category on Amazon twice in the past few weeks!  I’m over the moon about this (or, perhaps, over my head?).  And it may have something to do with a really insightful review posted by highly respected book blogger Stephanie Su.  On her site StephSuReads, she says: “The YA world very clearly needs more books like OVER MY HEAD, where the main character is of mixed race, culture is an important part of the story, but the story itself is not about accepting one’s culture or battling people’s ignorance of your culturally different family…Marie Lamba gets numerous kudos for portraying the Jumnal family in such an empathic and rich way…younger readers will most likely find a bit of themselves, their frustrations and their desires, in Sang, and cheer this promising young lady on.”  She’s a discerning reader and a serious critic, and I appreciate her thoughtful comments and perspective about Over My Head.  To see the full review, and add your own thoughts to the conversation, you can go here.

That’s it for now on the book front.  Now get outside everyone and enjoy the flowers, deeply inhale that springtime air, and get some sunshine on your face!

Happy reads,

Marie