Today we have a special treat for you! Harlequin author Wendy Etherington is a woman who shines all on her own. Not only is she a dear friend of The Romance Dish, but Wendy is also a fantastic author. Known for the NASCAR series and hot Blaze books, Wendy is a writer who will lure you in with a sexy hero and then sprinkle you with the emotion of true love. This year at RWA, Wendy was honored by Harlequin for reaching a milestone -- having 25 books published. What an accomplishment!! Please give a warm welcome to a Southern gal who shares my love of cheeseburgers and dancing . . . Wendy Etherington.
With the job I have, I get asked quite a lot, “What’s the secret to getting published?”
For those of you who’ve been around books (whether reading or writing them) for more than 20 seconds, you probably know the answer.
There isn’t one.
The standard editor/publisher answer is “Write a good book.”
Easy, right? Wrong. It ain’t easy, folks.
But since I spend what seems like a ridiculous amount of time figuring out what makes up a great book as well as doing my best to put my experience and training on the page for book lovers to read, I’d like to share with you a valuable lesson I learned early in my career. This lesson might help a writer or two, and those of you who’re loyal readers will maybe find this aspect of an author’s life interesting. (If not, rush down to your nearest bookstore and buy my new Harlequin Blaze, Her Private Treasure. ;-) Hopefully, you’ll find that entertaining.) Buffie sneaking in here -- Her Private Treasure is VERY entertaining. I couldn't put the book down!!
So here’s the lesson (I learned this from bestselling author Stephanie Bond, no less.)…
Real people do random things all the time; fictional characters do not.
Not following this valuable rule for good fiction manifests itself if you’re a writer by the following question from your critique partner or would-be editor, “What’s his motivation for that?” If you’re a reader and during the course of the story you’re constantly asking yourself, “Why’s he doing that?” or the dreaded “Huh?!?” then, most likely, something random lurks within the pages.
A character can be a serial killer, enjoy drowning puppies and whacking old ladies over the heads with his cane if the reader understands WHY. They may not like what the character is doing, may even be disgusted by it, but they’ll get it. And that’s what makes good fiction--the reader has to get it.
Which is why random actions are a no-no.
In the very first book I sold to Harlequin, My Place or Yours? my heroine was trying to sell her family home (to the hero, of course). Unfortunately, the house was falling apart around her. This idea was inspired because when I was trying to sell my house in Atlanta and it was falling apart around me. (Write what you know, is another old adage is publishing.) Termites, holes in the ceiling, plumbing problems, you name it, I dealt with it. What caused this in my real life? Nothing. (Well, maybe we could blame the crappy builder for some of it, but termites? That’s a curse.)
So, in the story I was writing, all this random crap kept happening to the heroine. Stephanie read the synopsis and liked it, but she had an important question, “Why? Why is the garbage disposal spewing out food instead of grinding it up? Why are there holes in the roof?”
Needless to say, “just because” wasn’t going to cut it as a viable answer. Somebody or something had to be causing all this trouble. There had to be a reason, motivation, cause. Enter the heroine’s meddling neighbors, who didn’t want her to move and decided to sabotage her efforts to leave. That simple change gave the story depth, gave inexplicable events order and made the book much, much better. Sellable, in fact.
It’s hard to believe that was 25 books and more than 10 years ago. I’ve learned more, hopefully gotten a little wiser and my characters more interesting. But I reflect on the “no random stuff” almost every story--it reminds me, this job ain’t easy.
I’m just lucky it randomly picked me.
Wendy, thank you so much for blogging with us today and for sharing a little insight on writing!!
Being the wonderful lady she is, Wendy has graciously offered a copy of her latest release, Her Private Treasure, to one random commenter today.
So tell us -- as a reader, do you ever find yourself questioning a character's motivation?
Good things come in small towns . . .
Malina Blair went from rising-star FBI agent to . . . er . . . cold-case officer in the backwoods of South Carolina – not exactly a hotbed of action. But when a smuggling investigation leads her to tranquil Palmer’s Island, Malina inadvertently discovers one of the region’s best-kept secrets: sexy, gorgeous attorney Carr Hamilton.
But even as their chemistry goes from fizzy to red-hot and explosive, Malina wonders if maybe she isn’t getting in over her head. After all, she’s just visiting – and the island’s main attraction is also her prime suspect!