Monday, September 13, 2010

Today's Special -- WENDY ETHERINGTON

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?

~ Buffie


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!


  1. I usually don't question a lot when reading books. I read to relax and enjoy so I don't want to think that hard about the motivation of the characters. I always figure the author had their reasons for characters acting in a specific manner. I just try to read and enjoy.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  2. Hi Wendy,
    Congrats on the new release and on the 25 books. I do question a character's motivation and I'm usually trying to figure out what makes the hero and heroine tick.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Linda! Reading is my way to relax too. But there are times when I want to figure out what makes that person think the way they do.

  4. Hey there, Jane! There have been times where I want to figure out why a character acts the way they do, usually the hero. Glad to know I'm not the only one :-)

  5. Hey, Wendy! It's so great to have you with us today! Gotta go grab a copy of your latest TODAY! *g*

    I do sometimes question a characters motivation. This would be when I loudly exclaim, "WTF?!!" Yes, I do talk out loud, as if this will somehow influence the characters. I sometimes do the same thing when I'm watching TV. Alas, they never listen. LOL

  6. Linda, IMO, If an author is doing her job, you shouldn't have to think hard about a character's motivation. It's when the story bugs you or doesn't make sense that you'd probably notice. Relax and enjoy! The best books I read are effortless (which is why I constantly bow to the great Nora Roberts--she can always take me somewhere else.)

    And, Jane, I think maybe you're a closet writer. ;-) Figuring out what makes people (even imaginary people) tick is a writer's compulsion.

  7. Hi Wendy!
    There are times when I find myself saying, "Huh?" but it is usually explained later in the story.

  8. Yes, I do talk out loud, as if this will somehow influence the characters.

    I do the same thing, Gannon! Whether it's a book or TV show, I am always talking to the characters.

  9. I don't question the motivation of characters in the books I read nearly as often as I question the motivation of some of the real people in my life. :)

  10. *waving madly* Wendy!! We're so happy to have you with us today! Congrats on your newest release. I can't wait to read it!!

    I'm with Janga--I find myself questioning real-life people more than fictional characters. You would, too, if you met some of my husband's relatives. Just sayin'.

  11. Congrats Wendy on 25 books that is really awesome.
    I read a lot and do so to enjoy an adventure somewhere in the world and know that there will be a HEA and I am sure that of the many books I have read there have been a few times I have thought why are they doing that LOL but as long as the characters pull me in I am happy reading

    Have Fun

  12. Wendy, congratulations on your 25th book! I've heard people say you can do anything if it's motivated enough, and I'll go with anything if there's a "why" I can believe.

    Fabulous blurb! The book sounds great.

  13. Gannon, (smiling) it is so nice to know that I'm not the only one who talks to books and tv and movies!! :-)

  14. Thanks for stopping by, Trisha!!!! Always good to see you here :-)

  15. LOL @ Janga! I don't even want to THINK about the people I deal with on a daily basis!

  16. LOL @ Andrea! Can I get an amen on that one? I am right there with ya!!

  17. Hey Helen! You really need to pick up Wendy's latest book as I think you would really enjoy it!

  18. Hey Nancy!!! The book *IS* really good!

  19. Congratulations on the 25 books. Even though I'm not a NASCAR fan, I've enjoyed the books. I read for relaxation and wouldn't normally question the motivation unless it was really strange.

  20. Amen, Buffie! You and I have exchanged plenty of stories. LOL

  21. In a nutshell, "No!"
    I read quickly, eagerly turning page after page.
    I'm lost in "what's next", I guess.

  22. Gannon, (smiling) it is so nice to know that I'm not the only one who talks to books and tv and movies!! :-)

    You mean there are people who don't? *g*

  23. Hi Wendy! Great to have you with us today. Congrats on your 25th book! That's awesome!

    I'm usually so far into the story that I don't stop to question a character's motivation. I may do that once I've finished the book but if the book is well-written, I'm too engrossed to wonder while reading.

    Can't wait to read your newest!

  24. Andrea I, thanks for dropping by!! One of the main reasons I read is to relax after a long day!

  25. Hey Laney! So you are a "what's next" person, huh? I have to admit I am not a fast reader, but I am always eager to see what the next twist or turn is going to be.

  26. PJ, you are going to love HER PRIVATE TREASURE. It is a great story and it's set in South Carolina!!

  27. Sounds like if you have 25 books released, you know what you are doing and so I need to check out some of your books. I have been a NASCAR fan for a lot of years, so bet those books are great....

  28. I have questioned the character's motivation.
    chey127 at hotmail dot com

  29. Congrats, Wendy! 25 books!

    Most of the time, I don't question a character's motivation too closely. I'm willing to read along to see if the story was worth it. It's fiction and I have to suspend belief for a while. However, there are times after I finish a book that I wonder why a character did what she/he did, aside from putting forth the plot, of course.

    What type of cheese do you like on your cheeseburger?


  30. Thanks, everybody on the 25 congrats. It seems a little strange to me that I've written that many books, and yet I feel like I have more stories to tell. As long as you guys are willing to read, I'll keep at it. :-)

    Nancy!! Thanks for stopping by! So good to see old (ahem, friends-for-a-long-time) on the blog.

    Thanks to those who like the NASCAR books. I've been a long-time fan, so it's been a real pleasure to bring those stories to life. (The whole "right what you know" scenario in action.) They really are about relationships and not just racing, so I think all romance readers would enjoy them.

    Buffie, Andrea, Gannon and PJ are such GREAT supporters of romance. All of the authors appreciate you so much. Writing isn't nearly so much fun without people who love the genre like we do. Thanks for the forum and the encouragement--it means everything!

    Cories--I'm pretty flexible about cheese (in other words, I like it ALL) My favorite is blue cheese (yes, on a cheeseburger--it's amazing!). But I'll go with Swiss, Cheddar or Havari if the blue isn't around. You need good meat for a good burger. I'm pretty picky about that. I'm not wasting all those calories on certain fast food joints--except 5 Guys. LOVE them.

    Okay, the fact that I just went on for some time about cheeseburgers instead of about books is a little embarrassing. How about a good story and a good burger together? YUM!

  31. I can see how random stuff doesn't work in books like it does in life. In life there is a stream of events and actions. If you cut a section out and and looked at it, it probably wouldn't make any sense. In the scheme of things in a person's life it would make sense, even if it is random.
    A book is like that chunk cut out of a life. Without the pre and post info, it makes no sense. It is random without reason and that doesn't work or happen in life (even though it may seem to).

    Interesting post. I'll have to look for a copy of MY PLACE OR YOURS. We have been renovating an old house for the past 18 years and I can appreciate the holes in the ceiling, and the multitude of things that go wrong.

  32. Cories--I'm pretty flexible about cheese (in other words, I like it ALL) My favorite is blue cheese (yes, on a cheeseburger--it's amazing!).

    I'm with you, Wendy! I buy my blue cheese at Clemson (they make it in the Ag Dept)and it's out of this world good. I *love* blue cheese burgers! Sometimes I just crumble the cheese on the burger but, when I'm feeling really indulgent, I'll make a thick blue cheese dressing to put on the burgers. Yum! :)

  33. Okay, the fact that I just went on for some time about cheeseburgers instead of about books is a little embarrassing.

    This is why I love you so much, Wendy! You are my kind of gal!!!

    And I totally agree with you on Five Guys! Great burgers!

    Thanks for spending the day with us. We love having you here.