It's my pleasure to welcome Susan Sey back to the Romance Dish today. If you read any of Susan's posts while she was blogging at the Romance Bandits, then you already know she writes with humor and heart. If you've picked up any of her books, you're also familiar with her quirky characters, out of the norm settings, sweet and sexy romance, and touch of suspense. In Picture Me and You, she also proves herself a master of the dysfunctional unit. Only this time, it's not just a family. It's the whole darn town. As this is the first book in a planned trilogy - and I couldn't put it down - I can hardly wait to see what she brings us next!
Take it away, Susan!
I’m deeply in love with HAMILTON these days.
Surely you’ve heard of it? It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda’s retelling of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s story through a musical mash-up of Broadway and hiphop. Nominated for a record 16 Tonys, it’s infectious, ingenious and educational. (It isn’t just history, either. At one point, we get into the crucial importance comma placement. Kid you not.) It’s also a master’s class in characterization.
Obviously, Alexander Hamilton is our hero here. He’s a driven genius, creating everything from the Coast Guard to America’s banking system. He was also an arrogant, social-climbing philanderer, despised by both Thomas Jefferson AND John Adams, who could agree on nothing, it seems, except that Hamilton was a jerk.
Aaron Burr is our villain. Their lives run along very parallel tracks -- both were brilliant, ambitious, and politically inclined orphans. But where Burr respects the political machine, plays within its rules and loses, Hamilton breaks every rule, writes his own ticket and wins. He does everything wrong but always manages to win, and by the time these two get down to dueling, you can see exactly why Burr shoots. It breaks your heart, but you get why he does it. Why you might, too, in his shoes.
By the time Lin-Manuel Miranda is done with us, we know in our bones that Hamilton was no hero and Burr was no villain. They were just two really strong, really different men who were standing in each other’s way and neither one knew how to yield. So who’s the hero? It depends entirely on whose point of view you’re in.
It’s a beautifully written lesson in compassion, yes, but it’s also a lesson to writers everywhere. It’s easy to hate faceless evil-doers, but it’s just as easy to forget them. You want to write a story that grabs people by the throats, shatters their hearts and leaves them thanking you for the privilege? Write a rich, fully-drawn, well-motivated villain, then a hero who lives up to the challenge.
I’m no Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I try really hard with my villains. I write dozens of scenes in their points of view, scenes I know I’ll have to cut eventually. But not a word is wasted because each moment I spend inside my villain’s head and heart is time I spend understanding that character, getting to know what drives them, who they are and who they’re desperate to be. And it only makes my hero that much stronger.
In my new book, PICTURE ME & YOU, the villain does some pretty awful stuff. Borderline unforgivable stuff. But by the time I’m done with him -- and it’s a trilogy, so be patient -- I’m hoping you’ll understand why. In fact, I’m hoping you’ll go one better and not only understand but forgive and -- maybe -- fall in love.
So tell me -- who’s the worst villain you ever forgave? Can you think of a character you initially hated with a grand passion but who eventually turned it around until you loved him? I desperately love a reformed bad boy, so shout them out! One lucky commenter will receive a copy of PICTURE ME & YOU, book one of my new Devil’s Kettle trilogy, in either print or for Kindle.Learn more about Susan and her books at her website.
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