When I decided to start a writing career I could have chosen a different direction… children’s books, science books, text books… any number of genres were open to me as long as I had the drive to write about them.
But I chose romance. Why? Because I’m a sucker for love and the happy ending. I enjoy nothing more than getting swept away as the hero and heroine find their way through a sticky maze of conflict to end up in each others’ arms and find that fate meant all along for them to end up together. *sigh*
This week I’m jumping into the fourth book in the Darynda Jones “Grave” series, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet. I love this series. Why? One word … characters. Ms. Jones has created a cast of characters that I have completely fallen in love with and can’t wait to see what happens next in their lives. Of course creating memorable characters that readers fall in love with is the goal of every writer who puts fingers to keyboard. Anyway, this got me thinking about characters over the years that were so strong/handsome/kick-ass that I still think about them. In no particular order …
1. Meggie Cleary (The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough) This feisty redhead knew what she wanted and went after it even when it wasn’t proper. When she couldn’t have the man she loved, she tried her darnedest to love the man she was with.
2. Burke Basile (Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown) – This gruff detective is sure he just wants revenge. In typical Brown storytelling of course he finds love is much sweeter.
3. Ayla (The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel) – Wow, what can be said about this heroine. She just keeps on keeping on. Surviving in the wild, she learns to communicate with animals. She names her horse “Whinnie”, not the name … the sound.
4. Nell Channing (Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts) – She is from the first in the “Three Sister’s Island” trilogy. I love these witches, but this first sister doesn’t know she’s a witch and that’s why I think I love her all the more.
5. Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle) – A boy who travels through time and space… what’s not to love?
6. Charlie Gordon (Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes) – This character just breaks my heart. A mentally disabled man that is given a cure and becomes a genius. But when it begins to slip away it’s heartbreaking to watch him decline.
7. Charlie Davidson (First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones) – Not only is she a detective … but the Grim Reaper. Yeah, who would have thought that the Grim Reaper could be one hell of a heroine. But there you have it!
8. Kristin Bjorson (Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey) – Another kick-ass heroine that you can’t help but loving. Kidnapped from Earth and transported to another planet, she steps up to help lead a ragtag band of victims to create a new settlement. Of course she finds the alien of her dreams in Zainal.
9. Eliza Flyte (The Horsemaster’s Daughter by Susan Wiggs) – Fiercely independent, she lives alone on an island. When a plantation owner brings a wounded horse to her to heal, it seems more than one heart mends.
10. Brenimyn (Garden of Serenity by Nina Pierce) – Oh come on, you’ve gotta give me one! LOL! Bren is the hero from the first novel that I published. I think he’s so memorable because I rolled all my favorite heroes into this one hunky guy.
So there are a few of mine. What about you? What characters can you just not get out of your head … or heart?
Here are 13 books that have made an impact on me. I can’t say they’re all necessarily my favorites … some are just memorable.
1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – Okay, I lied. This has to be my all time favorite book. The first real romance I read and I was probably 13. I’ve since learned I jumped right over all the wonderful Judy Bloom books most girls my age were reading. Ah, well, that’s me … I never do anything by the book … get it? By the … oh, never mind.
2. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel – Actually the whole series. Many people didn’t like her detailed descriptions of the main character’s intimate relationship. I can’t lie … it’s one of the reasons I dipped my toe into erotica. (Yes, I’ve fallen head first into the pool!)
3. The Reef by Nora Roberts – This is the first book of many I read of Nora’s. From here I read everything she had in the local library. But this book will always remain one of my favorite of hers. (I have several more, but I didn’t want to clog the list with all of her books.)
4. Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown – Again, only the first of many Sandra Brown books I have plowed through. A lover of suspense, I go back to this again and again to learn from this incredibly talented author.
5. Freedom Series by Anne McCaffrey – Anne McCaffrey is an amazing science fiction author. There are many of her books I have loved. But this is the first series that literally held me captive until I got through all of the books. If you’re looking for amazing world building, you couldn’t choose a better teacher.
6. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – Not assigned reading. As a matter of fact, it was banned from the school library and the English curriculum in my high school. So of course … I had to read it. Without the benefit of someone wiser than I to help interpret all the nuances, I didn’t find anything more than a lot of swear words and odd drivel by a young man. I’m sure I missed something.
7. A Death in the Family by James Agee – Now this is a book we had to read in English. The author did an amazing job of setting the reader up for an obvious death, but then twists your gut by killing off a main character instead. Amazing writing. Enough that the impact of that book has stayed with me all these years.
8. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – A quick read definitely. There are arguments among authors as to the place this book holds in the literary world. For me, I almost fainted when I found out this book was only 55,000 words. The same length as Harlequin series books, but half the length of most main stream novels. With an economy of words this author told the life story of two lovers. Even if you don’t care for the writing, you can’t help but admire the success of this novel in all it’s media forms.
9. The Hostage by Susan Wiggs – Looove this story. (I’m a huge fan of Susan Wiggs and had a hard time choosing just one book.) I’ve read and reread this book to learn how Susan Wiggs weaves a tale. She’s an amazing writer and I continue to learn from her every time I pick up one of her books. (I actually got to meet her at the writer’s conference I went to last spring. Nice lady.)
10. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – I didn’t have to read this classic either in high school or college. Feeling I had missed something, I went to the local library and pulled this from the shelves. It shocked me. But mostly the last few paragraphs have stayed with me. I thought it a rather odd ending. I know it was rich with symbolism, but hey … it just didn’t work for me.
11. The Loop by Nicholas Evans – Many who read Evans would have chosen The Horse Whisperer and though I’ve read it, my feelings are tainted by Hollywood’s gross interpretation of his story. So, in an effort to remain pure to this author, I’ve chosen this book that hasn’t been altered by a movie.
12. Firestarter by Stephen King – I don’t like to read horror, but I do like stories of regular people in extraordinary circumstances. King hooked me in the beginning with the very real possibility of college students being paid to participate in a drug experiment followed by a subsequent government coverup. The ending was just as memorable as a young girl takes her story to the only place that would believe her extraordinary tale … Rolling Stone Magazine. Love that twist. The man is truly a master of words.
13. Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – I’m old enough to have read this when it originally was published. I lived on the Maine coast at the time and was enthralled with the idea of gulls being more than birds. It really taught me some new ways to look at my life.
So do you have some books you’ve read that have just stayed with you? Why do you think you couldn’t let go? Of course I want to know … I’m curious about stuff like that.(And now I’m off to have a little something to eat. Which begs the question … how do you feel about cooking nekkid?)
I love reading. I know that’s like having an space physicist tell you he likes staring at the stars. Sort of … DUR. How could a writer write without being a voracious reader? But I’m seriously digressing.
I have loved reading series. I think VC Andrews “Flowers in the attic was the first series I read from start to finish. I fell in love with the children. Ached for a forbidden love between siblings that was so real and wrong and debilitating. I couldn’t get enough of these dark series to discover what life would throw at them.
About a decade ago I found Anne McCaffrey. I LOVE science fiction stories and new worlds. So it was no surprise when I stumbled into her Freedom series and read all four books in a weekend. Her world building skills are amazing and I just had to find out how these human and aliens thrust on to a new world not only survived, but thrived and fell in love. *sigh* Great series if you enjoy a little romance with your science fiction. That sit front and center on my keeper shelf.
Now I’m on the other side of the fence. I’m looking at my own stories. It’s really hard for me to spend so much time with my characters and to walk away. I find I leave the stories open ended enough to allow for another adventure. Sometimes with the same characters and sometimes with secondary characters that want their own story told. I enjoy writing series. It just seems natural to me. Which works out well in this market as it appears that’s what publishers are looking for. It’s hard to send in a submission to an agent or editor without knowing what the next book will be or where you’re going to take the story line.
It is rare to pick up a book these days without finding out it’s part of a series. I didn’t think I minded it until I realized that the last four books I purchased were part of a series. This isn’t bad. I really love the authors. But here’s the quandry, I’m finding that I’m not enjoying the second books in the series as much as the first. Boo. I’m not happy about it. Pleeeeease let me reassure you … it’s neither the author nor the story … it’s ME! I know it. I feel like I’m not allowing myself to fall into these stories. What’s wrong with me? I loved the series enough to take a chance on the next book.
Where is the disconnect? Maybe I’m reading too many books in the same genre. I don’t know. Of course I had to throw it out there and ask how you feel with this new trend of everything going to series? Are you happy to jump into the next book and find out what the characters have been up to since you’ve been away? I’m beginning to wonder if I’m in the minority here.