Monday, 11 July 2011

READER QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Hi everyone - I hope you all had a great weekend! I had a signing on Saturday at my local bookshop and despite it being a very quiet day in the shopping centre (it was a beautiful, sunny day and everyone wanted to be out soaking up rays) I managed to sell a fairly good amount of books. Then I spent Sunday recovering because WHOO that was an exhausting ordeal.  

Just a little reminder for you again that once the Shadows on the Moon book trailer gets up above 1,000 views, there will be...goodies. Very good goodies. Keep watching it, recommend it to your friends, send the link out - it would be great if the trailer went viral.


Just in case you missed it, the final stop on the Shadows on the Moon Blog Tour was at the Overflowing Library with the lovely Kirsty. She had an extract of the book and a swag giveaway, so head on over there if you haven't already.

Now onto some reader questions! I really meant to get to these much much earlier, but all the release day stuff kind of derailed me. Sorry about the delay.

First up, then, is Gabbi, who emailed me about a dozen questions. A lot of them were things that I really think only Gabbi can answer for herself, and others were things that I've already answered here or on the website. So I picked out the question which I really think is vital:

"...my question to you is that even though it's very unlikely for me to get published, is it silly to plan a series of novels, rather than just a single debut. I know most author's debut novels are the first in a series, but most of them have also completed a book before. Needless to say, I haven't." 

Gabbi, you won't ever get published until you finish a novel. Unless you're a celebrity or a respected university professor with lots of non-fiction publishing credits behind you, you will ALWAYS have to finish at least one book for a publisher to take you seriously. They're not going to publish any first time novelist based on a few chapters and a synopsis, no matter how brilliant they are, because there's no guarantee you'll be able to finish what you've started. But publishers don't care if you have thirty bad novels hidden under your bed or if the one that lands on their desk is your very first. All they care about is that it's good.

So, bearing that in mind - no, it's not silly for you to plan a series if that's what you really want to write. In today's publishing climate, as you note, many debut authors begin their careers with a trilogy (Cassandra Clare, Veronica Roth, Sarah Rees Brennan). Publishers and agents now seem to negotiate multibook contracts as standard, and knowing that you've got a plan in place for the follow-up books is very reassuring for the publisher, I think.

What you have to do is write the first book, create a really good plan for the next ones, and then start trying to get an agent/publisher with that (noting in your queries that you're hard at work on the second book). But remember that writing a series is a really challenging undertaking. If you're doing it because that's just the way you think things need to be, then stop and consider whether the story you really want to write can stand alone. There are still many single volumes being published.

Good luck with it, Gabbi!

Next up we have a great question from Borko, who asks:

"I have a problem with my characters (In my book). More specifically, one of the main. I'm worried that people would hate him or like him less then others. He reacts a bit sharper, but ... But this is not a reason!"

I sympathise with you on this one. When I was writing Shadows on the Moon I worried that my heroine's often self-destructive behaviour would put readers off. When I was writing FF I was anxious that one of my main characters would never get any sympathy from readers because he made such a bad impression initially. But I couldn't change who those characters were, make them more sensible or less harsh, because that was who they WERE. That was who the story needed them to be. 

So, it's possible that the reader will react as you fear and dislike this person. And that's OK, so long as the plot doesn't depend on the reader sympathising with them

It's no good trying to create a sense of tension and jeopardy with life or death situations if the reader doesn't care that the main character is in danger. You're going to need to give them something else to care about. 

Maybe a wider situation (the world is going to end!), or some innocent's life at stake (the crying baby in the corner). If this sounds a bit complicated, then you can go a different route. The easiest way to get someone to keep reading is to give them someone to identify with. Readers normally need and want at least one person whose motives they can get behind as they begin the journey of the book. If you give them that - even if the character providing the contrast is only a sidekick - they'll hang in there long enough for you to begin to show the more vulnerable, softer or more loveable sides to the character who might initially have repulsed them.

That's the secret of getting away with an anti-hero. They might seem flat out nasty at the start, and maybe they are, but in real life everyone has depths and a reason for being who they are. Once you realise that, you begin to view their actions from a different viewpoint and while THEY may not change, the reader's opinion of them does. A person who is cruel, cold and even violent will suddenly shine with the light of a hero if we see that s/he's also unflinchingly honourable and never breaks her/his word. A weak, fumbling, obnoxious character will become an object of sympathy if we're given an insight that shows us they were once proactive and strong, but they have been emotionally crippled by some terrible loss. And once you've shown us that they're more than just a shell, you can begin the task of having them develop and change via their interaction with other characters and the ordeal of the plot.

The final thing to bear in mind is that readers will often develop an unexpected soft spot for the most unlikely characters. Look at the legion of fans that Draco Malfoy has. He's written as a villain, and he gets in Harry Potter's way at every turn. He's bigoted, cruel, unprincipled, and at the end he shows that he's also weak and cowardly. Yet (to J K Rowling's astonishment!) he's actually an object of adoration for a lot of readers who are convinced that one day he will be a hero. 

So go ahead and write your character the way he needs to be. Just bear in mind the points I've made here.

I hope that was helpful, guys! Barring anything unexpected coming up, I'll probably tackle a few more of your questions on Wednesday, because I think you've all been waiting long enough!

11 comments:

Eafiu said...

I agree with the answer to Borko and I can easily say that if a character is realistic enough (have depth, motives to act the way they do), even if I hate him/her, I always care about him/her. It's always better than a cardboard character where I can't even give a damn. But hatred/dislike is an emotion and if the character makes me feel something about him/her, I don't think you have a lot to worry about, Borko. :)

Zoë Marriott said...

Beautifully said, Eafiu. The aim of any writer is to evoke emotions, and if we can make readers care enough about a character to dislike them, then we've succeeded (in a peculiar way, but still). For instance, I HATE Valentine in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instrument books. But he's one of my favourite characters all the same!

borky_qk said...

Wow! Thank you Zoe and Eafiu! This was really helpful! I had viruses on my computer and this made my day. I hope the trailer went viral!

Zoë Marriott said...

Glad to be of service, Borko. I hope you manage to get your computer up and running again soon :)

Rebecca Lindsay said...

I agree about making a character evil/annoying/arrogent, etc, if that is who they are supposed to be. Look at Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. She's one of my favourite characters even though she's evil and crazy. But the fact that she's crazy makes me like her :)

Zoë Marriott said...

Rebecca: Exactly! Although it might be hard to get through a book that only had her POV...

Megha said...

Let me quote Isabel. She wrote this on Goodreads! (Yes! She got internet access in a hotel in SA two days before actually coming here!)

OH MY GOSH. I'm so excited for this [Shadows on the Moon] !!!!!!!!!!!! Plus I won the giveaway!!!!

Megha is reading this right now on her kindle. The world is filled with Zoe Marriott awesomeness today. :D:D:D


What an awesome way to sum it up! You're getting so much more publicity for SOTM than for your other two books! I pray, hope, believe that Shadows will become a bestseller. I can tell I will love it and - heck! - I've only read the first two pages!

Zoë Marriott said...

I'm crossing my fingers that you're right, Megha! A Bestseller is just what I'm dreaming of, but even if it doesn't happen, hopefully all this extra publicity will help the book to sell well :)

Isabel said...

I completely agree with your answer to Borko's question. Your main character can be anything, really, just as long as on the inside they have some vulnerability. Nobody's going to identify with a hero who is fearless, but he/she can be a jerk, or arrogant, and maybe you still won't like them but they have to somehow be a human being. (Yes, even if you're writing in the perspective of a mouse or something. I would hope you would make them have a relatively human mind.)

Funny thing you mentioned Harry Potter, because the last movie comes out today!!! I can't wait to see it. EEP! (And I totally agree about Draco! <3!)

Zoë Marriott said...

Isabel: the fact that you already understand this shows what a very mature writer you are for your age. I hope you enjoy the last HP film!

Isabel said...

Zoe: Thanks! I learn a lot from reading so many books and following so many authors' blogs like yours. ;) HP was completely sold out for tonight, so I gave up my ticket for Sophia's friend to come along, but it's okay, I will see it tomorrow! I can't believe this is the last one!! D:

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