Saturday, June 5, 2010

Authors are kewl … but it’s characters we love.

Edit to add: Congrats to Sara M - random number generator has anointed you winner of the CHEAT THE GRAVE giveaway. Thank you - all of you - for stopping by to chat!

My latest book, CHEAT THE GRAVE, just released a week and a half ago and I’ll confess, I was anxious to get this one out there. I’ve wound up quite a few outstanding threads in this book, giving those who are invested in Joanna Archer’s journey some big payoffs, a bit of closure, and even a hint of happiness. While most of my longtime readers are excited about where the series has gone and continue to support each title as it arrives, I have found a small faction … a fissure … an almost cultish element comprised of a few enthusiastic souls who belligerently and consistently … Call Me Out on My Shit.

(Which totally wasn’t in the ‘Guide to Being an Author’ manual.)

Frex, let’s take this reader, who is referencing a world within my world where time moves differently:

So, if 2 days in Midheaven = 10 weeks or 70 days. And if Sola was 3 month preggers (84 LV [Las Vegas] days) when she went to MH, that would leave like 196 days until full term of 40 weeks. So if it takes 196 MH days, that equals 6,860 LV days which is 18 LV years? Something isn't adding up correctly.

That’s right. In this world that doesn’t exist, inside of another world that doesn’t exist, she’s making me do math.

These strange, over-the-shoulder type readers also have zero qualms about sending me scurrying to look things up in my own texts, and exhibit an equal lack of shyness in telling me where, precisely, they’d like to see the story go next. For the purposes of this exercise we’ll just call them collectively by one name ... say, Raven. *koff*

When Raven goes on a tear, she most resembles a five year old hopped up on Dr. Pepper, pixie stix, and one giant breath full of helium: I-don’t-want-him-to-just-disappear-I-want-him-to-apologize-then-die-magnificently-and-then-Jo’s-mother-better-explain-herself-preferably-with-a-bazooka-then-Jo-and-youknowwho-had-better-end-up-together-because-I’ll-throw-this-book-I-swear-I-will-unless-it-comes-with-a-cupcake.

The point is this. Five books into this series and it has become abundantly clear to me that I am just a mascot. A necessary evil, I think someone described it. An afterthought, really.

I know this because I’ve met a good many of my readers on Facebook and Twitter, though the diehards are on my message board. Mind, they usually just throw me a wave and a “wassup” on the way to ‘True Blood’ or Jeaniene Frost thread ;-) but more than anything they’re loyal to my girl, Joanna Archer. She’s the one they root for and yell at and for whom they’re mentally ready to take up arms. They love who she loves, hates who she hates, and are wholly invested in every twist and turn her fictional life takes … which to me is the true beauty of a series character. One reader, Heather, summed it up best after finishing CHEAT. She said:

Jo's struggles were profound and struck at the very core of all the things that I struggle with as a mere mortal. I don't have to battle Tulpas or crazed leaders … but I connected … and that was a great adventure for Joanne and me to take together. She learned that all the things she had been or ever will be made her Joanne Archer. I'm learning to accept that as well. I have to be all the various roles in life, to truly be myself.

Bingo. And the reason I (or Jo) was able to connect with Heather that way was because I felt all of that first. (See, guys? I’m not incidental!)

So while on the surface it may seem that I write about a reluctant superheroine or Las Vegas or, as this blog is titled - things that go Bump - what I really strive to bring to life are the vagaries of the human condition via this one woman who’s as real to me as she is to you. While I find observing and processing the world around me ever-entertaining, putting the resultant answers and thoughts about that world into prose is my obsession. Thus my obsession feeds yours, yours feeds mine, and on goes the beautiful dance between author and reader.

Thank you - you twisted, invested, passionate, and curiously math-loving souls - for dancing.

So what characters live on in your mind long after you’ve turned the final page? Who feels so real to you that they could be a tulpa, a real person, a friend? Joanna is clearly one for me and mine, but I’d love to hear yours, too. Leave a comment in the thread today and one reader will win a signed copy of CHEAT THE GRAVE - which thanks to all those ‘Ravens’ hit the NYT list this week!

A final note for those who might be new to my series: my publisher is currently offering up the first book for *free* on e-readers, but only for a few days longer. So if you have a Kindle, SonyReader, or Nook, you can download THE SCENT OF SHADOWS now, and read at your leisure!

Vicki, who is:

Watching: the view outside an airplane window
Listening: Sara Barielles - she needs to write/release albums faster!
Reading: JD Robb
Writing: the last six scenes in Zodaic6
Coveting: nude heels.


Nicole Howe said...

I would have to say the character that has never left me would be Mackayla Lane from Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. Going from the spoilt teen princess to the only person able to stop the world from ending is a journey I can relate to (ok not saving *the* world, but saving *my* world). The trials of going through these changes, coming to terms with these events is what makes a strong character and those are the characters that stay with me.

Roger said...

Keep up the great works. Thanks

Akasha said...

Jo and Hunter both live on in my mind long after I've finished the books. They both have secrets and have made poor decisions, but still try to do their best. They are superheroes, but they are also human.
An unexpected person comes to mind too, though. Cher. The best friend. Her unwavering support of Jolivia and friendship help keep Jo grounded. Some of her antics have me laughing out loud. I have one or two friends like Cher and I love them to death. We'd all get along great. :)

Susan S said...

THANK YOU!!! I just finished the book last night and am so happy to see some resolutions to some big issues. I really have to credit you for not taking the easy way out with several of them - happily forever after is not the way the world works.

So when is book 6 due? *s*

Shahenda said...

I haven't read the series, but I am truly intrigued. How do I download the the 1st book free?

Angel said...

I think Anita Blake still live in my head because that was one of my first paranormal series, although the series isn't as good to me anymore, I still feel a closeness to Anita. Also, Riley Jensen...I'm so sad that her journey is over :-(

L-Silverio said...

Thanks for the tip! *heads to Kindle Store* I am so going to read it (the series) specially after the math comment above XD Great post, I'm interested. =)

Hmm, character? I don't think I can pick one since I usually just take them all for a little while xD

Skitty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skitty said...

Diehards, twisted souls, mascot wranglers, Raven (!?!) - call us what you will! But I for one am a devoted and loyal fan of your writing and think Cheat the Grave is the best so far! Outstanding work, lady!!

As for characters that live on, I'll go with the crew of the Firefly Serenity. I still want to board and fly away!!

PS - don't enter me in the drawing. I already gots one!! ;)

Cassie said...

A character that I will never ever forget is Luke from Cassandra Clares Mortal Instruments series. I don't really know why he stands out so much to me but I could never forget him

Cassie C

YAbookaholics said...

Ohhh there are SO many characters that stick with me long after I read the book. Just to name a FEW, Anita Blake, Cat and Bones, Sookie Stackhouse, all of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Katniss from the Hunger Games, all of Melissa Marr's characters, and of course Harry Potter and friends. My list could go on a lot longer but I'll spare you.

I just started Vicki's series and am loving it so far. Please enter me in the contest :)

brandi said...

It would be a toss up between Cat and Bones(Night Huntress) Mac (Fever) or Rose (Vampire Academy).These r some great characters that get stuck in my head!

rachel445 said...

Hmm..I'd say the characters that stick with me are Mac from the Fever series, the Black Dagger Brotherhood guys, Rose from Vampire Academy, and Kate Daniels. And Joanna of course. I just finished Cheat the Grave, and loved it. Definetely looking forward to the next one :)

BWest said...

The first character that really bonded to my psyche was Corwin from Roger Zelazny's Amber series. After that I'd have to say Silk from David Edding's Belgarion series. I go back and visit them almost every year like clockwork

Charchelar said...

A character that sticks with me and feels real? Hmmm...That's tough there are so many but I like Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy because she's not perfect and she makes mistakes. Most of the time she lets her anger get the best of her, and comments or acts before she can think about the consequences. I don't know but that feels real to me. She could be my best friend if my best friend were a dhamphir and vampires really existed.

Cathy M said...

My favorite's shelf is full of stories with characters that stick with me, usually those that have overcome adversity in some way, and their strength of character just shines off the page. Eve Dallas, Rachel Morgan and Lilly Yu, are three that come to mind.

As for my tulpa, it would be my sister. She is my sounding board, makes me laugh, is my strength to draw from whenever I need a boost, and definitely helps to keeps me sane.

Love your series, Vicki, and have Cheat the Grave at the top of my wish list. So thanks for the chance to win a copy.

caity_mack at yahoo dot com

JK North said...

Just getting ready to start The Scent Of Shadows. It sounds really interesting, thanks so much for the free read.

arteemus37 said...

One name - Jamie Fraser, from Diana Gabaldon's series. I've spent more time thinking about this guy than is healthy! ;) But Joanna Archer would have to be in my top five list of favorites. I can't wait to read CTG!

Crystal said...

Out of all the series that I've read characters out of two have really stuck with me. Cat & Bones and Jo & Hunter. I get totally sucked into these books & characters while reading and can't put them down. And when I finish one it's like waking up from a dream you don't want to end.

darkstarpoet1 said...

ok i have a bunch of series so i have a bunch of memorable characters

rose va

bones nobody can forget his smart comments

mira from the nightwalker series

rachel, ivy, and trent from the hollows

sookie although i would love to forget that airhead

kitty from the kitty norville series

of course the archer family in the zodiac series

my favorite character of all series i have read up to this point has to be jenks from the rachel morgan series. his quotes and personality makes him a one of a kind character. "tinks titties"

lingeorge said...

So very many characters stay with me, and pop up at wiered times. In order to single out one, it would have to be someone who returns over and over long, long after I have read the book. We could go with the Lord of the Rings, yet these characters are still in our culture, and we are reminded of them all of the time. There is one character that haunts me years after I read the book, and that is Jos, from Karin Lowachee's Warchild. The book came out in 2002, yet he still pops up in my head. I do not know why, but there he is. A fabulous series, by the way. (Almost as good as Jo)

Nathalie said...

Lol, Vicki, you'll never, ever be only a mascot. Without the time and words you put into this series, it wouldn't be as amazing as it is!

PS. Jo and Hunter better end up together!!!*grin*

Sara M said...

I have often found myself pondering the future for Richelle Mead's Georgina Kincaid. This series is in my top 5, and I often find myself thinking about where the next book will go. I personally think I've figured out how the series is going to end, but only time will tell whether or not I'm even close to right.

I just recently picked up The Scent of Shadows and am looking forward to starting your series.

Bethany C. said...

There are quite a few- Joanna being one of course! And many of the characters that feel the most real to me aren't who I'd necessarily hang out with. I like Shearin's Raine, Harrison's Rachel, Mead's Eugenie...Some other kinds of realies are Brigg's Ben, Armstrong's Eve, um, I'm forgetting so many. I really appreciate a writer who can make me feel like I know the characters as real people. I just read a book with zero character development, and I'm never going back to that series/author.

Dawn said...

Definitely Jo and Hunter (can't wait to see Jo get her man back), Cat and Bones, Rachel Morgan ( so sad when she lost Kisten), Kate Daniels and Curran (Magic Bleeds was excellent and I hope Jo gets some happiness like Kate did). There are so many, I could stay in these worlds all the time if possible. Ha ha ha.

lavendersbluegreen said...

Oh my. I cannot possibly give you just one... or even 25... argh... not even sure if I can limit it to 25 in any one genre. Darn. Okay, quickly: Mercy Thompson, Anita Blake & Meredith Gentry, Lizzie Brown, Rachel Morgan, Harper Connelly & Sookie Stackhouse, Aisling Grey & May Northcott & Karma Marx, Kaye in Tithe, Tally in Pretties, Eve Dallas, Aislinn in Wicked Lovely, Toni Davis, Maggie O'Neill, Milagro in Casa Dracula, Claire in Morganville Vampires, Madeira Cutler & Melody, and duh Joanna Archer too. +++ They all stick.....

TracyW said...

I definitly find myself thinking about certain charaters after I have finished a book. Some of those characters are Cat and Bones (Jeaniene Frost) and Mac and Barrons (Karen Moning). I recently downloaded The Scent of Shadows and can't wait to start your series!

Anje C (SCBS) said...

Jo will not leave my head. She seems to to have taken up permanent residence in the corner with a bazooka in one hand and a bottle of tequila in the other. :) At least she seems willing to share the tequila! Seriously it was almost too easy to identify with her in this book especially becuase we have all had to recreate ourselves at one time or another and it was eye-opening to see it from her perspective and see the pieces broken then put back together so finely. With Joanna's strong will and desire to survive she is welcome to stay around and play in my head. :)

Giada M said...

The first character I thought of is Anne of Green Gables. She would be a great friend if she was real.
Great question!
Thank you for this awesome giveaway! :)

Giada M.

fabgiada @

nobody important said...

I think that if your characters are memorable that is what builds up the excitement in a series for me. If I can relate to and even like the main character it makes the book come alive for me. Thank you for doing what you do.

Anonymous said...

OOH for me it would definitely be Mac from Karen Marie Moning's Fever series ... and Barrons! ... ever since I read the first four books about 2 months ago, I haven't been able to stop obsessing over these characters (I blame the INSANE cliffhanger at the end of Dreamfever :o). They're so real and human, with a crazy amount of faults ... but still, they make the best choices that they can and then the worst things happen to them ... and they're so stubborn :o ... and if they don't admit that they're in love with each other at the end of Shadowfever, I'll be pretty morose (of course, this is assuming Barrons is still alive, which has been EATING at me, lol).

By the way, I love your post ... everything you say is SO true ... I'm so bad that way, and you only have to browse through some book blogs and forums to see how many other people literally become obsessed with characters, what's going to happen to them and who they should end up with! I have to be honest ... to me, that's what convinces me that what I'm reading is a truly great story :) The whole point of writing is to transport readers and make them feel as though they're almost a part of the story, and when your readers form this steadfast connection with your characters ... well, then, you're awesome :))) And you'd better write some more books, lol!

Anonymous said...

Right now I can't stop thinking about the brothers alan and nick from the amazind Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan- phenomanal!

Angel said...

Ever since I read Wicked Lovely, Aislinn's become one of my all-time favorite characters. She's got her faults, and she's often naive and gullible, but I see her strength and it inspires me to try to be a strong person.

Melissa said...

Seriously, it depends on the book I'm reading at the time. Sometimes I get so involved in a book it does feel like a real person. Sometimes it takes a book, sometimes a series to feel that way. It really depends.

Steele26 said...

Cheat the Grave was insanely good! i remember finishing book 4 last summer and being DISTRAUGHT over waiting another 11-12 months for the next one. i was not one of the readers who stalked you with mail about the ending of book 4 (i figured anything i would have said, you'd probably have already heard 50 times lol) but man, oh man!

The characters that I love and that have stuck with me always are without a doubt Jo & Olivia (i cant love one without loving the other. they remind me so much of my sister and i - so different, but the same in small little ways, and really close as siblings). and of course, Jamie Fraser & Claire... bc well Duh. i've loved many other series, yours Vicki, and the Outlander series have been the BEST writing and character building I've ever come across.

keep up the great work... i'm not as distraught now that book 5 is finished... but i'm itching for book 6! you probably hear it all the time, but for reals, best series ever IMHO.

krismo1 said...

Honestly, Suzanne/Zoe rings the most true for me. Even though I don't have kids, or really even want kids, her protective nature, her ability to blend in anywhere, right under the noses of "those who 'know' her best" is incredible. I'm very protective over those who I do care about, and I can assimilate myself into any group like I've always belonged there, to the point that most people that know me, don't recognize that side of me.

Nicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steph H (kenarik) said...

I actually find that while the characters draw me in and make me feel for them in all sorts of ways, if I don't like the author I won't "take the chance" on the characters. I picked up Scent of Shadows on a recommendation from Hurricane Helms and got hooked fast. Thank you for not only having characters that resonate in our own lives but also being such a cool person. Now to hope that my 36th year begins better than my last one did...

Nicole said...

I can only pick one character that sticks w/me? That's just cruel!! Many have already mentioned ones that stick with me...Jo & Hunter, Cat &Bones, Rose & Dimka from Vamp Academy are in the top few.

Each character is different, but all you can relate to in their own way. They're not perfect and have flaws. You get angry with them all while rooting for things to end up happily ever after, in the end.

No need to enter me in the contest, I had to go buy it soon as it came in store! ;)

Barbara E. said...

I have to say Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse is a character that stays with me long after I finish a book. Of course there have been many others, I think that's why I love series so much, it gives me a chance to revisit those characters that I enjoyed so much in a previous book.

heeza said...

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a character that has stayed with me since I was 12 years old, and let's just say that was a VERY long time ago. Her journey is not that much different than Joanne Archer's because of the personal revelations after extreme situations and people around her not being who she thought they were. Falling in love dispite logic. Yeah, I'm likin' where this analogy is going. {grin}

Another is Alex Caruthers from Dragons Prefer Blondes by Candace Havens. Come to think of it, if all of the Caruthers sisters were real that would just be awesome!!

Vic, great question, great books now hurry up and finish book 6 so I can move on with my life. j/k (sort of) {wink}

Anonymous said...

Black Dagger Brotherhood (all of them!), Anita Blake, Rose (from VA), lords of the underworld characters

bookaholic117 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Vicki Pettersson said...

Thank you all for answering – you made me remember some amazing characters who are long loved (and some I need to revisit!). And thanks too for all the humbling words re. Jo and co. I have the most amazing readers!

A few things …

Akasha – I love Cher too. She’s an amalgamation of many of my friends.

And Susan S, I’m afraid it’ll be a bit before book6 is out … but I’ve been working on it all day if that’s any consolation!

Shahenda – check out my homepage at for links to all the various downloads. And enjoy!

Skitty – YES, Firefly. Amazing characterization!

Bella – I’m a reader, too, so that’s why I can poke (good) fun and recognize the emotional investment in reading a series. You thank me … but I thank YOU for reading. The characters couldn’t come alive otherwise.

Winner annc'd in the a.m.
Talk soon!

Starlit Rogue said...

Hey Vic!

Glad to hear things are going so well with your books and I almost squealed when I read the part of hitting the NYT list! You totally deserve it!

Your Little Photo Girl.

Anonymous said...

Hey Vic!
I just finished the book last night. I tried to make it last 32 weeks, really I did! ;)
It's funny you asked that question about characters leaving an impression. I remember wayyy back when I first discovered your series and just had to let you know how much your characters rocked. I think my exact words (on your livejournal blog, it was that long ago) were "Not only do I care about your characters, heck, I wanna hang out with them!"
And, no surprise, you've done it again with CtG. It's no wonder no other series has inspired me to gather my friends and do a photo shoot. Although I did have a Buffy themed birthday party once. ;)
Keep doing what you do, I'm along for the ride!
Love ya bunches!

Nicole Murphy said...

Great post, Vicki, and again congrats on hitting the NYT bestselling list with the book.

What character won't leave me behind? Well, I've been on a Sookie Stackhouse bender this year - have read all the books, watched Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD (heartbreaking, how far behind Australia is). Otherwise, my own characters are proving pretty tenacious. Particularly one just introduced near the end of book three who is demanding her own books now *sigh*

By the way, we Aussies can't get the free copy of The Scent of Shadows on Kindle. I guess I'll just have to go buy it :)

Emma Kate "Coops" @ Whats Cracking Coops said...

Great post!!! I totally agree.

Most of the characters that have really stayed with me are the blokes...I personally love guys like Patch from Hush, Hush, or Ash from the Iron King. Is is so EASY for me to hate the female protagonist if she's not cool and SENSIBLE/not selfish - ie. I really, really, really dislike this "Bella" girl everyone is raving about :P But, a girl who stayed with me long after I finished reading was Elizabeth's Scott's "Sarah" in the Unwritten Rule. I SHOULD hate her for sticking with Brianna, but she is so sweet and selfless that I just...can't! :D

Emma :)

Jackie Uhrmacher said...

I'd have to say Clay from Kelley Armstrong's Tales (formerly Women) of the Underworld. He was one of my first paranormal hero figures, and he is *anything* but heroic at first. I absolutely love him. I constantly reread the novella where he and Elena meet for the first time, lol.

CONGRATS ON THE BOOK! You deserve it. The Signs of the Zodiac series is absolutely amazing.

Vampyre said...

Well the character that stuck with me was Luna. I was always wondering how she was doing while Jolivia was out galavanting aroung ignoring her.

We all see how that worked out, *Sob* LUNA NOOOoooooo!

This was the best scribbling you've ever done Showgirl. It is a great book.

Mascot? Too funny.


John said...

Joanna is one. Since I finished City of Souls I've been dying to know what happens to her.

Two characters that aren't supernatural related are Anne Wells from Valley of the Dolls and Celie from The Color Purple. Rereading those books is definitely like reconnecting with old friends.

Supernaturally, Rachel Morgan is definitely one of mine. She's so well written that she feels real.

Tracey O'Hara said...


Great post. I am still in that unknown realm so it seems odd to me people would care so much they tell you how you should write them.

I have characters stuck in my head all the time. Usually they are my own but I must admit the only reason I keep devouring JR Wards Black DAgger Brotherhood books is to see what is happening with John Matthew. So I guess he is a good example.

AM said...

I do love the books that have characters that stay with you like that. Rachel Morgan is one like that for me, as others have mentioned; so are Charles De Lint's books, though it's been a while since I've read one. Full of charming artist and musician characters.
Looking forward to reading your next!

Rosie@fangbooks said...

Awwww but Vicki I bet you'd be such a cute mascot! LMAO!
Great post, very funny but also spookily truthful. Honestly sometimes I wonder about you authors ... thinking you should run your own plotlines :)
I swear that Elena from Nalini Singh's Guildhunter series has taken up residence in the back of my mind ... just something about those feathers *delicious shudder*

Would love to explore Cheat the Grave :)

Tez Miller said...

Aw, I'd much rather take your side than Jo's - she has more psychological problems than I do, and I expect to be the most messed-up one in any friendship ;-)

Zara White from Carrie Jones's Need is so appealing. I often find it difficult to connect with characters, but Zara not only has a social conscience - she's a real activist, doing a lot of letter-writing on behalf of Amnesty International. She's the character from any novel that I'd most like to be friends with. And Zara's author is pretty damn awesome, too ;-)

Jessica said...

I'm an aspiring writer myself and my own characters, a whole slew of them keep me up at night. I have way too many ideas for novels inside my head and all the characters fight over who gets to bother me each night.

Lately it's mostly been the characters from my current WIP and a YA idea I've had lately. Although other characters from other WIP ideas have been known to come forward and keep me up for a few hours each night while I'm trying to sleep!

Sharon said...

You are exactly right! What makes a character memorable is when the author can make them *emotionally real. None of us can fly, drink blood, kick booty, but we all feel love, hurt, joy and sorrow. If we can connect to a character on those levels than we are hooked. Right now I am finishing the Kate Daniels series. Wow, that character is so real to me. I care about her and her friends and who wouldn't care about Curran (but that is for the blog post after yours ). I can't wait to start your Zodiac series next, based on the comments about Jo. I am looking forward to meeting her and *being her.

Lori B said...

I agree with heeza elizabeth Bennett is one of my most memorable characters as well as Jo and hunter of course...finished cheat the grave and was giddy with the twists and turns that come to light. Also a character that I cannot get out of my head is mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs...great story line and a kinda underdog that triumphs when it come to the supernatural world. Great topic it made me think back on some really good stories!!! Lkb

Lina said...

Maxine Kiss and the boys from The Iron Hunt stayed in my head for awhile because I kept thinking how freakin' awesome it would be to have my own "boys" to protect my flesh as awesome living tattoos during the day and become my little demon companions fighting at my side durning the night.