Inside the Actor’s Studio with Marcelo de Castile

Marcelo is here with us today. He’s an 843 year old vampire with a sexy, spanish accent, long raven hair, golden skin, and a very large –

Marcelo: Perdon a me?

Bicep. I was going to say bicep. Anyway, he’s here to answer a few questions, Actor’s Studio Style. So, here we go.

What is your favorite word?

Aila.

What is your least favorite word?

No.

What turns you on?

*Grins* Aila.

 What turns you off?

Nosy questions.

What sound do you love?

Aila’s voice.

Wow. You really have a thing for this girl, Aila, don’t you?

She’s my heart, the other half of my soul, and my mate for life.

All right then. Moving on. What is your favorite curse word?

Mierda.

What does that mean?

Look it up. Are we almost done?

Man, you’re pushy. Last one. What profession, other than yours, would you like to attempt?

*Thoughtful silence* Ballroom dancing.

There you have it. A true romantic. *Swoon*

If you’d like to read more about the sexy (but not single) Marcelo, check out the book icon for Destiny United, on the right hand column.

$2.99 on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords (where you can also read it pdf or html)

So long for now.

Mental Health Issues in Fictional Characters

I wanted to bring up this topic since it seems to be a bit on the controversial side. The heroine in my second book, Destiny United, suffers from an anxiety disorder that gives her frequent panic attacks.

I eavesdropped on a conversation between a writer friend and an agent at a writer’s conference about this very topic. This writer’s story was a historical romance novel about a man just home from war who suffers from PTSD. The agent told her that publishers don’t want stories about people with “issues”. Because women read romance for escape, they aren’t interested in reading about heavy themes like PTSD.

Although the advice didn’t change much about my choice in creating an anxiety disorder in Erin, I did keep it in mind while writing.

First some background. Both heroines in my first two books were raised in foster care. The reason I chose this route is because: a) I wanted my heroines to have obstacles to overcome, b) having been a foster parent and adopting two children from foster care, it is a passion of mine, and c) I needed mysterious pasts to go with the storyline.

I have a son with special needs and multiple close family members who have mental health challenges. This is a topic very dear to my heart.

That being said, romance readers do not want to read about characters with heavy issues, according to this agent. I haven’t actually polled people on this so I can’t confirm it as a fact, but I’m guessing she’s right to some extent. This is her career after all.

Though anxiety disorders, or any disability/mental health condition, is not a light matter, I had to keep it light in my book. Again, giving readers a sense of realism along with the escapism they crave. If you didn’t already know, it’s a tough balance. So, yes, Erin has panic attacks. She depends on boyfriends to get through her daily life. She can’t go to mall, restaurant, or movie theater without self-medicating. It is relevant to the story but really only an active part for the first third.

Marcelo, being the hero, forces her away from her sheltered, fear-trapped life and coaches her through her anxiety so she can live again. Here’s an exchange from the end of the book where she explains it nicely:

“You’ve come a long way from the scared little girl I met in Albany. I only had to drag you kicking and screaming from your safe little world to get here.”

“No,” she snorted. “You took my safe little world, tore it up, stomped on it then burned it to ashes.”

He shrugged and stalked towards her. “I challenged you.”

“You taunted me.”

“I pushed you.”

Beyond what I thought I could handle. You thrust my fears in front of my face where I couldn’t ignore them. You forced me to take a good, hard look at what was holding me prisoner and decide if I wanted to die there alone.

Erin’s particular disorder was a result of trauma endured as a teenager, not a chemical imbalance. It came from fear and there are different degrees of fear. Her fears were encouraged by purposefully sheltering herself where she thought she was safe and secure. It involved staying in a static state where she was rarely challenged to grow as a person.

She was “healed” not because mental illnesses are easy to “get over”, but because it stemmed from a place that could change. Brain chemistry, as an adult, can not change without the help of medication. But conscious fear can.

Did Erin’s “healing” happen much more quickly than it would in real life? Well, yeah. I have to keep the story moving and give readers a HEA. Is healing as easy as someone telling funny jokes and concentrating on breathing? Of course not. Is there such thing as vampires, fae, werewolves, and witches?

You see where I’m going with this?

It’s fiction. I strive for my books to mimic real life themes; trust, forgiveness, love, while also giving you a sexy hero who only cares about your pleasure in bed and says romantic things your husband would never think of.

Isn’t that the point?

What I look for in a book (of any genre) is 1) entertainment, 2) humor, 3) depth and emotional connection

What about you? Does a character with “issues” ruin a book for you? Are there any books that deal with mental health challenges or disabilities well in your opinion? What are the 3 things you look for in a good book?

Characters: Love ’em or Hate ’em

A couple months ago I went to a local RWA writers conference and met the talented Kristan Higgins. She taught a workshop about characterization. I wish I kept the notes because it was not only very informative, but like most things she does…freakin’ funny.

So I wanted to talk about characters and get some feedback from readers. I am very passionate about characters. They’re what make the book. The plot is secondary, the humor is secondary, and yes ladies, even the sex is secondary. Because what’s the point if you’re not connected to, or at least entertained by the characters? Whether it’s someone you want to root for, one you love, or one you love to hate.

But I strongly believe characters should be flawed. I like my characters to be as close to real as possible – minus all the fantasy elements (since I write paranormal) and the fact that they are all abnormally gorgeous (cause you want some amount of escapism, right?). But in other ways, they should feel very real. That means multi-dimensional.

Let’s talk about contradictions. I think everyone is a contradiction in some ways. For instance, I consider myself feminine though I hate make-up and prefer guy movies. My husband is considered shy but among close friends and family he can be very chatty. I’m spontaneous but I use a calendar. Can you think of a few? Again, the reason for this is because humans are multi-dimensional.

We also change. Sometimes through the course of a decade, sometimes a year, sometimes only a matter of days or weeks. Because of the nature of my books (and being a fantasy writer) my characters sometimes change quickly because of extenuating circumstance they are often forced into. Isn’t that true in real life? Has anyone had a life or death situation that changed them forever? I went rock climbing once and almost died and it shook my world. I wised up fast about safety and adventure. I also learned exactly what I was made of. I can think of a hundred examples of this.

Now let’s talk about conflict. How important is conflict in a book? Well, I’ll let you answer in the comments but to me it is vital. Wouldn’t it be a dull book if the characters made perfect decisions in every situation? Or never made mistakes, never made a hurtful comment to someone they loved? Not only is that unrealistic, but it’s pretty boring too.

I write a lot of conflict for my characters. Maybe I torture them a little (Lol!). There’s one scene in my newest book where Marcelo calls the heroine, Erin, out on a character flaw of hers. She gets pissed, she gets sad, and she does something a little spiteful in the heat of the moment. Being hurt by someone we love (or at least respect) is a powerful thing. It makes us do and say stupid things because we are in such pain.

I believe characters should make mistakes – sometime big ones. Why shouldn’t they have to deal with pride, forgiveness, guilty, etc? We all do.

And I like intensity. I just do. I’m dramatic, passionate, and emotional. It’s what I write and I’ll never apologize for it. Anyone read the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning? Talk about intensity and conflict, right? Mac and Barrons hated each other up until the very end of the very last book. But I LOVED every minute of it. It kept me wondering…what are they going to say/do next? When will they admit their feelings? It drew me right in. It was powerful, emotional, made me stop and think, and sometimes I hated the characters, other times I thought they were the shit. I had felt so many things throughout that series I was almost exhausted from it.

If there are negative things about my characters, I certainly hope there are an equal number (or more) of redeeming qualities. Sage, from my first book, is rough around the edges. She’s sarcastic and can be mean and cold. But she’s smart. She’s a survivor. And she’s loyal once she trusts someone, it just takes her a while to get to that point. Erin, from my second book, starts off very dependent because of an anxiety disorder. She goes through a massive transformation after being confronted with life or death situations. She may start off as a weak character but she’s also playful and witty and has a kind heart.

Bottom line: characters have weaknesses just like we all do. They are multi-dimensional, just like we all are.

So…those are a few things that are important to me in reading fiction and writing my books. What about you? What are your favorite parts about characters?

Some Like it Rough

If you’re a romance reader (like me!) you probably like this genre because;

1) the connection between the characters

2) the happily ever after

and

3) the steamy love scenes!

Or maybe you have your own reasons, but those are mine.

So, my question is…do you like it rough?

Okay, we’re talking fantasy here, not personal life. We don’t need to go there.

The majority of the books I read have very primal, wild sex scenes. It makes me wonder if the majority of women like this type of intimacy in their reading. Granted, I read a lot of paranormal, and the predatory, animalistic themes are very popular. And it makes sense for the characters. But I’ve read a good number of rough sex scenes in other sub-genres as well.

For me, rough sex doesn’t equal violence, or even dominance. It’s passion. The intensity of not only the shared lust, but the emotion behind it. And who doesn’t want to be wanted so bad that it turns a man into a beast? Who doesn’t think it’s sexy that a man could be so hot for you that he rips your clothes to shreds just to get at your body? Oh, yes. A beast it is.

A beast with a tender, gentle side, when it matters. But when it’s beyond mattering…

You know when it gets to that point, right? When the heroine says, to hell with it, gimme all you got. And she doesn’t care if there’s a pointy rock shoving into her back, or if there will be bruises on her arms from where he’s holding her pinned under him, or if her lips are raw from the harshness of his stubble. She can’t feel any of that anyway. And if she can, it turns her on. Cause it reminds her how bad this man wants her.

When it gets to that point, chests heaving, gazes locked, bodies tingly all over, growls echoing in the night, I say let the beast out of his cage.

Are you with me?

So what’s your favorite type of sex to read?

What Do You Want in a Romance Novel?

Balance.

I think this is one of the hardest parts for writers to conquer. Maintaining just the right balance of whatever ingredients make up their writing.

For fantasy/paranormal (or maybe just me), it’s action, humor, plot, character growth, relationship, and sex.

Phew!

It’s a lot.

My first two books contained a lot of action. Umm…that is, physical action – adventure, fighting deadly creatures with swords and fists and teeth.

For my 3rd book, it’s more relationship building and less adventure action.

As far as action between the sheets…well, since I try to make my characters as accurate as possible while still entertaining you, they usually don’t have a physical relationship (at least not more than kissing) until at least 1/3 of the way into the story.

But after that…it gets steamy quick!

So, romance readers…how much action (adventure kind and sexy kind) do you expect in a romance novel?

How much romance, how much sex, and how much of everything else?

If you could pick a ratio – like, say, 1/3 relationship building, 1/3 sex, 1/3 plot/action, as an example – what would your ideal ratio be?

Leave a comment below.