Halloween means that the internet is awash with spooky costumes, books and trick or treat candy. For many of us it is has been an enjoyable evening of dressing up and scaring each other on doorsteps or at themed parties. This year with the COVID19 pandemic, it will be a more muted affair. Social distancing, hand sanitizers, gloves to dispense treats and the wearing of masks. I’m sure there will be a plethora of decorations though, to make the streets look spooky.
There are other people who actually fear Halloween. There are several phobia’s associated with it. Phobia of Halloween is called Samhainophobia. Others are Wiccaphobia : fear of witches, Phasmophobia : fear of ghosts and Coimetrophobia : a fear of cemeteries.
Of course this is the time of year my little monster, Rumble is at his most popular. Rather than being scary for children, he is a cuddly cute monster and they can read about his adventure on his first All Hallow’s Eve.
Yesterday was Women’s Fiction Day. As a woman who reads a wide variety of genres, I hope this ‘day’ is inclusive to all genres not just ‘romance’. It is quite a generalization and one that should be regarded with a pinch of salt.
Of course, we all love to read an idealized narrative with a happy ending but we are more than that. Women have interests that cover a broad spectrum of story lines and types. Gone are the days when the genteel sex was restricted to poetry and light reading. (Thank goodness).
We read thrillers, sci-fi, detective novels and mysteries to name a few. Our reading habits have changed as well as our interests and the scope of our capabilities.
So celebrate our diversity in the written word – no matter the genre.
With ‘time’ on our hands many of us have been reading – which is great. However, have you returned to a favourite book (or even books?)
I have several that I have returned to over the years but one seems to be above the others. It is Ferney by James Long. When I think of the story the characters come back like old friends, which is why many of us love a book. If a character spills into your normal life then the author has done their job.
In such narratives we want the characters and their lives to continue, we imagine what happens next and where they are now. It is the same with these characters as it is with long lost friends.
If you are interested in reincarnation (as I am) then this novel is for you but it is also a lovely love story too.
When Mike and Gally move to a new cottage in Somerset, it’s to make a new start. But the relationship comes under strain when Gally forms an increasingly close attachment to an old countryman, Ferney, who seems to know everything about her.
What is it that draws them together? Reluctantly at first, then with more urgency as he feels time slipping away, Ferney compels Gally to understand their connection – and to face an inexplicable truth about their shared past.
In fact James did write a sequel some 13 years later and although the characters are following on it did not grip me like the first one. However, please don’t be put off by my thoughts. It is still a great story.
It is interesting that the first book was published in 1998 and James didn’t write the sequel until 2011…! That’s some wait for a sequel.
The other book which I reread some 35 years later (yes I know showing my age) was The Stand. I picked it up at the airport prior to flying to Canada for the first time (a long time ago) because it was a nice thick book. We’ve all been there prior to a long haul flight – right? Anyway, once I started reading I was completely hooked. This was my introduction to Stephen King and his storytelling. When I read the special complete & uncut edition all those years later, it was still gripping and sucked me into the narrative.
Just a quick sidebar – I had watched the movie Carrie years before but had no idea it was by Stephen at that time.
Without characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.
This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.
A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name. There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world. These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.
The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.
We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.
How do you set about building a character?
Do you write out a full description of your characters?
Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?
In 2017, soon after Firstborn released, I met with my publisher in New York to talk about what was next. I had a short list of favorite story concepts—the idea of a cult escapee starting over and a pandemic rising from the permafrost (an idea straight from the headlines) among six or seven others. My publisher said, “I like both of those. I think you should put them together!”
It worked out very well! I wish I could take credit for the combination, but it was my publisher’s idea.
How did you come up with the title?
There is this theme through the book about crossing lines from one life, or one realm, into another. It’s also about the thin line between so many things including sanity and madness, faith and apostasy, safety and danger.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are certainly themes built into each of my books—in this case, climate change, sexual harassment, and leaps of faith. But what I hope readers will take from my books is always first and foremost a great experience and engrossing journey—the escape we turn to fiction for.
How much of the book is realistic?
I’ve been told it’s frighteningly realistic, due mostly to the fact that it’s inspired by real events—a disease re-emerging from the permafrost, and a cyber attack on the electrical grid. I left details about these events in my author’s note at the end for those interested.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Except for a couple small cameos I gave my dad, sister, and I in my first novel, DEMON, they’re all fictional. I name characters after people I know, fans, and family sometimes, though. The main character in THE LINE BETWEEN, Wynter, is named after my step-daughter.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Yes! I’ve got a blog on my website at toscalee.com, which is also where you can find links to my social media and my newsletter, including my newsletter just for writers.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
The sequel, A SINGLE LIGHT releases this September and picks up right where THE LINE BETWEEN ends. It comes out September 17, and is up for pre-order now!
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
There’s a character in A SINGLE LIGHT who is one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written. He’s sweet, quirky, and often hilarious. I can’t wait to introduce him to the world!
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I write thrillers, some of which are slightly supernatural, some dystopian books, and historical novels.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I have to have at least a loose outline. I learned that the hard way.
What is your best marketing tip?
Do the parts that are most interesting to you and keep it fun.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Both. It’s great for staying in touch with readers and sharing updates. But it’s very time-consuming!
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Being able to set my own schedule and write in my pajamas!
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
What genre are you currently reading?
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
Do you see writing as a career?
I write full-time. When people ask me about how I stay motivated the answer is easy: I like to eat. 😀
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Cheetos and buttered popcorn! Neither one is good for keyboards.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
I clean closets. That probably doesn’t sound like a reward, but I find it very therapeutic.
Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels including THE LINE BETWEEN, THE PROGENY, FIRSTBORN, THE LEGEND OF SHEBA, ISCARIOT, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages and been optioned for TV and film. A notorious night-owl, she loves movies, playing football with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband.
You can find Tosca at ToscaLee.com, on social media, or hanging around the snack table. A SINGLE LIGHT, Tosca’s highly-anticipated sequel to THE LINE BETWEEN, releases September 2019 and is available for preorder now.
About THE LINE BETWEEN:
In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.
When Wynter Roth is turned out of New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.
As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.
Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter herself.
Filled with action, conspiracy, romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe, The Line Between is a high-octane story of survival and love in a world on the brink of madness.