I don’t want to go into details, but there have been some Readers Behaving Badly — readers so upset about an author’s story choices that they have resorted to threats. I’m flummoxed about this because, while I understand how readers might get mad at a book and never read that author again, that they would threaten an author and say horrific things on-line is beyond me. We’ve heard of stalkers (both physical and on-line) and general threats to all celebrities, and some of them authors, but to me, this situation goes even further, as if the characters and story is more real to some readers than life itself.
I think these types of readers are few and far between. The problem is that when they all gather in one place on-line, that they feed off each other, which isn’t always good. I keep envisioning Gaston and the townspeople in Beauty and the Beast.
All this angst over the story decisions of the talented and popular Charlaine Harris had me thinking I’ve been lucky that my readers haven’t gone to such extremes. I love asking readers questions and while I wouldn’t ask for help with major story decisions, I like discussing some of the story details I’m undecided about.
Lately, I’ve been asking readers on my Facebook page questions when I’ve been a bit stumped — and they’ve responded so overwhelmingly (and mostly agreeing) that I wondered why I didn’t see the answer in the first place!
Last month, I ran a contest about where Lucy Kincaid, my series character, should be assigned when she graduates from the FBI. Though she doesn’t graduate until after STOLEN, I needed the answer for COLD SNAP, which I’ve just finished writing. Overwhelmingly, readers picked San Antonio, with Hawaii a distant second and Los Angeles and New York City barely a blip on the radar.
I suspect it’s because there are so many books set in Los Angeles and New York City that readers liked the idea of something a bit different. I’m so excited that I’m planning a research trip there in September. (Though, I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have minded a research trip to Hawaii! Maybe, if Sean and Lucy ever get married, I’ll send them to Hawaii for their Honeymoon. And whenever they go on vacation together, trouble follows …)
Yesterday, I posted another question. Because COLD SNAP reunites all the Kincaid’s as they make their way home for Christmas, and many of them haven’t been on the page since 2007 and 2008 (plus, I have more readers now so some people might not have read the earlier books), should I have a character chart of sorts as a foreword, afterward, or a Dear Reader letter directing people to my website, where I could go into more detail about the Kincaid’s and how everyone relates.
Amazingly, my readers came up with a great answer! They said to have a brief character chart as the foreword, but provide a link to my website where I can go into more detail and share some trivia about the books and characters. This was one of those “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!” moments, and I’m very excited about it. I have a character chart now, but it’s very simple, just lists recurring characters and which books.
So readers can expect, by the time COLD SNAP comes out on October 29, that there will be a fun character chart with information not only about how the characters relate and which books they’re in, but trivia. When Hans Vigo was supposed to die and why I didn’t have the heart to kill him. That I intended to kill off Patrick Kincaid in FEAR NO EVIL until my mom threatened to disown me after I mused out loud that he might die. That the reason why Dean Hooper from FATAL SECRETS is Will Hooper’s brother is that I thought I’d written in Dean in KILLING FEAR with his and Will’s backstory. It wasn’t until later that my editor told me that Dean wasn’t in KILLING FEAR — I had edited him out and didn’t remember!
But there are some questions I won’t be asking readers. In my upcoming Maxine Revere series, she has two love interests. One will come out on top (no pun intended!) within the first 3 or 4 books. I think I know which one, but I’m not 100% positive. And while I’ve made the story promise that Sean and Lucy will survive (I started the series as romantic suspense, so I’ll keep that story promise for the life of Lucy’s series), I won’t promise that anyone else is safe. I hope to continue to push the envelope and write boldly and with passion–because I love writing, and when it becomes staid, I’ll retire.
Yesterday at Heroes & Heartbreakers (a great site for romance readers!) they did an exclusive cover reveal for COLD SNAP, so now I get to show you the cover. AND there’s an exclusive excerpt from STOLEN, which comes out in only four more weeks (yikes! Where did the time go?) I really love these covers — so far, they’re my favorites of the series!
I think that whenever an author has a series with a continuing main character (or three or four or ten …) there’s bound to be a familiarity between the reader and the characters. We WANT that because that means we’re doing our job. I like when people are invested in my characters and what happens to them … but not to the extreme of death threats.
Hugs and kisses are going out to Charlaine, even though I’ve never met her (well, once, at a conference, in a quick introduction) because I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. She should be happy and thrilled at a fantastic ending to a hugely successful 13-book series — not worried that the pitchforks are coming.
Ask me anything — or tell me what bits of book trivia you’d be interested in for my new feature on my webpage. If I can share, I will!