Every writer when they sit down to start a book is faced with the conundrum of how their characters will come to life. How do they start writing the book? How do they allow the voices of the characters to speak to a wider audience through the page?
That was the challenge I faced when I sat down to write Spirit Warrior recently. Spirit Warrior is Book 2 in the Spirit Pass series and is a romantic western with a time travel component. The first book in the series was Indiana Wild. In the first book, Indiana Wild, we got to meet Allie and Jacob, who then went on to become the main leads in the second book, Spirit Warrior.
There were two options open to me as to how I should write Spirit Warrior; one was to start Spirit Warrior where Indiana Wild left off and the other option was to tell Allie and Jacob’s story as they were telling it to me in my head.
I made a conscious choice to start Allie and Jacob’s story when they insisted I should… when they first met. I did this because I needed to allow readers to see what Allie, in particular, was going through. A number of reviews for Spirit Warrior have mentioned that it was a mistake to write the story from when Allie and Jacob first met – that I should have started it from when they were galloping off into the sunset at the end of Indiana Wild.
Spirit Pass is a time travel/western romance series, which may lead readers to believe that the inevitable tension between the hero and heroine come from the tension between past and present. In actual fact, the conflict in Spirit Warrior comes from the internal life experiences of Allie and Jacob, rather than from their external environment. The setting was based in the past and present, but that was not what the story was meant to be about. It just happened to be where it was occurring. The story was in fact about two individuals faced with the challenges life had given them. For Allie, it was the fear of losing someone who she cared about again. For Jacob, it was knowing he might have to give up everything he and his brother had built and live a life in a world he was unprepared for.
For a moment, I ask that you place yourself in their positions and think of how you would feel and deal with such decisions. In reality, people have lived and done this hundreds of thousands of times before in our history. Every time someone we have loved has died or gone away or for the millions of people who have made the decision to leave their country or the only life they have known to journey to a place of uncertainty, a place that is strange/yet familiar, and given up everything they have for one reason or another.
I admit to being as insecure as the next writer about my books, however the negative reviews suggesting Spirit Warrior were a rehash of Indiana Wild did hurt. Some people understand ‘why’ it is necessary to tell a story a certain way. With Jacob and Allie, I had two choices, continue where Indiana ended and give little bits as to how they met and got to where they were, or tell the story from their point of view and what was happening to influence them. They both told me that was what needed to be done. The focus of the story was on them. Yes, some dialogue was the same because it involved the characters in the previous story, but that was a very small amount and only when it was absolutely necessary to blend the two timelines together. In my mind, I believed that if a reader really read the story, they would understand that it enhanced what was going on in the background of the previous book. It is important to realize that when I share a story, it is much like real life. Life does not always run in serial, but is often parallel. Just as you spend time with someone, such as your partner, spouse, or kids, during the day, then go about your daily life only to meet again, so do the lives of my characters. It would be the equivalent of me writing about your life, then the life of someone else you know. Your stories and timelines will be occurring at the same times and you sometimes meet and interact during that timeline, but then there are other things that are going on that you were not present for. In addition, each person has a different viewpoint of what is happening. As an author, I am fascinated by these different points of view and respect them as being important.
I spoke with several people about the reviews and one comment really got me thinking! My colleague’s comment was, “I think the problem is readers have gotten lazy because the majority of authors have gotten lazy: The next book starts where the previous book stopped. You’re not cookie cutter! You care about the story and take the time to blend & weave. Celebrate that because it’s an important part of who you are as a writer. This story needed to see how Allie & Jacob met and started their relationship. If you hadn’t of done that I guarantee more readers would be on your case for not telling a complete story. Yes, you could have done flashbacks, but blah not for this story. Personally, I loved that I got their full story from start to finish. I got to see Jacob struggle with modern/past times, I got to be there when Chris died, I got to understand in real time why Allie was closed off. That’s all important character development.”
And so the questions I would like to raise with my readers – because you and the characters are the most important part of why I write – are: Have readers gotten lazy? Have authors gotten lazy? Have we become so used to serial type books that we expect books to start where the previous one finishes? What is important to readers?
I would love your opinions. I ask that you be respectful, think about your answers, and be positive (ie. Don’t say something mean, just to be mean). Anyone who knows me and my stories know that I look for the good in everything. I value your opinions and comments.
For those in book clubs, I wondered if Spirit Warrior might be a good book to discuss and so I have created discussion questions for book clubs to use. Click here to download those questions and share with your book club friends.
Aka S. E. Smith
Surprise! A book I wrote for 10 yo Julianna has been released on Amazon.
The Troll King of Wildland: The Adventures of Julianna is written especially for kids aged between 8-11.
Here’s the link if you have any kids who love reading and adventure. Please share.
The Troll King of Wildland: The Adventures of Julianna
Just as other authors are, I have been both fascinated and puzzled by the conflict between Amazon and Hachette, or should I say Hachette and Amazon. Either way you look at it, from either point-of-view, the only one being hurt is the author. This argument is not about the authors and doing right by them or the readers, but about power and fear.
Amazon sent out a letter to explain their side of the conflict. As both a reader and an author, I appreciate this upfront approach to explaining the situation. I like having the facts and being treated like I’m intelligent enough to understand the underlying problem. I’ve read through the articles, weighed the different points of view, and being an author, came up with my own conclusion… this is about power and fear.
For those not familiar with what I am talking about I will give you a brief summary, but I’ve included a link to the article http://www.readersunited.com/ for those wanting to explore the situation further. Now, I am not claiming to be an expert on the world of publishing or big business, but I am familiar with both. All I can give, as will many others, is my opinion based on the facts (and other opinions) that I have read.
To summarize the situation, Hatchette was caught colluding with its competitors to raise ebook prices. Amazon, currently the #1 ebook distributor in the world, refused to cooperate. They have a reputation of offering discounts and ebooks at reasonable prices for their readers. I know this, because they have discounted my books. Does this affect my royalties? No, I still get the same royalty as I would have gotten before. The big difference is that I offer my ebooks at a reasonable price of anywhere from $.99 to $3.99. This is a huge difference from Hatchette’s asking price of $14.99-$19.99.
You might think, why shouldn’t they? Their authors are BIG names, after all. The reason the authors are big names is for another blog. But, let me assure you there are a lot of GREAT stories out there by authors that would have been turned down by the Big Six Publishing Houses for not fitting into the little boxes they have created.
But, I don’t want to regress. As I mentioned a moment ago, that is a discussion for another blog. This blog is about the issue as I see it between Amazon/Hatchette. This is about power, control and fighting change. In other words, fear of losing control and not being able to keep up with the changes going on around them. All the numbers from the numerous algorithms are spitting out the same thing; cheaper ebook prices equal greater sales; which means more money. More money for the publishing house, more money for the author, more readers happy AND better for the environment.
So, what is the problem then? As I stated before, this is not about what is good or right. It is about power, control and fear. The publishing industry is changing dramatically and at an exponential rate. Publishing companies like Hatchette are not ready, or set up, to handle these changes. They are still set in their old world standards where they pick and choose who will be the next bestselling author or newest book to take the market by storm.
So what is the answer? Amazon has offered multiple olive branches in an effort to work with Hatchette. Those branches have been torched and returned without any suggestions for compromise or resolution. Well, I have an idea. It is brilliant in its simplicity. Instead of an olive branch, I think Amazon should send Hatchette a pair of big girl panties and tell them to put them on. Change isn’t coming, it has already happened. The world has tasted the flavors of books that Indie authors have to offer and they are finding they like it. It is time to make lemonade, boys and girls. The Internet, ebooks, and Indie authors are here to stay, not to mention Amazon. It really is a wonderful world. I’d like to invite Hatchette to see just how beautiful it is.
S. E. Smith is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author. She enjoys exploring new worlds and taking her readers with her. Readers can reach her at email@example.com or at https://sesmithfl.com.
I attended my first RomCon this year in June in Denver, Colorado and I decided to take some time out and make it a road trip from our home in Florida.
As you know, I love to include little quirks in many of my books. One of my real life quirks is naming the technology in our vehicles. For readers of my Cosmos Gateway series, did you know that RITA first began life as my GPS unit; we even decorated RITA, lol.
And Walter from my Lords of Kassis series is also the name of our RV.
In our road trip we visited over 22 States and covered 8,000 miles. My hubby is a true champion as he drove Walter for the majority of the time.
Here are some of the top pics from my summer road trip:
And now I am home in my beautiful home State of Florida and ready to start writing full time. As I traveled through cowboy country, I found myself snapping pictures of scenes and imagining the characters from my Spirit Pass series riding across the range. I was also inspired to write Touch of Frost which is set in New Mexico. There is nothing like visiting an area to become immersed in a story.
Summer is turning out pretty neat so far! lol
You would be shocked that traditional publishing houses don’t think of Science Fiction Romance as being a popular genre. I guess they don’t know what they are missing!
I am obviously a fan of sci-fi romance given I write about it and read the genre. What I love about science fiction romance is the possibilities! The chance to see worlds in a whole new way. The chance to discover what could be out there.
In some ways I see my writing a lot like Star Trek with each story being an episode. And each episode contributing to building my worlds. I write sci-fi romance with a combination of Sci-fi, fantasy, shape-shifter, action, adventure, romance, humor, etc. all in one story. And perhaps this is the problem publishers have with me at least! They have a problem trying to ‘fit’ me into one of their boxes!
To read my full vent, check out my new post over at Starbound Lovers blog. Maybe someone needs to talk to the publishing houses!
Here’s the link: http://starboundlovers.blogspot.com/