I'm a terrible, horrible, lazy, naughty blogger. The blogger police won't have to come after me because I am just going to turn myself in to them. Yes, finally, after months of procrastinating and avoiding questions of where my pictures are, here is my recap of Authors After Dark Savannah.
Savannah Marriott Riverfront. The hotel was right next to the Savannah River and the back patio looked out on the water and the riverfront, with shops, stores and tour companies was within walking distance.
The first panel I went to on Thursday Morning was Tying Up Loose Ends (Jeri Smith-Ready, Pip Ballantine, Lynn Rush, Kate Douglas, Bianca D'Arc, Rebecca Zanetti), which was a discussion of completing a story or series without leaving the readers (or the authors) frustrated from unanswered questions. An attendee stated that she gets upset when there is a book one and two and then no book three. The panelists explained that it's not always the author's fault, since sometimes the publishers don't buy or publish a third book.
One way that authors can combat this and stay in their created world is to write spin offs or self publish. "A spin off is a way to stay in the world. I worked on this world and I didn't want to give it up." Kate Douglas told us.
Zanetti stated that readers may be comfortable with a familiar world so it's important to include something new in spinoff. She personally likes to turn it on it's head and surprise readers so they don't get too comfortable.
One attendee asked if any of the authors are influenced by readers. Do they see if they're ready for a certain kind of ending. The authors do look at feedback and newsletters that asked what questions did you want answered. Sometimes it can be a lighbulb moment.
Rebecca revealed that she already knows how the story will be resolved but sometimes you have to be careful so you don't write yourself in a corner.
The authors also pointed out that as a writer it is good to have a re-bound book right after a series, maybe a stand-alone.
The heroine in a Gothic tale is usually a virginal kind of maiden and are not like an Urban Fantasy heroine, who is usually a bad-ass. Setting is also important, but if you are writing a modern story, it's more of a feeling. Gothic stories have moddy elements that hinge on horror and evocative descriptions and emotions.
The authors discussed their books and what makes their works Gothic in nature. Clare writes about Azazel, a demon, as the main guy in her books. Erin Kellison's Shadow Kissed series sounds very interesting. Magic is slowly creeping back into this world. It's a new Dark Age, not be confused with the Dark Ages. She stated that there are no monsters, but it is dark and creepy.
The weirdest thing they've ever done for research? Clare Ashgrove called a male friend at 2 a.m. to ask him to explain what sex felt like from a male point of view. Clare also said she spent three months with a fire department. Erin sat in a gas chamber at a penitentiary. (Yipes!)
Of course, I had to attend Vamps (Joey Hill, CJ Ellison, Jess Haines, Rebecca Zanetti, Mary Janice Davidson) and as the panel title reveals the authors discussed how they utilize vampires in their novels.
Joey discussed that in her books there is a vampire/servant relationship and she compared it to the same dynamic as in the movie Fright Night and went on to gush about the dance scene in that movie. (Which is awesome by the way.) Jess Haines writes Urban Fantasy and ever since she saw Blade (which we all know is awesome), she needed a vampire hunter of her own. Her main character, however, is phobic of vamps. Jess told us that people get annoyed with her heroine, but Shiarra makes her laugh. Mary Janice Davidson also mentioned Fright Night, specifically the love song from the movie. (Which is awesome by the way.) She wrote her book because she kept running into the same vampire in the bookstores. She couldn't relate to the rich, young hot vampires. She wondered where the secretary vampires were. That's how Betsy was born.
Rebecca sat down to write a romantic suspense and her hero kept wanting to bite. Her vampires are born, not made and her witches use Quantum Physics. She feels that magic is science we haven't been able to explain...yet.
Why vampires? Joey Hill repeated she was inspired by Fright Night (Remember when I said it was awesome?), and Anita Blake. Her publisher wanted something supernatural so Joey came up with her Vampire Queen series.
CJ loved reading about vampires, but got tired of the tropes and the angst and wanted to read about a real couple. She feels that you can make the vampire legend anything you want, as long as you stick to some tradition. She also likes vampires because they have more flexibility.
Jess had been writing a "bad trilogy" and wasn't having fun. Then she started writing for herself and Hunted by Others was born.
Joey hates the world building. She just wants to focus on the relationships. Sometimes she'll ask her fans because they are like a search engine. CJ keeps a notebook by her bed. Jess uses the notes app on her phone and has been known to write on things with eyeliner. Rebecca uses sticky notes and sometimes asks her husband at inappropriate times what he is feeling at that exact moment.
Next up was Horror in Romance
CJ simply loved the dark aspects of books. From violence to themes of how characters were portrayed. She didn't know she was writing Horror. Her main character, Viv, is a dark creature. Her husband pulls her back from the edge. CJ enjoys writing the scarier scenes, but she feels readers need to connect with the characters and their human side. Isabelle is not sure why her writing went this way, but her books are quite dark and not the kind of thing she thought she would write. Saranna uses horror as a transformative tool. Her character is a serial killer. Isabella described her books as a Faustian bargain.
I thought Saranna's reason for writing Horror was interesting. She saw The Exorcist and wanted to make people "feel this." She also expressed that love just doesn't solve everything. Although the movies and television and many books give us this message, it's not necessarily true in real life. I haven't been able to read Saranna's books yet, but I'm interested in how this view translates to her stories.
The last panel I attended was The Big Bad Villains (Jennifer Estep, Claire Ashgrove, Dianna Love Jean Joachim, Kristen Painter). This was a very spirited session. Maybe because it was the end of the day or maybe it was just the fun subject matter.
The panelists discussed what kind of villains they liked to write. Jennifer Estep prefers to write a typical villain, the moustache twirling kind. But she likes them to be as appealing as her heroes. Clare prefers her villains to be morally ambiguous. She doesn't want her readers to like them. Dianna likes her villains to be evil, but human so that the reader can connect to them. Because, she clarified, that is scary. Jean feels villains need to have a backstory so readers understand them. Kristen told us that the big bad in her House of Commare series gives her great joy. "She is a crazy, fun chick to write." Painter says. She feels that women have a deviousness that lends itself to good villainy.
The topic then progressed to Male vs. Female villains. Kristen feels that female villains are more dimensional. She explained, "I guess you don't expect a female to be that bad." Jean has two female villains and explained she uses whatever fits the stories. Jennifer goes back and forth. She feels that female villains have a different dynamic. They are more devious as well as fun to write. She likes to alternate but if it's over a series, more tend to write a female.
A great question came up: Have you ever fallen in love with a villain and let them live? Clare said no, because they have a role they must fill. Dianna stated that if her villains cross a line they must pay. You're going to want them get their come-uppance. However, Jean's answer was yes! And, she named Gunther Quill. As he went on in her stories he became more than what was in her mind. He charmed her (the FMC) and he charmed me."
Since Kristen is not a plotter, a lot of things are a surprise to her. "I write to see what is going to happen next." (How cool is that?). She explained that a character can get redeemed because of what you show in their past. She likes to give them a glimpse of humanity to make reader's question.
A discussion followed of whether they have their villains cross "that line." Kristen stated that she is willing to cross it, but the character has to pay. Dianna also said her villains will cross a line. She also warned that your hero has to be as big as your villain. Clare said there is a line but she writes dark so the line is pretty far and there's no coming back. Jennifer's villains are already over the line. So then, there's no eddying up to the line. The important element is that it's not really about the villain, it's how the hero/heroine reacts to the villain.
Favorite villains? Estep said that Batman has great villains and she especially likes the Joker because he is chaos. "Someone real." Clare said. She went on to explain that she meant the kind of people who didn't mean to screw up your life, but they did and they don't regret it. Dianna's favorite villain: Hannibal Lechter. They screw with your mind. Jean named Catherine du Bourg (Pride and Prejudice) or the father from Persuasion because they try to hurt the heroine and they are very real. They are the people who are supposed to love you, but belittle you bit by bit.
To keep their villains from being cliched, Kristen says that they need to show motivation and background. Jean expanded on that idea by stating you have to understand where the villain is coming from. You may not agree, but you understand. Sometimes people are driven to actions by circumstances. Dianne keeps her villains real by giving him or her goals, motivations and by surprising the reader. Clare gives her villains a strong goal and also gives them a characteristic people can identify with.
Then there was an audience discussion of whether readers want to see the villains get it in the end. There were mixed reactions. Jennifer stated that death is sometimes too easy. She is always surprised to see who readers like or don't like.
That evening there was a carnival in the hotel with authors holding booths to win prizes. The Erotic ring toss was popular (I took pictures, but I won't post for fear Blogger will banish my blog) and there was also a slide, roulette, face painting, temporary tattoos, and cotton candy (yum).
Later that night, I did a Savannah Ghost Tour and was regaled by awesome cool ghost tales including, yep, you guessed it, the famous fountain from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Don't forget to sign up for the 2014 Authors After Dark Challenge hosted by me and Bookswagger!