Kay: What Readers Want

Photo: Black Milk Women

I recently ran across a survey that I thought the other Ladies and their fans might be interested in. The (very) informal survey was conducted by Barbara Linn Probst, a novelist and researcher who holds a Ph.D. in clinical social work. She wanted to know what elements of a novel made a reader love it.

Probst said that the idea for the survey was triggered because as a novelist, she felt that she was thinking like a technician, not a reader. She said that while she focused on characterization, plot development, and pacing, she said that she believed readers didn’t pay attention to those things—unless some massive failure drew a reader’s attention to them. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Honest Review?

eight ladies writing, justine covington, favorite websitesI’ve been reading on-line reviews lately which, in some cases, is a lot like slowing down to look at an accident on the side of the road.  You know you shouldn’t do it, but something just draws you in.

I often scan the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads for books I’m considering buying.  I’m rarely influenced by them, unless they happen to mention any of my no-buy triggers, but it’s interesting to see the range of responses a book may get.  Looking at the high and low reviews it often seems like they are talking about completely different books.

My recent foray into review reading was over on Goodreads, where I was curious to see what people thought about a series I am in the midst of reading.  I had a very strong emotional response to many of the books in the series and I wondered whether others had as well.  (They did.)  To be completely honest, I was also looking for some mild spoilers about the next book in the series so I could decide whether to continue reading or take a break.  The story I just finished had packed a major emotional punch and I wasn’t sure I could handle another dose quite so soon.

Based on the reviews – some of which were wonderfully written, some of which were witty, some of which were just plain mean, and very few of which contained actual spoilers – I decided it was time for a little reading palate cleanser.

Conveniently, as a “street team” member for a number of authors, I often have Advanced Reader copies (ARCs) of upcoming books sitting in my inbox, waiting to be read.  Even more conveniently, the most recent ARC I had ready and waiting was about as far from the series I had been reading as it is possible to be and still be book.

Palate cleansed. Continue reading

Jeanne: Writing the Unlikable Protagonist

Some of my very favorite books have unlikable protagonists:

  • Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
  • Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn,
  • Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy O’Toole
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte.
  • Citizen Vince, by Jess Walter

But, you point out, most of those novels are literary fiction. Only one is a Romance.

True, but I’ve never subscribed to the notion that Romance can’t take on the same challenges as other genres. The only two rules your book has to follow to be a Romance are:

  1. Must have a central love story.
  2. Must end with a happy ever after.

That’s it. Somewhere along the way, a lot of romance authors (and, to be honest, readers) have added a third, unwritten rule: The protagonist must be likable from Day One. I beg to disagree. Continue reading

Jeanne: My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

censorship-3308001_640So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.

I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.

What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable. Continue reading