Writing the “unlikeable” character

LB
Initially unlikable, but utterly loveable―Elle from Legally Blonde

I’m currently writing my fifth book and my sixth main character―the maths doesn’t add up, because one book has three main characters and two books have the same main character. Anyway …

I am hyper aware that my current main character is, based on her role as a supporting character in another book, “unlikeable”―so much so, that when I mentioned to a friend who I was writing about, she cringed.

So, why write this character? Why give her a whole book?

In short, it’s because I love her.

I love the hard, prickly exterior she uses to mask a lifetime of being terrified of vulnerability. I love that, once she does care about someone, she is fiercely loyal and generous. I love that she is feisty and bold, independent and resourceful.

I love that, just like the rest of us, she is complex and a mass of contradictions, and that there are clear reasons why she is like she is.

I am about 80% into the book, and I’m enjoying watching her grow. There are moments she has, where she realises something about herself, or where her heart fills, and I am proud of her―this imaginary person.

And I’m realising as I write, that the through-line of this book is compassion―for oneself, for others. She may not be likeable to every reader right away, but as the layers strip away, she is/becomes a beautiful human being. How many times have we met someone who irked us, and through compassion, we’ve realised that there is more going on than their exterior, that we could love them or let them into our lives?

I’ve said before that I know my books won’t be for every reader. My first three books are about the Parsons sisters, Sarah and Cat. For some readers, these characters read as “immature”―”how can these women be in their thirties?”―and for those readers, Sarah and Cat are unlikeable because of their immaturity. But I stand by them as believable, because in many ways, Sarah is a lot like a thirty-something Sandy―sometimes whiny, often witty, confused about love, and trying to find her way.

But what’s important to me as a writer, is that these realistic, perhaps unlikeable women, transform. I want my books to be about growing, learning, opening the heart, and transformation.

And in real life, imagine how dull it would be if every person we met was instantly likeable, if no one rubbed us up the wrong way, or disagreed with us, or challenged us to see ourselves in a new light. How would we grow? How would we develop compassion and understanding? I posit that we wouldn’t.

So, even if you initially find a character unlikeable, give them a chance to reveal themselves, to become their true, loveable selves―just like Elle.

 

 

Catching up with Author Kiley Dunbar

To, I have the great pleasure of catching up with a fabulous author who I met through UKRomChat. Like me, Kiley writes love stories set in beautiful places, exploring the themes of self discovery and love. And, also like me, she is proudly a MASSIVE Shakespeare geek (dips head to The Bard). Today, we will be chatting about her latest book, Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, the first in a new series.

Tell us what inspired you to write Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?

I spend a beautiful week in Plockton, a seaside village in the Scottish highlands, in August 2018. The whole family was there, including my kids, husband, parents and Amos the dog. We stumbled across a little bay made of white coral pieces and with turquoise blue water to rival any tropical bay. I knew as soon as I set foot on that beach I was somewhere magical and the story ideas started fizzing.

When did you start writing seriously?

Surprisingly recently. I wrote as a child and teenager but when I got to uni I stopped and focused on an academic career. So I published lots of articles and book chapters about the Victorians, suffrage campaigners and their writings, but gave up on my creative writing. The need to write kept niggling away at me until August 2017 when I couldn’t hold back any longer and I started writing One Summer’s Night which turned out to be my debut novel.

What do you love most about being an author?

I get to make people up, give them a world to inhabit, threw problems in their way, then soothe away all their sadness with love and romance. Then I get to share them with other people. What’s not to love about that!

What are you working on now?

I’m editing my fourth book, One Winter’s Night (that’s the working title anyway). It’s the sequel to my debut novel and it follows my heroine Kelsey Anderson as she stays in Stratford-upon-Avon over autumn and winter and sets up her photography studio. There’s a lot of steamy romance and festive feels in this one. It was a blast to write. (out September 2020)

What do you hope readers will take away from Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?

The message of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is that there is always sweetness after difficulties and rainbows after storms, so hold on. Things will get better.

Also, I hope readers will take away an indelible impression of my craftsman hero – the grumpy, redheaded Scot, Atholl Fergusson, who is hotter than the sun.

Blurb

Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed.

Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.

But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.

But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?

Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands with this utterly romantic, feelgood book; one visit to Port Willow Bay and you’ll want to come back! Fans of Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews and Holly Martin will be captivated.

Buy links (currently on sale in all countries!)

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

More about Kiley

Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places for Hera Books.

Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her partner, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme. She’s was a ‘Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers’ finalist in 2019 with her debut novel One Summer’s Night.

Follow Kiley

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Catching up with Author Samantha Tonge

The wonderful Samantha Tonge warmly welcomed me to the writing community when I was a debut author and it is a pleasure to welcome her to my blog for a catch up.

Her latest book The Summer Island Swap is a wonderful way to vicariously travel to a far off destination from the comfort of home. So, let’s find out more.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Summer Island Swap.

My son returned from a conservation volunteering trip in the rainforest and I was fascinated by his stories of the work they did there and the rescued animals. And then I saw a photo of him with a monkey virtually wrapped around his head! I knew, in that instant, that I wanted to write a story about rescue animals and the kind of people who saved their lives.

Although I have to admit, I did also listen to tales of tarantulas and basic showers with horror and thought what fun it would be to drop a character into that environment who was expecting a rather more luxurious type of holiday – cue Sarah!

When did you start writing seriously?

When my youngest started school in 2005. Life had been a bit full-on until then although – corny as it sounds – I always knew that, one day, I would write. I was in my late 30s and it took a while, but I finally got my first publishing deal in 2013.

What do you love most about being an author?

Feedback from readers means EVERYTHING. To know that my work might have cheered someone up means the world. And sometimes my books have inspired people to follow their dreams and move abroad, or get help for a health condition, and finding those things out is extremely special.

What are you working on now?

My Christmas 2020 novel. I’m super-excited about it, even though it’s been extremely challenging to concentrate and write during lockdown. The male protagonist – funnily enough, Sandy! – is from Sydney and I hope readers find him as mesmerising as Jess, the female lead, does.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Summer Island Swap?

It’s a story about following your dreams and letting go of the past and I hope readers perhaps get inspired, in some small way, to do that. I faced 8 years of rejection to get published and it was difficult – and Sarah, the main character of this book, has faced hard times too to fulfil her dream which is to be independent and have her own home and a job she loves. So if readers took something from that, it would be brilliant. But more than that, I learnt a great deal about conservation whilst writing this book and doing so increased my love, even more, of the natural world. I hope readers find that interesting as well. However, having said all of that, what matters most to me is that readers simply enjoy the story and manage to escape from the difficult circumstances we are all facing at the moment.

The Blurb

Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…

After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.

But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.

So now Sarah’s battling mosquitoes, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.

Buy Links

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

Follow Samantha

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A Hero’s Journey – Furious Fiction May 2020

A breathtaking read from fellow Aussie author Nathan J Phillips for May’s Furious Fiction with the Australian Writer’s Centre.

So good I just had to share.

Nathan J Phillips

I haven’t shared a Furious Fiction story for a little while – quite frankly, they didn’t make it past the internal Quality Control assessments to justify making them public.

This story was different for a couple reasons – first of all, it felt like it hit all the buttons I wanted it to, so that was nice. Secondly, it managed to make the Long List for the month, which is a first for me and still has me giddy with excitement! But without further ado (ad while I quickly double check the list again to make sure I haven’t imagined this), here are the conditions and the story!

Conditions:

The story’s first word had to be FIVE.

The story had to include something being replaced.

The story had to include the phrase A/THE SILVER LINING

A Hero’s Journey

Five faces stare at me through the hatch. Relief washes over them…

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#CoverReveal Love Me Like You Do by Aimee Brown

It is an absolute pleasure to be part of the cover reveal for the incredible author Aimee Brown’s next book, Love Me Like You Do!

AimeeBrown_LoveMeLikeYouDo

About the book

A runaway bride. A handsome stranger. Two pasts to put behind them.

Parker is ready to marry the man of her dreams. But he isn’t ready to marry her. It would be helpful if he didn’t choose their wedding day to tell her this. But as she flees from the travesty behind her, she literally runs into the arms of a handsome stranger. The southern drawl, the dreamy eyes, she can’t fall for another man after being left at the altar – can she?

When Liam agreed to go to go on a date he didn’t expect to leave with the bride. Nor did he expect to take her the emergency room. Immediately he’s drawn to her fiery spirit, her kind heart and beautiful smile. Liam’s got a whole host of problems and a past that keeps coming back, now can’t be the time to fall in love, but Parker might just be the one to break down his barriers and let him live a little – if she’ll let him in.

Will these two strangers allow serendipity to put them together, or will their fears keep them apart?

Buy links: 

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Google Play

About Aimee Brown

Aimee Brown is a writer of romantic comedies set in Portland, Oregon, and an avid reader. She spends much of her time writing, raising three teenagers, binge-watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to utter profanities like she’s competing for a medal. Aimee grew up in Oregon, but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and far too many pets. She is a lot older than she looks and yes, that is a tattoo across her chest. (“In the Portlandia spirit, yes, I lived many years in PDX and I do indeed have a bird tattooed on me – 2!”) Aimee is very active on social media. You can find her at any of the networks below. Stop by and say hello!

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Follow Aria

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Romance Tropes Part 1: Enemies to Lovers

I was thinking about romcoms recently – films, rather than books – and I realised that some of my absolute faves are those based on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.

Boy meets girl, she thinks he’s a dick. He thinks she’s stuck up. Hilarity and, eventually, love ensue.

For this trope to work, however, those initial perceptions have to be just a little bit true – he is a bit of a dick and she is a little stuck up – but both traits are about self-preservation. As the audience or reader, we see that each character’s exterior self is a defence mechanism.

And, as we’re familiar with the trope, we just know these characters will shed those prickly layers because they’ve met the other person.

Some of the best romantic comedy films do this perfectly.

  • French Kiss (Kate and Luc)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Andie and Ben)
  • Overboard (Annie/Joanna and Dean)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Kat and Patrick)
  • Sweet Home Alabama (Melanie and Jake – also a ‘lovers reunited’ story)
  • Clueless (Cher and Josh)
  • The Proposal (Margaret and Andrew – although he’s not a dick; he’s kinda terrific, actually)

Even Harry and Sally, the main characters in a ‘friends to lovers’ story start out as enemies. He’s an arrogant dick. She’s a snooty cow. They become friends, then lovers, but this film – the perfect romantic comedy and my favourite ever – leans heavily on the ‘enemies to lover’ trope.

Engaging with the other person brings out something special in each character. Sally sees Harry’s vulnerable side, getting at the root of his arrogance, and drawing out his better self. Harry appreciates something in Sally that no one else does, and she can be her truest, best self with him.

French Kiss – definitely in my top 5 romcoms – explores the depths of the trope. Yes, it is a lighthearted comedy, but when Kate and Luc are offered (very appealing) alternatives to each other (spoiler) they realise that they have fallen in love – the uptight American and the dodgy Frenchman. And (more spoilers) if that last shot of them kissing passionately in a vineyard doesn’t warm your romantic cockles, perhaps nothing will.

In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie and Ben are unknowingly pitted against each – enemies of circumstance – yet loves conquers all. And yes, Andrew in The Proposal is an unwitting victim to Margaret’s arrogance and entitlement – so bending the trope slightly – but they are still at cross-purposes for much of the story. By pretending to be with Andrew, Margaret’s vulnerable side shines through.

Admittedly, although I love this trope, I have yet to write it.  Wait! I have an idea …

Catching up with Author Katie Ginger

It is a pleasure to welcome the wonderful author, Katie Ginger, who is here to talk about her latest book Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay and all things writing.

Tell us what inspired you to write Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really love writing books set in the summer and had originally pitched this to my editor as being set at a music festival. We have a chat about what fitted better with the genre and decided that a food festival would be better and much more on trend. As a result, Swallowtail Bay’s strawberry festival was born with a main character who wanted to turn it into a food festival. Though the setting changed a little, the characters all remained as I’d envisaged them with Hetty being strong and feisty and John being grouchy in his crumbling country home!

When did you start writing seriously?

I took redundancy from my job in 2014, and decided to do something completely different from working as a manager in the museums sector. I signed up for a distance learning novel writing course as I’d always loved writing but had never felt confident about it, and it all went from there! I decided to really try and get a book deal after my cousin passed away from cancer and was lucky enough to be offered a two-book deal with HQ Digital in January 2018. It’s kind of just snowballed from there!

What do you love most about being an author?

Everything! Can I say everything?! But I really do love everything about it. I love thinking and plotting stories, figuring out who my characters are and what they do and what their emotional scars are. I love the excitement of the first draft and discovering the story and then editing. Editing is, I think the hardest thing but a necessary evil! Weirdly, the stage I love most is copy editing. I am so in awe of copy editors who know all the technical rules about dangling participles and all that stuff. That’s when a manuscript really gets shined up, I think!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on edits for the Christmas novel: the final book in the Swallowtail Bay series! I’ll be kind of sad to say goodbye to that little town! Then I’ll be working on some ideas for romantic comedies for next year (very excited about those!). I’m also venturing into a bit of historical cozy mystery writing under the pen name K E Coburn. It’s pretty full on, but I love it!

What do you hope readers will take away from Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really just want to give readers a little bit of respite from this crazy world we’re in right now. I hope I manage to make them laugh and smile and enjoy being somewhere else, away from the day-to-day worries. If I can do that, then I’ve hit the jackpot!

More about Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Grab your strawberries and cream and get ready to return to the beautiful Swallowtail Bay!

Summer is in full swing and the locals are getting excited for the launch of the Swallowtail Bay strawberry food festival. But will all run smoothly when festival organiser Hetty’s heart is torn between lord of the manor John Thornhill and successful bakery owner Ben?

Buy Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon CA 

More about Katie Ginger

Katie lives in the South East of England, by the sea, and she really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is her fifth novel. The first, Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay is available now. Her debut novel The Little Theatre on the Seafront was shortlisted for the Katie Fforde Debut Novel of the Year award, and her stand- alone Christmas novel Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage was a US Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing, Katie spends her time drinking gin, or with her husband, trying to keep alive their two children, Ellie and Sam. And there’s also their adorable King Charles Spaniel, Wotsit (yes, he is named after the crisps!).

Follow Katie

www.keginger.com | Facebook|Twitter | Instagram