Who’s Got Character with Siri Mitchell

My first introduction to contemporary fiction was reading Siri Mitchell’s fantastic novel, Kissing Adrien. I’d decided never to write a contemporary novel up to that point, but something about the humor, suspense, and excitement drew me in, not to mention Adrien and France. Two years later, I’d completed my first contemporary romantic comedy. Funny what God uses to shock us into his plans J Kissing Adrien is one of those books where you read the last chapter about seven times before you can put the book completely down….sigh.

Siri Mitchell doesn’t just write in the contemporary vein. Her most recent novels have been more historical, with enough emotion pumped through them to create a reality t.v. show. Each novel seems to hold a deep message that spans the years to relate to our struggles in our lives and cultures of today.

To learn more about Siri Mitchell, visit her website at: http://www.sirimitchell.com/

Time for Q & A:

1. Who is your favorite heroine & hero you’ve ever written? Why?

I have to say Claire and Adrien of Kissing Adrien. That book was my first in print and the writing experience was magical. Their relationship was so tender and playful. The story nearly wrote itself and they both seemed to sparkle. Some of my other characters in later books have been deeper and more complex, but those two characters were just pure fun.

2. What is the ‘behind the scenes story’ for the creation of that hero & heroine?  

I was an American living in France, just as Claire was. Although all of the cultural differences she noted and spiritual thoughts she had were mine, I have to say quite firmly that she was not a re-creation of me. It was fun to place my experiences into someone else’s life and see how they would change the course of events. The book was derived from a non-fiction manuscript I had previously written and the point of both was to examine how sometimes we mistake our culture for our Christianity. Adrien was a conglomerate of all of the French men I had the good fortune to meet. It was fascinating to watch how they interacted with the women in their lives.

Siri’s novel, She Walks in Beauty has one of the BEST heroes in it and boasts of Siri’s usual historical detail, but her brand new release, Unrivaled, has a hero of similiar stuff. You won’t want to miss either of these Siri Mitchell historicals!!! I think they might be my favorite of her historicals.

Kissing Adrien is still my FAVORITE contemporary of hers.
Character Creation Tip for the Day:

Joy. Don’t discount the joy of writing amazing characters. There’s a lot of hard work involved, maybe even some heart-ache, but the bottom line is that memorable characters are written Unrivaled Siri Mitchellfrom the passion that flows from the author’s pen. There may be frustrations along the way, but if you’ve been following the posts for the past month, all of the authors expressed the fun and joy they experience when breathing life into their heroes and heroines.

If there is no joy behind the process…no excitement in the creation by the creator, then maybe you’ve lost the purpose behind your writing. Joy of the author sets the pulse of the character.


Growing Challenging Characters – A Spectrum of Possibilities

Ya know, I was going to write about characterization from the Bible today, but I wanted to share something a little different today.

As some of you may know, I am a speech-language pathologist (by day) – with a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Almost every day, I get the opportunity to work with some amazing kids and adults who view the world a little differently (or a lot differently)

There is a great quote from the HBO movie Temple Grandin, I’d like to share with you. Temple Grandin’s mother was talking to Temple’s teacher- the teacher said:

“Temple is different.”

Mom said, “Different, not less.”


This way of processing info might lead to areas of need or disorder, but viewing the world in a unique way is not a disorder in and of itself. Or at least, I don’t see it that way.

Can it be frustrating? You bet. Infuriating? Sure. Heartbreaking? Of course – and that’s true for the parents, the professionals, AND the children themselves, but it can also be many other beautiful things. Amazing, exhilarating, fun, brilliant, insightful…those too.

Many of the individuals are the most sincere and genuinely kind people I’ve ever met.

Now, with characterization in mind:

I’ve promised myself that one day I’m going to write a romantic comedy where the hero is an Aspie (an affectionate term for individuals with Asperger’s syndrome- a ‘high functioning’ form of Autism. In fact, I have two novels in mind, but to write him really well, it’s going to be hard work.

You see, many of the Aspie or Auties in my life are pretty amazing. Their genuineness, honesty, and kindness are often hidden behind nonverbal communication that doesn’t portray those qualities. Since most of us are hard-wired to show and read facial expression and body language, we give off the right signals to others. We show the ‘appropriate’ smile or frown, the appropriate ‘attention’ and eye contact – but that’s not usually strengths for people on the Autism Spectrum.

Some people might not agree with my point of view – but I hope I’ve learned to ‘think outside the box’ a little by learning from all the wonderful people in my life.

So, I have two different books in mind where I hope to portray the beautiful ‘hearts’ of Aspies. Writing ANY character requires knowing him/her, though.

So what do you do to get to know your characters?

A character sketch? Profile? Do you fill out a form?

How do you make your characters 3 dimensional? Any pointers you want to share?

Do you have a wonderful story about someone you know who has Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome?

Sizzling First Encounters with Mary Connealy

Whether it’s a man-hating woman, an insecure china doll, an orphan-turned-school teacher, or a knife-slinging wildwoman, Mary Connealy knows how to write strong women.

Whether it’s a red-headed gentle-man, a rough and tumble man down on his luck, a big-hearted keeper of orphans, or a determined loner who knows how to dodge knives, Mary Connealy knows how to write strong men.

So – when  a strong woman meets a strong man emotional explosions are bound to occur…and Mary doesn’t disappoint. Her books are filled with adventure, danger, romantic conflict, and, of course, humor.

She’s also a writing-wildwoman herself. Already this year she had three new books in print and her fourth one is coming out NEXT MONTH. Wrangler in Petticoats comes next, followed by Sharpshooter in Petticoats. Those are a whole lot of petticoats 🙂

***But ONE lucky commenter today will win her new novel Doctors in Petticoats.

To learn more about Connealy Classics check out Mary’s website at www.maryconnealy.com

Now on to the questions and the ‘sneak peek’ into Doctors in Petticoats.

Mary, what do you think makes a great hero/heroine first encounter?

Pepper, What I like in a first meeting. One moment of attraction or connection or appreciation between them, even if it’s just a split second, then it alllllllllllll goes bad.
In this scene, thought I’ve sent it to you as the first meeting, they had one other ‘moment’ when Alex saved her life–but he did it to save his own life–or at least that’s the unflattering spin a very stressed out Beth puts on his help. He woke up, pulled a runaway stage to a stop when she didn’t have the strength to do it alone, then crawled off to be alone without saying a word.
Then she dived in to help the wounded.
She needs help. He’s not offering. That leads to this scene, their first real exchange.
Oh boy, let’s see what problems you’re going to cause with these ‘somewhat’ new characters! 🙂

Shuddering to think of the pain they’d soon cause the man, Beth was suddenly furious at the bum who sat there, not helping. True he’d come through and helped pull the stage to a stop. But that was to save his own pathetic, drunken life, wasn’t it? When it came to helping others, he was worthless.

She hadn’t actually seen him take a single drink on the whole trip. She suspected he’d drained his flask quite a while ago. In fact she’d never seen the flask, assuming he was sneaking nips on the sly at the beginning of the trip, then sleeping it off the rest of the way.

Beth surged to her feet. “We need help over here!”

The man didn’t even look up. He stared as if asleep with his eyes open.

Well, Beth wasn’t one to let a good temper tantrum go to waste and seriously, this afternoon had worn her out right to her last bit of restraint. . . and beyond.

Who better to punish?

Beth whirled and used the hundred foot downhill march to get her knees to stop shaking. Not because she was afraid of this man. She still had her gun butt, but because the afternoon had just been more than too much.

She stomped to the man’s side and, carefully considering her approach—or maybe not so carefully—she grabbed the man’s filthy flattened black Stetson off his head and swatted him with it.

“Hey!” He turned as if surprised to see her.

“I didn’t exactly sneak up on you, now did I?” She waled on him again.

He shielded his face. “Will you stop that?”

“Do I have your attention, you miserable worm?” Beth threw the hat at his head.

He held his arms over her face, the bedraggled white sleeves rolled up nearly to his elbows, and glared through his wrists at her. His eyes narrowed.

It occurred to Beth that the man might be dangerous. Well, she could be dangerous, too. If he was, she’d make him sorry he showed that side of himself.

Doing her very best to set his skin on fire with her eyes, she leaned down, hoping to find a balance where she could rage at him without Mrs. Armitage hearing her. The poor woman had been through enough.

You get up off the ground and help us, you worthless skunk.”

And wasn’t skunk just exactly the right word for the filthy pig?

“Get away from me.” The wormy, skunky pig’s eyes flashed like he had rabies.

Gritting her teeth so she could look fierce and still breathe through her mouth, she leaned closer. “You stand up right now.”

She hissed at him like a rattle snake, so she had a few animal attributes of her own. “I need help. I don’t care how hung over you are, how lazy you are or how stupid you are. Right now I need some muscle, and I know you’ve got it. Get on your feet and get over there and help us, or so help me I will rip your arm off and beat you to death with the bloody stump.”

The man’s eyes seemed to clear. Maybe she’d pierced the alcoholic fog. “I’m not drunk.”

Interesting that he hadn’t protested being called stupid or worthless or a skunk. . . what else had she called him? She’d lost track of her insults somewhere along the line.

“Oh, puhleeze, you expect me to believe you’re this worthless without the help of whiskey?”

LOL…there you have it. A first encounter with a bunch of fire. Love it, Mary and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the first book in this new series. Yipee!!

Thanks so much for being a part of this blog series.

Inspirational First Encounter

Well, Jesus seemed to make quite a first impression wherever he went. From a great host of angels to Magi from afar, even in infancy he caused a stir. Did it change as he grew up? Nope. At twelve years old, after his parents thought they’d lost him, they found him in the temple astounding the priests with his wisdom. It took Mary and Joseph three days to find him and for three days he’d been teaching from the Holy Scriptures.

And these are only the first small meetings. As we continue to look at Jesus’ first encounters, we’ll see miracles follow wherever he goes – miracles on the outside, but most importantly on the inside.

You see, God has always been much more concerned about our hearts than anything else. Because our hearts are the driving force behind who we are and what we do. Recognizing that a miracle has already happened within us, just because of Jesus’ love, is the most amazing first encounter of our existence.

NEXT UP- Tuesday is an ‘off day’, but we’ll pick things up on Wednesday with debut author, Melanie Dickerson. Another sneak peek is coming your way, so stop back by.

Characterization through The Christmas Story – Imagination

Characters emerge from the most unlikely of places. Some evolve from a dream, others from the combination of several different personalities, a few from a stranger who sparked our interest, or a unique family member. The spark that flames into a memorable hero or heroine doesn’t have a hard and fast rule for inspiration because the heart of developing character is imagination.

The ability to blend the non-fiction with the fiction, past and present, to create believable characters comes from imagination. It stems from looking outside the box into a place of wonder, stepping outside the ‘real’ and reaching for our imaginary friends so we can bring them to life on a page.

How do we bring imagination into our fiction when we dont’ write fantasty? By use of our imagery – teasing the senses. Escorting the readers into a new world along with our characters by bombarding them with scents, sights, sounds, tastes, and touches.

Within the story of Joseph and Mary, we’re introduced to an unlikely group of secondary characters. The shepherds. This small account in Luke’s gospel focuses a lot of attention on two ‘sensory’ words: see & told. Not only that, but during the account, the Bible describes several intense emotions/emotional actions: terrified, amazed, treasured, glorifying, praising.

Can’t you just close your eyes and imagine the scene. Shepherds, the poor folk – many times outcasts, bunched up on a hillside, perhaps by a small fire. The night filled with quiet sounds, such as sheeps noises, the hush of the wind through the trees, an occassional bird  twittering.

Then without warning, these heavenly beings appear to share the great news of Messiah’s arrival. “heaveny host” the Bible says. Which means a big bunch of angels, illuminating the night sky above the shepherds, their voices joined in unison to intensify their message:

“Glory to God in the highest,
      and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”

So between Mary, Joseph, and those shepherds, God’s ‘birth announcements’ for His Son have all gone out to ordinary, maybe even poor, people. The King of the Universe first home visit were from a bunch of shepherds, but a bunch of shepherds who realized the greatness of the moment. They took on the symbolism for what Christ would do in years to come. Offer peace to those who would hear his words, see his glory, and have their hearts changed to respond to His call.

Feeling, seeing, tasting, hearing, and smelling along with our characters, helps us enter into worlds for which we only see in our imaginations…or not at all.

Bible Verse for the Day:

Luke 2:10-12

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

When you hear great news you want to share it. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I called every person I knew…or that my family might have known, and announced the exciting news. I was thrilled.

When I won first place in a writing contest and when I signed with my agent, I wanted to share the news.

How much more should the Author of our Faith encourage our words to sing his praises.

Christ brings us peace. The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people.” The best birth announcement of all time.

Writing quote for the Day:

  A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart”   – Peggy Noonan


Characterization Through the Christmas Story – Strength

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”                         – – Ghandi 

I’m a bit behind in my well-made plans of drawing characterization out of The Christmas Story, but let me forge ahead to our next character trait: Strength

Most memorable characters grip our attention because of their inner strength of character. Some call it grit or determination, but the underlying theme is that “I am going to survive” mentality.

Strength can be in the form of physical strength, like in the movie Last of the Mohicans where Nathaniel fights to save Cora, or even the raw determination that Scarlet O’Hara personifies in her every action.

But most of the time it’s the inner strength. The quiet peace and wisdom of Beth in Little Women compared to Joe’s moxie. Elenor Dashwood’s integrity and self-control in Sense and Sensibility compared to her sister’s wild flirtation. The stealth and skill of The Count of Monte Cristo, the stratagem of Horatio Hornblower, the faithfulness of an undying love, the selfless bond of friendship, the sacrifice of a soldier, or perseverance of a parent. All of these things display strength in our characters, especially when we build our story around that theme.

All heroines or heroes have strength to drive them forward, to help them overcome…or to encourage them to try again even when they fail. True strength is the ability to try again, anyway. (Great words for an aspiring writer, btw).

So, in The Christmas Story, we are introduced to two young people with an amazing amount of strength because they relied on an amazing God. Despite the conflict I’ve discussed in a few earlier posts (pregnant and unmarried, ridicule, rejection, possible death, betrayal…etc), Mary and Joseph followed God’s plan and made it to Bethlehem just as baby Jesus was ready to arrive (No doubt all the donkey riding didn’t help Mary’s situation)

They are in a crowded and strange town, desperate for a private place, weary from a long journey, and….they give up? Nope. They take what they get. A stable. Most likely a cave used as a stable.

Joseph’s perseverance to find a place. Mary’s diligence to follow God’s plan. Both show that their strength of character really hinges on the depth of their faith. The ultimate strength.

Their remarkable wills brings the story to its’ defining moment: The entry of God into the realm of humanity, born in flesh, God with Us. Now, could they have accomplished this on their own? No, it was God working out His plans through them, but God didn’t pick Mary and Joseph for nothing. He’d created them for this very moment to fulfill is most beautiful design for his fallen creation. The hope of redemption in his son, Jesus.

Bible verse for today:

Psalm 29:11

“The LORD gives strength to his people;
       the LORD blesses his people with peace.”

Matthew 1:21

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Because God sent His son to the earth, to live a perfect life for us, we now have the strength to live for Him. Only in His strength do we find peace, even in the middle of the battle, heartache, sickness, and…death. Christ’s salvation becomes our shield and sword. The joy we find in His love becomes our strength.

Writing quote for the day:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

–      George Orwell

Characterization Through the Christmas Story – Conflict

Just as the pulse of a good story is founded in conflict, so is the core of a character. Conflict energizes our scenes and draws readers into the emotional suspense of our heroine and hero’s lives.

Boy and girl can meet, but unless something happens to shake the foundations of that new relationship, then the story ends rather quickly and without much interest.

With characters, as with ‘real’ people, the basis of who we are blooms in conflict. How we respond to the bumps and bruises of life, in lots of ways shows the attitude of our hearts.

One of the things many authors do to refine a character is place him in ‘hot water’ and see how he reacts to it. Is he patient? Inventive? Afraid? Indecisive? All of those reactions tell us a truth about that character.

Place him in an embarrassing situation. What does he do? Laugh at himself? Retreat? Blame? Flare out at another? (Btw, a friend once said that the best way to test the quality of a man is to see how he reacted when he was angry and embarrassed. That would tell you more than about anything else. Interesting thought, isn’t it?”

 Well, The Christmas Story is no exception to Conflict. How our characters respond to conflict tells us a lot about the core of who they are. Unlike our fictional creations in our stories, Mary and Joseph had a real-life dilemma.

Joseph’s response  to Mary’s news tells us a whole lot about him.

Here he was: a bridegroom on the verge of marrying his sweetheart. Getting a house ready, preparing his land, joking with his friends about the end of bachelorhood – and suddenly, he finds out that his beautiful, supposedly-faithful wife-to-be is expecting a child.

And HE is not the father. Conflict

So, what does he do?

Well he could report her to the authorities and have her stoned to death.

But no, despite the hurt and anger he must have been feeling, the Bible says he meant to end things quietly, inconspicuously. Out of respect for her? Her family? Love?

Then he has an amazing dream. An angel tells him to do the unthinkable: Take Mary as his wife, even though she’s carrying someone else’s child. But not just anyone’s. God’s. Whoa. Conflict

 THEN, the two get married and head on the long journey to Bethlehem where there is NO ROOM in the inn and Mary’s getting ready to give birth on the streets of the little town. Conflict

 A stable. Some shepherds. A star. God’s glory in human form.

Then Joseph has another dream. King Herod is jealous and he’s killing all the baby boys under the age of 2. Major Conflict.

Just within this short narrative, do you see how much conflict plays a part in developing characters as well as story.

Conflict develops something in us too.

 Bible tip for the Day:

James 1:1-5

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

God started writing our stories before we were even born and the trials he brings into our lives are meant for our refinement. If we trust Him as a loving Father, we can take the difficulties in life, as well as the joys, with hope in his unfailing, faithful love.

Writing Quote for Today:

The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict and conflict.
James Frey

Characterization Through The Christmas Story – Passion

Another echoing theme, from the authors who gave tips on characterization during the month of November, was a characters essence….

His power

Her strength

His desire

Her motivation

What drives him to achieve his goal?

What keeps her awake at night?

I’m going to sum it up as the Passion that plunges your character forward: The core of his strength which forces him to the final page.

All characters must have this passion or motivation, or they’re just names on paper and the story is over. His desire can be the girl. Her motivation can be her family.

In The Christmas Story, Mary is an integral character…our heroine. She has a backstory, a history built on centuries of stories, and she is confronted with a choice. Not an easy choice, either.

She’s going to have a baby, but not by her fiancé.

She’s going to have a baby, and she hasn’t even ‘known’ a man.

She’s been a good little girl, followed the laws, honored her parents….and now….

People might shun her

Joseph probably won’t believe her

There’s a possibility she could be killed

What will her parents say?

But how does Mary respond?

She seemed to understand the beauty of the ‘call”, as if each breath of her life had built her up for this moment.

Into this insignificant little town in Galilee, to this poor teenage girl, God sent an angel…a message…a miracle.

Her passion for God’s glory and her strength to do what will honor Him, shines through in her beautiful song known as the Magnificat, but even before the song Mary does something all Christians must learn to do at some point.

After the angel shares the news of what God’s going to do in her life, here is Mary’s reply. “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”

Full submission to the will of God.

Her motivation, her passion, her strength was found in the essence of her faith. God.

She trusted him with her life, her future, other peoples’ responses, Joseph’s reaction…the precarious future. Her motivation to make it to the next scene of her life, was her hope in God and reliance on his faithfulness. Her passion was found in her ready humility and instant gratitude.

Whew, what a character. And she’s much more widely known than Scarlett O’Hara or Elizabeth Bennett.

Bible tip for the Day:

Luke 1:37 – “For nothing is impossible with God.”

As aspiring writers, we wish to see our books in print. The goal may feel unattainable. But the One who inspires Your soul, will give you the talents, opportunities, and strength to persevere when you keep your passion in Him.

Writing Quote for the Day:

“First, find what your character wants…and then follow him.”

–       Ray Bradbury

Characterization Through The Christmas Story – Backstory

Throughout the month of November, I’ve featured authors who answered two questions:

Who are your favorite characters you’ve ever written?

What is the behind-the-scenes story of those characters?

Over the next few days and in preparation for some new answers from guest-authors, I’m going to take those answers and sum them up by looking at The Christmas story from the Bible.

Backstory – (http://www.answers.com/topic/backstory)

  1. The experiences of a character or the circumstances of an event that occur before the action or narrative of a literary, cinematic, or dramatic work: At rehearsal, the actors developed backstories for their characters.
  2. A prequel.

All characters in any given book have a history, or events that occurred in their lives before page one. Having a thorough knowledge of the character’s backstory helps authors create a more three-dimensional, therefore believable, character. Their pasts guide their emotional responses, their decisions, and have infinite value on their responses to change as the story progresses.

So, what is the backstory of The Christmas Story? Well, we have to wander back thousands of years where a sneaky snake met a woman in a garden and twisted God’s words into a scheme that led to the fall of humankind. But even then, in Genesis chapt 3, God promises a Rescuer. In verse 15, God tells the serpent,

 “And I will put enmity
       between you and the woman,
       and between your offspring  and hers;
       he will crush  your head,
       and you will strike his heel.”

As each book of the Bible progresses, we read story after story of man’s fall and God’s rescue, always pointing to a great Rescuer – one who would return us to our ‘rightness’ with God; one who would annihilate our sins; one who would perfectly obey where Adam failed.

As any young Jewess, Mary heard these stories her entire life and along with her fellow Jews, looked forward to the day when Messiah would set the chaos back into order.

The buildup to this ‘Coming King’ had been foretold for centuries, whispered and announced generation to generation, from Adam to this young woman and her betrothed. He would be a reigning king, a warrior, a suffering servant, the lamb, the lion – Who will be able to stand up to his coming?

Into this story, comes our heroine – Mary, a young woman of virtue, and this backstory shapes the person she is and the decisions she will make. Into this story steps one of our heroes, Joseph, a man of honor, both from the line of King David and both integral pieces of God’s story about The Rescuer.

Bible tip for the day:

For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”    – Romans 8:28

God uses all of our backstories for His ultimate glory. If we are His, he takes our mistakes and triumphs to mold us more and more into His image.

Writing Quote for the day:

“The best way to send information is to wrap it up in a person.” (pretty appropriate for Christmas – don’t you think 😉
Robert Oppenheimer

Who’s Got Character with Jeffrey Overstreet

Aspiring minds want to know how the colorful characters behind Jeffrey Overstreet’s fantasy novels came into existence. Not only does Jeffrey blend the colors of story to create masterpieces worth reading, he was a film reviewer and columnist for Christianity Today for most of a decade and is sought after for his insights about faith and film.

 His film commentaries and reviews have been featured in many film magazines, even noted in Time, and he was awarded The Spiritus Award in 2007 for his remarkable writing in the field of Film and Theology.

Get ready for some excellent and detailed answers to the questions today.

Thanks Jeffrey for being a part of this. I chose this particular picture of you because I thought it was the perfect blend of your love for film and writing.

1. Who is your favorite heroine & hero you’ve ever written?

That’s like asking me to choose my favorite from my 23 nephews and nieces. But I’d have to say that Auralia, the central character of my novel Auralia’s Colors, is my favorite “heroine.”

And that’s funny, because Auralia’s Colors was going to be an experiment. I was going to try to tell the story of a character who never actually appears in the book. My early chapters were all about a character who had just passed through, and everyone was talking about her, or thinking about her, or discovering the effects of her creativity. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that readers were not going to tolerate this. They would want to meet Auralia. And even now that the book is published, readers still tell me: “I want to spend more time with Auralia.” I wish I could write a “director’s cut” and add some new scenes for them.

Since then, one of my young nieces has been given the name Auralia. So now, there’s a real Auralia running around! But last time I saw her, she was six or seven years old, and she announced that she wanted to be called “Stinky.” I told her that when she’s old enough to read Auralia’s Colors, she’ll find that poor Auralia gets called worse names than that. Auralia’s a sort of prophet, and you know what happens to prophets in their hometowns.

My favorite hero? Well, in the series The Auralia Thread, the ale boy is my favorite hero. He’s so small and humble, and he has such a heart to serve others, that he can slip in and out of places almost unnoticed and have a transforming effect on their lives. But he’s also a very lonely, bruised character, and I look forward to the chapters when we will see his tremendous suffering come to an end.

But the hero I love best out of all my characters is, well, green and feathered. And that book isn’t out yet, so you’ll have to wait for him.

(To read a review of Auralia’s Colors, check out this detailed and wonderful review: http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2008/01/auralias-colors-by-jeffrey-overstreet.html )

2. What is the ‘behind the scenes story’ for the creation of that hero & heroine?
To answer that, I’ll have to tell you about a place.

Back in 1996, Anne and I joined some close friends to go hiking near Flathead Lake in Montana, not far from where a friend of ours, the writer and pastor Eugene Peterson, lives.

I was feeling particularly grateful that day, because I was with inspiring friends, and I was still getting to know Anne. (This was a couple of months before she married me.) The more time I spent with Anne, the more I felt that I was receiving an extravagant gift. Anne is a very quiet and observant woman. She writes poetry because she looks very closely at the world around her, and she writes with great care about the mysteries she encounters there. Spending time with Anne, I was learning to slow down and appreciate things that normally I would pass right by.

So there we were, hiking through a landscape of extraordinary beauty. I felt as if my senses were sharper than they had ever been. I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing.

We were talking our childhoods, and our ongoing passion for fairy tales and the imagination. It was odd, that we would find each other in a world where most people think that fairy tales are just “kids’ stuff.”

Then Anne said, “Isn’t it a shame how so many people, when they reach a certain age, fold up their imaginations, put them in a closet, and forget about them?”

When she said that, I suddenly began to imagine a story. The story would begin with a colorless kingdom, where the stuff of creativity had become illegal. That city sat there like a pile of cold ash in the colorful forest. (You can see that on Kristopher Orr’s amazing cover art for Auralia’s Colors.) 

By then I realized that, in my mind’s eye, I was looking over the shoulder of a character: a young woman who was crying because of the poverty of that colorless kingdom. She then began to weave together an expression of love for those deprived people. It was a work of art, containing all of the colors in the world. All of the colors that the kingdom had lost.

Well, needless to say, I was intrigued. I knew I had to start writing about her. So I did, right there, that day alongside the lake. I wanted to follow that character around, much the way that I still enjoy following Anne around.

 The name “Auralia” came after a lot of playing around with words. I love the word “aura”, and the name “Laura” means “light.” After trying several variations, I arrived at “Auralia.” 

I had no idea that Auralia would lead me into a four-book epic. But she did. She’s a boundlessly creative character, so I try to do her justice on the page, but it’s difficult. She uses colors nobody had ever seen before, and how am I supposed to describe that? She crafts clever inventions for her friends, and extravagant works of art for the rest of the world. Sometimes they inspire, sometimes they infuriate. But they are all revelatory in their beauty. I would later learn as I wrote the sequel — Cyndere’s Midnight — that Auralia also was capable of some dark and terrifying art. She could craft expressions of the evil she saw in the world, as well as the evil in her own heart.

Auralia was inspired by Anne, yes, but also by other artists I’ve met who take the beauty they encounter, and troubles they experience, and weave them into art that is true and beautiful. She inspires me to make something out of my own experiences. And she doesn’t explain them to people, because she doesn’t understand them herself. In the same way, I can’t paraphrase the “lesson” of Auralia’s story, because that’s not my job. It’s a big mystery to me. My job is to write the story, and let the mystery speak for itself. (This is why I’m aggravated when people say Auralia is a “Christ figure.” Her story isn’t finished yet, and while she is creative, she is also capable of making mistakes.)

Auralia helps me believe that, even though I’m broken and unable to repair myself, the Great Artist can work through broken people. And if I let him, he will weave me into plans much greater than my own.

And the ale boy? Well, in retrospect, the ale boy reminds me of anybody who is inspired by great art, and who then tries to live differently in view of what they’ve experienced. Auralia’s colors open up the ale boy’s heart and fill him with a desire to help others see their way out of darkness. But I really don’t know where he came from. He showed up very quietly at first, just an “extra” in the cast of characters. He was so quiet that he got my attention. So perhaps, in that way, he was inspired by Anne as well.

 (To read a review of Cyndere’s Midnight, check out this site: http://www.faithfulreader.com/reviews/9781400072538.asp )

 Character Creation Tip For the Day:

Imagery and Senses. Characters who breathe, who cause an emotional reaction in us, whose stories stay with us long after the book has gotten lost on our shelves, are the characters who come alive through the use of senses and magic of imagery. When the reader can ‘feel’ or ‘see’ the characters fear, joy, pleasure, grief…then the character becomes more than two dimensional – he or she becomes a memory.


Come join us to discover what historical romance author Tammy Barley has to tell us about her favorite characters.

Who’s Got Character?

What a better week to talk about ‘characters’ than the week we dress up as different ones. I am thrilled to announce the ‘line up’ for next weeks’ “Who’s Got Character?”, where your favorite authors tell us their favorite heroes and heroines, AND the ‘behind-the-scenes’ making of those characters?

To whet your creative interests, check out the guests:

Monday, Ruth Axtell Morren –morren_photo

             author of love stories set in history, specifically Regency. Her novels not only inspire the romance between a man and woman, but sprinkle the fingerprints of a Divine love throughout the story. Of all her fascinating characters, who could possibly be her favorites? Move over Mr. Darcy 😉


Tuesday, Julie LessmanJulie-Lessman-2

           -winner of the Book Of The Year Award at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Denver, Julie is a master-craftsman/woman at making the written word breathe with energy, conflict, and tension. Her heroines are powerfully memorable and her heroes are dangerously loveable. Stop by and figure out which ones she loves the most.



Wednesday, Bryan DavisBryanDavis_l

      Known for his colorful detail and powerful imagery, Bryan Davis has won the hearts of adults and children alike with his fantasy serieses Dragons In Our Midst and Oracles of Fire.  His writing sets the reader’s senses on hyperdrive into a world of imagination.



Thursday, Cheryl WyattCheryl Wyatt

     Faster than a F-117 Night Hawk, more powerful  than a rotary gun, able to write a novel in 6 weeks, look…at the computer, it’s Cheryl Wyatt. Cheryl’s action-packed stories bring ‘real life’ situations onto the page with warmth, beauty, and humor. She has so many characters to choose from, who will she choose as her favorite and why?


Friday, Denise Hunterdenise hunter

       Known for her beautifuly crafted love stories of emotional growth, spiritual renewal, and ‘rescue’, Denise combines a wonderful trilogy of faith, humor, and romance to weild a story with memorable value. The rescues that happen on her pages are rescues of the heart. I’m curious who her favorite ‘rescuer’ will be?


And we don’t stop there. During the first week of Novemeber, there will be a whole new set of authors ready to reveal the secrets behind the favorite characters. So keep checking in to learn more.