Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guest Lisa Mondello & Book Giveaway

Making Inspiration Real

By Lisa Mondello

Have you ever read a book, been hooked right from the beginning and couldn't wait to read it because you were enjoying the story and the characters so much? Maybe the setting was crafted beautifully so you got a vivid image in your mind of where the story was taking place. Or maybe the characters came to life for you and you connected with their plight.

Then BAMM! Something shocks you right out of the story. For a lot of readers, having inaccurate details about a specialized topic is enough to do it. For me, motivation and resolution for the characters are key.

I experienced my own dilemma writing my December 2009 Love Inspired Suspense book, Yuletide Protector. It doesn't matter that Yuletide Protector was written during the winter and spring, even though it's a Christmas book. I've written Christmas stories during a heat wave in August! I can always still get into setting and the time of year because the scenes come to me so vividly in my mind when I'm writing. It's like I'm transported to that chilly environment even though it's 98 degrees outside!

Motivation is another story. What motivates one person to do something won't necessarily be enough to motivate another person. So it's important that every action that has consequences in a story be well motivated so that most readers will understand what is driving the characters.

That brings me to inspiration and resolution. Since I write for Steeple Hill, the Inspirational Romance Imprint for Harlequin Books, every book I write has an inspirational thread throughout the story. Sometimes it's subtle. The hero and heroine may already have a strong faith in God and I need to show how they rely on their faith to get them through their dark times. Sometimes it's more serious. One of the characters may have had a relationship with God at one time, but an incident or situation in their life made them drift away. Throughout the book, it's my job to show how they find their way back.

Those are stories I've done and I enjoy writing. I will admit that I was completely stumped while writing Yuletide Protector because the heroine, Daria, had never had a relationship with God and had no feelings about faith one way or the other when the book started. Imagine being an artist and starting with a blank canvas. That's what Daria was like to write. I wanted her journey toward finding faith to be real. To just throw in a few prayers and thoughts weren't going to be enough to show her journey toward God. I needed to dig deep to find out how that journey would evolve and how it would resolve itself.

Think of that blank canvas. It's sounds kind of fun to have free reign to do anything you want. But with so many directions, taking that first brush stroke across the page is difficult. It's much easier to start with something that's already there. A stumped artist can find his way with a little direction. But a blind artist needs more much more help to create that masterpiece. See what I mean?

After a lot of hair pulling and thinking, I was finally happy with the resolution to Daria's faith journey toward God. I'm thrilled with the reader letters I've been receiving and hope you will enjoy Yuletide Protector, and Daria and Kevin's journey as well.

So, as a reader, what sucks you into a story? And as a writer, is it easier to start with a blank or partially filled canvas?

Lisa will pick one person from all the comments posted today to win a Love Inspired Suspense 2 book set which includes Cradle of Secrets and Her Only Protector.

Lisa Mondello published her first novel in 1998 and continued on, selling 4 books in her Texas Hearts series to Avalon Books. She wrote a Young Adult novel with her now 15 year old daughter, Melyssa, who is a linear writer, and drove her daughter crazy with her puzzle writing style. For 3 years, Lisa worked in elementary education working in grades one and two writing classes and discovered that even at that early age, she could identify who was a pantser, a puzzler, plotter or a linear writer. She has developed a workshop for writers called Understanding Your Writing Profile as a tool to help writers get organized so they can write faster! She is currently completing her next manuscript for Steeple Hill and along with her novel writing, works as a freelance writer.

You can find Lisa on the web at:


Lisa Mondello said...

Hi Everyone. Thanks so much for having me on the blog today!

Karyn Good said...

Hi Lisa and welcome to the Prairies. Lovely post today about realistic motivation and how important it is to a story. I think I'm finding more and more I like to start with doing a little ground work and have some sense of where I'm going rather than starting with a blank page and running with it.

As a reader, I think what hooks me in is the action and the characters and their motivations and the way they resolve things are what keep me reading.

Thanks for being with us on the Prairies today and sharing your thoughts on motivation, inspiration and resolution.

Vince said...

Hi Lisa:

As a reader what really sucks me into a story is the quick establishment of very interesting and sympathetic characters. These are characters I really care about and want to know more about as soon as possible. The best example of this, that I have read in a long time, is the book I am now reading, “Autumn Rains” by Myra Johnson. The hero and heroine had me hooked after only a few pages. They are people I care about and wish would do well.

If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not likely to read the book with enjoyment.

What kills a story for me is ‘alienation’. I do not like to be reminded in a romance that I am reading a romance. I don’t like reading that a character in a romance is reading a romance or makes snarky comments about romances. I don’t like it when authors make their fellow authors characters in their romances using their real names. First names are fine but when you use the first and last name of your author friends, it just reminds me I’m reading a story.

I particularly dislike it, and consider it the unforgiveable sin, when a character in a romance says: “This isn’t a romance you know,” when I know it is a romance. Fortunately, ‘alienation’ is not very common in romances.

Thanks for your post.


Helena said...

Welcome to the (virtual) Prairie, Lisa. You wouldn't want to be in the actual, extremely cold, prairie today!

I totally agree with Vince. I have to quite quickly relate to the characters in the story, otherwise I'm not completely hooked. There are exceptions, I suppose, when there is a very intriguing situation and the reader gets to know the characters by how they cope with the situation.

As for motivation, I am dealing with that right now with one of my stories. Will the reader find my heroine's reason(s) for behaving as she does credible? Especially when her actions affect a number of other people. The domino effect could get weaker and weaker if the initial premise is not strong enough.

Like Karyn, I like to start with some background. I haven't read Daria's story yet, but even if she doesn't have faith in God at the beginning of the book, I would assume there is some reason for that. As a writer, I would want to know what that reason was before I attempted to write her journey towards belief.

Thank you for joining us, and for your generous giveaway!

Anne Germaine said...

Great post and comments!

An intriguing situation is what makes me pull a book off the shelf (a mystery, a family rivalry, a horrible mistake). However, what keeps me reading (and in some cases, rereading and rereading) are the characters. When I think back to my favourite books, I always remember them by the character (or character flaws) - the brooding vampire, the dangerous cop, the stubborn cowgirl...

Thanks for sharing your story Lisa. As a writer, I like my characters with a lot of baggage and unresolved issues. You have so much more to work with as you move them through the story. I think starting a character with no faith would be very difficult, and like Helena, I would wonder why she had no faith. A difficult task--I'm glad you made it work.

Lisa Mondello said...

Hi Everyone! Thanks for the posts. I think we're all in agreement that it's the characters that make the story. Without a believeable character, one that you can sympathize with and root for, why bother reading?

Vince, I know what you mean about alienation. I just don't get it myself. I know why I write romance. I know why readers read romance, because I'm a reader as well. The Romance banner is one I hang proudly because I know what a difference an uplifting story can have on a person. Even if it's only because someone has a few hours to kill while waiting for their kids to finish dance class, that time spent reading and being entertained is important. I do love letters from readers who've read my work and tell me that they've been moved by something they read. I'm aways amazed when I include a snippet of a sermon I remember from my childhood and someone comes back to tell me they've been touched by that sermon thirty years after my hearing it. And I love it when someone tells me they recognize their spouse in one of my characters. Some little thing they love and forgotten about them. Those letters are nice.

Anne, I in Yuletide Protector I did address why Daria had no faith at all. Her parents did not have religion in their lives and they moved around a lot so Daria never had a chance to explore it on her own until then.

Thanks for having me here today!

DebH said...

hi Lisa

I remember reading a book "romance on the Bayou" that completely absorbed me - to the point that I actually sat up and talked to the book when I read the black moment and thought the hero and heroine would never get their HEA.

I agree that characters need a believable motivation. When they don't - that does tend to knock me out of my suspended reality that I like authors to create in their works.

As a graphic artist and fledgling writer, I prefer the empty canvas over something already there. In fact, I do better with blanks than with existing substance - perhaps it's the creative muse that dwells within me.

My favorite characters are the ones who have flaws or odd quirks that cause them problems. I've also discovered that I write better when I'm "torturing" my main characters than when all is well in their world. Conflict seems to bring out the best of my inner Writer. (I can do without conflict in real life though... heh)

I appreciate your posting here at the Prairies. The ladies here do a wonderful job providing wonderful authors to learn from. Thanks for writing.

mindy said...

what sucks me in is the first page it has to be something to grab me and make me want to keep turning to get that answer thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Lisa and everyone. Just got back from a Ladies Breakfast and man, is it cold out there! It was -24C/-11F when I went out there at 8 this morning and it's even gotten a couple degrees colder! Beautiful sunny day, though.

Lisa, Yuletide Protector just came in my eharl box on Thurs so I haven't read it yet.

What sucks me into a story? Practically everything except pages of description. I'll even read books where I don't like the hero or heroine because I believe in the character arc concept. About the only thing that will turn me off is the H/h showing violence or bullying someone or something.

I love starting with a blank canvas. So many possibilities. I have my palette off to the side with so many colors/characters to choose from. I can pick a standard character and add a touch of this trait or lots of that trait and come up with something unique to my story. Another palette for location, etc. It's like when I start with a piece of ecru cloth and add little X's of embroidery floss and slowly a picture emerges. I love that process.

Thanks for visiting, Lisa.

Lisa Mondello said...

Wow, that's cold Anita! I admit liking the blank canvas too. But I write like a puzzle. I don't need to have everything nice and tidy. Of course, I'm always afraid my story won't come together until it's finally together in the end.

You mentioned pages of description. I never want description to read like a laundry list. I like it weaved into the story so I can "see" the characters world as they do.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Okay, I've just announced the winner of Lisa's generous book giveaway.

Lisa, thank you for giving your time and the books.

Have a Merry Christmas.