With: Shannon McKenna
A much loved editor of mine used to teased me about the depth of my sense of responsibility to each character that walked out of my subconscious mind in onto the pages of one of my stories. She said every one of my characters, no matter how small a part they played, even if they were just pumping gas, always got equipped with a warm hand-knitted sweater and a sack lunch with a brownie and a juice box.
In a way, the criticism is valid and the problem is real. A storyteller has to keep her eyes on the story and make hard choices about what is NOT the story, because if you start allowing yourself to see how potentially interesting and relevant and crucial absolutely everybody and everything can be, your story start to swell and gets bigger and bigger until it roll over on you and crushes you under its weight like a hippo wallowing in the mud. Squish, grunt.
So, yeah. That would be me. I’ve been squashed in the mud beneath hippo-stories in my time, and I know I have to fight against this tendency. But I also can’t close the doors on all those characters either, because some of them have fought their way through that barriers to become, eventually, my most interesting and beloved characters. Like Miles, who started out as a geeky sidekick in Standing In The Shadows and over the course of the McClouds & Friends series, evolved into one of the toughest heroes of them all. Or Tam, the dangerous, mysterious and very sharp tongued criminal who started out as the bad guy’s mistress in my very first book, Behind Closed Doors, and who seven books later became the heroine of her own story. That was one of my most successful books ever. I LOVE Tam. Even though I would be scared to death to meet her.
Those two characters refused to accept the roles that were assigned to them. They just kept growing and changing and evolving. There’s something for me to learn in that. I think about it, when I’m processing any kind of rejection or disappointment. It only make me feel diminished and stupid and small as long as my perception of the story is defined by the point of view of the person who rejected me. But guess what? Screw that person’s point of view! Grab the wheel! It’s my story, and nobody gets to define it but me! Thanks, Tam and Miles, for teaching me that!
Simone Brightman, the heroine of of My Next Breath, first appeared in Right Through Me, Noah and Caro’s story. She was Noah’s former fiancée who got dumped when he met and fell in love with Caro. Noah didn’t reject Simone maliciously, it was just one of those things, but Simone was mortified, hurt, humiliated, and very angry. She lost her cool and said some very sharp things to him, and by doing so, ended up casting herself in the role of the bitchy ex-girlfriend, the one the hero is with in the beginning whose only job is to provide a grotesque contrast to how deep, sensitive, kind, smart and awesome the REAL heroine of the story is.
But that sucks for Simone, right? I mean, seriously? What did she do to deserve that? It was not freaking fair, and she must feel like ten different kinds of complicated crap about it.
Out come the knitting needles, the brownies, the juice box.
It got me thinking about Simone. How she felt, what she was thinking, how she got there, where she thought she was going. I started exploring her backstory—and damned if it didn’t start getting really weird, really fast! The more I studied and thought about Simone, the more interesting she became. She deserved her own story, and her own blazing hot, valiant and ardent (super)hero to play with. She deserved some satisfaction, and this book was about making sure that she got it. And I mean … a lot of it! Zade is quite a handful.
(Get your mind out of the gutter and stop snickering. That’s not what I meant at all. Cough cough.)
Giving Simone her story and her voice made me think about how powerful a metaphor storytelling can be for examining our own lives. How careful we must be not to blindly accept the roles that other people cast us in; the goofy sidekick who has to die, the bitchy stepmother who gets her comeuppance and ends up thrown into the pool in her evening gown.
We must grab hold of our own personal stories, like Simone did, and make sure we are the central figures in them. Nobody else gets to decide the script. We can’t control all the plot points—a lot of the events of our life are outside our control, but we can make sure we’re telling the story from our own point of view, and we can pick the genre and the tone. We can write the jokes and stage the combat, and choreograph the love scenes. We have a lot of power. More than any of us are aware of. We just have to be brave, and own it.
It’ll get us more satisfaction—like it did for my darling Simone!
Try out her story, and please, tell me what you think! I hope you enjoy it!
I wish you all lovely frothy frozen drinks by the pool, and a tottering stack of juicy books to read while lounging in your deck chair … a stack of books that makes your hearts flutter with delicious anticipation just looking at it!
Zade Ryan. Rebel supersoldier. Nearly superhuman. On a desperate quest to rescue his missing brother Luke by any means possible. To do it, he must seduce the elusive Simone Brightman, inventor of the ingenious and deadly tech used to capture Luke and hold him prisoner, location unknown. Zade will do whatever it takes to get close to Simone. Her mysterious beauty and highly sexual allure have him at a disadvantage, but time is running out . . .
Simone is fighting battles of her own, on her own. Until Zade—six foot four of sinewy muscle and lethal combat skills—rescues her from street thugs and leaves her breathless. His smoldering black eyes and overpowering sensuality—and his seductive invitation to spend one wild, unforgettable night with him—prove too tempting to resist.
Their passionate encounter unleashes scorching desire that neither can control—leaving them vulnerable to their enemies who watch from the shadows and wait. And when they are lured into a trap by a monstrous killer hellbent on their destruction, they must fight with every weapon they have to save Luke, and each other.
Because one night together could never be enough—and they might not live to have another . . .
Shannon McKenna is the NYT bestselling author of sixteen action packed, turbocharged romantic thrillers, among which are the stories of the wildly popular McCloud series and the brand new paranormal series, The Obsidian Files. She loves tough and heroic alpha males, heroines with the brains and guts to match them, villains who challenge them to their utmost, adventure, scorching sensuality, and most of all, the redemptive power of true love. Since she was small she has loved abandoning herself to the magic of a good book, and her fond childhood fantasy was that writing would be just like that, but with the added benefit of being able to take credit for the story at the end. Alas, the alchemy of writing turned out to be messier than she'd ever dreamed. But what the hell, she loves it anyway, and hopes that readers enjoy the results of her alchemical experiments. She loves to hear from her readers. Contact her at her website, http://shannonmckenna.com, like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShannonMckenna/ or join the newsletter by signing up here: http://shannonmckenna.com/connect.php.