Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pause for the Flaws with Guest Blogger: Jessica Chambers

Win a copy of Dark is the Sky and
meet author Jessica Chambers
today at the Book Boost!

She's here to talk about her favorite character flaws and here's what she had to say...

Creating characters is one of my favorite parts of the entire writing process. I love dreaming up larger than life protagonists who are sympathetic, but also immensely flawed. I confess I find heroes or heroines who are too perfect incredibly dull! We all have our faults, after all, and so it’s only right that our characters should too. Hopefully what I end up with are people my readers can empathize with, even if they don’t always like them.

For me, the experience is rather like that of meeting someone you feel instinctively will one day become a good friend…or a hated enemy. When you’re first introduced, you get a general sense of their personality, whether they’re outgoing or shy, passionate or laid back. Then, as you spend more time with them, exchanging opinions and life stories, you glimpse the complexities beneath the fa├žade. Perhaps the cheerfulness masks a deep insecurity, or the love of books betrays a desperate need to escape a troubled marriage.

This is almost exactly how my characters develop. I start by knowing one thing about them, and gradually peel back the layers to reveal their hopes and dreams, their closely-guarded secrets and innermost thoughts, until I understand what makes them tick and how they’re likely to react in any given situation. Of course, just because I know these people more intimately than I’m ever likely to know anyone in the real world, that doesn’t mean they won’t do something unexpected. Even best friends can surprise you on occasion, right?

I especially enjoyed coming up with the cast for my latest release, Dark is the Sky. Seriously, the Camerons are one screwed-up family with enough emotional baggage to fill an entire series of Maury. We have soft-hearted Olivia doing her best to hold the family reunion together amidst the devastating discovery that her husband Joel is having an affair, while her sister seems intent on raking up the painful past.

Long-nurtured resentment simmers between Joel and his twin, once his closest friend, and his down-trodden sister-in-law appears on the verge of nervous collapse. There is betrayal, grief and illicit love. Through it all, the tragedy of twelve years ago still haunts them and the devastating truth is waiting to emerge.

All this drama was tremendous fun to write, but it was also a challenge juggling so many secrets and complex relationships, trying to keep track of which members of the family knew what about whom, working out which revelations to disclose to the reader when. I always like to have an outline before I begin writing, but Dark is the Sky needed a particularly detailed one. Not that I’m complaining. I loved every second of it, and of course it was immensely satisfying when all the elements came together.

Writers, how is the process of creating characters for you? Do you have any methods that help you get to know them better? Perhaps you’ve invented a character you’re particularly proud of.

Readers, what do you look for in a character? Do you prefer them to be quirky and larger than life, or like the average man/woman on the street? Who are your favorite and least favorite characters of all time?

A Note from the Book Boost: Nice post, Jessica. Thanks for sharing. This book sounds great and I love the idea of complex interwoven stories and characters. As far as my characters, I like the hero who you start out thinking is a total jerk and ends up being deeply wounded in the gooey center and then you fall madly in love with him. Please tell us more about your book!


It’s twelve years since Olivia and Joel Cameron invited the family to spend the weekend at their country home, a visit that ended in tragedy when Scott, Joel’s outrageously sexy youngest brother, was found dead. The repercussions have torn the family apart.

Now, Olivia’s sister Violet has persuaded her to host a reunion so that they can finally lay their ghosts to rest. However, there are some secrets too destructive to remain hidden, and Violet, still grieving for the man she loved, is determined to uncover the truth. As the web of hostility and deceit begins to unravel, family ties are tested to the limit.


As Rafe makes his way indoors, a little unsteady on his feet, Carla pursues him with her eyes. She has watched all evening as he makes a play for Phoebe, casting her farther under his spell. Yet, even though she detects no falsehood behind his flattery, she can’t rid herself of the fear that he’s merely toying with her. Well, now’s her chance to find out.

“I’d better make sure the children are behaving for Liv,” Carla says. Hurrying through the kitchen and along the passage, she waylays Rafe at the foot of the stairs.

“In here.” She seizes his arm to pull him into the poky sitting room.

“We are keen,” Rafe says as she closes the door. “I mean, I’m used to women jumping on me, but most don’t dare with their husband in the same house. Not that I’m complaining. Why don’t we try out that comfortable-looking sofa?”

Carla folds her arms across her chest, glaring at him. “I wouldn’t touch you if you paid me.”

“Trust me, babe, you’re the one who’d be paying me. So, if you’re not after a bit of rough-and-tumble, what can I do for you?”

“You can take note of this, because I’m telling you, Rafe, if you break Phoebe’s heart, you’ll have me to deal with.”

“How touching, I’m sure. Still, I imagine Phoebe can look after herself.”

“What would you know? You didn’t have to watch while the girls at school teased her, or comfort her when she cried her eyes out because she thought she was ugly and no man would ever want her. It’s taken me years, yes, years, to help her build up some semblance of confidence. I won’t have you shatter it with your selfish games.”

Rafe considers her, head on one side. “If I didn’t know better, Carla, I’d say you were jealous.” And moving her aside as easily as if she were a child, he opens the door and saunters upstairs.

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thewriterslife said...

Thank you so much for hosting Jessica today!

Karen said...

Love the hook of this story. Love your cover too. This is a book I would pick up and want to read. Karen

Creepy Query Girl said...

loved this excerpt! Rafe sounds like kind of a... but the bad boy thing is definitely intriguing:)

Debby said...

I do wonder about Rafe. HOpe he gets his!
debby236 at gmail dot com

Na said...

Characters are so important for in a story. I do like them larger than life if the story calls for it or down to earth. The latter I find easier to connect with. Having them flawed does give me a chance to see a different side of them in a really helpful way.