Who Likes Unlikable Characters?

TheSopranos

My husband and I just finished watching the entire Sopranos series. I’m probably one of the last people on Earth to see The Sopranos, I know, but after James Gandolfini passed away, I wanted to see the show that made him a star. I wanted to see his legacy. So about a year ago, hubby-pants and I fired up HBO Go and went to town. Now, he had seen most of the series (he stopped watching for whatever reason around the fourth season), and then tuned in for the finale. As you may have figured out, I was a Sopranos virgin.

Fast forward to a few days ago when the screen went black at the end of that infamous series finale, and I had a few things to say…

First of all, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Hubby-pants tried to explain the groundbreaking nature of the show: mafia-centric, from the perspective of the criminals, big-picture that includes home and family life, etc. I’ve decided to give him this defense, especially since I’ve strived to be equally as groundbreaking with my own Blood for Blood Series (partially told from the perspective of a female serial killer while exploring her psyche). However, I do have to take issue with the number of unlikable, can’t-standable characters constantly on-screen during The Sopranos.

Tony Soprano is a pig. His infidelity is repulsive. The way he speaks to his wife, his kids, his family, and his friends is disgusting. Eww.

Carmela Soprano should be a sympathetic character because Tony cheats on her and treats her like shit, but she’s not. Why? Because all Tony has to do is buy her a fur coat, a new car, or a shiny bauble and she turns a blind eye to the mistresses, the abuse, and the overall inexcusable behavior of her husband.

Meadow and A.J. Soprano are so fake. They both straddle the line between being spoiled mob prince/princess and pretending to care about the problems and injustices of the world. Both can be silenced with the perks of being a Soprano, same as their mother.

Everybody else? Sucked. Paulie, Chris, Adriana, Janice, Junior, Livia. I could go on and on. They were all horrible people. No one had actual friends. I mean, actual, REAL friendships. Going “way back”, smiling in each other’s faces, and telling old stories while inwardly wishing each other dead or wondering if the others wish you dead is NOT a relationship.

And don’t even get me started on Tony’s shrink, Dr. Melfi, and her merry little circle of friends/fellow psychiatrists. Good grief.

But…

My darling husband brought up a good point: if the characters conjure up such hatred, but viewers continue to tune in, hat’s off to the writers, right? I fell quiet when he said this. Why? Because I can’t count how many times I’ve said this in book reviews. If I hate a character it’s most likely because the writer did their job and portrayed the individual in such a light on purpose.

As a matter of fact, when I submitted the first draft of Blood in the Past to an editor, they returned the manuscript, complaining that Jillian Atford’s character was too unlikable because of her affair with a married cop. I refused to change the character because her actions were integral to the overall story, but I added things to make her tolerable. Her foster home childhood, for example, allows readers to see that Jillian never had anything of her own, that things were always taken from her, and that she felt she deserved to be happy, regardless of the situation.

In a lot of ways, I think the writers of The Sopranos did the same with their characters. Tony Soprano was very protective of his family. Janice wouldn’t stand for a man who physically abused her. Uncle Junior slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Again, I can go on and on.

In the end, I stand by my internal 3-star rating of The Sopranos for other reasons, but maybe I should lay off them for being so unlikable. Thoughts?

 

Georgia on a Fast Train

It’s official: Hubby-pants and I are moving from New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia the first week of September. I’m both excited and utterly terrified. I know what you’re thinking though: What does this mean for Jordanna East? What’s next for Jordanna East? Well, I’ll tell you what’s next! This:

  • The next installment of the Blood for Blood Series, Blood in the Paper, is going to take a little bit longer to write/publish. Placate your craving for my writing by checking out two anthologies featuring short stories of mine in the upcoming months.
  • My appearances/book signings in New Jersey/Pennsylvania are going to be few and far between. As in, only happening when the stars align and a multi-author event takes place during one of our family visits up north. But you aren’t afraid of flying, are you? That’s okay, you guys love long drives/train rides, right?
  • I’m going to have to find some Atlanta area writing groups. STAT. Suggestions?
  • Oh good grief, I’m going to have to update my bio on my books and pretty much every writing website where my books are listed. That sounds irksome…
  • Speaking of irksome situations, I can resurrect my Jerks & Irks blog series that you all miss so much. Hooray!
  • I get to scare/annoy a whole new group of professionals when I inappropriately conduct research. The police stations and hospitals don’t know what they’re in for!
  • I can find new places to write. New cafes. New bars. New parks. I might even have my own office, fingers crossed!
  • I can expand my blogging to complaining about new things, like purchasing a home, home improvement projects, and neighborhood shenanigans. I know how much you guys like when I complain about stuff.
  • I can (hopefully) schedule some events in a new area, introducing my books to a new audience. This should probably be higher on the list, but I’m socially awkward, so we’re lucky it made the list at all.
  • And last, but certainly not least, I can meet some of you people! My blogger friends that live in the south! So speak up in the comments section below if you’re within driving distance of Atlanta!

Continue reading

Insecurities Abound!

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps, guys. A real sophomore slump. Let me explain. My prelude novella, Blood in the Past (released this time last year), did pretty well. No one really had a bad word to say about it. I was proud of myself…and then terror set in.

Last year, as I was editing and revising the full-length follow-up to Past, Blood in the Paint, I began to worry that it wouldn’t measure up, that my creative prowess had a quota and I had used up everything in my reserve to write Blood in the Past. As a result, I hit the Publish button on Blood in the Paint a few months ago with closed eyes. I dragged my feet with the paperback edition. I haven’t sent out many review copies, and I haven’t done much promotion. I’m subconsciously forcing myself, and my Blood for Blood series, to fade into oblivion. I’m making my own nightmare, of my sophomore release not measuring up, a reality. Or am I?

When the news of Blood in the Paint’s release broke, I had an immediate spike in sales. I might have been able to capitalize on those numbers had I done some promoting. After I ordered my first shipment of Blood in the Paint paperbacks, I almost sold out of them…and I still have two events to do this week. And the reviews? The reviews have been pretty awesome. There are only nine so far (actually, as I’m writing this, a TENTH popped up!), none of which were written by me or hubby-pants, but they are all FIVE-STAR. Every single one of them. My mother-in-law, who awarded Blood in the Past with a three-star review, is raving about Paint. As is my father-in-law, who keeps asking how the next book will unfold. My niece even forgot about her “ghetto reality shows” (her words, not mine), because she’d been so caught-up in reading it. You guys don’t know my niece, but that’s probably the best compliment I could have received, short of something from Gillian Flynn herself.

So what’s the problem? Why haven’t I really written anything since April, when I went on a writing retreat, where there was nothing to do BUT write? I still feel unworthy, I still feel talentless, I still feel like everyone’s compliments are a fluke. Then I read a recent review of Blood in the Paint written by Ileandra Young. You can read the full review here, but the part I want to point out is when she mentioned a Facebook status where she posted, “Soooooooooo that feeling of inadequacy you feel while reading a fellow indie author’s novel then returning to your own WIP.” Guys, I actually remembered that status, I even Liked it because I knew the feeling. Turns out, she was talking about Blood in the Paint. Words cannot thank her enough for sharing that with her followers and blog readers and, most importantly, me. Between that and the pep talk hubby-pants gave me recently (more on that in another post, I think), I might be ready to write again. At the very least, I might be ready to begin my medico-legal research to make sure my next book, Blood in the Paper, is on the right track.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Past’s publication. To celebrate (and get back into promoting for the love of everything sacred and holy), Blood in the Past will be FREE on Wednesday, June 18th, and Blood in the Paint will be dropped to $1.99 today through Friday, June 20th. If you haven’t read them yet, now is the time to do so. Because, I’ve been down in the dumps and sales will make me feel better. ;-)

One of My Biggest Literary Pet Peeves Done Right

Those of you who know me in person, or know me a little better than just reading my blog from time to time, know that I’m pretty picky. This goes for books too. For example, I really love mystery/suspense/thrillers, but I really HATE (with the flames of a thousand campfires) when the main character/investigator is a civilian/layperson without even the tiniest bit of tangential experience. I’m talking about major crimes and conspiracies that are solved by bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers. And it’s not like the bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers are taking evening or online classes in law or criminology. No, they go home and watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones like the rest of us.

So, to sum up, I hate those novels.

However…I just finished reading Sister by Rosamund Lupton. And it was amazing. It was definitely the second best book I’ve read this year and probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. And guess what? The main character, Beatrice, “investigates” her sister’s disappearance/murder and she isn’t a detective, a lawyer, or even one of those plucky reporters. In fact, she worked for a business design company, creating logos and ad copy. Why didn’t throw my Kindle across the room and take a long walk to calm my rage? Well, for one the Kindle was a gift from Hubby-pants a few years ago, but I mostly didn’t rage out because I LOVED the way the book was written. It was Beatrice’s love for and intimate knowledge of her sister that propelled her and kept her from accepting the police’s version of events. The characterization was done so well that I never questioned her lack of experience. I mean, she suspected everyone in the whole book! She looked crazy in the process! She never gave up though. And that’s what made it believable. Add in the fact that it’s formatted as though Beatrice is writing a letter to her lost sister, recapping the events that led to her finding the killer, and there’s so much to love about this story. I highly recommend you give it a read. I stumbled across it when my local library suggested it because I’d enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and they were spot on.

So, readers, do you have any literary pet peeves with exceptions? Any novels that, though they exhibit something you normally hate in a book, you ended up enjoying the novel anyway? I’d love to hear about them!

“Riddled With Scenes That Left Me Thinking…”

No, I’m not talking about something I’ve read. The title of this post was taken directly from fellow author/blogger Richard Leonard’s recent review of Blood in the Paint! Here’s the remainder of the excerpt:

This novel is riddled with scenes that left me thinking “How on earth will he/she get out of this situation?” East does a superb job of creating realism in a world where many OMG moments occur, leaving the reader wondering what could possibly come next. And what does come next is exciting, believable, and edge-of-your-seat thrills.

 

I want to thank Richard for his glowing review, the rest of which you can read HERE!

Turns Out, I DO Know My Serial Killers

Blood in the Paint Cover

My upcoming release, Blood in the Paint, is going through the final stages of editing and I couldn’t be more terrified happier. I started writing Blood in the Paint almost a decade ago, way before its predecessor, Blood in the Past, and it’s been quite a journey.

I minored in Criminology and Psychology in college and that basic knowledge has helped me tremendously. But I’ve still had my doubts. Am I writing Lyla Kyle’s background correctly? Am I right about her motivations? Am I right about her methods and mindset? Still, I did my research and I was confident I knew my stuff.

Until a few months ago. One of the new beta readers to join my gaggle didn’t get through the entire Blood in the Paint manuscript. She questioned Lyla Kyle as a serial killer every step of the way. My face flushed with every comment she’d left. “I went to school for this,” I mumbled through clenched teeth. Eventually I got over it. I re-verified all the details, reminded myself that she hadn’t even read Blood in the Past (so she didn’t have Lyla’s background info), and moved on.

Then I found this Jennifer Chase blog post that put me at ease completely. She listed the four types of serial killers and I was psyched to discover I was already familiar with them:

Power & Control

This type of serial killer experiences complete sexual gratification from the domination and humiliation of the victim.  This killer is a true sociopath and lives by his own personal set of rules and guidelines.  Many of the famous serial killers we have seen in history would fall under his type of serial killer.

Visionary

This type of serial killer is compelled by voices or visions they experience and are considered psychotic.  These voices and visions compel them to kill certain kinds of people.

Mission

This type of serial killer feels a “need” or duty to kill certain types of people or “class” of people such as religious or racial groups or prostitutes.  This type of serial killer is not considered psychotic.

Hedonistic

This type of serial killer makes a strong connection between personal violence and sexual gratification.  This type of killer can also be described as a “lust” or “thrill” killer.  This killer receives pleasure from the act and has eroticized the experience.  They generally take the time to torture or mutilate their victims.

For those of you wondering, Lyla Kyle is most definitely a mission killer. In her mind, her father’s infidelity led to her mother’s death. Having always shown a predisposition for killing, even as a child, her mother’s death was the catalyst that motivated her to seek out and seduce married men…and kill them. Also, any collateral damage that occurs during the commission of her mission killings vexes her terribly. So far, so good, if you ask me.

Next, Ms. Chase posted several comments made by criminal psychology professionals from organizations such as the FBI, the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). The uncertainty surrounding my knowledge and my main character dissipated as I skimmed through them:

Predisposition to serial killing, much like other violent offenses, is biological, social, and psychological in nature, and it is not limited to any specific characteristic or trait. (Sounds like what I briefly described above regarding Lyla, doesn’t it?)

• The development of a serial killer involves a combination of these factors, which exist together in a rare confluence in certain individuals. They have the appropriate biological predisposition, molded by their psychological makeup, which is present at a critical time in their social development.(This sounds familiar, too!)

• There are no specific combinations of traits or characteristics shown to differentiate serial killers from other violent offenders.

• There is no generic template for a serial killer. (This quote is my favorite. The beta reader who got me down kept trying to put Lyla in a box. Every serial killer is different!)

• Serial killers are driven by their own unique motives or reasons. (Preach!)

• Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex, age, race, or religion.

• The majority of serial killers who are sexually motivated erotized violence during development. For them, violence and sexual gratification are inexplicably intertwined in their psyche.

• More research is needed to identify specific pathways of development that produce serial killers. (Exactly! And until then, we can, with some limits, write serial killers any way we choose.)

Now that I feel better, I spend my time being thankful that the other four beta readers devoured my manuscript of Blood in the Paint and had nothing but nice things to say about it. Not to mention the fact that Blood in the Past now has 40 reviews on Amazon and not one of them questions the believability of my characters. In fact, almost all of them say the exact opposite.

Have any of you read Blood in the Past? How did you feel about Lyla Kyle? Are any of you writers who have had your characters’ motives questioned? I want to hear from you!

(PS: This is basically the ‘cover reveal’ for Blood in the Paint! What do you think?)

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2014

I know, I know. Another list. I’m such a hypocrite.

I didn’t reach my Goodreads goal last year, but I’m determined to reach my more modest goal of 50 books this year. No, I’m not gonna list 50 specific books I plan on reading (I’m not that OCD, I promise), yet I do have several titles that have recently been bumped up on my eight-mile-long TBR list.

  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Okay, technically I started reading this at the tail end of 2013, but the library ruined my life (see failed Goodreads challenge above) and ended my lending period, ignoring my renewal request. Oh, and technically, I’ve already finished this novel this year (last week, to be precise). That just means I’m well on my way to completing this list!
  • Maze Runner by James Dashner – Yeah, um, technically, I’m reading this right now…and halfway done. But it’s on this list because the movie adaptation releases this year and I’m one of those annoying people who MUST read the book first so I can tell everyone who will listen, and even those that won’t, how much better the book was than the movie.
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – See above obnoxious reason for wanting to read Maze Runner because it applies here: Starz will debut its Outlander television adaptation this summer. Plus, my mother-in-law has recommended it about eleven times.
  • Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling (under some dude pen name) – I didn’t read The Casual Vacancy because, though I respect JK tremendously, the genre just wasn’t my cuppa. But this crime fiction novel is right up my alley.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth – I started reading this during the Night Film library-thievery-fiasco of 2013. I got about 35% in before Night Film was returned to my Kindle. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember enough about the first two books to feel comfortable finishing Allegiant. (Plus, I really wanted to get back to the amazeballs Night Film.) So it looks like I’ll be reading Divergent and Insurgent all over again before I can dive back into the final installment. :-/
  • Sand (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey – If you guys don’t know by now, I developed a serious literary crush on Hugh Howey after reading Wool. He just released this bundle of 5 episodes and I downloaded it the same day. I’ve never downloaded a book on release day. Ever.
  • EVERYTHING BY HUGH HOWEY – In continuation of the fan-girl moment I’m having, I want to read everything else written by Howey. The Molly Fyde Series, Half Way Home, I, Zombie. All of it. Where can I get his high school essays? Gimme, gimme, gimme.
  • Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt - I’ve heard great things about this serialized post-apocalyptic novel and I wanna see what all the fuss is about. Especially since I’ve had the first season on my Kindle FOREVER.
  • The Bat et al in the Harry Hole Series by Jo Nesbo – Last year I read his standalone, Headhunters (because I hadn’t yet gotten my hands on the first Harry Hole novel) and loved it. I’m ready to jump two-feet-first into more of his writing.
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight - Amazon keeps recommending this one to me. Amazon is a little scary. They’re gonna have drones soon. I’m gonna do what Amazon tells me…
  • Have You Seen Her by Rich Silvers – One of time times my own novella, Blood in the Past, did really well and jumped up the ranks of Amazon’s subcategories, specifically psychological fiction, Have You Seen Her was always one spot above me. Call this a recon read. I wanna check out the competition. ;-)
  • The Shining by Stephen King – I know, this is an “oldie but goodie” in the book world. I may have read it as preteen (I started reading King when I was ten. That’s not creepy or anything, right?), but I’m sure I don’t remember enough of it to read…
  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – …so I’m gonna check out The Shining (again?) so I can enjoy Stephen King’s new release all proper like.
  • Identical by Scott Turow – I keep a journal of ideas for future novels and short stories. One of these said ideas was very similar to Identical…before Identical was released. Scott Turow and I aren’t bar buddies on the weekends or anything, so I’m curious to see just how similar his story is to mine and whether or not I have to rip out a page from my journal and set it on fire.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - This novel won the Man Booker Prize and Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award last year. As you can imagine, it received a bit of publicity, which sparked my interest. It’s supposed to be a thrilling historical novel, but it’s a bit of a long read. I should probably get on that soon…before I find myself rushing around to complete this year’s Goodreads Challenge.
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty- This is another title Amazon keeps recommending. Have I mentioned I’m intimidated by them? (Amazon, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna read all your recommendations. Don’t send drones to my house unless I order something via Prime Shipping.)
  • N0S4A2 by Joe Hill – I read Horns last year. Why? Because there’s a movie coming out, of course. Anyway, I really enjoyed it. Hill has a much different writing style than his father (Stephen King), but you can tell by the crazy creepiness that he didn’t fall too far from the tree.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue – I’ve heard good things about this one, but have kept my distance because it’s written from the POV of a small child. I don’t really do kids, so you can understand my hesitation. However, I think I’m gonna suck it up and see what happens.
  • Lexicon by Maxx Barry - Hugh Howey posted a list books that changed his life on Facebook. This is one of them. It was already on my TBR list, but an endorsement from Howey shot it way up to the top. All hail Hugh Howey.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – I’ve been curious about this Tim Burton-ish-sounding novel for a while now. And with a sequel out (and a movie adaptation on the way!), it’s about time I give it a whirl.

Wow, I just rattled off twenty books without breaking a sweat. Color me impressed with myself (I was only aiming for ten). Anyway, do you guys have any books you’re dying to read this year? New releases? Oldies but goodies? Tell me! I have thirty more spots to fill!