Monday, July 16, 2012

Blog Tour: Guest Post

No Good Deed
Author: Bill Blais
Published: March 9, 2012
Synopsis: Kelly McGinnis has spent her adult life trying to do the right thing, but as a newly down-sized mother of twins and the wife of a man living with Muscular Sclerosis, she also knows that trying isn’t always enough.

While interrupting a scene of police brutality, Kelly unwittingly releases a real, live demon. After she manages to kill the creature through gut instinct and blind luck, she is approached to join a secret group of demon hunters who reveal an underworld of monsters and magic. Kelly’s mill town upbringing proves an unexpected asset and the pay more than covers her husband’s treatments, but the work begins to undermine her sense of right and wrong as she struggles to maintain her ‘normal’ life.

When she encounters Umber, a compelling incubus with an unexpectedly human story, Kelly learns that the truth is far stranger and more terrifying than she imagined.

Listening to the Voices in Your Head

Author Bill Blais explains how he approaches characterization and where the inspiration for the characters in the Kelly and Umber Series came from.

In a word? Listening.
For the longest time, I wrote plots to which I added characters, resulting in a whole lot of cardboard cutouts having expository conversations with one another. It took an embarrassingly long time to get over this (mostly, anyway), but the realization came during the writing of my first book, Witness.
Up to then, I had stuck with (and floundered in) short fiction, but the long form of a novel meant I was spending far longer with the characters and it quickly became apparent that they had to come first. Even in the outlining stage, I found myself stuck when I couldn't answer basic questions like what a character is afraid of, much less what he or she was motivated by.
It was about that time that I remembered something I had read years before, where Maya Angelou described part of her writing process (for the record, I may have this wrong, but it's how I remembered it and how it impacted me, so my apologies to Dr. Angelou for any inaccuracies). Before writing a word of the 'story' itself, she wrote every last thing she could think of about her characters, page after page of character traits, fears, likes, heroes, favorite foods, whatever came to her about the character in question. It was only after she did this that she felt she could properly write a story with those characters that treated them 'honestly'.
While I didn't fully follow this fabulous advice (I was still hasty and painfully over-confident in my own fledgling abilities), I did take much more time with the characters than I ever had before, and the result was stronger, more honest depictions of these characters as real people.
With the Kelly & Umber Series, I spent even more time on finding out exactly who the various characters were. For No Good Deed, Kelly was the obvious focus for this work, in order to make her voice as believable as possible, followed by Denis & team, but I found myself drawn into the lives of each of the characters in the story, regardless of how prominent they were (I still have a soft spot for Linwood, for example, and he's 'on-screen' for a single scene).
I'd be lying if I said the characters I write aren't based on people I know, but they are amalgamations rather than reproductions. As I 'listened' to the stories of these characters, I found myself referencing the gestures of this former co-worker of mine, the slang of that uncle or the hair style of the shift leader of my local supermarket. When it came to hopes, fears and motivations, though, I was finally in tune enough with the unique qualities of these individuals to hear what they themselves felt, rather than me giving them these things.
Umber was the only odd-ball in this process for me, but that itself made sense, given who and what he is. He took much longer to get a grip on, to accurately hear, than the others, because I repeatedly found myself trying to take the easy way out with him, but it never fit. In the end, he is the least 'believable' but I believe that's part of the point, providing as much draw as frustration for me as an author (and for Kelly in her interactions with him).


  1. Nice guest post! :) It sounds really interesting, and I really liked how he used to first write the plot and then work on the characters! :)

  2. Thanks very much, Eileen! It's not a conventional method, admittedly, but once the characters hit the page, they are their own people and my job is just to pay attention :)

    Thanks to Kayla, as well, for having me by!