An Excellent Guest Post by Dark & Stormy, Author: J. Mercer: Building suspense and how it shaped her characters. - Comments from Readers - Giveaway.
Publication date: May 17th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Faryn Miller wants to build a new life in a small town. It’s her last chance to figure out, of all the roles she’s played in her thirty-some years, which one truly fits. Her aim at simplicity sounds like the perfect medicine until she meets Kai Allen, who’s spent his life doing everything the hard way and never bending for anyone. Lucky for Kai, Faryn has no preconceived notions about what he’s done and who he is, unlike the rest of town.
When cryptic messages start sneaking their way into Faryn’s apartment, then blatant threats, the two of them compile a long list of who could be stalking her. Unable to keep his frustration and rage hidden any longer, Kai explodes on everyone in his path, and Faryn can’t help but wonder if the storm is closer than she thinks.
How J. Mercer created the thrilling suspense in her story and the effect it had on shaping her characters.
I think the first page helped tremendously with the creation of the suspense in Dark & Stormy. Granted, I worked hard to slip in a lot of random things throughout the first half, to make the reader question characters and wonder what was happening/who was hunting Faryn. But that first page, with Kai at her grave being arrested for her murder, truly set the tone and started you looking. I owe a lot to that page, because without it, I think the reader might have missed a lot of the red herrings I dropped, not knowing they were anything to worry about.
Knowing at the start what the ending would be, I worked backward to sprinkle hints throughout and give the reader a lot of different places to look and wonder. When I first read your question, Jena, my immediate reaction was that plot and theme always birth my characters, rather than the other way around—however, you’re very right here. In Dark & Stormy, the suspense aspect definitely shaped the side characters, because they all had to be questionable—they all had to be possible suspects, and they all had to have some stretch of motive.
Every character needed to be seen in both positive and negative light (okay, so Andy was pretty exclusively negative, but he did find some small heart inside him at the end), so that the reader could waffle between whether they were innocent or not. Leon, Lewis, Chuck, and Philip had to be written so the reader might see them as creepy, even if Faryn didn’t. Savannah came in hot, because, well, let’s be honest, she wouldn’t have reacted to Faryn any other way. She was so obvious that it pretty much negated her as a suspect, but then later, as she calms down and things change in her life, I wanted the reader to remember her actions and words in the beginning, and wonder if maybe she did, indeed, have it in her.
The most interesting thing to me about characters is that people read them differently. People are attracted to different things, and that’s never more obvious to me than in the feedback I get about my characters. Just as if my beta readers and critique partners were making friends in the real world, they relate to the same character in totally different ways. I wanted Faryn to see Leon and Lewis as friends, but I wanted the reader to hear about their lives, see how they spent their time, and wonder if Faryn was missing something. Some people have immediately loved Kai, and some have immediately been disgusted by him. This too is part of the fun—especially because it works either way in this particular novel.
That being the roundabout answer, the simple one is this: as I wrote, I looked everywhere for possible red herrings, drawing them out of the woodwork and out of both Kai and Faryn’s past, then also sticking them in the ears of every person who crossed their path. The more I threw those herrings around, the more the pieces connected to make the story. On top of that, true hints needed to be slid in throughout, so that even if you didn’t catch them the first time, you could pick them out when reading back through. The suspense aspect and the characters definitely formed a symbiotic relationship here—characterization building the suspense, for the suspense, in turn, to build characterization.
One final, unrelated note that I think helped keep up the suspense was aiming for a quick pace. Slowing down too much for shading the scene or delving deep into emotion slows the thrill and worry. As a reader, it implies a space to rest and recover, as it intimates the character has time to do the same.
Suspense, unreliable characters, and a quick read! That’s what you’ll get in Dark & Stormy. Happy reading, and thanks for having me Jena!
What readers are saying:
“Complex characters give way to a brilliantly written story… Incredible writing from a first time author.”
“Great small town setting with an awesome cast of characters. J Mercer masterfully takes you on a journey full of twists and reveals that are woven so skillfully into the story you’ll want to read it again and again.”
“J Mercer combines her gift for poignantly haunting characters with a plot that is intriguingly complicated.”
“I couldn’t put this book down! When I reached the last page, I sat, breathless, stunned.”
“This book had me hanging on page by page. With thought provoking character development and surprises at every turn.”
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About the Author
J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband—though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on Facebook @jmercerbooks or online at www.jmercerbooks.wordpress.com.
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