Reply
Frequent Contributor
clarepayton
Posts: 427
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Portraying characters who are less than perfect

Lauren, it came up in Mary's section that some of us wondered how an author tackles and handles a character who is unsympathetic. Do you find yourself loving your character in spite of her flaws? Is that love what is driving you to pursue her in a future book?
____________________________________________
Clare Payton, Moderator
Barnes & Noble Book Clubs
Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Portraying characters who are less than perfect

I think that severely flawed characters have a visceral appeal that comes of our own awareness of our personal imperfections. Recently, there's been a trend in fiction, especially in romance and chick lit, towards what I like to think of as "lightly flawed" heroines, girls who are awkward or clumsy, too shy or too brash. They're the sort of flaws that don't go too deep, that are more about social presentation than character. On the other end of the spectrum, one has the Marys of the literary world, whose flaws are matters of character and verge on the socially taboo. I see Mary as part of the lineage of Scarlett O'Hara and "Forever Amber," women who are by no means "nice," but who appeal to us because their sins are in some sense our own. We're taught early on that we're not supposed to be selfish or greedy or too calculating, that we're supposed to put others first. But no matter how good we try to be, these darker impulses linger. I think that's a large part of the draw of the Scarlett O'Haras and Marys of the literary world, that guilty identification-- as Margaret Atwood put it, "Ma soeur! Ma semblable!" as we recognize those bits of our own characters we try so hard to brush under the carpet.

As an author, these sorts of deeply flawed characters provide a scope that the more likable characters don't. Just as great love and great hate are first cousins, so, too, are great flaws and great potential. Mary's more negative aspects-- her overweening ambition, her selfishness-- are the flip sides to a focused mind and a strong will. Part of what fascinates me, working with flawed characters, is the relationship between personality and circumstance. Mary's character traits would be a virtue in an Empress or a Queen (there's a fair amount of Elizabeth I in her!), but in a girl from a minor gentry family, where the attributes needed to fit her circumstances are docility and humility, Mary's very strength of will curdles and becomes a twisted version of what it might have been, bent on petty objects since she has no greater scope for her energies or talents. The challenge for me, in working with a Mary or a Vaughn, is to try to place them in circumstances that will bring out the better aspects of their character without damping their fundamental natures. Mary will never become a traditionally "good" or "nice" person, but she does have the potential to become an admirable one.



clarepayton wrote:
Lauren, it came up in Mary's section that some of us wondered how an author tackles and handles a character who is unsympathetic. Do you find yourself loving your character in spite of her flaws? Is that love what is driving you to pursue her in a future book?


Frequent Contributor
politikgirl
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎01-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

Hi Lauren!

I had thought about Geoff/Jane from the first book, as well, and was surprised to see Geoff/Letty, but I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. Geoff, now that we've gotten to know him more, would not have suited Jane, in my opinion, even though I like Geoff a lot. I love Jane - I think she needs someone who is her "equal" - mentally, emotionally, physically - and who can make her fall passionately in love, despite her very rational, logical and well-planned out nature. I can't wait to meet this character.

Regarding casting the characters... I struggle with casting them because sometimes I'll think of an actor who may be able to look the part, but doesn't have the acting chops to actually do it. If we put aside acting abilities (I'm extremely particular about actors because I'm pretty judgemental about acting abilities), I think Orlando Bloom could be a very attractive Richard. I struggle with Miles and Geoff, mainly because I don't know too many actors of a younger age group than Colin Firth/Hugh Jackman, per se (shame, I say). For Amy, I think Rachel McAdams would be superb - both in acting ability and looks. Henrietta - Keira Knightley. Jane is a really tough one to cast, as is Letty, although Kate Winslet at a younger age would have made a SUPERB Letty. Mary would be very fun to cast, but only after reading book 4. Now it sounds like I've put way too much thought into this. I promise that I do actually do my school work...
Frequent Contributor
politikgirl
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎01-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

Oh, one more thing. I can see Sean Bean as Lord Vaughn, most definitely. How about Johnny Depp? I can see it.

I really liked your comparison of Mary and Elizabeth I. As Elizabeth I is probably my favourite historical figure of all time, this makes me very excited about book 4 and getting to know the character of Mary.
New User
Vinh
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎01-01-2007
0 Kudos

questions

Hello Lauren,

Real life has kept me busier that I thought it would so I haven't been here as often as I would like. So, I'll just post all my questions and you can answer any or all of them at your leisure if you want to.

How do you write your storyline? From beginning to end or do sparks of inspiration just randomly occur for you? Do you work on one book at a time or multiple story lines?

Which of your novel did you enjoy writing the most? Which book when writing it impacted you the most?

Do you ever get writer's block or stalled on a storyline? What do you do to move past it?

I think that was all I had though up for now.

Thank you for reading!
New User
Angie
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-22-2007
0 Kudos

Re: questions

[ Edited ]
Hi, Lauren.

I love your books because they're in the vein of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", one of my favorite stories and probably my favorite literary hero. I don't know if this has been asked, but which of your heroes is your favorite? My favorite is Richard. I like how you've given each of them their own distinct personality. And no offense to the person who suggested him, but I think Orlando Bloom is all wrong to play Richard...though I have no suggestion of my own!

Also, will we be lucky enough to see Book Four this year?

Message Edited by Angie on 01-22-200709:15 PM

Contributor
SaraleeE
Posts: 18
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

LOL! My mother always used to say the same thing, that there isn't just one person who's right for another. Maybe that's right in a retroactive sort of way--as you build your life together with someone else, you change, and eventually both of you fit so seamlessly that it seems like there could never have been anyone else.
Frequent Contributor
clarepayton
Posts: 427
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: women's "flaws"

I like your comment about how some of Mary's characteristics might be positive in a different social position, such as an Empress or Queen. I think this speaks to how uncomfortable society is with strong women, except in certain circumstances. It's changing but ever so slowly. Most strong-minded, outspoken, confident, and forthright women are seen as brazen, "aggressive" (which is somehow okay in men), and bitchy. It's good to see new types of characters, however flawed.

Thanks, Lauren!
____________________________________________
Clare Payton, Moderator
Barnes & Noble Book Clubs
Contributor
dianeh
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎01-22-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

Hi, Lauren!

I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one to catch the "sparks" between Jane and Lord Vaughn. I never even thought of Mary for him, but it makes sense. There are defintely going to be bonfires around these two! (LOL)

Are you going to have any book signings with Pink IV? If so, please try to come to the Philadelphia area. I will definitely be there. I really admire what you've accomplished in the few short years that the Pink Carnation has been fighting the French. As a full-time employee and part-time student finishing my BS, I know how tough I have it. My hat's off to you!

I love the books (I've read all twice now) and please keep 'em coming!
Diane
Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

Hi, Diane!

I don't know yet what the signing schedule for Pink IV will be like, but my brother will be starting law school in Philadelphia in the fall, so I'll definitely be over there at some point-- it's so close to New York that I really have no excuse.

Good luck on finishing your BS! Now that I have a full-time job myself, I finally appreciate just how hard it is to juggle other things around it. My hat's off to you for maneuvering both work and school at the same time!

Lauren



dianeh wrote:
Hi, Lauren!

Are you going to have any book signings with Pink IV? If so, please try to come to the Philadelphia area. I will definitely be there. I really admire what you've accomplished in the few short years that the Pink Carnation has been fighting the French. As a full-time employee and part-time student finishing my BS, I know how tough I have it. My hat's off to you!

I love the books (I've read all twice now) and please keep 'em coming!


Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: questions

Hi, Angie! I have to agree with you. Orlando Bloom isn't quite right for Richard. He's just not suave enough. I always saw Richard as more Cary Elwes in "Princess Bride" (my own personal teen heartthrob!) or Errol Flynn in "Captain Blood". I think Christian Bale would do nicely... he's got that old-fashioned swashbuckler quality.

As for which of the heroes is my favorite, that's a toughie. I guess I'd have to say that even though Miles is the farthest of all my heroes from my own personal type, I enjoyed writing him the most, and find him the most generally lovable-- like a great, big, cravat-wearing teddy bear.



Angie wrote:
Hi, Lauren.

I love your books because they're in the vein of "The Scarlet Pimpernel", one of my favorite stories and probably my favorite literary hero. I don't know if this has been asked, but which of your heroes is your favorite? My favorite is Richard. I like how you've given each of them their own distinct personality. And no offense to the person who suggested him, but I think Orlando Bloom is all wrong to play Richard...though I have no suggestion of my own!

Also, will we be lucky enough to see Book Four this year?

Message Edited by Angie on 01-22-200709:15 PM




Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Pink IV

Hi, there!

I do like the Johnny Depp as Vaughn idea. But my new absolute favorite tormented hero has to be Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester. Has anyone else been watching the wonderful new Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of "Jane Eyre"? (Finally, a "Jane Eyre" adaptation where Jane's strength of character comes through!). I definitely saw little bits of Vaughn in the tormented-- yet oddly charming-- Mr. Rochester.



politikgirl wrote:
Oh, one more thing. I can see Sean Bean as Lord Vaughn, most definitely. How about Johnny Depp? I can see it.

I really liked your comparison of Mary and Elizabeth I. As Elizabeth I is probably my favourite historical figure of all time, this makes me very excited about book 4 and getting to know the character of Mary.


Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: questions

[ Edited ]
Hi, Vinh!

Thanks for the great questions-- hopefully, I'll get to them all.

Q. How do you write your storyline? From beginning to end or do sparks of inspiration just randomly occur for you? Do you work on one book at a time or multiple story lines?

A. I prefer to write in as linear a fashion as possible. I find that what comes before generally impacts what happens after, and the characters grow and change as I write about them, so when I cheat and write later bits earlier, I generally have to re-write them once I've written the preceeding parts.

The classic example of this occured with "Emerald Ring" and involves, well, a barn. My little sister is still laughing at me over this one, and it's become a private watchword (as in, "Oh, Lauren, not the barn again!"). For some reason, before I started seriously working on "Emerald Ring" (I was about three quarters of the way through "Black Tulip" at the time), I decided that the climactic confrontation scene between Geoff and Letty after Letty first follows to Geoff Ireland was going to take place in a barn. Why the barn? I don't know... it was around Christmas, so I had mangers on the brain.

At any rate, I sat down and poured out my long, affecting barn scene-- high melodrama and lots of hay. I was quite convinced it was the best thing I'd ever written, pure Oscar Moment sort of stuff. Fast forward six months later, and there I am, having finally started work on "Emerald Ring", banging my head on my desk as I try desperately to figure out just what on earth Letty and Geoff are doing in a barn and how to get them there. I spent, without exaggeration, WEEKS trying to get Letty and Geoff into that blasted barn, until Brooke wrinkled her nose at me and said, "Lauren, a BARN?" [insert derisive laughter here]. And it wasn't just the setting that had to go-- the entire confrontation between Letty and Geoff made no sense, given the way their characters and plot had developed over the preceeding chapter. The vestigial remains of the infamous Barn Scene can be seen in the very brief altercation between Letty and Geoff in the window embrasure at Mrs. Lanergan's party-- and it bears almost no resemblance to the original.

The upshot of all this is that whenever I come up with a an "absolutely perfect, really!" idea for much later in a book (usually involving improbable settings or equally improbable emotional conflagrations), I get a stern, "Don't go back into that barn!"

As an offshoot of the same reasoning, even though I do spend a lot of time thinking about future books and storylines (future books are always more attractive than the one you're supposed to be writing), I don't let myself do any real work on them until after I've finished the last one. I do occasionally scribble down bits of scenes and narrative for future books-- but they tend to be of the barn variety, and when I sit down to work on that book in earnest, I spend a lot of time shaking my head and wondering what on earth I was thinking when I wrote it down. Then they get stuck in the "Old Notes" file (kept more for personal amusement purposes than anything else).



Q. Which of your novel did you enjoy writing the most? Which book when writing it impacted you the most?

A. Oh, goodness, that's a hard one to answer. I'd say I had the most chortling over the keyboard moments with "Black Tulip." It's quite definitely the lightest of my books, and I gave myself free rein-- at least in the early part of the book-- to just revel in pure silliness. I had a ridiculous amount of fun writing the interactions between Hen and her mother (the family scenes in "Pink Carnation" were among my favorites, so I used "Black Tulip" to revisit and expand on that world), Hen's banter with her friends, the autocratic Dowager Duchess of Dovedale, and Miles' inimitable internal monologues.

"Pink Carnation" was the best learning experience-- since I didn't have a deadline or an editor, I was able to spend a lot of time exploring alternate plot angles, writing random scenes and then cutting them out, and really just getting to know the characters and the settings.

Finally, I'd say that "Emerald Ring" was the one that impacted me the most, although it may be a slightly skewed response, since that's also the book that's freshest for me! Henrietta and Miles were both light-hearted characters, easy to get to know and easy to write about, so moving from them to the more reserved Geoff and Letty posed a personal challenge. Their emotions were, while harder to reach, a great deal more raw than either of the pairs who had come before them.


Q. Do you ever get writer's block or stalled on a storyline? What do you do to move past it?

A. I stall out all the time! Usually, it's because the angle I've taken with a scene or a set of scenes isn't working, and my subconscious is screaming, "Noooooo!" This generally translates, however, to lots of sulking and glowering at the computer screen and migrating from coffee place to coffee place in the mistaken belief that a change of scene might help, until finally light dawns and I realize that it's because the viewpoint needs to be changed or the last two chapters need to be deleted and started over from an entirely new angle, or something like that. Sometimes a few days off does the trick; other times, it's talking out the problems with friends. With this last book (Book IV), I got so badly stuck on one scene that I broke my own rule about working in a linear fashion and skipped ahead to the next set of scenes, which effectively broke the block (even though I still haven't written those two problem scenes-- but that's a topic for Book IV's book club!).

Message Edited by LaurenWillig on 01-24-200711:48 AM

New User
Angie
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-22-2007
0 Kudos

Re: questions

I also watched the first part of "Jane Eyre" and will definitely be watching the second. One of my favorite books. =)
Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: questions

Me, too! I've always loved "Jane Eyre", but I haven't been keen on any of the adaptations for screen so far-- but in this one, you can definitely understand the nature of the attraction between Rochester and Jane, as well as why Rochester behaves as he does. I can't wait till Part II.

Of course, I also tell myself that this counts as "research". : )



Angie wrote:
I also watched the first part of "Jane Eyre" and will definitely be watching the second. One of my favorite books. =)


New User
wodehouse419
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎01-24-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Questions for the author

Hi Lauren!
I had a questions about you saying that Letty would be content with any unobjectionable man. Why did you think that about Letty, but not about the other heroines? Do you think that Geoff would be content with someone else, too? And finally, why did you choose such characters as Letty and Geoff for one another?
Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Questions for the author

[ Edited ]
Great question! I'd say that it's because, at heart, Letty is really a pragmatist. She's never expected violins or bolts of thunder. Her means of survival (and of winning affection from others) is to make herself as useful as possible. As long as she could find something to manage, she would be, if not happy, at least content. At the same time, she's not terribly introspective, so as long as she and whoever she was with got on well enough, she wouldn't sit and analyse the relationship to death. After growing up with her parents' example before her, anything moderately amiable would seem a triumph in comparison.

Henrietta, in contrast, had the pressure of having grown up with a love match as her model. Were she to enter into a lukewarm sort of relationship, even a perfectly cordial one, she would feel as though she had failed-- and, even more gnawing, know herself to be the object of her family's pity. Henrietta also, unlike Letty, tends to analyse everything to death, so she would fret and worry and tug at the rough edges of the relationship until the whole thing unravelled.

Amy... well, Amy wasn't an introvert, but she wasn't one to settle for anything less than Grand Passion. Settling down with a country squire wasn't in Amy's future, and she doesn't have the common sense (or worldliness, depending on how one wants to look at it) to even contemplate making a match of convenience for purposes of security, saving face, or companionship. Marriage had to happen in a glowing blaze for Amy, or it wasn't going to happen at all (fortunately, Amy is the sort of person for whom glowing blaze happens fairly easily, because it's very hard to imagine her as a spinster.

As for Geoff, I felt that he had a high propensity for making a bad match for all the wrong reasons-- not, like Letty, because he had low expectations and could make himself happy in many situations, but because he has so little understanding of the opposite sex. His own father died when he was very young (and his parents' marriage was one of social convenience rather than a meeting of minds), so he never really had an example of what a marriage could be in front of him. A bit of an introvert, he didn't really get to know women as friends, the way Miles and even Richard did. Instead, he built an idealized vision of love out of Arthurian romances and bits of verse, with himself as devoted cavalier worshipping at his lady's altar. Barring authorial intervention, I saw two paths for him. Geoff was either going to wind up with a scheming adventuress like Mary, who played up to that fantasy for mercenary means, marry her in a blaze of blind devotion, and be hit with crippling disillusionment when the bubble burst. Or, eventually, he wound marry an appropriate girl of good family to fulfill his duty to perpetuate the title, be unfailingly kind and polite but rather distant, and retreat more and more into his study and his club, until he became one of those absent-minded old scholars. In short, the one kind of girl he wasn't going to wind up with was the sort he needed, someone down to earth and straightforward-- rather than an idealized lady in the tower-- who would provide a grounding influence.



wodehouse419 wrote:
Hi Lauren!
I had a questions about you saying that Letty would be content with any unobjectionable man. Why did you think that about Letty, but not about the other heroines? Do you think that Geoff would be content with someone else, too? And finally, why did you choose such characters as Letty and Geoff for one another?

Message Edited by LaurenWillig on 01-25-200709:58 AM

Message Edited by LaurenWillig on 01-25-200709:58 AM

Message Edited by LaurenWillig on 01-25-200709:59 AM

New User
Dancegirl0317
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
0 Kudos

How do you choose your locations?

Hi Lauren,
Just wanted to say that I really enjoy your books. But I also wanted to ask if you used certain places that had special meaning to you. Even more directly I'm asking if you had a fondness of Shropshire. Have not been there myself, yet, but one of my really great friends lives in Telford. Our language profs in 7th grade got us into a pen pal program, and we've been great friends ever since. She's come to the states, but I haven't gotten a chance to visit Telford yet. But Shropshire is definitely not one of the more known counties in England, so I was just wandering if you picked it for a special reason? After I read the Pink Carnation it was great to write my friend and be like "Oh my gosh, I just read a book that mentioned Shropshire a lot." She got a big kick out of it. I'm planning to send all three of them to her for her upcoming birthday.

Thanks so much!!!!

It's also so great to read your books and know that you wrote them while doing your grad and PhD studies. I'm in my last semester for my B.A. and starting grad school soon, but I cannot even imagine writing books like these. Very inspiring!!!

P.S. Can't wait for your next book.
Contributor
dianeh
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎01-22-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Questions for the author

Hi, Lauren! I'm sorry we only have 1 more week with you. This has been great fun to be able to talk to you (almost) and find out the answers to some of the questions we get while reading the books. I will most likely read Pink III again prior to the release of Pink IV, just to get into the story again. Also, I found by reading the books twice, I picked up different things that I didn't notice the first time around. Have you ever done that?

Also, I was thinking about Jane's perfect match. I thought that, maybe, it might be the Black Tulip himself (it would have to be a man in that case), but then I thought it might be a case of why you didn't put Lord Vaughn with Jane; the mistrust issue. If that is true, then you would have to create a new character just for Jane, as I don't see her with Percy Ponsonby or Martin Frobisher (UGH!) I do think that the man will have to be her equal in capability, brains, and strength of character. I was just wondering if you had an idea at this point who that might be? I wouldn't blame you if the answer was no because of the focus on Pink IV. I thought maybe Jane might have been talking to you. (smile)

I can't wait for the new book. I know it's going to be as great as the others. The characters have become great friends to me, especially Eloise, and I really miss them after I finish whatever book I'm reading. Thanks for our new best friends, Lauren!
Diane
Author
LaurenWillig
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-27-2006
0 Kudos

Re: How do you choose your locations?

Hi! That's so neat that you have a childhood penpal in Shropshire! I had a penpal in Durham once upon a time, but we lost touch during college... although I have to admit that I don't think I would have considered setting the book in Durham anyway. I picked Shropshire because I love the name-- it's so wonderfully woolly-- and I wanted a county fairly far from London, where sheep-farming was still a major staple in the early 19th century. Shropshire suited those purposes admirably.

Enjoy the rest of your senior year! And good luck with grad school....

Lauren



Dancegirl0317 wrote:
Even more directly I'm asking if you had a fondness of Shropshire. Have not been there myself, yet, but one of my really great friends lives in Telford.


Users Online
Currently online: 4 members 106 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: