Monday, September 15, 2008

Guest - Jackie Kessler

Good morning everyone! This week's guest is Jackie Kessler, who will be discussing characters with us. Jackie is the author of the Hell on Earth series, which is about a succubus who runs away from Hell, hides on Earth as an exotic dancer, and learns the hard way about true love. Jackie is also the coauthor, with Caitlin Kittredge, of the upcoming superhero novel BLACK & WHITE (Bantam, summer 2009).

Oh! And Jackie is giving away a copy of HELL'S BELLES to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment to her post by Friday night. I'll put all the names into a box and let my Wookie Baby pick the winner (she's very good at that :D) So check back on Saturday for the announcement!


It’s Getting Them To Shut Up That’s the Trick

Characters. Give them an inch, and next thing you know, they think they’re in control of your freaking book.

The first two books in the Hell on Earth series were all about Jezebel. They were written in first person, and Jesse’s voice was pretty easy for me to find. Heck, if I were a demon, and Jesse were Jewish, we’d probably be the same person. Okay, well, you’d never catch me stripping on stage, but I digress. Point is, I didn’t have much trouble channeling Jesse for those books.

But then came the third book, HOTTER THAN HELL, one that wasn’t in Jesse’s point of view. Actually, it’s in the incubus Daunuan’s POV. (Daunuan is pronounced “Don Juan.” Sort of.) So I had to write in first person male demon POV, a dude with sex on the brain. And he’s the **good** guy. Talk about writing outside of my comfort zone. It took me a while to get all the Jesse out and let Daun in before I, pardon me, nailed it. Soon Daun was talking to me, and the words just flew.

The problem with really letting characters speak to you, though, is they don’t respect any boundaries. At least, mine don’t. Maybe it’s because I write about demons. I mean, when I’m working my day job, I know that after specific hours I’m off the clock. Not so when I’m writing. Example: One morning, when I was about two-thirds of the way through the draft of HOT, I was in the kitchen making my kids breakfast when bam! suddenly I knew how the book needed to end. The final scene just played before my eyes — I hadn’t planned it, I hadn’t outlined something that said “Final Scene Pending.” It just happened. So I raced upstairs and banged out the last scene. Five minutes later, I finished making my kids breakfast. Happily, they didn’t mind their bagels being extra toasted that morning.

And then, there was the start of this one chapter, when it was supposed to open with Daun talking to Jesse. He needed to get information from her, so the chapter was supposed to begin with him already with her in a private room at the club where Jesse stripped. But as I started the scene, Daun said to me, “I want to watch her dance.”

Now, I swear, I’m not schizophrenic. But Daun told me that he wanted to watch Jesse dance before he spoke to her.

“No,” I said. “We’ve had two books where the reader saw Jesse dance. Enough with Jesse dancing — who cares already?”

He pushed back. I called him a dumb demon. And he said, “I watch her dance, or I ain’t working.” And boom: writer’s block.

So a few days later, I caved. I wrote the scene where first he watches Jesse dance on stage. And wow — it not only worked well, it also revealed important character information about Daun and Jesse to the reader. (Not to Daun, though; like I said, he’s a dumb demon.) Daun still smirks over how he knew best.

Freaking characters. It’s not finding their voices that’s the hard part. It’s getting them to shut up that’s the trick.

HELL’S BELLES (mass market reissue)

Jezebel’s not your average exotic dancer. For one thing, she’s a 4,000-year-old succubus. For another, she’s on the run from Hell (which is a bitch to do in high heels). Hiding on the mortal coil as a human doesn’t protect her from muggers, lactose intolerance…or having feelings for Paul, a man haunted by his past. Demons are closing in, which is enough to make Jezebel shiver in her G-string. But it’s her love for Paul that’s going to have deadly consequences. (Humans, she laments, really should come with instruction manuals.)

HELL’S BELLES (mass market reissue, Kensington Zebra, September 2008)
THE ROAD TO HELL (trade paperback, Kensington Zebra, November 2007)
A HELL OF A TIME, in the ETERNAL LOVER anthology (trade paperback, Kensington, April 2008)

HOTTER THAN HELL (trade paperback, Kensington Zebra, August 2008)
“When Hell Comes Calling,” in the LILITH UNBOUND anthology (Popcorn Press, September 2008)

HELL IS WHERE THE HEART IS, in A RED HOT VALENTINE’S DAY anthology (Avon Red, January 2009)

I will happily acknowledge comments!

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Sandy said...

Great post, Jackie. Interesting how characters call the shots!

I haven't read any of your books yet, but I've been hearing a lot about them. So I'll be out book hunting soon. It has to be soon since I'm behind in even starting the series!

How many more books do you have planned in the series? Is there maybe a new series on the horizon?

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Jackie, I haven't written a main demon character yet...well, I did write Lucifer, and he his own big scene. Interesting voice the big guy has, I must say. And he'll be in book II. However, I've never written a heroine or hero, yet, with a demon nature. How did that come about for you?
I do have to agree about those heroines and heroes, definitely a persistent bunch when they want to be heard, or have scenes their way. And mine are like yours. Either they get their own way, or I don't get anything. At least, not the good stuff.

Anthology Authors said...

Well, I already have this book, but I have to say it's a fantastic one.

Very interesting, Jackie. Now things are beginning to make sense. (big grin) I'm kidding. ;)


Jackie said...

Thanks for your comment, Sandy! I'm working on the fourth Hell book now. There is a new series next summer: BLACK & WHITE, which I've coauthored with Caitlin Kittredge. Superheroes, baby! :)

Jackie said...

Hi, Savanna! Ooh, Lucifer -- awesome! And yeah, darned diva characters! LOL.

"I've never written a heroine or hero, yet, with a demon nature. How did that come about for you?"

Thanks for your question! I knew I wanted to write a book about a demon who was no longer in Hell. And I had this moment, just as I was sitting down to write HELL'S BELLES, when I thought that maybe the book should be in the witch's POV (she appears in chapter one), because the witch was human, and I can relate to humans (heh, usually!!!) but I had no idea how to write a demon. And after fretting for a bit, I decided just to go for it. So I wrote Jesse...the way Jesse wanted to be written.

Jackie said...

Hi, Marci! ((Jackie waves))

BEGINNING to make sense??? LOL -- too much!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound like it's getting the characters to shut up that's the problem, it's sometimes remembering to listen to them. Of course, sometimes letting them have there own way too much results in excessive use of the delete keys.

Jackie said...

Heh. Excellent points all around, dan-phi!

Lynda K. Scott said...

Wookie, my fluffy buddy, loves to play with paper so when I wrote the names of the commmentors onto scraps, her green eyes lit up like lanterns. She knew what I was going to ask her to do....of course, then I had to chase her down to get the name of the lucky winner (I think Wookie would like to have her own copy of the book but, ahem, I've seen what she does to paper so we will not let her have a copy :D ) With no further delay, the winner is Sandy!

Sandy congrats! You're the winner of Jackie's HELL'S BELLES.

Please email me at so we can arrange for deliver of your prize.

Thanks to Jackie for guesting with us and thanks to you all for stopping by to comment.