Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Guest Blogger Jane Graves

I met Jane Graves last summer at the RWA National Conference in Atlanta. She was a lot of fun (and she gave me a mood ring!), so I've been hounding her ever since to make an appearance on the Playground. Last month, she admitted to Texas hair over in the Sandbox, and now she's here to talk books and writing. Y'all give Jane a big Playground welcome!

Thanks so much for the invitation to come to the Writing Playground. What a fun place to play and learn a little at the same time!

I'd like to talk for a minute about the heroine of my book that's out this month, Hot Wheels and High Heels. Darcy McDaniel is a trophy wife, plain and simple. Now, here's an odd admission for an author to make. As the book opens, you're not going to give a damn about her. I mean, who wants to read about a woman who has all the good things life has to offer without lifting a finger to get them?

But...how about if I tell you that on page three, she discovers that her husband has taken every dime they have, maxed out their credit cards, sold their house, embezzled $300,000 from his employer, and skipped the country, leaving Darcy with little more than the clothes on her back, her Mercedes Roadster, and her neurotic Chihuahua? Does that sound a little more interesting?

I love to drag my characters to rock bottom, then watch them crawl out of the hole I've dug for them. Nowhere in real life is it permissible to kick a person when he's down, but as a fiction writer, it's part of my job description. Why? Because it's only through applying pressure that character is revealed.

Think about how a lot of wild animals behave. They won't attack unless you do what? Corner them. A lot of wild animals can appear quite tame. But if you apply pressure, their basic nature is revealed. People are no different.

Consider Hurricane Katrina. That was a perfect example of a pressure-filled situation that revealed the character of thousands of New Orleans residents, both good and bad. There were those who rescued other people, and there were those who looted and killed. But‑‑here's the key‑‑the day before Katrina hit, you might not have been able to tell the difference between the two.

I once heard an author say, "I'd never write about a character who isn't at the end of his rope." I think that's really good advice, which is why that's exactly where I put Darcy: at the end of her rope. She's forced to grow and change. And as she does, I hope you'll be cheering for her to find love and happiness, particularly when that love and happiness centers around a really great hero instead of her cute little sports car and her platinum AmEx!

Here's a video teaser for the book I hope you'll enjoy:

Also, you can check out this interactive Flash presentation created especially for Hot Wheels and High Heels. Just hit this link and start clicking You'll find all kinds of fun things!

So tell me. How do you beat your characters up? How do you drag them to rock bottom? How do you stir up conflict? Do you have fun with it, or is it hard for you to write? Personally, when I'm writing, I'm a cheerful little sadist. I never have more fun than when I'm making my characters suffer. Let me know what you think!

Jane Graves


Jane will be in and out today to answer questions, plus there's a book up for grabs to one lucky commenter!


A note from PC: Nini and Lady Vampire! I have gifties with your name on them! Send an email to problemchild@writingplayground.com with your shipping address and I'll get them in the mail!


Lis said...

Most of the time, conflict is like pulling teeth for me, especially if I think about it. If I just write, I'm better off. :)

KimW said...

Welcome, Jane! Love the Hot Wheels bonus site and the excerpt you posted. Makes you want to find out what happens next. Sounds like a great story. I'm a reader only, so I'd say it's hard to write but I do so love to read the stories.

Nini said...

Hi Jane!

The first thing i wanted to know was what "Texas Hair" was...so i read the Sandbox....and let me tell you - Texas Hair is a sister to Jersey Hair...I know all about it, from growing up in the 70's and 80's.... ;)

I, myself, am a pantser and am at the point in my wip where SHE just found out she was 'job' for HIM, and now she's angry. I'm just having a problem getting her to be so angry that she let's him have it. It's stewing in my head, and she's sulking...he's being pissy and wimpy at the moment and those feelings are definitely not what i want. He's going to have to beg soon and i don't know how i want to do that.

This is rock bottom for me for my H&H. I don't want her to suffer, I want him to suffer greatly. Hmmm..do i have issues that need to be looked at???

Ok - off to finish reading Safe Harbor by C. Feehan and then back to my writing...

Nini :)

Jane said...


Jersey Hair, Texas Hair--all equally hideous.

You know, as far as getting conflict on the page between the hero and heroine...it used to be really hard for me. I'd have all these great things they were thinking but weren't saying. Then one day I started having them actually say the things they were thinking, no matter how angry or hurtful or whatever. Made all the difference in the world. I mean, we all think things that we'd NEVER say, but this is real life. In fiction, I figured out that it was okay to let 'er rip!


Jane said...


Some writers really are better off just letting it happen intuitively. Me, I analyze it to death, which sometimes leads to paralysis of analysis, and the words don't get on the page at all!


Jane said...


Glad you liked the Flash stuff! It sure is fun to put together.


Playground Monitor said...

OH. MY. GOSH! I've been looking at the bonus material and laughing my arse off. The Tao of Pepe indeed. And I love Charmin. I love 'em all. I sure hope you're going to have this book to sign in Dallas.

Conflict. Well there's nothing like taking a rich Texas woman and taking that money away. Move her from a mansion to a single-wide and cut off her account at Neiman's and you got yerself some serious conflict. You ARE a sadist, aren't you? :grin:

I remember reading TALL, DARK & TEXAN after receiving email teasers about it for a week or so. I had to find out what happened. And didn't that hero have a crazy cat?

Thanks for playing today, Jane. I'm so glad Problem Child picked you up... er... met you in Atlanta.


cas2ajs said...

After reading about page three, I can't wait to read this. Sounds hilarious. I sneaked in here from work to check your post, so I'll have to wait till later to look at the flash site but it sounds fun. Thanks for being here today.


Smarty Pants said...

Welcome to the Playground, Jane! We're glad to have you visit. Your books look really great - I love a good romantic comedy.

As for your question, it makes me think that maybe I'm not making my characters miserable enough. Something to look into... :)

Tao of Pepe? I need to look into this...

Problem Child said...

HI Jane! and Welcome (I'll quit hounding you now.)

I heard once that you should run your characters up a tree, then throw rocks at them. That's what I'm working on now in revising my WIP--throwing rocks at my heroine.

I'm sick--I find humor in other people's angst...

CrystalG said...

Hi Jane. Loved your trailer for Hot Wheels and High Heels.

Angel said...

Welcome, Jane! Glad to see you here.

Love your idea about *saying* what they are really thinking. You're right, this is fiction. They can get away with a whole lot and readers can see what it would be like to let fly. :)

I, too, have had trouble with conflict. I'm getting better at it, but it is a conscious effort. Author Rhonda Nelson has also been teaching me how to make the conflict more immediate for the character. Make it something extremely personal to them.

Kathy said...

Welcome, Jane! Love your trailer. It's got a cool, hip vibe.

You know when I was growing up, we could always spot Miss Texas in the beauty pageants we watched on TV because of the 'Texas Hair'.
:-) I'm a Texan and have to say, your mentioning it brings back good memories for me. My Dad was in the Army and we moved around... A LOT. In those days, seeing Miss Texas and all that 'Hair' strangely made us feel closer to home.

I heard the same story about forcing your characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them, PC.

(Smacking self in head now that Jane has put using conflict in even more understandable terms.)

Jane said...

PM, glad you liked the bonus stuff. That was fun to put together. Charmin is one of my favorite characters in the book. She's bitchy all the way to the bone.

Yep, in Tall, Dark, and Texan, my hero had an enormous, scruffy, one-eared stray cat named Weenie, because in spite of the fact that he looked like the Godzilla of cats, he was...well, a weenie. I love putting pets in my books and having fun with them!


Jane said...

Run them up a tree and throw rocks at them...that's a real good way to put it!

I have to say that my writing really came alive once I learned to get rid of all the nicey-nice. You know. Nice people being nice to other nice people. I finally figured out that I was boring the reader to tears and learned to ramp it up.

Also, what angel said about making the conflict more personal for the character--that's great advice. What some people think nothing of could cause tremendous conflict in somebody else.



Carol said...

I'm also a reader. Your book sounds great!

Instigator said...

Welcome, Jane! We're really excited to have you on the playground today. I'm sorry I'm popping in late today. The day job snagged me early :-(

If you ask the other children they'll tell you I love angst. My characters' baggage has baggage.

I love the idea of taking whatever situation I've put my characters into and making it exponentially worse. My mind always spins with the bad things I can do. The idea is never a problem. Execution...now that's something else. I'm getting better at taking what's in my head and translating that onto the page (at least I hope).


tetewa said...

I'm a reader not a writer and I enjoyed your excert today. Keep up the great writing!

Jane said...

Instigator, don't worry. You'll master the craft necessary to turn your great ideas into great books. What you can't learn is the creativity to have the great ideas in the first place.


Jane said...

Thanks, tetewa and carol. I hope you enjoy the book!


Jane said...

Kathy, the reason hair is big in Texas is because EVERYTHING'S big in Texas!

Hmm...wonder why it's big in New Jersey?


Nini said...

Okay - Jersey girl born and bred here (but living in Maryland now)...

The reason Jersey hair is so big is because:

1. We're stylin';
2. We can go thru the tunnels, both the Lincoln and the Holland without our hair being messed up..it's all the hairspray;
3. We think it looks cool and classy;
4. Big hair equates to big mouths, big boobs, big nails...you get the picture.

My hair, back in the day, was down to the middle of my back, however, my bangs and the top of my head was much shorter. When i was done teasing and spraying with AquaNet, i had at least 4 inches of hair, standing up, curled and primped.

I also had at least a dozen gold necklaces, make up to scare the bejeezies out of anyone now, nails as long as my fingers and painted a wicked red, four earrings - two in each ear. Bottom ones were dangly and different from each other and top ones were diamonds...

Oh yeah...i was a stylin' chick...Jersey style!

Nini :)

Nini said...


Connie in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and i can't remember which book it was in, states:

"It's so hard to be f**king classy."

You know...it's the truth!

Nini :)

Playground Monitor said...

Dolly Parton also said "It takes a lot of money to look this cheap."

Oh Nini, I can just picture you now. And AquaNet. You could hold the Hoover Dam together with that stuff.


Nini said...

LMAO! I'm talking to my mom and laughing at the same time. She wanted to know what was so funny, so when i explained the "big hair" back in the 80's, she began to laugh too. Said i bought containers of the aerosol spray AquaNet, every other day because i used so much.

But let me tell you - humidity in Jersey, especially where i lived, was high. My make up could be running, i could be sweating like a pig...but...my hair looked great!

Nini :)

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Jane, my eyes lit up when I saw your name. I loooove your books!!!

I found out a heroine will say no to a proposal if she isn't roughed up enough emotionally. LOL I think the biggest thrill for me as a reader is when a heroine is in a scrape I can't imagine she'll work her way out of.

Hugs, NatureNut/JJ