Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Blogger Kerrelyn Sparks

Here on the Playground, we have an affinity for those dark and dangerous vampires. Give them a sense of humor, and it's definitely love! That's why we're excited to welcome author Kerrelyn Sparks to the Playground blog today. Her titles include bestseller How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire and Be Still My Undead Heart.

(And I'm sorry, but I have to rub it in. Her newest release, The Undead Next Door, is supposed to hit shelves today. But I found a copy at the local BAM on Sunday and already sped through it. It's really cool, so check it out! How could it not be with that gorgeous hunk on the cover?)


Since this is a playground for writing, I figured I should write about writing. For me, it all boils down to the characters. When I read a book, I want to feel like I really know the hero or heroine, so much so that I can slip into their skin and happily become them. I want to care what happens to them, and I want to be sad to say goodbye at the end of the book.

It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I find myself skimming to the end of a book, and I wonder why? The book may be very well written. It may have a very interesting plot. So what’s wrong? I’m skimming because the plot is good, and I want to know how it is resolved. But I’m not reading every page and enjoying each line of dialogue because for some reason, I have failed to CARE about the characters. (By the way, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. The next reader who comes along might love the characters. It’s a matter of personal taste).

As a writer, my goal is to make the reader care. This is tricky cause you simply cannot make everyone care. And for those you do reach, their tastes can be wildly different. One little trick I unwittingly stumbled upon was to create a whole cast of vampires for my Love at Stake series. Some of the vampire men include Roman, Angus, Connor, Ian, Gregori, Jean-Luc, Phineas (aka Dr. Phang), Giacomo, and Laszlo. I have received fan mail for each of them. Different women have fallen for different Vamps!

Now, the cool thing about that is when the next book releases (The Undead Next Door, which releases today!!!), there will be readers who will buy the book, not because they give a hoot about the hero, Jean-Luc, but because they want to know what happens to Ian or Gregori next. Hopefully, by the time they finish the book, they’ll also love Jean-Luc! He’s a wonderfully, sexy guy! That’s him on the cover. Yum!

How can we create characters that readers will care about? First off, the hero and/or heroine should be likeable. What makes a person likeable to you? Do they have a strong sense of honor; are they loyal to their friends and family; do they have a great sense of humor? But don’t make them perfect! Perfect people are not very likeable, and they tend to be boring. So give your characters some flaws or vulnerabilities that readers can relate to. For instance, Ian is a five-hundred-year-old Vamp, stuck in a fifteen-year-old body. He occasionally feels awkward, out of place, and has trouble dating. Who can’t relate to that? (By the way, if that has never happened to you, see the above note on perfect people).

Who are your favorite vampires? They can be from books, movies, or TV. Tell me what you like about them. And one lucky person will win a signed copy of the third book from the Love at Stake series, Be Still My Vampire Heart. To find out more about The Undead Next Door, (on sale today!!), please visit my website at http://www.kerrelynsparks.com/. Happy writing!

Kerrelyn Sparks
You know the drill...comment for a chance to win Kerrelyn's book! Marilyn will announce the winner tomorrow.

Kerrelyn will also be in the Sandbox in February! Be sure to pop over and read her interview!


Minna said...

One of my favorite vampires is Angel from Buffy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kerrelyn! I've got your two books in my TBR pile and i'm sorry to say i haven't had the time yet. I'm stacking books for the summer, because i'm a teacher and i very rarely have time to read. But i'll be grabbing The Undead Next Door soon.

As for my favorite vamps, i love JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and Rhage in particular. Then there's Sherri Kenyon's DarkHunters and the list goes on...

As for my reasons, well, Rhage is the epitome of man for me. Tall, dark, exciting, sexy, respectful and drives a retro GT. But, he's also soft, warm, romantic and caring. If my DH were tall, dark and driving a retro GT, that'd be him to a tee! ;) Don't tell him i said that.

Sherri's DH's, well, i love mythology and the way she intersperses history and fiction is just wonderful. Funny, generous, sexy men dating and falling in love with women who are not perfect. That's what gets it for me. Women that aren't barbie dolls...

I guess I'm old fashioned. I love when my DH opens the door for me, or holds out my chair. I love that he takes my arm when we cross a street. I know that makes us sound old, but we're not. You mentioned honorable and that's what i like. The characters in the books i read have to have that iron core of caring and honorability.

Can i ask a question?

Why vamps? Why not another species? Why not humans?

Have fun today! I'll try to check in from school..

Nini :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kerrelyn - Good luck with the book. Love the cover.

My fav vamp is the guy from that new t.v. show - name escapes me. Sorry.

Pat L.

Barbara Vey said...

Hi Kerrelyn,

Love the DH's and my honey Angel.

Jen said...

Kerrelyn, great distinction as to reading for plot and reading because the characters engaged you.

My fave vamps are William and Jack in Raven Hart's The Savannah Vampire Chronicles *think the lastest is The Vampire's Kiss*.

Rita said...

Without a doubt, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters, in particular Ash!

Why? Je ne sa pais *shuggs* This series was my first taste to paranormal books, and Zarek made me cry!

My reasons of why I chose Ash - he personifies my ideal of how I imagine the vampires to exist - they're fun, generous, sexy, mysterious, adventurous, caring, charismatic, loving, honest, tall kinda guy *lol*

I also love the way the series links history with myth and legend into a world of possibilities ... That is what is crucial for me, I enjoy a book that allows my mind to wonder and imagine all the "what if's, this was true" makes for some really awesome scenarios ;o)

Smarty Pants said...

Morning and welcome, Kerrelyn. We're very excited to have you visit with us today.

I am also a paranormal writer, although my plots and situations tend to be on the lighter, funnier side. Your books also have humor in them - do you have trouble finding the balance between funny and angsty?

When you were originally shopping HTMAMV did you find a lot of publishers were more interested in the darker, more atmospheric stuff like Sherrilyn Kenyon or the chick lit stuff like Mary Janice Davidson? (Of course they came to their senses and bought it) but was it a hard sell initially? I fall in the middle and have been getting feedback like that.


Smarty Pants said...

BTW - Don't forget to enter our January/February contest where you could win goodies that include an autographed copy of Vamps in the City!


Elen Grey said...

Hey Kerrelyn - Gorgeous cover! You gave one line about Ian, and I'm already interested in his story. I've loved all of JR Ward's Brotherhood Vamps. It's their vulnerabilities, as much as their strengths.

Happy Release Day!

Becky said...

Hi, your book sounds very sounds very good. I love vampire books. My favorite TV vampire is Spike from buffy.I think it's the british accent and that scar on his eyebrow, plus he is a smart alec. In a book I really like the character in Nora Roberts Circle trilogy named Cain.

Angel said...

I second that Happy Release Day!!! Of course, I've already gotten to read the book, Na Na Na Na Na... Oh, I guess I shouldn't brag. :)

How could any woman not love Jean-Luc? French, eloquent, handsome, and immortal. I'd fall for him anytime!

As a short aside, I loved the pronunciation conversations in the book. Think a Frenchman in Texas. I kept remembering my husband talking about his high school French class. He'd give this hilarious example of French spoken by teenagers with exaggerated southern accents. Made it even funnier for me.

You mentioned on your site that you've been contracted for 3 more Love at Stake books. Did you know who the heroes/heroines would be when you wrote HTMAMV or have your chosen the lucky ones as you've developed each story?


Rita said...

I'm looking forward to Jean-Luc story as soon as it arrives in South Africa *grrr* might take a while before I can get my hands on it! Best of luck with your release today in US Kerrelyn!

BTW have to say that I first got to know of your books when I attended my first RT in Houston last year. To date I've managed to purchase 2 of your titles: Vamps and the City and Be Still my Vampire Heart. Awesome reads thanks so much! So I know the next story will be great!

Playground Monitor said...

Caring about the characters. Bingo! You've put this into words so brilliantly.

Of course all the playground knows I don't read vamps. Well, I read two Christmas vamp novellas and I liked everything but the blood drinking. When he put it in the microwave and heated it and savored the warmth... *shudder* I still get queasy. BUT I'm in the minority. Maybe I'll have to give them another try.

It's great to have you here. Actually we had dinner together at the Benehana in Atlanta (along with about a dozen other folks at the table). I was with Kristi and Vicki.


Kathy said...

Thanks for coming to play, Kerrelyn! Best of luck with your newest release. I've got to pick it up. :-)

Fav vamps? Stuart Townsend as L'estat in Queen of the Damned. Mick on Moonlight. Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Evil Christian in SP's book.

You mentioned creating characters that readers will love and relate to. How difficult was it for you to build the paranormal world your characters live in? What elements were essential in building that world for readers?

The playground's supposed to be stormy today. Hopefully, the weather will hold off so we can have fun on the swings.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Kerrelyn! I'm going to go waaay back with this vampire: Linda Lael Miller's Valerian. I think what I loved about him was that he was a dark alpha male with a secret love through time. He'd found and lost her every generation. *sigh* He was so tortured. I haven't read the book in years.

Kerrelyn said...

Goodness, so many great comments!

I agree with so many of your favorite vamp heroes. Love Spike. Love Mick St. John from Moonlight. And Linda Lael Miller's vampire series was fantastic! I fell for Valerian, too. That was the first vampire romance series that hooked me. And now, you can't go wrong with JR Ward and Sherri Kenyon.

I also agree with all of your reasons for choosing your favorite vamp guy. Handsome, honorable, strong but vulnerable, respectful, but with a naughty sense of humor. These are the things that make them sexy! Vampires are so appealing with their super powers, but I think it's their vulnerabilities that snag our hearts.

Thank you all for your comments!

kerrelyn said...

PM, I remember eating at Benihana's in Atlanta! We had the Hispanic cook who was pretending to be Japanese! LOL

Btw, Vicky is one of my critique partners!


kerrelyn said...

Rita, I remember you! Thank you for stopping by.

Angel asked if I knew ahead of time which heroes or heroines would be next. Sorta. I knew after the first one (Millionaire Vampire) that I would eventually want to do stories for Jean-Luc, Angus, Connor, and Gregori. At the same time, ideas spring up while I'm writing, so I sometimes take an unexpected turn. That happened with the second book, Vamps and the City, when I was suddenly curious about what would happen to the harem. And I was curious about an obscure member of the harem who was there but didn't belong there.

Angus's story was pre-planned, and also Jean-Luc's. But some things happen in Jean-Luc's story, and they have sent me in different directions. One of the new things is I am now able to tell Ian's story. It's actually already written and will come out at the end of October. The one I'm working on now was also made possible by something that happens in The Undead Next Door, but I don't want to let loose a spoiler, so it's still a secret.

Meanwhile, I still have plans for Connor and Gregori. Avon just bought three more books, so the series will go to at least eight books.


Stefanie said...

OMG, that cover is great!!
I don't realy know what it is, but I got goosebumps all over me when I saw it!
My favorite vampire is Zsadist from J.R.Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood.
He is so raw and dangerous on the outside, but so vulnerable on the inside. I loved his story!

Instigator said...

Welcomee to the playground, Kerrelyn! We're very excited you stopped by today.

Like PM, I don't normally read Vamp books. Although, Angel has talked about yours for so long I'm planning to pick up your newest. I'm really looking forward to reading it!

And surprisingly enough, considering I don't normally do Vamps, I absolutely love Mick in Moonlight. It was the only new show this year that grabbed my interest.


Rita said...

Oh WOW Kerrelyn, you honour me *bows down* thank you for remembering me! So nice to 'chat' again...

Gosh that really makes a person want to get there hands on The Undead Next Door from your comment "The one I'm working on now was also made possible by something that happens in The Undead Next Door"

BTW have to agree the cover is divine!!!

Kerrelyn said...

LOL, Rita! I was being sneaky, huh? The secret that gets revealed in The Undead Next Door was actually set up in the first book, though only a few people caught on to it.

I'm so glad everyone loves the cover. I love it, too! It's my first hunky guy cover, and what a guy!

Kathy asked about world building. I don't think my vampire world was that complicated to create or that hard for the reader to accept, because it closely parallels the mortal world. We watch TV and soap operas and celebrity exposes, so the Vamps have DVN (Digital Vampire Network cause their images can only be seen through digital technology), and they have soaps like All My Vampires, General Morgue, and As the Vampire Turns. And there's the celebrity show called Live with the Undead. Then for food, I did Vampire Fusion Cuisine with Chocolood (blood and chocolate), Blissky (blood and whisky), Bubbly Blood (blood and champagne for those special vampire occasions) and Blood Lite for those who overindulge on the Chocolood. All this craziness allows me to poke fun at our own world. And because it's similar to own world, I think the readers can relate to it more easily and quickly (and hopefully, have a few laughs along the way!)


kerrelyn said...

Smarty Pants asked about the process of selling the first book, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire. I was very lucky with it, since it sold on proposal within a week of being mailed out, and actually had three publishers bidding on it. Avon took it in what's called a pre-empt. It was a crazy experience and totally unexpected, since my agent had been shopping a historical (the sequel to my first book, For Love or Country) for over a year with no luck.

That historical was set during the American Revolution, so it remains unsold since no one wants to publish an American-set historical. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to reinvent myself, so I gave paranormal a try. (Everything I write comes out a comedy, I just can't seem to write dark). I wrote the proposal for Millionaire Vampire, just to see what would happen, and surprise! That was in 2004, and light paranormals were in. The dark ones are all the rage (or Rhage, LOL) right now, so they seem to be selling the best. If you can write dark, go for it. If you can't (like me), don't worry about it. Just stay true to your voice. And best of luck to you!


CrystalGB said...

Hi. Kerrelyn. Happy Release Day! I love your books. Your new cover is great.
My favorite vampires are J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters. On tv, I like Mick St. John from Moonlight and Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Playground Monitor said...

Vampire Fusion Cuisine with Chocolood (blood and chocolate), Blissky (blood and whisky), Bubbly Blood (blood and champagne for those special vampire occasions) and Blood Lite for those who overindulge on the Chocolood.

And my next story will be titled Be Still My Queasy Stomach. LOL!

I'd forgotten about Juan or Jose or juatever his name was. ;-) I'm having a "duh" moment here because apparently you're the "Kerrie" that Vicki talks about. Small world, huh?

I have taken your words about caring for characters to heart and realized that's why I've been struggling with my last story. I'd created a wimp hero and I didn't like him. So now he has a new name and appearance and maybe the logjam will clear. Regardless of genre, the characters are key. Thanks for the insight.


Rita said...

*nodding* yeah sneaky ... Sure looking forward to reading Jean Luc's story all the more now!!

p.s. had to wipe the screen from all the drooling *big grin*

catslady said...

Mick from Moonlight. It wasn't love at first sight and in fact I didn't think I'd like him but once I saw him act...But I love the looks of the guy you have on your new cover!!

Angel said...

That's one thing I love about Kerrelyn's vampire series. The vampires have all the things we do, and the fusion cuisine is really funny. I loved in one book where the female vampires started complaining about gaining weight from drinking the chocolate version.

And PM, you might enjoy the books despite the biting. :) Several of the characters have problems with blood drinking that are worked out in funny ways.

Can we tell I'm a fan...


Kerrelyn said...

Thanks, Angel!

And yes, my nickname is Kerry. Good luck with your ms, PM!


Caffey said...

Hi Kerrelyn! So excited about your new book out, congrats!

You know, I haven't watched any vampire shows or movies before I started watching MOONLIGHT this year. I'm not one that watches much with TV (some of the captioining for the deaf came later for so many shows that I don't even think some are captioned from earlier). I guess its because I mostly read them! I think if I knew of them before, like Buffy, I would have watched it. I'd like to get the first season on DVD and try that one!

Gosh, besides yours, I really enjoy the vamp books! New one out is Jeaniene Frost HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE. It was a great debut and a start to a great series! I love Bones :) You have to read this to find out more about him and his name :)

I have all of Kerrilyn's book but her new one, on my keepers shelf. Can't wait til I am able to get up and out and shop again! :)

Kerrelyn said...

Hi Caffey,
Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I read Halfway to the Grave. Great book! Loved Bones!

It was wonderful visiting with you all today. Feel free to drop by my website. There's a forum in the Vampire World where you can chat, and vampire games and a book trailer. I'll hope to see some of you at the RT convention or the RWA conference.

Happy reading! And best of luck to those who are writing!

Christie Craig said...

Great Cover, Keryelyn,

Great cover. I personally can't wait to read it.

Christie Craig