Don’t you love it when you’re reading a book and you completely connect with the main character? It’s magical. And so mysterious. Why some characters and not others? Why do other people like characters you don’t? The first character I love-love-loved was Jo in Little Women. I liked her sisters too, and cried my eyes out when Beth died, but Jo was – everything I wanted to be. Imaginative, adventurous, vibrant, devoted to her family. Jo was one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer.
As an adult, the first character I clicked with was Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice — her sense of the absurd, her liveliness, her intelligence. I loved her and wanted to be just like her so some elusive eligible bachelor would fall for me. Whether or not he looked like Colin Firth.
Those two characters are iconic. I’m very sure I’m not the only writer who loves those two. But why should I connect with Sugar Beth in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ain’t She Sweet? I’m nothing like her. I’ve never been a spoiled Southern beauty queen, believe me. And yet, something about her gritty determination and sense of humor really spoke to me.
Other characters leave me cold. Bridget Jones? I enjoyed the book, but Bridget and I didn’t have much chemistry. I thought she was trying too hard to make me like her. Bella Swan in Twilight? I loved the book, and related to some parts of her character, but overall found her too reserved. I followed her through all her books, but didn’t come away feeling I’d made a friend for life.
Chemistry with a character is so elusive – much like real life chemistry. Back when I was single, people used to say ‘Describe your ideal mate. List the characteristics you want him to have.’ I found that it doesn’t work that way. My sweetie isn’t a list of traits – he’s a living, breathing, wonderful person. Same with a character I fall in love with. I can’t pinpoint why I love them so much. The closest I can get is this: it’s something about the way that character looks at the world. It makes me feel I’m not alone, that someone else sees things the way I do. That I’ve found a friend.
So how can a writer create a character people connect with? I have no idea. But I love it when I really click with my own characters. My heroine in Training the Receptionist is not much like me. I didn’t grow up in Long Island with a dysfunctional family. I don’t have any tattoos. Dana’s much more daring than I am. But still, I connect with her cheekiness, her bravery, the way she finds the humor in difficult circumstances. That’s all I can do … Write characters I love, and hope others love them too.
What characters have you connected with the most in your reading? Tell me in a comment and I’ll put you in a random drawing for a choice of any of my books.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for having me, Leah!
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
Cover art by Scott Carpenter
Buy the book from Samhain’s My Bookstore and More
It’s her naughty dream job—if they’re satisfied with her performance…
Eager to escape her miserable existence in Low-Life, Long Island, street-wise Dana Arthur jumps at an entry-level position with the consulting firm Cowell & Dirk. As her training period begins, she quickly discovers she’s required to do more than take messages and order office supplies. Her job description contains some deliciously naughty duties that give receptionist a whole new meaning.
Simon has almost given up on finding the right woman who will please his clients as well as his demanding partner and mentor, Ethan Cowell. No one measures up—until Dana. Her inner fire and fearless nature are perfect for the job. No matter what wicked punishment he devises to chastise her for her on-the-job mistakes, she accepts with a relish that leaves him wondering which one of them is really in control.
The last thing he expects to discover is that she’s a perfect sexual soul mate he can’t bear to share. But share he must—it’s part of his business agreement. Unless he makes Ethan the deal of a lifetime…
Read an excerpt over on Leah’s excerpt page — warning it is NSFW.
Don’t forget, Juniper’s offering a copy of her book to one lucky commenter — but you have to tell her what character you’ve read that you connected with the most. Contest closes on Friday March 19, 9 p.m. Eastern.