My question is: how do you find the balance between weakness and strength to create that character that a reader will want to root for? The hero/heroine that will provide a connection between the reader and the story without making it exactly the same as every other paranormal romance that is out there.
Review and feedback: I have had a lot of positive feedback for "Finding the Dragon" - reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Blogs and comments made directly to me. But, there have also been the ones that twist my gut as a writer. You brace yourself, because you know they are coming, but when someone puts down a character that is so real to you and calls her names... well, it hurts. I will say that I'm striving to make notes and use the feedback to improve this series. This is my debut book, so I know that there is room for growth.
However, Alvena is very close to my heart. Alvena. Is. Me. The flaws, the insecurities, the wishy-washy attitude is all me. At 41 years of age I have serious trust issues due to events from high school. I have been told many times to "just get over it" because it happened 20+ years ago. Those people don't understand how deeply imbedded those events are in who I have become. Each and every event has been experienced and evaluated using the person I was at the time of the event. Teenagers are irrational and moody. I know this, but I still struggle. This is why Alvena struggles. Did I mention that I'm practically agoraphobic? Yep, I prefer to stay in my house away from other people. The stress of dealing with others, gauging their thoughts (what do they truly mean by what they say and do), dealing with the hate, anger, and indifference of the world... I have severe anxiety issues, acid reflux, and at times panic attacks. Furthermore, Mr. Reuel can attest to my back and forth when it came to our early relationship. I really put that man through the ringer and I'm one lucky woman because he stayed with me. We have now been married for 21 years. They haven't been easy, but they have been good.
I will admit that this book may have been a bit of therapy for myself, but I also worked hard to make it entertaining. I had several beta readers and others who provided feedback on the story. The final was extensively edited to improve the flow of the story and to make Alvena a bit stronger. *Early ARC copies still contained some errors that were corrected in the final version that was published on 9/8/2014.*
I worked hard to make Alvena and Kai believable characters. I didn't want the immediate, "jump into bed you are my soul mate and I know this in one day" relationship. I wanted them to work for it, but I also wanted the HEA to happen in one book. So, compromises were made. Kai has also had some less than stellar comments. Kai is a leader and a protector. He has always felt great responsibility for everyone around him. Ever since he was a kid. Other, than Charlie, Kai has never depended on anyone and feels the need to do everything for himself. Kai never wanted to be the leader and even though he has trained for 20 years to be the leader of his people, he does not feel worthy. I don't want to put spoilers in this post, but just know that this is a large part of who Kai is and who he will become.
One last discussion point...
I recently read a review for another author's book where the person disliked the book partly because she said that someone as scarred as the heroine would never allow someone to touch her without years and years of therapy. She was a social worker and felt she had the education to make the statement. This bothers me because each of us are unique. We handle things in our own way. I was always taught to not make generalized statements (saying every, all , everyone), but I feel this person has done this.
This review made me wonder if this is why Alvena has seemed "whiny" and Kai "weak" by some of the readers. Maybe I was too honest about their weaknesses and should have made them stronger, maybe it would have been more believable when they became who they were at the end of the book. When writing this story the concept was for the "Book Worms" to be just like us, every day people that we would find at work or a book store. Therefore, they do have varied personalities and issues. I also felt that I needed to make sure that each character was unique, so some things may be slightly exaggerated - I didn't want the readers to feel like they were reading the same story over and over.
Now back to the review and the scarred heroine that the reviewer couldn't believe. I do not have extensive medical or psychological education, what I have learned is from living and observing. In my experience, humans search for a connection. They want love, understanding, and to be touched by those they love. I read somewhere that a 15 second hug a day can significantly reduce stress. That being said I will provide a real-life story.
A young woman becomes pregnant and marries young. She is disowned by her family. Her husband is worthless and they soon separate. She struggles to take care of herself and her child. Eventually she finds a new husband, who turns out worse than the first. He is abusive and an alcoholic. Her next husband is much the same and seriously injures her. Her last husband molested her young daughter. You would think this woman would have decided long ago to stay away from men. She is now disabled because she has medical issues and seizures caused by the abuse. She has raised five children from different fathers mostly on her own. However, she still dreams of that loving connection and is once again trying to find it. Her new boyfriend is a good guy and has asked her to marry him. She is wary, but willing to try. She has not had extensive counseling. She has fought every day of her life and continues to do so. She has continued to allow men close. There are many woman and men out there that have been through similar situations. Many would have collapsed on themselves and never let anyone close, but many like this woman kept trying.
The Moral: Each of us decide who we are, each of us sees strengths and weaknesses differently, and not every story or every character will resonate with a reader. Please give Alvena, Kai, and the rest of