Today I’m one of two stops (The lovely Crime Book Junkie is my blog stop buddy today!) on the blog tour for Watching You, the latest in the Kerri Blasco series by Joyce Schneider and I have a great guest post from the author for you all to check out!
About the book:
A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.
In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda’s socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Kerri isn’t convinced.
Until another random young woman is killed in the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?
Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman – even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.
Buy the book:
About the author:
J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.
What Makes a Book Compelling? by J.A. Schneider
What constitutes the big, mysterious “tug?” That feeling – I call it the ping! – that pulls a potential reader to choose your book over the tsunami of others cramming book stores or Amazon’s pages without number? Is it the cover? The plot or characters?
I can only speak for myself, how I react to choosing the next book…especially if the author is new to me. My decision always seems to happen in three parts.
- The cover is what first tugs.
Or doesn’t – no different from why the frosting on one cake looks more wonderful than the frosting on another cake. What’s inside the cake might disappoint, but like the frosting, the book’s cover is what first excites.
It all comes down to emotion.
Honestly, aren’t all our first reactions based on emotion, before we re-think or tell ourselves we shouldn’t or move on to the next thing? Authors have changed their covers multiple times, hoping that the newer, brighter colors or the half-naked guy’s torso will attract. Sometimes that works, but what to do when every romance cover has an amazingly buff male, or when every thriller/action cover has images that are kinda the same?
Again, emotion rules.
It’s what really grabs, whether the reader is male or female, and regardless of his or her genre preference.
The cover image must have something that pulls at you. Sometimes I’ve even stopped to stare at a cover I thought was ugly…but it was different, and that made it daring, told me something about the author’s voice inside, beckoning.
Her Last Breath is my eighth book, and I’ve never gotten such a response to any of my other covers. The close-up of that woman’s face…oh gasp…is she dying? Desperate? When I first saw her face, after many evenings scouring Shutterstock, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Other cover ideas beckoned, but that face kept haunting me.
And pulling me back.
The emotion of that cover is so focused, intense. Nothing too busy or muddled to confuse one’s emotional reaction. On Twitter I keep hearing, “Ooh, wow.”
It helps a lot if your cover has that “Ooh, wow” feeling.
Because feelings rule.
Character pulls me in next. If the character described in the blurb intrigues or tugs at my heart, I’m hooked.
Because of emotion again.
We all laugh, cry, feel stress and anxiety, and if I identify with the character’s trouble and how s/he deals with it – download!
Ditto the appeal of the antagonist – if what s/he is doing outrages or astounds, I definitely want to know more. (Am I the only one who felt a bit sorry for the husband in Gone Girl? He was a jerk – right, so divorce him! Don’t subject him and your family and everyone to such evil.)
But villains might be the most compelling characters of all. Imagine Peter Pan without Captain Hook: you’d have a bland nothing. Then there are the never-ending parade of serial killers. How to make them astounding? What makes Hannibal Lecter rise above all others in his monstrosity? That in itself could be the subject for a thesis, starting with the fact that Thomas Harris’s writing is so incredibly great.
Which brings us to…
The hardest job of the writer – the one we all struggle with – which is to go deep, explore and develop our characters as fully as possible. Make them emotionally compelling, different, wildly colorful even if they’re bad. THAT is the real challenge, the thing that elevates good writing from depicting mere caricatures.
The plot should work. It really should, but if it doesn’t and if the writing has been fabulous, we are more likely to forgive…a little, depending on the reader. Somewhere I read that Stephen King just doesn’t know how to end a book, whereas he has described the plots of Ira Levin (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys From Brazil, The Stepford Wives) as having “the brilliance of a Swiss watch.”
For me, the best, most satisfying reads combine numbers 2 & 3. A really satisfying ending after a story of fascinating, different characters, deeply explored and developed.
That’s a book that stays with you.
Huge thanks, as always, to Joyce for today’s great guest post. Make sure to keep up with the blog tour!