Monday, July 1, 2013

Get Lost in a Story with Polly Iyer


Get Lost in a Story Readers, I met Polly Iyer several years ago as a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.  She’s prolific, beautiful, smart and tells a helluva story.  I’m so pleased to bring her to the blog today.  See if you don’t agree when you read about . . .


 

Threads by Polly Iyer

Think about the worst moment in your life. A moment that changed irrevocably everything you’ve ever known. Would you take that moment back?

What if that moment offers you a different life, allows you to do things you would never do otherwise? Meet people you would never know?

Think again.

That one moment transforms the lives of a dozen people, each keeping a secret they can never expose. A single thread ties them together. Inextricably and forever. Cut it, and someone dies.

Now, would you take that moment back?


AND NOW LET'S LEARN ABOUT POLLY IYER

 

DONNELL:  Hi, friend, Welcome to GLIAS.  You put the P in Prolific.  I just have to ask, how much time do you spend writing?

 

POLLY: Writing isn’t always done on the computer. A writer writes constantly in her mind. I get my best ideas when I turn out the light at night. If I’m smart, I’ll write them down on the pad of paper beside my bed. I’ve forgotten many a good plot points in the morning that seemed brilliant at two a.m. As far as actually writing words—it really depends on where I am in the story. If I’m on roll, I can write for hours. If my mind is bogged down, and I’m at a loss in which direction I want the story to go next, I might write for a couple of hours and have to dump the whole thing because it’s forced.

 
DONNELL:  Sometimes when we chat you tell me you’re sitting outside.  Describe the view for me.

 POLLY:  If I’m sitting in my back yard out, I’m surrounded by trees. The only house I see is behind our fence on another street. We’re secluded from both our direct neighbors though we’re all friendly. If I’m out front, there’s a lake across the street. We’re on a prime jogging, walking, and biking route, so there’s always someone passing by. Our house is up on a hill, so they rarely look up. It’s very quiet. I love it and seem to work better outdoors.

 
DONNELL:  At one time you lived in Boston.  I’ve noticed some of your stories take place in Boston.  Do you miss Boston, miss your former life?

 
POLLY: I do miss Boston. When I lived there, I wrote copy and did illustrations for boutiques, and it was fun and interesting and I met some great people. Boston is a very small city area-wise, and public transportation gets you from one place to another in a flash. It’s also diverse in many ways: culturally, ethnically, and socially, so there’s something for everyone. You could always meet someone who sparked conversation, which I loved.
 

DONNELL:  If you’re not writing, where will we find you?

 
POLLY:  Probably out to lunch with my writer friends or doing housey things. Like the former; don’t like the latter much. I do not shop, unless it’s at Costco. One stop shopping. There is absolutely nothing I need. Writing and intentionally housebound, I tend to dress like a bag lady, so I have no need for clothes I won’t wear and have enough from my work days to dress up when I do. Even then, it’s slacks and a top.

 
DONNELL:  You write suspense so I like to ask the suspense authors – what’s the most suspenseful thing that’s ever happened to you?

 
POLLY: Gee, I’ve led such a boring life, I can’t think of anything outside the realm of my imagination that I’d actually consider suspenseful or threatening. Well, maybe that one time I responded in an unladylike manner to the driver of a pickup with Confederate flags all over it, and he followed my friend and me halfway from Charlotte, NC to home in SC. We were a little nervous. Otherwise my suspense comes from creating menacing plots.

 
DONNELL:  What’s in your refrigerator right now?

 
POLLY:  In my fridge, there are two different gallons of milk, two orange juices, (son is home, and he is picky), salad dressings, leftovers from last night’s dinner, fresh veggies, and various and sundry jars of I don’t know what, but most should probably be thrown out. In my other fridge (we have two), there’s water and beer. Now if you asked about my freezers, I’d have a whole different answer.

 

DONNELL:  (Dang, now I'm dying to know what's in your freezer.)  If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be or why?

I guess Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. With Jefferson, I’d like an opinion on whether we have interpreted the Constitution the way he and the others intended, and whether he agrees with the changes modern times have necessitated. With Lincoln, I’d like to know what he thinks about our current implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation: that all men are created equal. Could he or did he foresee the problems ahead.

In spite of my writing genre fiction, I believe every book should have a question posed that makes the reader think or feel or question.


POLLY, NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.  TIME TO ASK READERS A QUESTION.
 
Polly will be giving away five copies of Threads for either Kindle or epub.

There’s been a controversy of late between two female authors―one a chick lit writer, the other literary―about likeable characters. I deplore female writers picking at each other—we have enough problems being treated on a level playing field with male authors not to have public bickering matches—however, the question is worth discussion. Though I think the responses will differ between readers of different genres, how far will you as a reader go in accepting a character who may not be likeable—and this can refer to anything from overly acerbic, smartass, or so cutesy you want to barf (maybe I’m the only one who finds that last one unlikeable), to downright unpleasant? When do you close the book?

 

CONTACT LINKS

 



Twitter: @PollyIyer

Facebook: Polly Iyer Author and Polly Iyer

 
 
Thanks for joining us today, Polly!
 

 
Note: COMMENTERS are encouraged to leave a contact email address to speed the prize notification process. Offer void where prohibited. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.
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26 comments:

  1. Whether you like a character or not seems very subjective to me. I will like characters that others found unlikable when they remind me of someone I know or have known. I think everyone has particular behaviors that put them off a character and that usually has to do with your own personal experience. For me, it is the wishy washy parent who wrings his/her hands about a child's bad behavior.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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    1. You make a good point, Maureen. Liking or not liking a character can be very subjective and trigger a personal dislike. If I really dislike a character, if s/he is so repulsive, I'm not apt to finish the book. If it's the author's M.O. to write that type of character, I would most likely not read him/her again. That's just me.

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  2. I agree with you about female writers fighting with each other. I got really angry the other day reading an article written by a MALE writer about how female writers shouldn't write sci-fic...etc. You would think that we are living in the middle ages....

    As for likable characters, I would say that Scarlett O'Hara isn't meant to be a likable character but a lot of people like her anyways. I like sarcastic smartass girls actually.... I have a problem with goody-goody ones...

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  3. Men seem to be on our case lately for more than not being able to write science fiction. 'Nuff said.

    As far as Scarlett--I think people forgive her because of the times. Yes, she's selfish and spoiled, but she's also trying to hang on to her heritage in a war-torn city. There's a little sympathy and understanding for her as well as frustration.

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  4. Polly, welcome. And May I read that sci-fi article. I don't understand those particular comments against women sci-fi writers as well. For a writer to criticize any writer -- sorry, I didn't think it was very cool of Stephen King to dish Stephanie Myer. It takes a lot of guts to put our work out there. Anyway, enough lamenting. Polly, spill, what's in your freezer :)

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    1. Lots of things that only need microwaving so I don't have to cook. Thanks for having me today, Donnell.

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  5. I usually choose (and like best) books where I can empathize with and root for the heroine and/or hero. However, I'm in a book club and our recent selections have included some titles with unlikeable protagonists. I wouldn't put these books at the top of my enjoyable read lists, but they were fascinating portrayals of how evil folks think. I read them to the (bitter) end.

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    1. Linda, those books do fascinate even though we don't like the characters. I read one recently that did that. I wouldn't read this bestselling author again because I understand her books have the same types of characters. Others seem to be enthralled by the writing, so maybe that's the draw. Most of these books fall into the literary genre, but I write genre fiction, and that's what I prefer to read. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Hi, Polly. Good post. I'm more into fairly realistic women, neither despicable nor saintly and not too cutesy, but that fits the genres I enjoy. Dumb is the worst sin and will make me close the book in a hurry.

    Like May above, Scarlett O'Hara is a good example of an unlikeable but fascinating character. I read GWTW through to the last word--and loved it. However, Melanie was too good. We could all use a little spice.

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  7. Uh, May is not unlikeable. :-) Should have said I agree with May.

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    1. I agree, Ellis. Dumb is an unforgivable characteristic. The TSTL character is one most writers try to avoid. I have one character who does do something stupid. I made sure she acknowledged it, but it was there for all to see. I appreciate your stopping by.

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  8. Hi, Polly. I can appreciate any character who's three-dimensional. The surface ones leave me cold and I'll stop reading. Ken Follett is a case in point. I loved his earlier works, The Key to Rebecca, Eye of the Needle. I managed 60 pages of his 940-page Winter of the World and stopped because the characters were cardboard cutouts. Liking is subjective, but I have to have enough to engage the like/dislike.

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    1. I'll probably get slammed for saying this, but I don't think most male writers get deep into their characters. That may account for thriller writer Follett and why you found his characters cardboard, Michele. Women are much better at delving deep. Maybe it's a Mars/Venus thing, but I've been trying to think of a male writer who writes three-dimensional characters, and I can't think of one. Maybe Nicholas Sparks, although I can't really say because I've never read any of his books. Help, anyone?

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  9. I don't care if a character is unlikeable as long as they are not boring. And I love Scarlett O'Hara

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    1. And Scarlett sure wasn't that, Kate. I agree. I found her fascinating. I never once wanted to close the book.

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  10. I usually finish the book by skimming it.

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. Only if the story is good and I want to know what happens, bn100.

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  11. Interesting question. Depends on why the heroine is unlikable. For a romance heroine though, she has to be likable or who cares if she gets her happily ever after, but for other genres, the heroine can be downright nasty and still really interesting...

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  12. I think "interesting" is the key, Clover. There's a line a writer can't cross or s/he loses readers. Scarlett was definitely interesting. Male characters have more leeway, I think, although I just read one where the male MC was a total schmuck (am I allowed to say that word?) until the end. I would have closed the book, but it was an audio and I was trapped on a long distance drive, so I finished listening.

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  13. Hi Polly,
    Great post! I very much enjoyed your answers, especially about the people you'd like to meet and your questions for them.
    You asked about unlikable characters. I believe we each have our lines in the sand for that one. My personal "omigosh I can't believe I'm still reading this book" comes after the second time the heroine does something I consider unbelievable. I usually give an author the benefit of the doubt first time around, but once the female leads acts dumb or otherwise in a lesser capacity than I've been led to believe is within her character - I'm done. That book becomes a "did not finish". I keep those opinions to myself about specific books however. As writers, we work too hard to bring a book to publication.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Maggie. I agree with you about the stupid gene. Only it's not only the heroine. Heroes do it too, but for some reason it happens with women more. Hmm, that thought alone makes me mad. Is that because it's acceptable for men to take chances but not women? Interesting concept. Sounds like another blog post.

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  14. Hi Polly, great question to get us thinking. I think the key is whether or not the character is realistic even if unlikeable. We wouldn't have good drama or tension without some unlikeable characters, but it would take a damned good writer to create and sustain my interest in an unlikable main character. I would expect, at some point in the story, to find out why s/he is this way and would expect to learn more about why this is so. I once read a series where the author created an unlikeable character, then needed him in a later book in the series, and totally turned him on his head - with a pretty lame excuse as to why he was originally that way. I still find it implausible, but the rest of her writing is so excellent I've never let it get in the way of seeking her works.

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    1. Great points, Claire. The writing makes a big difference. A writer's beautiful prose and a realistic character, no matter how unlikeable, will draw a reader back to the author. An unlikeable series MC might be more difficult to pull off. I can think of one TV show where the character's views were unlikeable, but the actor portraying him made him likeable in spite of that fact--Archie Bunker. This may not be a good example, but thinking back, it was a tricky bit of writing and acting, but they somehow made it work because Those Were the Days was really a message show. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views.

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  15. If I'm not able to connect or like the hero/heroine I find it extremely difficult to finish the book. Depending on how "bad" it is I might skim the book to the bitter end or if my patience is worn too thin I'd put it down. Lots of great books out there to read rather than waste my time on something that leaves me frustrated.

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  16. I agree, Linda. I've been trying well-known new-to-me writers lately, and some of my friends' books are better. Some of the stars are coasting, and the H/hs I used to like are tired and cliche. Always looking for fresh work.

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  17. Congratulations to bn100. I picked her name out of a bag and sent her a Kindle copy of Threads. Happy reading.

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