Taking Characters out of their Comfort Zones-Meet Michelle Diener (with a new giveaway)

A quick housekeeping note–if you get a chance, check out the Romance Magicians blog today, where I’m talking about my five favorite holiday memories and giving away a copy of my novelette “Christmas in Dogtown.” If you already have Dogtown, I’ll substitute a mystery book prize!

Today, I’m excited to welcome my agency-mate, author Michelle Diener, to Preternatura.  Michelle’s most recent release is titled Banquet of Lies, and it was published just last week, on October 22, by Gallery Books.

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction. Her Susanna Horenbout and John Parker series starts with IN A TREACHEROUS COURT. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King’s Robes, John Parker. It was followed by KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, DANGEROUS SANCTUARY and on August 1, IN DEFENSE OF THE QUEEN.  Other books include THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY, DAUGHTER OF THE SKY, and BANQUET OF LIES.  Michelle also contributed a short paranormal story to the ENTANGLED Anthology entitled BREAKING OUT. All the proceeds of the sale of ENTANGLED go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa, and now lives in Australia with her husband and two children.
You can find Michelle at her website, twitter, Facebook or her group blog, Magical Musings. 
ABOUT BANQUET OF LIES:  A Secret Treaty and a Secret Life. LONDON, 1812: Giselle Barrington is living a double life, juggling the duties of chef with those of spy catcher. She must identify her father’s savage killer before the shadowy man finds her and uncovers the explosive political document her father entrusted to her safekeeping. Posing as a French cook in the home of Lord Aldridge, Giselle is surrounded by unlikely allies and vicious enemies. In the streets where she once walked freely among polite society, she now hides in plain sight, learning the hard lessons of class distinction and negotiating the delicate balance between servant and master. Lord Aldridge’s insatiable curiosity about his mysterious new chef blurs the line between civic duty and outright desire. Carefully watching Giselle’s every move, he undertakes a mission to figure out who she really is—and, in the process, plunges her straight into the heart of danger when her only hope for survival is to remain invisible.
There is a list of the recipes from the book on Michelle’s website, if you’re interested in making some of the dishes Giselle serves up to Lord Aldridge.
And now, let’s hear from Michelle…

The Mistakes Our Characters Make

By Michelle Diener

Thank you so much to Suzanne for having me to visit. I thought I’d talk about characters completely out of their comfort zone, which is a favorite theme of mine, and the mistakes they inevitably make in their new paradigm.

My latest historical novel, Banquet of Lies, released on Tuesday last week, and in this story, my main character, Giselle, goes into hiding in plain sight by passing herself off as a French cook at the house of a nobleman who lives just a few doors down from her own London town house.

Giselle is hiding from the man who killed her father for an explosive political document that Giselle now has, and so she has a lot invested in successfully fooling the people in Lord Aldridge’s household that she is, indeed, a French cook. The minute her secret is out, she’ll be in deadly danger.

Fortunately, her mother was French and she speaks the language flawlessly, and also fortunately, she’s spent a great deal of time since her mother’s death with the French chefs who work for her father, and has developed a passion for cooking herself. But there are a few things going against Giselle, she’s young and extremely attractive, and doesn’t look like any cook anyone in the household has ever seen. But Giselle knows a thing or two about how chefs behave, and puts that knowledge to good use.

She is impatient, not shy to wave her knives about in a threatening manner, and when she comes into conflict with Lord Aldridge’s butler, she won’t back down. And she can cook, as one of the characters in the novel says, like an angel.

Unfortunately for Giselle, though, as a wealthy noblewoman, she doesn’t quite grasp all the nuances of below-stairs politics, and makes a number of mistakes and missteps along the way.

I did this deliberately. Giselle’s mistakes are genuine and unintended, but they make her both friends and enemies in the new world of domestic service she’s entered. Some are as the result of her kind-heartedness, some are as a result of her temper, and yet more are unavoidable, as she has to juggle her duties as cook with finding the man who murdered her father and giving the document to someone she trusts.

I think characters who make mistakes are more interesting and they certainly stir up a lot of conflict. Giselle has that effect on everyone she meets in the course of the story, challenging them, helping them, threatening their sense of order. She’s a whirlwind. She certainly stirs up Lord Aldridge. He’s so fascinated with his new cook, he can’t seem to stop watching her. 🙂

Like almost everyone, I don’t really enjoy a TSTL character who deliberately and foolishly puts themselves in danger, where the only conceivable reason for it was the author or film director wanted a good excuse to kill them off, or if they are the main character, have them rescued by someone else. But genuine mistakes, made in a way the reader can totally sympathize with, stir up conflict and make things interesting. To err is to be human, after all.

If you can think of a character like this, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll go first (because I can’t chose my own character, LOL) and say one character I love, who makes mistakes in her new-found reality, is Anna Cornick in Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series. She doesn’t know all the rules, and so she makes mistakes along the way, just like my Giselle does, but never because she’s stupid or careless, and she always learns something important from it.
Thanks Michelle!! I love the Alpha and Omega series, too; Charles and Anna are a great pairing. Characters who make mistakes.  Hmmmm, my DJ comes to mind but if I choose someone else’s character, I think I’d go with Harry Dresden. Harry’s a powerful wizard but, holy cow does he get himself into some wacky situations–often because he hasn’t made the right choices. 
If you would like to be entered for a chance to win a  copy of Banquet of Lies or one of Michelle’s earlier books, tell us your favorite!

28 thoughts on “Taking Characters out of their Comfort Zones-Meet Michelle Diener (with a new giveaway)

    • I’ve only read one Harry Dresden, Discord. I’ll have to read some more. Another similar character to Harry Dresden that springs to mind is Atticus in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. He makes a lot of mistakes, too. 🙂

  1. can’t thing of any in fact ( i’m behind teh alpha & omega series) and… no i still haven’t discovered dresden ( it something i’m fully planning to correct^^)

  2. I’d have to say Elena from Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series. My answer might be influenced by the fact that I’m currently reading the latest book 🙂 Congrats to Michelle on the new release! Sounds fantastic!

  3. Most authors don’t seem to write an MC who makes mistakes, I think. They want to show them as a strong, competent figure.

    • Liz S, I actually had to flip a mental coin between Anna Cornick and Kate Daniels! And that’s exactly it, no one can come into a completely new situation and not make mistakes. It’s impossible. They just do the best they can.

  4. Rachel Morgan from Kim Harrison’s Hollows series is a great example of a main character who makes many mistakes. Love Harry Dresden too!

  5. Hey, I’ve seen Banquet of Lies recently on Goodreads and I was like arghhhh when I saw it was a book yet to be released! I can’t, can’t wait to read it cause it sounds SO amazing! (A chef-spy catcher romance? Uh huh, that’s what I’m talking about)

    As for character with mistakes…I’m thinking Mackayla Lane from the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I didn’t really like Mac at first cause she seemed really, um, airy and a little bimbo-ish, but as she was immersed in Barron’s (eeep, Barrons!!) world, she made a few mistakes at first that we’re hilarious sometimes and fatal the other times, haha, but in the end she’s came out really strong and brave and just like any other badass heroine I’d love to read about. 🙂

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  6. Kate Daniels. She knows the consequences of her decisions. She tried to chose the lesser of the two evils and that those choices are not easy to make.

  7. Hi Michelle, thanks to Blodeuedd, I do have your books on my wishlist and this one especially. My favourite character out of her comfort zone? Sierra Dean’s Secret McQueen comes to mind. She had to leave her own city to be safe from a murderer, and walked into even bigger trouble.

  8. Hi Aurian, isn’t Blodeuedd wonderful? I love her reviews (and I’m not just saying that because she likes my books 🙂 my own TBR pile is definitely higher, thanks to her). Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll definitely look up Sierra Dean’s novels.