Today, join me in welcoming my friend Jeffe Kennedy back to the blog—always a treat! Jeffe’s here today to talk about The Tides of Bára, the third book in her Sorcerous Moons series.
ABOUT JEFFE: Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract. Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms, with The Pages of the Mind in May 2016 and The Edge of the Blade in December 2016. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.
About The Tides of Bára: A Narrow Escape—With her secrets uncovered and her power-mad brother bent on her execution, Princess Oria has no sanctuary left. Her bid to make herself and her new barbarian husband rulers of walled Bára has failed. She and Lonen have no choice but to flee through the leagues of brutal desert between her home and his—certain death for a sorceress, and only a bit slower than the blade….A Race Against Time—At the mercy of a husband barely more than a stranger, Oria must war with her fears and her desires. Wild desert magic buffets her; her husband’s touch allures and burns. Lonen is pushed to the brink, sure he’s doomed his proud bride and all too aware of the restless, ruthless pursuit that follows…A Danger Beyond Death—Can Oria trust a savage warrior, now that her strength has vanished? Can Lonen choose her against the future of his people? Alone together in the wastes, Lonen and Oria must forge a bond based on more than lust and power, or neither will survive the test…
Now, let’s hear from Jeffe!
Stop – Don’t Cut that Scene!
Writers love to talk about killing babies.
Not literal babies. Or even fictional ones—with the exception maybe of some thriller/suspense authors. I mean the metaphorical babies. As in those parts of our stories (which are pretty much our babies overall, in that metaphorical sense) that we treasure and want to nurture and keep safe. Getting rid of those sections we love, but that aren’t working is often referred to as “killing your babies.”
Sometimes I think this is more of an issue for newer writers. Authors who’ve completed multiple books have realized a few things, or they wouldn’t have gotten that far.
- We love our stories, and they are our creations, but they’re not extensions of ourselves. We have to let go for them to live.
- Deleting extraneous stuff is a necessary part of making a story the best it can be.
- Sentimentality has no place in the process. In fact, cutting can feel good.
All that said, we all sometimes wrestle with whether or not to cut a scene. Not because it’s extraneous, but because it causes a strong reaction. A number of studies have shown that, when people respond to art of any kind, if they react very strongly, then the number of people who love it will be equaled by the number who hate it. If the response is middle ground, this polarization doesn’t occur. I once read about a study on this for country music, where they ultimately settled on a program of songs that were middle ground—because listeners then didn’t change the station.
Which poses an interesting question for writers. By extrapolation, what one reader will love will make another reader throw the book against the wall.
I remember a writing workshop where the class discussed a scene in a memoir. The author described being abandoned with her siblings, running out of food, and examining herself naked in the bathroom mirror. She stood on the vanity, because the toilet had overflowed and the carpet was soaked with excrement, and noted that she had the “three triangles” at ankle, knee and crotch, that the girlie magazines said were ideal. And she decided to prostitute herself to buy food.
Some readers found this scene pivotal and crucial to the story. Others—not incidentally a nearly equal number—were repulsed and thought she should have cut it.
In another example, a writer friend told me that the core image or scene I start a story with should be the first to go. Most of us start with some kind of initial spark—a line of conversation, a moment in time, a certain scene—and build the story from that. She’d read that writers tend to cling to that core idea (the baby!) and that we should be ruthless about cutting that out. I mulled it over—especially as specific advice for the story she’d critiqued for me—and ultimately decided I disagreed.
Very often, in the process of working with our critique partners, beta readers and editors, the discussion will come up about scenes like this. The ones that provoke a strong reaction. They could be controversial in some way. Those core images or ideas that spark stories often contain a kind of intensity, which is why they stick with and inspire us.
It’s tempting to take that stuff out.
Because, of course, not many of us like our work to be hated. We don’t want our books thrown against the wall. There’s a comfort to being that radio station that people keep on, never thinking to change the channel because nothing ever affects them enough to overcome that inertia.
But, by giving that up, we risk losing the equal number who will love the work with fervent intensity.
So, when I look at cutting a scene, I look at the reasons that critique is offered. If the scene is dead-weight, confusing, doesn’t work, etc., then deleting is necessary and usually quite easy. But if it’s because it might cause a strong reaction*, I’ll almost always keep it.
Because that’s what telling a story is about.
What about you all – was there ever something in a book that you loved and a friend hated? Do tell!
*I’m going to caveat this. If the reaction is because the content is offensive or hateful, that’s an entirely different animal.
Thanks, Jeffe! I think most of the scenes I’ve ended up cutting have been those I thought were clever but finally, reluctantly, had to admit didn’t move the story along. My most recent book, Black Diamond, begins with a scene some felt was too violent. But when I was writing the book, I decided if I soft-peddled the opening or had the event happen “off-page,” it was short-changing the reader. The story always needs to win!
How about you guys? Leave a comment to win one of two copies of The Tides of Bára or an earlier book in the series.