Interview with Maria Geraci + Ask Your Characters "Why?" by Nephele Tempest
The Knight Agency Newsletter: Write. Read. Repeat.

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Top Announcements

» HEART OF STONE by Debra Mullins is a finalist in the Holt Medallion Contest and National Readers’ Choice Awards.

» David Mack's STAR TREK: DISAVOWED and Keith DeCandido's SLEEPY HOLLOW: CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION are both up for the Scribe Award for Best Original Novel – Speculative.

Top Sales

» Shiloh Walker's RUINED, to Cindy Hwang at Intermix by Elaine Spencer
» Kate Pearce's new contemporary cowboy series about the Morgan family who run a dude ranch in Northern California, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a three-book deal by Deidre Knight

In this issue

» The Informer

» Agents of the Roundtable

» New Clients on the Block

» Sales Roundup

» Agency News

» Author Interview

» Author Tip of the Month

» New Releases

The Informer

Ask Your Characters “Why?”
by Nephele Tempest

Flat characters can kill your story before it even gets started, and they’re guaranteed to make an agent or editor stop reading your manuscript long before the end. It can be difficult to allow your characters to develop naturally when you have a wonderful idea that you want to move them through, but it’s important to remember that as exciting as your story may be, there needs to be a reason for your characters to do what they do. You can’t have them act only to serve the story in your head; those actions must make sense both in the context of the story and for the character you have written. And the best way to know what your characters will do in a given situation is to ask them why. Asking why will tell you who they are.

Behind every action lies a motivation, no matter how small. Why do we get out of bed? Because we can’t sleep. Because we have to go to work. Because we’re no longer tired. Because we heard a noise. But when it comes to character-building, you want to ask why a character is the way they are. What led them to the start of your story? Why have they reached this juncture? Why have you given them certain personality traits and skills? Why do they work in whatever job you’ve assigned them? It’s not good enough to say “because I said so,” because if that is the only reason for their actions, they are in danger of becoming cookie-cutter characters, clichés you move through the story instead of realistic characters who drive the story.

You create layered, nuanced characters by drilling down and getting to the core of who they are and what they want. Their goals play into the action of the story, but it’s even more important to know why they want those things, because that motivation is what keeps them from giving up in the middle of a quest or throwing in the towel when a relationship requires some work. Understanding motivation will likewise explain a character’s inability to sustain a romance, or their tendency to pick a fight when certain subjects arise. If you have a character who is vulnerable in certain situations, you want to know why. What in their past formed that part of their personality? A character with a particular skill set learned those skills somewhere; why are they so good at whatever it is?

Not all of these details will loom large in your story, of course. Some may appear as a detail in a conversation, while others might end up “extras” for your website, but you will know, and that knowledge will inform everything your characters do and say over the course of the work.
You won’t have all the answers before you start to write, either. Some will come to you as the story develops and your characters land in situations that require them to react. Those decisions might be obvious to you, or they might require some thought, but try to understand why your characters make the choices they do.

Other answers will only work themselves out as you rewrite and revise, in the context of the entire story and the larger picture it offers. Look for inconsistencies in your characters’ behavior. Does something happen to change their outlook or their approach? Have they tripped over some trigger that brings their past to the foreground? Or have you pushed them to some point merely to move the story forward? Later drafts allow you to check for inconsistencies of behavior and motivation, and to make sure your characters are changing over the course of the story in an organic way that fits both their personalities and their experiences.

As with real people, you will never know your characters completely, but if you ask why they are the way they are in respect to the story you’re telling—why and how their pasts affect the present action— you will go a long way toward fleshing them out into living breathing beings who will engage your readers and draw them into the world of your work.

Agents of the Roundtable

Question: What bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer who's thinking about giving up?


I told an author just last week to remember that a writing career is a marathon and not a sprint. Even in this digital world, it takes time to build a career and readership. I also think that when an author starts to burn out they should try writing in a different genre, which can act as a palette cleanser, so to speak. It’s also important to continue to read as much as you can. That’s why most writers are writing in the first place: a genuine love of books. Finally, I have found that most writers don’t really want to quit. Simply put, writing is what they love to do and it is hard to walk away. Find a good critique partner or critique group, and work to improve your craft.


Don’t. If what you’ve been doing hasn’t worked, try something else. If you don’t have a support group/critique partner(s), get one. Work with them. Ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, which projects they think are on the right track. Pursue those. We don’t always see our own work clearly, and sometimes the things that are the most difficult, which we might shy away from, are the most rewarding. Sometimes we have to be pushed. Remember, the only way to guarantee you won’t succeed is to give up.


Writing for publication is a tough business that requires skill and perseverance, as well as timing and a bit of luck. If you’re feeling frustrated, I think the most important thing to ask yourself is if you really want to be a professional writer—if there’s anything else you could possibly do instead that will make you happy and fulfilled. If the idea of a life without writing sends you into a panic, then the only thing you can do is keep at it. Keep improving, keep polishing your work, taking classes, experimenting with new ideas, and so on. Hang in there. And remember that the key to publication is not simply having a book that’s good enough; you need to connect with the right editor at the right time. Rejection does not always mean your work isn’t ready. Sometimes it simply means the fit isn’t right. Only by writing and submitting and steeling yourself against the nos will you finally be able to get to the yes.

I’d advise an aspiring writer who is thinking about giving up to perhaps step away from the process of trying to get published for a while. Do something else that you enjoy, and give yourself a little distance from the need to complete something, the desire to find representation or sell your manuscript. When it’s just not happening at the speed you want, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all; it might just take longer. Adjust your deadlines, do something else for a while, and when you come back to the writing—to the querying, to the revising—it will hopefully be little easier because you’ll be refreshed.

Cecil Murphey

New Clients on the Block

» Amanda Alvarez

Twitter | Facebook

» Mia Siegert

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Amy Jarecki

Website | Twitter | Facebook

» Karen Booth

Website | Twitter | Facebook

For a complete list of Knight Agency clients, visit

Sales Roundup

» Kate Pearce's new contemporary cowboy series about the Morgan family who run a dude ranch in Northern California, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a three-book deal by Deidre Knight

» Kate Pearce's SACRIFICE, RETRIBUTION and TRIUMPH, a horror erotica trilogy, to Sarah Frantz Lyons at Riptide Publishing, in a nice deal by Deidre Knight

» Ella Frank's TAKE, to Steve Feldberg of Audible, in a nice deal by Deidre Knight

» Jules Bennett's contribution to the 2016 Dynasties continuity, to Stacy Boyd at Harlequin Desire by Elaine Spencer

» Shiloh Walker's RUINED, to Cindy Hwang at Intermix by Elaine Spencer

» Daire St. Denis's SWEET SEDUCTION, to Kathleen Scheibling at Harlequin Blaze by Elaine Spencer

» Amy Christine Parker's ORPHAN CITY, to Jordan Hamessley at Adaptive by Lucienne Diver

» Shirlee McCoy's contribution to a Christmas collection, featuring characters from her current Apple Valley series, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington by Melissa Jeglinski

» Michelle Celmer's contribution to the latest Dynasty continuity series, to Charles Griemsman at Harlequin Desire by Melissa Jeglinski

» Kerry Schafer's DEAD BEFORE DYING, to Mary Cummings at Diversion Books by Deidre Knight

Sales Roundup is a selective sampling of TKA's deals for the past month. For more info on our recent sales, visit

Agency News

» HEART OF STONE by Debra Mullins is a finalist in the Holt Medallion Contest and National Readers’ Choice Awards.

APEX by Ramez Naam has been selected as an Amazon Best of the Month Pick in SF/F.

Beth Cornelison are finalists in the Series Romantic Suspense category of the National Readers' Choice Awards, while THE BULL RIDER'S FAMILY and HIS FAVORITE COWGIRL by Leigh Duncan are finalists in the Contemporary Series category. THE BULL RIDER'S FAMILY also was a finalist in the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America Booksellers Best Award, Short Contemporary category.

» David Mack's STAR TREK: DISAVOWED and Keith DeCandido's SLEEPY HOLLOW: CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION are both up for the Scribe Award for Best Original Novel – Speculative.

» DARK HEIR by Faith Hunter was selected as one of Audible’s April Customer Favorites.

» STUPID BOY by Cindy Miles is now available on Audible.

» Gena Showalter’s THE DARKEST NIGHT is a Kindle first in series deal, now £0.99 in the UK. 

» Marie Langager’s BEYOND OUR STARS is on Barnes and Noble's Teen Blog for 7 YA Books You Can Read in One (Awesome) Day.
» Nalini Singh did a Goodreads Romance Interview where she discussed her upcoming release SHARDS OF HOPE.
Interview with Maria Geraci

THEN HE KISSED MERITA Award nominee Maria Geraci was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised on Florida’s Space Coast. Her love of books started with the classic Little Women (a book she read so often growing up, she could probably quote it at length.) She writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction with happy endings. 

Her latest novel is THEN HE KISSED ME, which is part two of the
Whispering Bay Romance series. 

TKA: For new fans, please tell us a bit about the Whispering Bay series. Where did you come up with the title, and is it an actual place you've visited?

Maria: The Whispering Bay romance series centers around a group of quirky small-town characters that I created in my first novel, BUNCO BABES TELL ALL. Each story features a unique hero and heroine and is a stand-alone read, and each of course has a happily-ever-after. But the town and secondary characters form the glue of each novel. In some ways, the town is actually a character itself. The books are funny and romantic and light, but also tender, as well. A perfect beach read, really!
I needed the name of a fictional small town for my first romance novel, and during a brainstorming session with friends, we came up with Whispering Bay. I loved the way it sounded so romantic.
TKA: Have you ever faced any of the situations mentioned in the series, such as running into a high-school sweetheart?

Maria: I think most of us have run into an ex at some time or another, and of course if there are unresolved feelings, it can be awkward! The armadillo scene in the third book in the series, THAT MAN OF MINE, actually happened to a friend of mine, and I’ve always wanted to put it in a book. It’s… disturbingly funny, to say the least.
TKA: What was your favorite scene to write in the series?

Maria: Definitely the birth scene in THEN HE KISSED ME. In my other life, I’m a labor and delivery nurse and I’ve always wanted to write a scene in which one of my characters was forced to deliver a baby. It’s humorous, but it’s also tender and it was the defining moment in the novel because it’s when my heroine falls in love with my hero.
TKA: When did you first know you wanted to be an author and what advice would you give to writers who are just starting out?

 Maria: Thirteen years ago I dropped my husband off at the airport for an extended business trip and on the drive home I decided to write a book. Honest. It was like, (pardon the cliché), an epiphany. When he got home three weeks later, I’d already written the first few chapters of the worst book imaginable, but I was hooked.
The best advice I can give to a writer just starting out is to be yourself and write the type of book you want to read.  Your voice is unique and so are the types of stories you want to tell. Giving in to trends never works. There’s nothing worse than disingenuous writing.

TKA: What is your favorite part of writing: research, character development, plotting, action sequences? Are there any particular areas you've struggled with and how did you tackle the problems?

Maria: I hate plotting and I hate research! I’m a total pantser, but I do realize the need to plot somewhat. My favorite part of writing is when I get lost in a scene and it just flows. I love writing dialogue, especially the banter between my hero and heroine.  The hardest thing for me to write is an action scene. I always have to “act it out.” If you peeked inside the window to my office when I’m in the middle of writing one of those, you’d definitely think I was crazy!

TKA: Finally, what are you working on now and do you plan on writing more novels set in Whispering Bay?

Maria: I’m working on two more romance novels set in Whispering Bay, so I’ll be staying in that world for a little while longer, which makes me totally happy. I know it’s an imaginary town, but I want to live there in real life!

Visit Maria's official website, follow her on Twitter, and join her fans on Facebook.

Author Tip of the Month

Michelle Belanger is the author of the bestselling THE PSYCHIC VAMPIRE CODEX as well as the upcoming CONSPIRACY OF ANGELS. She's appeared regularly on A&E, the History Channel, and HBO.

Michelle's Tip: Writing rituals can be incredibly useful cues for "getting in the zone"—the same pen, a specific mug, a particular scent of candle burning to inspire the proper mood. Agatha Christie was known for munching apples in the bath while she plotted her murders. Alexander Dumas wrote his fiction exclusively on paper a very specific shade of blue. Victor Hugo went so far as to lock away all his clothes, only permitting himself to be clad in a large grey shawl as he labored under deadline on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
All of these rituals draw upon Pavlovian principles to trick us into settling into that delicate and elusive headspace from whence creativity flows—but it's just as important to break the ritual, too. 
Positive associations with our surroundings make writing rituals effective, but, build up too great a sense of frustration, and the associations grow sour. For myself, when the work gets face-smashy and I find myself obsessively rewriting the same paragraph, only to change a word or a clause, what I need is to get up and move. Going for a walk helps, but completely changing where I am writing jolts me out of my repetitive tailspin. 

For more information about Michelle, be sure to visit

New Releases

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