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I Belong

Guest Post & Giveaway: Fever by Joan Swan

Our guest today is debut author Joan Swan.  The first book in her Phoenix Rising series, Fever, will be released on February 28, 2012.  Please join me in welcoming Joan here today to Dark Faerie Tales.  You can also read an excerpt from the book by clicking the link that Joan provided in her guest post.

Thanks to Joan, one lucky commenter will have a chance to win Fever.  As always, details are listed at the end of the post.

All comments are eligible for tour grand prize of either a COLOR NOOK or KINDLE FIRE. Enter: HERE

Welcome Joan!


Character is story; story is character

~ Scott Fitzgerald

First and foremost, we read fiction for escape.  We pick up a book to lose ourselves in another world, to watch compelling characters we care about fight for something they want or need so desperately they overcome obstacle after obstacle to attain it.

We read to feel emotion—the character’s emotions as they travel this journey.

If we pick up a book and can’t connect with a character, their plight becomes far less compelling.  If we can’t become invested in a character’s struggle, the book loses that must-read quality and we either end up feeling dissatisfied or put the book down without finishing.

So, how do some writer’s hook us immediately?  There is a certain science to creating compelling characters—it’s called empathy.  Empathy is the ability to identify with the character on some level, giving the reader the ability to feel what the character is feeling as they fight their way toward their goal.  In other words, empathy is the ability to live vicariously through the character.

As readers, we need to be offered some avenue to develop empathy for the main characters within the story.  The sooner we can identify with a character, the sooner we can jump into the story with both feet.

There are several basic ways to develop empathy for a character.  Each characteristic can be used as sparingly or as liberally as the author chooses, but as both an author and a reader, I’ve found, initially, less is better.  Readers connect with characters who are:

  • sympathetic—are suffering a hardship
    (i.e., Tom Hank’s character in Sleepless in Seattle)
  • in jeopardy—in dangerous situation, physically or emotionally
    (i.e., Jason Bourne, Bourne trilogy)
  • likeable—kindhearted, moral
    (i.e., Matthew McConaughey, Failure to Launch)
  • funny—snark, sarcasm, self-deprecating
    (Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • powerful—intellectually, financially, skillfully, politically
    (Kevin Costner, The Guardian)
  • attractive—not necessarily handsome or beautiful, but attractive in some way
    (Liam Nelson, Taken)

I took a pretty big risk with FEVER.  In chapter one, the reader learns my hero, Teague, is a convicted murderer.  Not only does he kidnap the heroine, but he hurts her in the process.  Adding to the challenge of getting readers to bond with Teague, I put chapter one in my heroine’s POV, so there was no way for the reader to know Teague’s motives, which could have softened them toward him.  On the other hand, it would have also taken all the must-read-on out of the story.

But, evidently, the risk paid off.  The reviews have been great and readers love Teague.  So, what did I do to make him sympathetic?

Main tactic: 

  • I crafted a heroine readers could immediately connect with and invest themselves in, so they would want to read on to find out what happens to her.  In reading on, they—hopefully—connect with Teague in the following chapter.

Other tactics:

  • I give him an alpha-strong heroine who challenges him.
  • While he hurts her, I add in hints that he doesn’t mean to.  And he could have hurt her far worse than he does.
  • I demonstrate his clearly desperate state.
  • I give him opportunities to shelter her from harm by his escape partner, another inmate and one far more violent.
  • The contrast between Teague and the clearly more dangerous inmate makes Teague the lesser of two evils.
  • I start chapter two in Teague’s POV and immediately show his remorse for the injury he caused her.
  • In his POV, I highlight his desperation to keep her hostage for an as-yet-unknown reason.

You can read the first chapter of FEVER, here.

In a well thought out novel, nothing is haphazard.  Nothing is simply thrown in for effect.  Everything has a purpose.  In the best novel, the planning and choreography blend so effortlessly into the story, the reader doesn’t see the structure beneath, only loses themselves in the characters and the tale.  Creating characters readers immediately connect with and feel for is the first and most important step in crafting that novel.

Who are some of the characters you immediately connected with – in either books or movies.  Why?  What makes you click with a character?


About Joan:

Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist and writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist.  Her debut novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, releases February 28, 2012.  Her second novel, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012.

In her day job, she works as a sonographer for one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation and lives on the California central coast in beautiful wine country with her husband and two daughters.

You can visit Joan around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook


This giveaway is provided by Joan Swan

One winner will receive a copy of Fever by Joan Swan

All comments are eligible for tour grand prize of either a COLOR NOOK or KINDLE FIRE. Enter: HERE

Available on February 28, 2012 from Brava/Kensington Books

About the Book:

When Dr. Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by a prison inmate, she knows she’s in deep trouble. Not just because Teague Creek is desperate for freedom, but because the moment his fingers brush against her skin, Alyssa feels a razor-sharp pang of need…

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. At least Teague doesn’t, until his escape plan develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives, he can only give her lies, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever…

Click HERE to read an excerpt

Order from


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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67 Responses to “Guest Post & Giveaway: Fever by Joan Swan

  1. Tracey DNo Gravatar

    I can’t think of a character I have connected with. In some ways, I recognized some of my female relatives in Claire of the Outlander series. Like Claire, they are strong and determined.

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  2. TiffanyNo Gravatar

    I connect with characters when I can feel their emotions. That helps me to feel what they are feeling and put me in their place so I’m in the story with them. I really enjoyed Faith’s character in the shifter series by Rachel Vincent. Thanks!

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  3. CherylNo Gravatar

    I connect with characters that are loyal, do the right thing (most of the time, anyway) and who are snarky. Off the top of my head, I love Rob Thurman’s characters.

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  4. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Hi ML, That is a very empathetic character. Even if someone hasn’t suffered the loss, they could imagine and feel for her.

    Great comment. Thanks for coming by!

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  5. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Thanks Stephanie! Yes, relating to the heroine is as key as drooling over the hero :) (imo)

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  6. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    I like strong and determined characters, especially heroines. I haven’t read the Outlanders yet.

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  7. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Good point, Tiffany. Accurately and vividly describing a characters emotions is a powerful skill any awesome writer needs to possess.

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  8. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Cheryl, I love the way you put loyal, doing the right thing and snarky together–they can be good, but they can be funny and bitching while they’re doing it! :):):)

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  9. Sandra HornNo Gravatar

    I haven’t read any of your books, but would LOVE to win a copy of Fever!!!

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  10. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Hi Sandra! Good luck in the drawing!

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  11. becky jeanNo Gravatar

    When will we get to read Alyssa’a darling brother’s book? He seems very exciting!

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  12. becky jeanNo Gravatar

    Characters that I have connected with, hmmmm. I would say Mary from the Black Dagger Brotherhood (JR Ward).

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  13. Maria pronounced MariahNo Gravatar

    As long as a character is well written I can usually relate to them. I am never anything like them but that doesn’t keep me from feeling like I am becoming part of the story myself!

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  14. Joan SwanNo Gravatar

    Hi Becky Jean,

    Mitch is a doll, isn’t he? I’m actually not sure what # his book will be. So many heroes…so little time!! Will probably depend on story lines and editor preferences :)

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  15. Kendra EdensNo Gravatar

    Wow! That is a hard question. I think the characters I connect with best are those that I share similarities to or those that personify the kind of person I want to be. It is a lot easier to relate to a character when you have an idea of how and why they will react to certain situations.

    Thanks so much for Fever, Joan. I loved every moment of it and look forward to the continuation of the series! And Congratulations on the release today! :) Best of luck to everyone entering. You are in for a real treat! :)

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  16. The Loopy LibrarianNo Gravatar

    I relate to Jane Eyre. She had a tough life, but she was resilient and never gave in to self-pity. I admired her will.

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  17. Tina BNo Gravatar

    Hmm…characters that I immediately connected with? Angela (Claire Danes) from My So-Called Life. I know, I am talking the 90’s now, but I really could relate to what she went through and how she felt at that time. Also, lately I connected with Heather Wallace from The Maker’s Song Series by Adrian Phoenix. No matter what is thrown at her, she always pushes herself and stays strong for her and her family and friends. Thanks, Joan and good luck on your new release! :)

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