Guest Post: Janni Lee Simner on Talking with Her Characters

June 20, 2013 Author Feature, Guest Post 14

by Janni Lee Simner
Published by Random House My Reviews in this series: Bones of Faerie, Faerie Winter, Faerie After

Janni Lee Simner, author of the Bones of Faerie Trilogy from Random House [read my reviews: Bones of Faerie, Faerie Winter, &Faerie After] tells us today about Matthew and how she often talks to her characters!

Faerie Trilogy

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I’m the sort of writer who talks to my characters. I even write them letters as I’m getting to know them and their stories.

My characters have never written back, not exactly, but they do have their own ways of making themselves heard as those stories evolve and I get to know them better.

Sometimes, they do things that surprise me, and I realize I don’t yet know them as well as I thought.

This happened in a very early drafts of Bones of Faerie. Bones of Faerie is set after a magical war between human and faeries has destroyed the world, and the human protagonist, Liza, runs away when she discovers she carries signs of that deadly magic. She’s followed by an also-human boy named Matthew. In this early draft (those of you who’ve already ready the book can laugh now) Matthew was very patiently explaining to Liza that he’d never even seen magic, and suspected there was really no such thing, when wild dogs attacked them.

A large gray wolf appeared on the scene, scaring the dogs away. As I kept writing, I realized the wolf was Matthew.

A shapeshifting wolf was definitely not part of my plan for this book. “Wait a minute!” I told Matthew’s voice in my head. “You can’t be a werewolf. This isn’t the sort of book that has werewolves.”

Matthew just sort of shrugged. “But I am,” he said.

We glared at each other for a while, metaphorically speaking. Finally I said, “Okay, we’ll try it. Just to see what happens.” If I didn’t like how the book turned out with Matthew as a wolf, after all, I could always undo his lycanthropic transformation in the next draft.

Matthew said nothing to that. He knew he’d already won.

As I kept writing, I figured out what Matthew already knew: of course he was a wolf, and this wasn’t just important to his character. Thinking about a lupine Matthew forced me to rethink everything about how magic worked in my world, and everything about who was touched by magic, too. In the end, not only Bones of Faerie, but its sequels, Faerie Winter and Faerie After, were better for it.

When my characters or my subconscious or whatever place it is story really comes from veers off in an unexpected direction, I find the best thing I can do is follow to see where it leads.  More often than not that thing I didn’t even plan on turns out to be one of the most powerful parts of the story. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s what revision is for.

These days, I’m actively on the lookout for the unexpected in my stories. When it appears–startling me for all that I expected it–it’s a sign that the story is coming alive.


JanniLeeSimnerJanni Lee Simner was born aboard a pirate ship, but as soon as she came of age booked passage with a caravan bound for the Sahara, and spent the next decade as a seeker of lost cities, hidden tombs, and ancient artifacts. While hiding from assassins in the lost Library of Alexandria, however, she discovered she really preferred telling stories, and so she settled down in the Sonoran desert to write, interrupted only by the occasional map-bearing stranger or man-eating Gila monster. WEBSITE | TWITTER

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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14 Responses to “Guest Post: Janni Lee Simner on Talking with Her Characters”

  1. Liza

    I like the idea of a character fighting to become a werewolf. I haven’t read the series, but it’s on my TBR list. It caught my name ever since I saw one of the characters names. =)

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Liza! You must read about Liza! haha. I liked that idea too – that the character is telling her about himself – like “Don’t you know that’s how things are going to be – I’m this!”

  2. Jaime Lester

    I LOVE that Janni writes letters to her characters, and talks to them! I love that she had an argument with Matthew and that HE won! Too funny. And yet another reason that I am going to the library as soon as possible to grab this series and devour it in one sitting!

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      One sitting!? Haha that would be a good long read! The books are all under 300 pages though so I totally think you could do it!! Oh yeah – come back in an hour – I’m throwing up a Jigsaw Cover Love giveaway!! I love jigsaw puzzles!

      • Jaime Lester

        Heading to find the jigsaw giveaway now. I love a good, old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle, by the way. Fun times! And maybe I was being a bit ambitious with the “One Sitting” comment. 900 pages is a lot to read in one go. Maybe 2 1/2 sittings?

        • Tabitha the Pabkins

          I hope you like them! I plan to do a new batch every other week. Just for small GCs or a ARC book that I’m done with. But I love doing the puzzles too. Sometimes its like just nice for the brain.

          • Jaime Lester

            If you like game brains… nope, brain games! You should check out the TV show Brain Games on Nat Geo. It makes me feel like a dumb-dumb, but I like it. And I think it is good for the old, stay-up-way-too-late brain of mine!

          • Jaime Lester

            Awww! Babies!!! My hubby and I have been trying for about 4 years now. Started with a fert doctor a while back, so hopefully soon I will have a wee one and I won’t be able to watch TV, too! Reading though, not optional! Won’t miss tv, though!

          • Tabitha the Pabkins

            I don’t miss TV either. The reading is nice when they are super tiny – cause they just sleep all the time. It’s when they are this age that it’s like impossible to read. Now I lay on the floor and read while he plays next to me. I hope you get your wish soon!!

  3. Andrea

    Janni is awesome! I’m still reading the first of this series but I can tell you that it pulled me in right away and took me to a secret place that I yearn for myself.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Wonderful! Me too – the first line of Bones of Faerie was just so sad and really set the tone for the entire series. “I had a sister once.” So you know right away you are in for some heartbreak.