Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bad Boys Are the Love of My Life

by Saralee Rosenberg

What do Matty Lieberman, Drew Fabrikant, Ken Danziger, and Artie Sherman have in common? They are all deeply flawed and if not for me, would never have had a shot at redemption. 

This is in no small part because without me they would never exist. They are the love interests in my novels and the characters I worked hard to break and then fix. Or at least help them get out of their own way.

When it comes to creating the object of my heroine’s affections, I start with the premise that beneath the cynical, stubborn and exasperating exterior is a loving man waiting to emerge… After he stops acting like an asshole. And just like in life, this is no easy feat!

Of course in all fairness, I’m the one who gets them into hot water by putting them in situations that challenge their egos and test their invincibility.  

For example, in A Little Help From Above, poor Matty is stuck in an ice cold marriage being held together by a special- needs child, only to discover that his true love is his former childhood friend. Trouble is she is currently a surrogate, pregnant with twins as a favor to her sterile sister, with whom she no longer speaks.

In Fate and Ms. Fortune, Ken is recovering from a breakup and broken bones when he reconnects with Robyn, the girl who once secretly loved him, but who now loathes men after her gambling ex-husband left her with nothing funny to say in her stand-up comedy routines.

In Claire Voyant, a demanding, neurotic, possibly pregnant girlfriend has her claws in Drew at a time
when his beloved grandfather drops dead on a plane and the model/actress who tried to save him (my girl, Claire) has issues with telling the truth. It could be love at first sight if not for the fact that he is a walking medical miracle- a man without a spine.
This is why when readers ask what my books are about, I suggest the better question is who are my books about. Without complex, compelling and relatable characters being thrust into a cauldron of problems, there is no story.

But how do writers know when they’ve created fully developed characters? For me, the first signs of life are when characters speak up for themselves. When they take the story in a direction that was not in my outline, let alone on my radar. When they react in ways that make me laugh, cry and ponder, and like a reader, I wonder what they will do next. 

Truly nothing is better than when their souls surprise me, for then I know that as with my children, I have breathed life into them, but they are taking it from there.

Yes, it seems counter intuitive that a writer is not in complete control, but I am happy to be the “designated typist”. It means that I not only listened to the voice in my head, I trusted that voice. Or as I like to say, no surprise for the writer, none for the reader either.

Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four adult novels and the recently finished her first novel for younger readers, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM. Visit her website.


  1. *But how do writers know when they’ve created fully developed characters? For me, the first signs of life are when characters speak up for themselves.*

    So true! And it says a lot about your gifts that you know how to listen to your characters, Saralee. It's why your books are so wonderful!

    Great post!

    1. You're too kind, Ellen. Thanks for the high praise!

  2. I love that part. When the character takes over and I find myself mumbling at my computer screen as I continue to type, "How the hell did that just happen?" Is the true beginning of the book. Yes, where it begins to take flight. xoMaggie

    1. Absolutely. Or when you're reading back wondering where in the heck *that* came from!

      Great post Saralee

    2. Oh Maggie and Sylvie. I'm glad to hear it happens to you that way, too. You think you're in control of a scene, and then the character throws you a curve ball.

  3. Such a fun post. I also love the title of your middle school novel.

    1. Thank Karin. Appreciate the support... if you know any great agents that rep middle grade, I'd love a referral.