Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
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  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Heroes and Villains: A Guide to Writing Strong Characters by Jessica Vitalis and The Rabbit’s Gift Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! I’m excited to have Jessica Vitalis here to share a guest post in celebration of her new MG fantasy The Rabbit’s Gift. It sounds like a unique story about the origin of babies based on French folklore. And it has rabbits and purple carrots. Need I say more about why I’m excited to read it?

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

When the delicate balance between the people of a small country and the mythic rabbits of age-old lore is broken, putting everyone at risk, a young rabbit and a young girl must overcome their prejudices and learn to trust each other.

Quincy Rabbit and his warren live a simple yet high-stakes life. In exchange for the purple carrots they need to survive, they farm and deliver Chou de vie (cabbage-like plants that grow human babies inside) to the human citizens of Montpeyroux. But lately, because of those selfish humans, there haven't been enough carrots to go around. So Quincy sets out to change that--all he needs are some carrot seeds. He'll be a hero.

Fleurine sees things a little differently. As the only child of the Grand Lumière, she's being groomed to follow in her mother's political footsteps--no matter how much Fleurine longs to be a botanist instead. Convinced that having a sibling will shift her mother's attention, Fleurine tries to grow purple carrots, hoping to make a trade with the rabbits. But then a sneaky rabbit steals her seeds. In her desperation to get them back, she follows that rabbit all the way to the secret warren--and steals a Chou.

Quincy and Fleurine have endangered not just the one baby inside the Chou, but the future of Montpeyroux itself--for rabbits and humans alike. Now, they'll have to find a way to trust each other to restore the balance.

Follower News

Before I get to Jessica’s guest post, I have Follower News to share. Judith Roth’s picture book, Cadence and Kittenfish: A Mermaid Tale, was recently released. Here’s a blurb: Cadence is a busy little mermaid, pranking fishermen and practicing Tai Chi with the lighthouse keeper. But something is missing and she discovers what it is--kittens! Getting a fluffy kitten to play with her in the ocean is a problem. . . maybe there's another kind of kitten in the sea that's just right for Cadence. And here are a few links: https://judithlroth.wordpress.com/, Bookshop, and Amazon.


Jacqui Murray recently released Natural Selection, book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series. Here’s a blurb: Survival was tough. Lucy was tougher. Based on true events. And here’s a few links: Website, Blog, and Amazon author page.


Now here’s Jessica!


Heroes and Villains: A Guide to Writing Strong Characters

I spent thirteen years studying writing craft before I sold my first book. During that time, I developed what seemed like a pretty straightforward view of story: novels are character-driven. We choose a protagonist, give them a story goal, and create an antagonist or antagonistic force to stand in the protagonist’s way, thus driving the plot until the climax when the protagonist learns that what they wanted won’t make them happy and they get (or don’t get) what they actually need to make them happy.

But this simplistic view of story created problems when I was writing my sixth novel, which turned out to be my debut. The Wolf’s Curse is narrated by death’s courier, a great white wolf who is not only an omniscient narrator, but also an antagonistic force in the story. Since she isn’t the protagonist and she isn’t the only antagonist, I had to come up with creative workarounds to explain her omniscient presence, thus challenging my traditional ideas of story.

My straightforward view of story created trouble for me again when I was writing my sophomore novel, The Rabbit’s Gift. This story is set in a world in which human babies are raised in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits; it’s written with dual points of view (a rabbit and a human), but rather than a protagonist and an antagonist, each character views him/herself as the hero and the other character as the villain in the story.

While this examination of the grey space between heroes and villains proved fruitful when addressing the themes in the story (what makes someone a hero? Can a villain be defined by one bad action? Can a villain be redeemed?), it created problems when it came to defining my protagonist and my antagonist. That’s when I realized that as long as I created nuanced, believable characters that were working against each other, I didn’t have to assign labels. It wasn’t until I set aside my preconceived ideas about how to craft stories that my characters (and the story) really came to life. Interestingly enough, the process of writing these two books taught me that for all the emphasis we give to defining protagonists versus antagonists (or heroes versus villains), the process for writing them is one and the same.

On that note, I’ll leave you with my favorite tips for writing strong characters—no matter what role they play in your story.  


1.     Give each of them a want: something that they think will make them happy. Something they can strive for throughout the story.

2.     Give each of them a secret need: the thing (which could be knowledge, an action, or a relationship, for example) that will actually make them happy. The thing that they will be resisting all the way through the story, until they finally embrace it (or not) at the end.

3.     Give them compelling backstories. Make sure you know EXACTLY what event or events led them to the belief that their want will make them happy.

4.     Delete most of the backstory from your manuscript. I’m serious! YOU need to know the backstory that made your characters who they are, but only share with your readers what they need to know to make sense of the story at that moment. (Sometimes this means moving backstory later in your manuscript—oftentimes, it means deleting it for good.)

5.     Give your protagonists/heroes character flaws and give your antagonists/villains positive character traits. This may seem counterintuitive, but it will help them come alive in readers’ minds. 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jessica! You can find Jessica at her Website, Twitter, and Instagram.

Giveaway Details

I'm offering a hardback of The Rabbit’s Gift for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by December 3. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Jessica on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog. 

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Tuesday, December 6 I’m participating in the Winter Is Coming Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, December 7 I have a guest post by debut author Deeba Zargarpur and a giveaway of her YA contemporary House of Yesterday and my IWSG post

Monday, December 12 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Dyksterhouse and a query critique giveaway

Friday, December 16 I’m participating in the Dashing December Giveaway Hop

Monday, December 19 I have an agent spotlight interview with Savannah Brooks and a query critique giveaway   

Hope to see you on Tuesday, December 6!





Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice tips for character development! Best wishes for "The Rabbit's Gift." :)

Greg Pattridge said...

I enjoyed reading THE RABBIT"S GIFT. Such a unique story line and great advice from Jessica on writing strong characters. Thanks for offering the giveaway but let someone who hasn't experienced the book win a copy.

Danielle H. said...

Excellent and succinct writing advice for characterization--thank you! I'm excited to read this book, so thank you for the chance to win a copy. I shared on tumblr, Facebook, Twitter. I also follow Natalie on Twitter and Jessica on Twitter and Instagram.

Rachel said...

This book sounds so creative, and thanks for the great tips!

Terry Nichols said...

I'm always intrigued by tales starring animals--even more so when the story structure doesn't strictly follow expectations. Looking forward to reading this one!

Patricia T. said...

Second review I've read of the Rabbit's Gift. The plot is very unique and intriguing. So babies do grow in cabbages. What a fun offering for readers.

Valinora Troy said...

Unfortunately I am not eligible to enter :( Love the cover though! And very interesting post :)

Liz A. said...

I had heard about characters needing wants, but I had not heard about the needs part. Interesting.

Sue Heavenrich said...

This is the second post I've read about The Rabbit's Gift. Clearly, I need to read the book! I love the close look at characters, and I love the purple carrots - especially as I grow some in my garden (fortunately no rabbits have found them).

Carrie_Karnes_Fannin said...

This is a great list of tips! I especially like the one about knowing the characters' backstories.

p.s. I've posted a link to this blog on my Facebook page.

Melissa Miles said...

Jessica's second book looks amazing! Thanks for the great interview and the chance to win. I've also shared this giveaway on Twitter. Thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Natalie - it's great to be here celebrating Jacqui's trilogy ... she's amazing with her characters' story lines ... fascinating read. Characters have to be real don't they ... and I love Jessica's tips - cheers to you all - Hilary

Priscilla Bettis said...

I like Jacqui's character tips! Laws of Nature is going to be a fabulous read!

Computer Tutor said...

Thank you for featuring me, Natalie. Sharing!

@Priscilla Thanks for dropping in. Having a wonderful Thanksgiving

@Hilary So nice to see you here, Hilary. Have a wonderful non-Thanksgiving!

Rosi said...

I've been reading about this book, and it really sounds great. Thanks for this post. I can see I need to find a copy.

Janet Frenck Sheets said...

What an interesting plot! Thanks for featuring The Rabbit's Gift. (I follow Natalie on Twitter.)

Sandra Cox said...

Jessica, great writing advice and The Rabbit's Gift sounds awesome.
'Lo, Natalie. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. So pleased to see Jacqui's awesome book here.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I enjoyed the tips for sure, good reminders, all of them. I haven't read The Rabbit's Gift, but was struck by the fact Jessica called on French folklore. That seems such an interesting folkloric tale. And I couldn't help wondering if there is a distant tie-in to Easter eggs and rabbits at Easter time.

Sandra Cox said...

Cadence and Kittenfish sounds cute;)

Veronica @ Little Corner Reads said...

#4 is such a helpful tip! 😩

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great guidelines there. The depth of the characters make you care about them, whether they're the main characters or secondary.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

nashvillecats2 said...

Some great giveaways. Enjoyed reading the post although a day late.
Take care.

PJ Colando said...

Thanks for co-hosting, casting your many cares aside, to adhere to this commitment. Be as good to yourself as you are to others.