The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit today by James Zerndt, author of The Korean Word for Butterfly. Mr. Zerndt will be discussing likeable characters. Please welcome James Zerndt and scroll down to enter the giveaway for a copy of this wonderful book.
Some of my best friends are unlikable characters. They talk too much. Drink too much. Laugh too loudly. Make mistake after stupid, lovely mistake. They fall in and out love with the wrong people. In short, they live. But they are far more interesting people than most "nice" people I know. And maybe I have an affinity for these people because I, too, am one of the flawed.
I recently read an article by a woman gushing over an author she recently met at a reading. I won't mention the author's name, but he was congenial, friendly, good-looking (of course) and outgoing with his fans. That, this woman wrote, was exactly how she wanted to be when she finally made it big: confident. And who wouldn't want to be that? I know I sometimes would, but I also know that confident is not me. And, well, most confident people annoy me. Usually because their confidence is hugely unwarranted. Not that this particular author’s was.
Personally, I'm more drawn to the person sitting in the back row, the awkward ones, the nail biters and mumblers of this world. In my experience, more often than not, those who are the most reluctant to speak usually have the most to say. And so it is with the characters I find myself wanting to read and write about. They are gloriously imperfect, which only makes them all the more beautiful. Who wants to read about the air-brushed, the flawless? Better yet, who wants to write about them?
But what makes an unlikable character, likeable? Or at least readable? Most would say that they have to have some redeeming qualities about them. They have to, at the very least, want to be better even though they may constantly get in the way of themselves. In my last book, The Korean Word For Butterfly, there is one character, Billie, who some readers have found "unlikeable." And that's totally fine. She is a bit unlikable. But, then, a lot of truly interesting people are a little unlikable. But Billie isn't just unlikable. She's young. And having to make some hard decisions, decisions she may or may not regret at a later date. But what makes Billie so likable in my eyes is that she is obviously in a lot of pain during this process. If she wasn't, she probably wouldn't make the decisions she does in the book. If she were older, chances are she would have acted differently, seen that the situation wasn't necessarily all or nothing. But at that age, just out of high school, how many of us have that kind of perspective? I know I certainly didn't.
So I look forward to the next reading I go to where a shy, nervous author takes the stage and beads of sweat fall from her forehead as she struggles through reading her own words, wishing no doubt that she was safely back home in front of her computer or notebook doing what she loves best: writing. And I look forward to failing as a writer, too, knowing full well that Orwell was right when he said Every book is a failure.
In the end, well, I guess I love failures.
In fact, I'm going to call one up right now and go have a drink.
So we can celebrate our mutual failings.
The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to offer one lucky reader a print or digital copy of The Korean Word for Butterfly by Mr. Zerndt. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States. Thanks are offered to Mr. Zerndt and to Teddy and Virtual Author Book Tours for this tour and giveaway opportunity. To enter please use the rafflecopter form below; winner will be chosen on Monday, February 17, 2014.