It’s a pleasure to welcome to the blog, author Louise Marley. Louise is the author of several novels – in the romantic comedy/romantic suspense genres, the latest of which is a suspense story – Trust Me I Lie. I really like the look of this and hopefully it will find it’s way to the top of the TBR in the near future when I will post a review. In the meantime, Louise has kindly written a post especially for for the blog which I hope you enjoy. Over to you Louise….
Creating an Unlikeable Heroine
Many years ago I had a book rejected by an agent because the heroine was ‘unlikeable’. This book was later picked up by a publisher, but at the time I was heartbroken. New writers are told to write what they love to read, and I’ve always loved flawed ‘unlikeable’ heroines such as Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), who is horribly selfish, always wanting what she can’t have and completely unable to appreciate what she does have until she loses it, and Perdita in Polo (Jilly Cooper), a spoilt brat who has to grow up fast. They are so much more interesting.
Skip forward a few years and ‘unlikeable’ and ‘unreliable’ female characters are now very much in fashion, but when I began writing my latest book, Trust Me I Lie, it was the hero who was uppermost in my mind. It was my sixth full-length novel; my previous heroes could probably be considered ‘alpha males’ and I wanted to write a ‘beta’ hero just to see if I could. Not ‘brooding’ or ‘maverick’ or ‘tortured-by-his-past’, just a nice regular guy.
So I created Detective Inspector Ben Taylor, so straight-laced and devoted to his job that even his own team think he’s boring. And, because my job is to make my characters’ lives hell, I saddled him with the unlikeable and unreliable Milla, who tells lies for the fun of it and is obsessed with finding the murderer of the woman she considers her mother.
And I didn’t go for half-measures either! I made a list of every character trait I hate and gave them to poor Milla. She lies and she cheats. She runs away when the going gets tough, turns up where she’s not wanted, and ‘borrows’ without asking. She tries to manipulate Ben (the only person willing to help her), thinks nothing of luring him into breaking the law and then almost gets him fired.
Implying Milla was just ‘misunderstood’ would have been a cop out. After all, in real life no one is perfect. But I knew Milla would have to have a very good reason for behaving badly. She has felt rejected and unwanted her entire life, and now automatically assumes everyone is against her, even when they are trying to help. It’s made her prickly and defensive, and more than happy to live up to everyone’s low expectation of her.
Yet Milla is equally aware of her own flaws. She knows she has done some reprehensible things in the past, such as breaking up her cousin Amita’s engagement. From Milla’s point of view, she did it for the right reason – Amita’s fiancé was a gold-digging pig. Only later does it dawn on Milla that she was more concerned with being proved right about his character, than caring whether Amita was likely to be hurt by her actions.
With much of the story leaving the reader wondering whether Milla is to be entirely trusted, I needed an even more unlikable character to be her arch enemy and show how vulnerable she really is. Lydia was once Milla’s babysitter, now she’s a detective inspector with the local police – and the one person who can confirm or deny Milla’s real identity. An excellent reason for Milla to try and keep the woman sweet, you would have thought, but – well, I expect you’ve already worked out how that’s going to pan out!
I would rather my characters were interesting than lovable or likeable, but I do have to ensure my reader will understand them. Maybe not at first, but definitely by the end of the story. While a reader might think, ‘I can’t believe Milla did that!’, at least they should understand why she did it – and be rooting for her to succeed. And hopefully love her as much as I do!
Book Title: Trust Me I Lie
Author: Louise Marley
Pages: 350 pages
Genres: Murder Mystery, Suspense, Romance, Humour
Publication Date: 20th June 2016
When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother, who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.
Obviously she’s lying.
Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.
He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.
Unless she’s lying about that too …
About the author:
Louise Marley writes murder mysteries and romantic comedies. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window.
Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s ‘Write a Bestseller’ competition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly.
Her latest novel is Trust Me I Lie – and is currently available to download from Amazon UK for 99p.