Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today's guest blogger, and former opera singer is author of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, EMILY BRYAN, who talks about scene stealers. Great photo, Em!

Thanks for having me here, Bonnie! Today, I’d like to talk about secondary characters, or as some of them turn out to be—SCENE STEALERS!

Back when I was singing professional opera, occasionally one of the supernumeraries (spear carriers, we used to call them) would do something to upstage the main characters. (Dare I confess to doing it myself sometimes when I was spear carrier?) It’s not always planned, but it happens.

It happens in fiction too. An unsuspecting writer creates a secondary character to fill a need in the hero or heroine’s life and all of a sudden, the bit part refuses to stand quietly holding the spear. It happened to me when I created my heroine’s mother for PLEASURING THE PIRATE. She’s also Daisy Drake’s great-aunt in VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

Meet Isabella Wren, better known as ‘La Belle Wren’ in demimonde circles. That’s right. She’s a courtesan and she’s good at it. She moves in the most exalted circles. As the 18th century counts celebrity, she’s a rock star. She’s bone-deep beautiful, wickedly sensual and calculatingly clever. She’s used to being the center of attention.

Why did I ever think she’d fade into the background until she was needed?

First in PLEASURING THE PIRATE, she began poking her way into the story through her daughter’s memory. Isabella sent Jacquelyn to the finest schools, but couldn’t leave her education totally to the headmistress and her minions. She sent her distant daughter detailed letters schooling her in the art of love.

“Ignorance is not always conducive to bliss,” Isabella says.

When I turned in the initial manuscript for PLEASURING THE PIRATE, my editor said, “I love Isabella! She’s outrageous, but she sucks all the air out of the room. You have to tone her down.” She was right. When ‘La Belle Wren’ made her entrance, the rest of the cast faded a bit. Isabella knows how to ‘take stage.’

But instead of toning her down, I opted for ratcheting my heroine up to meet her. I gave Jacquelyn an extra dollop of her mother’s spine, courage and wit. When the two of them join forces, my formidable pirate hero doesn’t stand a chance.

Isabella was too much fun to let go, so she makes an encore appearance in VEXING THE VISCOUNT, due out February 24th. In this story, Isabella has married an earl and is now Lady Wexford, but she’s still the same witty courtesan at heart. And when her niece Daisy, follows her advice, disaster and mayhem can’t be far behind.

If you’d like to read an excerpt of both stories, please visit . Remember, I will be giving away a copy of VEXING THE VISCOUNT to one person who comments here, so be sure to leave a note!

And check back tomorrow to see whose name my DH has drawn as the winner. Good luck!


tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview once again, I like when an author gives a second character a story of their own!

ScorpJen1121 said...

As usual, a great interview. I have to say Emily, that as an aspiring writer myself its fun to get a glimpse into your writing, into your head so to speak.
I'm curious, does it come easily to you? writing and creating these great characters? Or does it take some kind of creative inspiration? :)

Eva S said...

Thanks for the interview!
I like secondary characters too, in a series it's like visiting dear old friends! And of course if they get their own story later...

Daz said...

I love secondary characters who add so much to the story. Sometimes though (as in a book I read recently) the secondary characters can take over the book. I've got Pirate on order from Amazon. Can't wait to get it.

Daz said...

Oh, and forgot to mention - just LOVE that picture of you from your opera days. Gorgeous!!!

EmilyBryan said...

Tetewa--You were my winner at Rowena's blog. Please contact me with your mailing info.

Jen--Gore Vidal said "Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head and as you get older, you become more skillful casting them."

I agree. The characters are in there, whispering their stories to me. It gets easier for me to listen all the time.

Eva--If I wrote Isabella's story, it wouldn't be a traditional romance. I couldn't give her a HEA, but I'm sure she'd have fun on the way.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Daz! I hope you enjoy PLEASURING THE PIRATE.

Hmmmm . . . that doesn't sound quite right.

I hope you love reading PLEASURING THE PIRATE!

LuAnn said...

Gosh, after all I've read about Emily, I didn't realize she is a former opera singer! How did I miss that?!

Julie Robinson said...

That is too cool! I did not realize that the two stories were connected. If you've said it before, then I've missed it.

I'm also in awe that you were an opera singer. What an experience I love to sing myself----not that anyone loves to hear me!


Julie Robinson said...

Too funny about enjoying pleasuring the pirate.
Sounds good to me!

Julie Robinson said...

OMGosh! Wait a minute, Emily. Do you mean to tell me that is a picture of you? I just realized that from reading over the comments. I thought that was a 19th century painting! It's beautiful!!

Julie Robinson said...

BTW, Bonnie, every single one of your books looks like wonderful reading.

Janean Sparks said...

The book sounds great and I love the names of your characters especially Daisy Drake. I am partial to the name Daisy, I have a cockerspaniel named Daisy May. I will have to pick-up your first book too, as I love to read them in order.

Jane said...

Great secondary characters help bring the book to life, but never overshadow the hero and heroine.

Jane L said...

Emily, The picture of you is beautiful! Have you taken some of your singing experiances and put them in your stories or created any of your characters based on people you met through your singing?

Margay said...

Emily, love the picture! I also think it's pretty cool that you were an opera singer. What a resource for story ideas!I know what you mean about secondary characters. i had one like that in my debut book and well, he took over to the point where he's getting at least three more of his own! He is definitely what one would call a larger than life type.

donnas said...

Isabella sounds like so much fun!

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Bonnie — Saw your post about this on RBL. I still love the cover to TLATL. Very pretty.

Emily, I really enjoyed seeing your insights from opera/performance applied to fiction. I love reading books with well-developed secondary characters because they add a lot of depth to the story. I look forward to reading La Belle Wren's story. :-)

But don't enter me in the drawing. I'll buy a copy.

Carol L. said...

Your picture is beautiful.
I'm going to be reading Pleasuring The Pirate until Vexing The Viscount comes out. I look forward to reading about Isabella, she sounds like a real character. :) And I wish you much success with our books.

Rachel Richart said...

Dear Emily,
I never would have guessed you were an opera singer. I love opera singing. My music teacher at school yells at me sometimes when I sing like an opera teach. But I still sing it anyway when I go to solo contest.I think it is really interesting that you can sing opera and I can't wait to read Vexing the Viscount!

Karen H in NC said...

Great interview again, Emily. I have to say I am loving all the info about your books. Secondary characters are sometimes my favorites.

I am reading Pleasuring the Pirate right now and just finished the part where Jacquelyn arrives at her mother's home. Gabriel is gearing up to find her and catty Catherine has just dropped the bomb that she is in London. Now I can't wait to read more about Isabella.

Well, think I'll cut this short to go off to finish my reading!

EmilyBryan said...

LuAnn, Julie, Jane L, Margay, Carol & Rachel --Yeah, that's me in the long white gloves, playing Rosalinde, the heroine in Strauss's Die Fledermaus. (Taken long ago. My website picture is how I look now (with a little help from an airbrush.)

Karen--I'm so glad you're enjoying my PIRATE. Let me know how you like Isabella.

Period costumes are great fun, but the strangest one I ever had to wear was when I played Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. Cherubino is what's known as a "pants roll"--a male character that's always played by a young soprano. Swaggering about in knee breeches and a tricorne hat was great fun!

I like the name Daisy too, Janeane. Flower names were common in the time period, so her sisters names are Hyacinth, Posey & Poppy (twins) and Lily. None of them appear in VEXING THE VISCOUNT, but you can find them all in PLEASURING THE PIRATE.

Pamela Clare--Thanks so much for stopping by. Excuse my fangirl moment, but I LOVE YOUR WORK! I admire you so for being able to write such wonderful historicals AND such spine-tingly romantic suspense.

Jane and Donna S.-- I always try to give all my characters a backstory and their own agenda, even if it never comes out in the book.

When I was doing stagework, I always developed a backstory for myself, whether I was the heroine of the opera or the princess's 3rd lady in waiting. It all goes to motivation and making the characters breathe on their own.

Margay said...

Airbrushing or not, you are just as beautiful now as you were then. I know this is going to sound silly, but what was it like being an opera singer? I think that might be kind of fascinating.

kimmyl said...

Do you still sing opera and if not do you miss it?

Where do your ideas come from? What sparks a story?

Do you plot out your stories first or do you let the characters lead you?

Virginia said...

Great interview Emily, I didn't know you were a singer too. I have read Pleasuring The Pirate. So I can't wait to visit some of the characters again. It was a fantastic read.

Gillian Layne said...

How excellent, to have such strong characters. And good for you for not toning her down, but making the heroine match her strenght. It will make for a great read! :)

EmilyBryan said...

Margay-- Aren't you sweet!

In some respects, singing opera was a lot like reading. It was a chance to try on someone else's life for a few hours. It required a great deal of discipline. If I didn't practice every day, I could feel the difference.

Stagework is fun--the costumes, the make-up, there's a reason they call it a "play." But a singing career requires a level of self absorption that I couldn't give. My kids were very small when I decided not to pursue it further. I'd have to be on the road for weeks at a time. I've never regretted my choice.

Kimmy--You've got some good questions. Good fodder for a future blog post. How about if I deal with the writing process questions on another tour stop? Hope you'll continue to join me.

Gillian--I think everyone responds to strength, to authenticity in characters. That's always my goal.

Julie Robinson said...

All I can say is that it is a beautiful picture of you. You look like one of those models they used for painting or one of those old-time paintings of an entertainer. And based on the pic on your website, you still look pretty much the same. Yes, we all age, but we retain our basic features.

Kytaira said...

Wow Emily what a great picture! Are you sure it isn't a future book cover?!

I've caught you at various web interviews and am amazed. Every single one has added yet another tidbit! A little Roman history here, a little tie in to other books there. Love it! It's like a treasure hunt!

BTW - I love the trailer as well.

Sue A. said...

Great interview! Secondary characters are so necessary to a good story. They really add depth to the character of the leads and make a story richer.

tigger9 said...

Great interview. I can't wait to read the story it looks sooo good. I loved the other story so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Leiha said...

Hi Emily, I saw Bonnie's post at RBL and had to come stop by. I am always a fan of courtesans in books, LOL. I keep trying to get one of my friends to write me in as a courtesan, PC got me as a saucy waitress so I'm getting there *G*. I'm intrigued by La Belle Wren, thanks for the blog post and hi Bonnie!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks so much for stopping by everyone. Cyber-hugs all around! And a special thank you to Bonnie for letting me visit here on her terrific site. Be sure to look for her ENEMY LOVER, a Nocturne out now and her next sexy historical THE LADY AND THE LIBERTINE coming this April.

My DH has picked out daily winner. KYTAIRA, please contact me through website with your mailing info.

If you didn't win, don't despair. I'm giving away another VEXING THE VISCOUNT today at RiskyRegencies. I had a ball chatting with the Riskies and hope you'll enjoy it, too!

EmilyBryan said...

Let's try this again. Here's the link for Risky Regencies.