Getting Sucked In

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends! If you want to take a break from your turkey gatherings read on! Our guest blogger today is the amazing Julie Kenner who is currently podcasting her latest book Tainted one chapter at a time - yup! at Welcome Julie!

by Julie Kenner

I love books and movies and television shows equally, though in different ways. Both video and print formats tell a story (unless we’re talking reality television, but let’s just not go there for the moment), and it’s that shove into the land of Story and Characters that I love so much. That, in fact, drove me to be a writer.

Movies and television, I prefer when I want essentially everything about the story to be driven for me. The look of the characters, the ambiance of the scenes, the timbre of a voice. Video entertainment is like diving into a deep pool of warm water and letting it suck you down, down, down, trusting the story current to thrust you along to that perfect, satisfying conclusion.

Books, on the other hand, are more like Tinkertoys. Or Legos. Maybe even Playmobile. You get the structure and some of the details, but a lot is left to your imagination. How does the scene really look? How does it smell? What does the hero look like? The heroine? Even the most skilled author can’t paint exactly the same picture in every reader’s mind. But that’s a cool thing, because it brings the reader into the storytelling experience.

As a writer, I get to experience that phenomenon from the other side, too. Because while some authors write their books entirely by themselves, not letting anyone see the story until it reaches their editor’s desk, I like to talk through my stories with friends. And, interestingly, I seem to have different friends depending on the book I’m writing. For example, I’ve talked through a lot of the plot twists and family machinations in the demon hunting soccer mom books with my critique partners, Kathleen O’Reilly and Dee Davis, and more recently with my friend and more recently with my friend Craig (who lives locally, and thus Starbucks convos work out well).

For the new Tainted series (Tainted, Torn, Turned coming in Nov, Dec, and January), I spent a lot of time talking online to my friend Jessica Scott, currently stationed in Iraq, and my friend Aaron de Orive, also a writer (check out his cool RPG game at He works at home, too, and has been taking care of his little girl, so he’d bring his daughter, and our kids would run rampant through the house while he and I brainstormed the end of the world and the demons trying to implement it.

What I always find fascinating in these conversations is how—even if my friends don’t actually have an idea that fits into the Tinkertoy design of the story I have going—they will invariably have an idea that triggers and idea that triggers another idea. In other words, it’s like a verbal mindmap. More than that, the folks you’re brainstorming with get invested in the story (that can sometimes be a bad thing if you take the book in a direction other than the path you ultimately follow). And, of course, readers get invested, too. That’s certainly the biggest goal for an author, to suck the readers in the same way we get sucked into the story.

The bottom line is that stories are organic. They can be shared and experienced, digested and mulled over, stretched and pulled and prodded and shaped. In the end, no matter how much brainstorming an author does with friends, ultimately, the book that is written comes from that author’s head through the keyboard to the paper. They take all the stuff that’s out there, digest it, and turn it into a book.

Then that book gets into the hands of the reader, and the world expands again, with the reader filling in gaps and color and descriptions and all sorts of background noise in a way that is unique to them. In the end, every reader brings a part of themselves to the author’s story.

Personally, I think that’s pretty cool.

"What TV show or book series has you sucked in right now?" One lucky commenter will win a copy of Demon Ex Machina as a prize.


  1. I'm sucked in by Survivor right now. I know it's supposed to be an unscripted show, but there's always a story. I think that's the reality show key to success, to edit it all into a storyline that hooks the viewer. There are good guys, a bad guy-- and this season on Survivor (Samoa), the bad guy has become the one everyone has started cheering on, making for a fascinating twist.

  2. Hi Julie! so great to have you here! I think that's wonderful that you work through your books with different critique partners and friends. I haven't been able to do that so much - although I should do it more - because when I do I get great ideas from the brainstorming. I just feel like I'm imposing! ;D

    As for what is sucking me in these days. My fave new show on TV is hands down - Glee! Love it! It's outrageous and a laugh out loud show - but also poignant. Top it all off great musical numbers in every ep.

    Good luck with your new series - sounds very cool! And how great that you're posting each chapter on your blogcast! ;D

  3. There are a couple of book series that have me sucked in: Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse, Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress and Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson. I love reading series but it's so hard to wait for the next book to come out. I'll probably wait until all three of Julie's new books come out before I start, that way I can read them all at once.

  4. I've never gotten into Survivor, though to be honest, I haven't tried. I *did* get sucked into The Wire not too long ago, and dh and I glommed Season One. We'll move on to Season Two, soon. Oh, and Mad Men completely sucked me in. The J.D. Robb books grabbed me and never let go (there's one out now, and I don't have the time to dig in. Wah!!!!)

    Joanna, I know what you mean by imposing, but with my friends and I it's usually tit-for-tat, so it's more of a symbiotic relationship. And, hey, it's fun!

    Barbara, I'm right there with you. I usually discover authors mid-series, glom 3 to 5 books, and then am soooooooo frustrated when I have to wait months or a year (or more: hello Outlander?) for the next book. That's one reason I'm so glad Ace is publishing these books back to back. Come January, they'll all be on the shelves!

  5. Hi Julie! We're big fans of brainstorming at my writers' group. Every year at the retreat, we end the weekend with a brainstorming session that we all look forward to like a rock concert.

    For TV right now I'm gobbling up the latest season of Spooks (MI-5) which is actually only airing in the UK, but I'm watching it on You Tube until it moseys its way over to BBC Canada. Oh, how I love that series.

  6. Hi Julie, great post! I try not to get sucked into any series but Dexter is too good not to miss. I love the premise, and his constant internal struggle that makes me wonder when he's going to snap!

  7. Julia, I've heard great things about Spooks. Had no idea it was on You Tube, so I'll have to check that out!

    Cate, Dexter, yes! That's a great show. I need to get back into it. That's what happens when I start a series near a deadline...they get dumped even if they do suck me in. Sigh...

  8. i'm always waiting for FRINGE and The Mentalist. my favorite TV shows.

    always great to see those shows.


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