Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knowing Vera and a question of balance

Today I'm welcoming Rachelle Ayala, author of Knowing Vera, to my blog. She's an author who expertly balances entertainment and controversy in her writing, and I asked her to tell us a little about how she maintains that balance. So, over to you Rachelle, and thank you for visiting my blog.



Mixing Controversy and Entertainment in Fiction – by Rachelle Ayala

A vision statement is a great way for a writer or artist to articulate the meaning and purpose of his work. Mine is simply: 

Tell meaningful stories to create positive change by touching readers’ hearts.

When I start a story, I have a problem in mind. This problem could be a social issue, a relationship conflict, or in most cases an unhealthy emotional state for the main characters.  Something is not quite right in the lives of the main characters, but they don’t understand what is troubling them. 

I don’t set out to write controversy, but when the story gets going, an external force or problem forces the characters to face their dysfunction. As they struggle, grow, and suffer setbacks, they learn about themselves and begin making choices.

My stories are character-driven and start with a character and an issue.

1. Michal’s Window. I oftentimes wondered about King David’s much maligned first wife. She was a princess, supposedly spoiled daughter of Saul. No one seemed to like her very much. She was last seen in Scripture as disdaining David while he danced and flashed himself in front of the serving girls. I wanted to look behind the scenes and understand her, put myself in her sandals and feel what she felt. She was a strong character and she had a problem. She lost the love of her husband or perhaps never had it. Even though she bravely saved David’s life, she never got the credit or love she deserved for taking that step of faith.

2. Broken Build. I got the idea while critiquing a friend’s book. I suggested a dilemma for her, but she didn’t take me up on the offer. The crux of the story is a nanny who allowed a baby to get kidnapped. Years later, the nanny meets and falls in love with the father of that baby. Immediate high stakes and tension. What happened to the baby? Can love overcome past mistakes?

3. Hidden Under Her Heart. This is the book that pinned the “controversy” label on me. Abortion is a hot button topic no matter what side of the spectrum you’re on. Pregnancy after rape is even more controversial. I read my friend Melisa Hamling’s book, Twenty Weeks. It was about a teenager who considers abortion and has a wonderful pro-life message. I loved the story but wanted to up the stakes. First, I made sure my heroine was not an innocent character. She knew what she was doing and she made lots of mistakes. She was also older than the heroine in Twenty Weeks. Secondly, the story was ambiguous and did not take sides in the abortion debate. Instead, I let the story play itself out to a logical conclusion. I was able to examine Down’s syndrome, adoption, pregnancy after rape, and other trials that both the heroine and her boyfriend go through.

4. Knowing Vera. Zach, the hero, suffers a crippling injury and loses part of his leg. In this book, I examine discrimination and indifference to the physically handicapped as well as issues of family loyalty and cross-cultural relationships. Add a killer on the loose, and a vibrant, sexy, and caring nurse whose father is hiding secrets about the hero’s mother, and we have an exciting romantic suspense where survival, love, and family identity are at stake.

5. Whole Latte Love, my work in progress is about the 99% versus the 1%. Carina Chen is an aspiring investment banker who doesn’t bat an eyelash at $1000 pumps and $5000 purses. She meets Dylan Jewell, a barista who volunteers at a soup kitchen and grows food for the homeless in a community garden. How does her perspective change as she becomes immersed in Dylan’s life and gets to know homeless people as individuals?

6. An untitled work in progress. Krista Bain is a wildlife biologist whose passion is studying the Torres Strait dugongs, an endangered species related to the extinct Stellar’s sea cow. What frustrates her most is that aboriginal or native owners are allowed to hunt as many dugongs as they want due to a respect for their traditional cultural values. Unfortunately, instead of using dugout canoes, the native owners of today use motorboats to chase down the animals until they tire. Krista sets out to investigate the murder of her colleague while wondering if her research partner, who is part native and part white Australian, is the killer.

*yawn* If you look at the dry bones of the concept, it feels preachy. However I haven’t forgotten that my other goal is to entertain so that my story touches people’s hearts. Here is where characterization comes in. I create characters who care deeply about the issues and people around them. They’re not perfect, but they have vision and strong opinions. I set them in terrifying situations and allow them to play out their stories.

Romance always gets the heart beating faster, and all my stories have romance in them. I believe in the power of love, and the reward for the trials my characters go through is finding their true love. So, yes, swooning over the hero and worrying about the heroine are emotional trips that entertain and draw the reader into a deeper emotional experience.

Finally, I use humor to leaven the darkness. Minor characters and even villains are great for alleviating tension by throwing in a quip, or acting in ways that are amusing. Of course, my heroes and heroines have a sense of humor and can see their own foils, maybe even joke about themselves.
So, that’s why my stories combine controversy and entertainment. What I write has to be important to me and to my characters. Combining sensitive topics with humor and throwing in a heated romance is the best way to meet my story vision.

What about you? Do you read for entertainment or a positive message?

Thank you Rachelle. To answer your question, I think I read for pleasure, but get more pleasure and satisfaction when there's something worth thinking about and a positive message in what I've read.


More about Knowing Vera:



Knowing Vera is a story about love and family loyalty. The last time Vera Custodio told a man she loves him, he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, suspected of murdering a wealthy woman. Years later Vera is dating a young triathlete, Zach, when she receives a note from the supposed dead woman telling her to find her killer. When Vera realizes the dead woman is Zach’s mother, she embarks on a journey to find the truth and open her heart enough to say “I love you.”


More about Rachelle Ayala

ome secrets are best untold.
Vera Custodio has never fallen in love, though she has strong feelings for her friend and sometimes lover, Zach Spencer. Long-forgotten memories resurface when Vera discovers Zach’s mother was the woman her father supposedly murdered many years ago.
After losing his leg, former triathlete Zach Spencer reevaluates his life—and realizes he’s falling in love with Vera. When she ends their relationship, Zach is determined to prove his love and follows her to Australia in search of the killer.
Caught between a web of family secrets and a deranged adversary, Vera and Zach must depend on each other for survival. Love blossoms, but the truth explodes everything Vera knows about herself. Will she close her heart forever or risk it all for a shot at happily-ever-after? - See more at: http://b00kr3vi3wtours.blogspot.com/#sthash.Wl0kdZHA.dpuf
Some secrets are best untold.
Vera Custodio has never fallen in love, though she has strong feelings for her friend and sometimes lover, Zach Spencer. Long-forgotten memories resurface when Vera discovers Zach’s mother was the woman her father supposedly murdered many years ago.
After losing his leg, former triathlete Zach Spencer reevaluates his life—and realizes he’s falling in love with Vera. When she ends their relationship, Zach is determined to prove his love and follows her to Australia in search of the killer.
Caught between a web of family secrets and a deranged adversary, Vera and Zach must depend on each other for survival. Love blossoms, but the truth explodes everything Vera knows about herself. Will she close her heart forever or risk it all for a shot at happily-ever-after? - See more at: http://b00kr3vi3wtours.blogspot.com/#sthash.Wl0kdZHA.dpuf



Rachelle Ayala is the author of dramatic fiction crossing genres and boundaries featuring strong but flawed characters. She writes emotionally challenging stories and is not afraid of controversial topics. However, she is an optimist and laces her stories with romance and hope.

Rachelle is an active member of online critique group, Critique Circle, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has three children and has taught violin and made mountain dulcimers.

Visit her at
Website: http://rachelleayala.me Blog: http://www.rachelleayala.com or follow @AyalaRachelle on Twitter. Subscribe to mailing list for upcoming books and giveaways. http://eepurl.com/lR5kv


Buy Her Books

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ome secrets are best untold.
Vera Custodio has never fallen in love, though she has strong feelings for her friend and sometimes lover, Zach Spencer. Long-forgotten memories resurface when Vera discovers Zach’s mother was the woman her father supposedly murdered many years ago.
After losing his leg, former triathlete Zach Spencer reevaluates his life—and realizes he’s falling in love with Vera. When she ends their relationship, Zach is determined to prove his love and follows her to Australia in search of the killer.
Caught between a web of family secrets and a deranged adversary, Vera and Zach must depend on each other for survival. Love blossoms, but the truth explodes everything Vera knows about herself. Will she close her heart forever or risk it all for a shot at happily-ever-after? - See more at: http://b00kr3vi3wtours.blogspot.com/#sthash.Wl0kdZHA.dpuf
ome secrets are best untold.
Vera Custodio has never fallen in love, though she has strong feelings for her friend and sometimes lover, Zach Spencer. Long-forgotten memories resurface when Vera discovers Zach’s mother was the woman her father supposedly murdered many years ago.
After losing his leg, former triathlete Zach Spencer reevaluates his life—and realizes he’s falling in love with Vera. When she ends their relationship, Zach is determined to prove his love and follows her to Australia in search of the killer.
Caught between a web of family secrets and a deranged adversary, Vera and Zach must depend on each other for survival. Love blossoms, but the truth explodes everything Vera knows about herself. Will she close her heart forever or risk it all for a shot at happily-ever-after? - See more at: http://b00kr3vi3wtours.blogspot.com/#sthash.Wl0kdZHA.dpuf
ome secrets are best untold.
Vera Custodio has never fallen in love, though she has strong feelings for her friend and sometimes lover, Zach Spencer. Long-forgotten memories resurface when Vera discovers Zach’s mother was the woman her father supposedly murdered many years ago.
After losing his leg, former triathlete Zach Spencer reevaluates his life—and realizes he’s falling in love with Vera. When she ends their relationship, Zach is determined to prove his love and follows her to Australia in search of the killer.
Caught between a web of family secrets and a deranged adversary, Vera and Zach must depend on each other for survival. Love blossoms, but the truth explodes everything Vera knows about herself. Will she close her heart forever or risk it all for a shot at happily-ever-after? - See more at: http://b00kr3vi3wtours.blogspot.com/#sthash.Wl0kdZHA.dpuf

2 comments:

Sheila Deeth said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog Rachelle, and for answering my question.

Rachelle Ayala said...

Thank you so much Sheila for featuring my book and my thoughts on your blog. Thanks DDS for setting this up through Book R3vi3w Tours. All the best, Rachelle