Please help me welcome Tali Spencer as she talks about her latest release "Dangerous Beauty" and a writer's voice. Even though Tali isn't sure whether she has a voice, I can assure you that she most definitely has a unique one!
Thank you, Chris, for letting me borrow your blog to talk a little about my latest book, Dangerous Beauty, and also—but first—about something else I’ve had on my mind.
One of the many things I like to read about is what agents and editors look for when reading a manuscript. This interests me because I create manuscripts. Like many writers, I want to write one that appeals to editors and, eventually, to readers. Almost to a soul, they say they are looking for writing that conveys great voice.
That’s all well and good. But what the heck is voice? I’ll tell you: It’s difficult to define. So difficult, in fact, I’m still not sure I have one.
I do have a writing style. Just the other day, someone complimented me by calling my prose “lush…like dark chocolate...” It’s also been called “overblown” and “dramatic” just for comparison. I call it painting with words. I like to create sensual experiences, not just of sex but of my story’s atmosphere. For my new release, Dangerous Beauty, I sought to invoke an atmosphere of sensuality, paranoia, and impending calamity. The main character, Endre, is a captive prince. He’s trying to help his father devise an escape at the same time he’s dealing with conflicting emotions about desiring other men—something his father would abhor. For this book I wanted to create empathy with a man whose life is one of lies, and I used some writing tricks to do so, but do my efforts qualify as voice?
Probably not. Voice within a single story can be calculated; a writer’s signature voice is not. I think that kind of voice has more to do with character and the attitude of the writer toward the character. A writer can have a light, fun-loving voice, or a breezy voice, or sensual voice. An author friend of mine has (to my mind) a playful voice that I think contributes to her success. Other, equally successful authors, come off as respectful, clever, snarky, or chilling.
I looked for definitions of voice online and found everything from academic dissertations to rants about voice being indefinable (and overrated, at that). I never quite found an all-purpose definition. Voice is like pornography. To quote the famous comment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart:
“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”
Because that’s the way voice works. I know it when I see it, and other opinions may differ.
And now that I’ve got that off my chest, here’s a blurb and short excerpt from Dangerous Beauty for you to enjoy.
Once the Kordeun family ruled Sebboy…now they are imperial captives of the Uttoran Emperor. Devout and studious, Endre Kordeun loves his family and will do anything to free them, even if that means pretending he’s gay so he can pass messages to his father’s shady allies. With his golden good looks and a beautiful male courtesan posing as his lover, Endre finds Uttor’s decadent society more than willing to believe his ruse.
But when a passionate kiss from a dark, gorgeous man unlocks feelings Endre had been hiding even from himself, lies start to unravel. Arshad, prince of Tabar, is Endre’s match in every way…including a shared love for science and celestial mechanics. Going forward with his charade will be dangerous, and not only because he might be discovered. In that event, even his own father would kill him. How much is Endre willing to risk for love?
When Arshad came in through the archway, both young men were seated just as he had left them, eyeing each other warily on the bed. They turned to him in surprise.
Yanni, his lip bloodied and swollen and with black beads and streaks of ruined kohl ringing his eyes, glared in thwarted fury. Endre looked as if he was struggling for control. The battles inside the young prince were still being waged. Arshad’s heart went out to him, suspecting from the youth’s state of undress some of what had occurred, but there was no time to offer proper help, nor was he the best man to do it, given his feelings.
Unfortunately, there was no one else. Not a soul in the empire, except perhaps the young man’s remaining family, was going to care very much what happened to Endre. He took a seat on the bed, placing his body between the two young men.
“Princeling,” he said to Endre, keeping his voice low and, he hoped, reassuring, “We are going to talk.”
Endre shook his head and mouthed the word no, but Arshad put an arm about his shoulders and drew him tight to his body. With a strangled growl, Endre tried to pull away, but Arshad didn’t let him. He had sensed early on that this hotheaded royal required a strong hand on the reins.
“Your anger against this man serves no useful purpose. It cannot continue. It must not,” Arshad said. “But you must talk about it.”
A long minute later, with a sob, Endre yielded and buried his face against Arshad’s cotton tunic. Something had broken in him, something he had held onto for too long.
Arshad moved his right hand over that beautiful golden hair, holding him lightly. “You were hitting Yanni. Why?”
“I don’t know…I—”
“He did it because he’s fucked up!” Yanni snarled.
When Arshad glared at him to be silent, the courtesan simply dug in his verbal heels.
“You don’t think so? Take it from someone who knows. I’ve slept with every fucked up man in Uttor and this one takes the prize! For weeks I’ve put up with his shit. He pretends he wants men…he says he doesn’t want men…he’ll kill you if you even think he wants men. And hell to pay if you actually say it! And you know what’s the most fucked up thing of all about him? He wants men!” Yanni threw up his hands in complete exasperation. “He’s the most fucked up man I’ve ever met!”
“That’s enough!” Arshad snapped.
“Oh, I’m just getting started—”
Arshad reached over with his right hand and grabbed Yanni by the throat. That at least did the job of silencing him. While the dark-haired youth clawed at his arm, Arshad met those justly famous brown eyes and growled, “Stop talking, or I will leave bruises you cannot hide with your pretty hair.”
Thanks for allowing me to visit, Chris! I’ll leave some links for anyone who wishes to contact me. I’m pretty easy to find.
My Amazon.com author page.
My Goodreads author page.
I'm on Facebook
And my email: firstname.lastname@example.org