As a reader, I always love discovering books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when authors also provide Masterclasses for me within their books.
Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some authors whose books are Masterclasses for characters, dialogue, backstories, plots, settings, and/or voice.
Pamela Clare writes historical and contemporary novels including the I-Team series which follows the lives of reporters writing for The Denver Independent.
The I-Team started in the story Heaven Can Wait published in Catch of the Day. Five books are now in the series (Extreme Exposure, Hard Evidence, Unlawful Contact, Naked Edge, and Breaking Point) each highlighting one main character, and an e-book, Skin Deep, following up on a secondary character, but the whole cast appears in every book.
While the newspaper office is their base, the characters drive throughout Denver, live in different apartments, and visit political offices, the police station, a jail, a museum, cabins in the surrounding mountains, an Indian Reservation, and Mexico. Clare uses not only visual descriptions, but distinctive sounds, fragrances, foods, and ambiance to create you-are-there settings.
The dialogue is terrific. Work discussions are professional--usually. The dialogue changes when the female characters are talking amongst themselves or the male characters are bonding with each other. Conversations between the romantic leads are intense, sometimes outrageous, and often funny.
Backstories are key to the success of these books. Each character lives according to her reactions to her backstory that is revealed throughout "her" book. The plots are tight providing a lot of suspense as the investigations lead the reporters into danger. The men they meet, also shaped by their own backstories and occupations, are often in conflict with the reporters. Happy endings are in realistic doubt due to circumstances and the characters' outlooks on life.
(PLEASE NOTE: There are adult situations and violence in these books. Also, an excerpt of book six was posted recently on the author's blog. It is more graphic and violent than the books I reviewed here.)
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Maryann McFadden writes novels about women who need time and space to make difficult decisions due to changes in their circumstances, relationships, and within themselves. Each woman finds her own path to solitude, not always comfortably, meeting kindred spirits along the way.
Thoughtful and well-written, McFadden's stand-alone books all take place near the sea or a lake. These settings play important roles in the books.
The Richest Season features two women at the different stages in their lives--one who needs care and one who needs shelter. A cottage by the sea gives them both comfort as they make life and death decisions.
In So Happy Together, the lead character is a mother who always wanted to be a photographer. Through a summer class, she ends up photographing Cape Cod. Her avocation brings the settings alive. The light, the scenery, objects, and people are all described in brilliant detail so the reader can visualize the shots she is taking while feeling both the wind and the sand as she walks around looking for the right composition.
The Book Lover is a triple duty book as the lead is a first-time author. She works hard to get her book into the hands of readers. Budding authors should take notes.
The books have happy endings, but not always conventional ones. The settings stay with you--especially if you dream of time away by the sea.
What authors have provided Masterclasses for you?