Guest Post: R.G. Belsky – IT’S NEWS TO ME

Good day, book people. I kind of miss the longer days of Summer (don’t miss the heat for a variety of reasons), but I’m enjoying the spectacular fall foliage here in the hills and mountains of West Virginia as well as the cooler weather. (There’s something special about curling up in my reading chair with a good book, a blanket, and a nice hot cup of tea.) As most of you may know, I’m somewhat of a fanatical reader, reading and re-reading my favorite books and series. Why you might ask, do I reread and re-reread these books? Well, the stories are usually gripping and well-written, but I also feel a vested interest in the characters. I need to know what they’re going to do next and/or revisit what they’ve done in the past. For this reader, it truly is all about the character (and the writing). Thankfully, there are plenty of authors that understand this devotion and provide us with hours of reading pleasure by crafting new stories featuring these beloved characters. I’m pleased to welcome back, R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson series, including the latest release, It’s News to Me. Mr. Belsky will be discussing with us the importance of the character in character-driven stories. I hope you’ll find what he has to share enlightening. Thank you, Mr. Belsky, for coming back for a visit. I’m looking forward to learning more about your thoughts on characters. Without further adieu, I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

IT’S REALLY ABOUT THE CHARACTER, NOT THE STORY
By R.G. Belsky

Philip Marlowe. Kinsey Millhone. Harry Bosch. Spenser. Stephanie Plum. Matt Scudder. Alex Delaware. Rizzoli and Isles.

If you’re a mystery fan, you know all of these characters. You buy their books. You read them. You love them.

I’ve been asked many times at mystery conferences and book signings and by readers what I think is more important in a mystery: the character or the mystery story itself.

That’s an easy one for me to answer.

The three most important things in any mystery novel — to paraphrase another well-known expression — is character, character, and character!

I mean if I’m reading a book that has an interesting story, but a boring character that I can’t relate to — well, I’ve never finished reading a book like that. On the other hand, if the story is weak but I like reading about the character…hey, I’m in! And that actually happens to me a lot of times.

The hard truth is that many successful mysteries — even by the great authors — don’t tell a particularly strong story.

Even the legendary Raymond Chandler (dare I say it!) is guilty of this. He is without question in my mind the greatest mystery author ever. And yet the stories are hard to follow, muddled at times, and usually don’t follow any kind of logical sequence of events. Doesn’t matter. Because of Philip Marlowe. Marlowe is the ultimate detective, the ultimate PI. Chandler does such a brilliant, incomparable job of writing about him and the LA scene from the ’40s and ’50s that we don’t care about the inconsistencies or holes in the story.

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books are the same way. Love the character. Sets the bar for the wisecracking, cool private investigator of more recent times. A kind of a modern-day Marlowe. But there are very few surprises in the storylines of the Spenser books. Bad guys try to take him, he takes care of the bad guys — and makes sure justice is done. In between romancing his longtime girlfriend Susan Silverman. It’s a perfect formula that has little to do with the mystery itself in most of his books.

I’ve read pretty much all of the Sue Grafton “alphabet” books over the years. If you ask me to tell you one of the stories Kinsey Millhone was involved in, I’d have a hard time doing that. But I could tell you a lot about Kinsey herself — her background, her romances, what she likes to eat, etc.

Some prominent authors — like Michael Connelly, for example, do a better job of combing a more complex, twisty story with their character. But still, the reason I read the Harry Bosch books (and watch the TV series now) is for Harry Bosch — the wonderful character Connelly has been writing about now since the early 90s. Even better, we’ve gotten to see Bosch age over the years, which is an added nice touch for making the character seem real and relatable to the reader.

All of this is why I spent so much time and thought and effort in creating my own character of Clare Carlson.

This is my fifth mystery feature Clare Carlson — a TV journalist in New York City who breaks big crime stories and deals with a messy personal life — in It’s News to Me (Oceanview – Oct4).

But Clare didn’t just emerge out of nowhere.

In fact, she’s had three different names. She started out when I was writing the first book in the series as Jenny McKay because I’d written a series using that character as a TV reporter back in the early 90s. I thought at first I’d make her an older Jenny, but the timing of having her age at the right speed got too complicated. She then became Molly McQuillan, who worked for a sensational tabloid like the Enquirer or Star mag (where I once worked). I wasn’t entirely happy with Molly McQuillan either. And so I started writing that first book all over again with Clare Carlson as a talented but troubled ex-newspaper reporter who now worked for a TV news station. And that became an award-winning mystery called Yesterday’s News — which has now led to four more Clare Carlson books.

One of the most difficult parts of creating a compelling character is not just writing the positive stuff, it’s the negative too.

A good character has to be flawed, not perfect.

The flaws are crucial.

Reed Farrel Coleman, who wrote a number of the Robert B. Parker Jesse Stone books after Parker’s death, said once that the Jesse Stone character was very difficult in some ways to write.

Why? Because he did seem perfect, at least at first glance. Good looking, tough, honest, and, of course, you thought about Tom Selleck playing him in the TV movies when you read the books. No one likes a perfect person. So Jesse had to have some flaws to make him interesting. A drinking problem. A failed marriage. A promising baseball career that was tragically cut short by an injury. Yes, he’s still very likable — but he’s flawed too. And that makes him so much more interesting.

So that’s what I’ve tried to do with my own character of Clare Carlson too.

I like the story I tell in It’s News to Me.

But I like Clare Carlson even better.

Hopefully, you will too. ♦

It’s News to Me

by R.G. Belsky

October 3-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

It's News to Me by RG Belsky

Dashed dreams: she wanted to run for president one day, now she’s dead at 20

When Riley Hunt—a beautiful, smart, popular student at Easton College in Manhattan—is brutally murdered, it becomes a big story for TV newswoman Clare Carlson.

After days of intense media coverage, a suspect is caught: a troubled Afghanistan war veteran with a history of violent and unstable behavior. The suspect’s mother, however, comes to Clare with new evidence that might prove her son’s innocence.

As Clare digs deeper into the puzzling case, she learns new information: Riley had complained about being stalked in the days before her murder, she was romantically involved with two different men—the son of a top police official and the son of a prominent underworld boss—and she had posted her picture on an escort service’s website offering paid dates with wealthy men.

Soon, Clare becomes convinced that Riley Hunt’s death is more than just a simple murder case—and that more lives, including her own, are now in danger until she uncovers the true story.

Praise for It’s News to Me:

“[It’s News to Me is] witty, clever and engaging. Clare Carlson’s irreverent comments and dogged reporter’s instincts make for a propulsive ride as she races from the chaos of a newsroom’s inner sanctum to the dangers of a murder victim’s deepest secrets. Once you start, you won’t put it down.”

Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times best-selling author

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN10: 1608094561 (hardcover)
ISBN13: 9781608094561 (hardcover)
ASIN: B0B1VPDNTL (Kindle edition)
ASIN B0BGQHZQV2 (Audible audiobook)
Series: Clare Carlson #5 (each is a stand-alone work)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Author Bio:

R.G. Belsky

R.G. Belsky is an award-winning author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His new mystery, It’s News to Me, was published on October 4 by Oceanview. It is the fifth in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station. Belsky has published 19 novels—all set in the New York City media world where he has had a long career as a top editor at the New York Post, New York Daily News, Star magazine, and NBC News. He also writes thrillers under the name Dana Perry. He lives in New York City and is a contributing writer to The Big Thrill magazine.

Catch Up With R.G. Belsky:
www.RGBelsky.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @dickb79983
Instagram – @dickbelsky
Twitter – @DickBel
Facebook – @RGBelsky

Tour Participants:

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GIVEAWAY:

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Author: thebookdivasreads

I'm a reader, an avid reader, or perhaps a rabid reader (at least according to my family). I enjoy reading from a variety of different genres but particularly enjoy fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, ChickLit, romance and classics. I also enjoy reading about numerous non-fiction subjects including aromatherapy, comparative religions, herbalism, naturopathic medicine, and tea.

One thought on “Guest Post: R.G. Belsky – IT’S NEWS TO ME”

  1. Great guest post! Yes, I totally agree. I am a character person and I love character driven books.
    I always think – “Would I like this person in real life, would I hang out with them, what if we were neighbors?” or Would I hate them? Which is just as important. We all like characters we love to hate.

    Liked by 1 person

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