Do authors manipulate readers? – Vonnie Hughes explains.

Today  I welcome  from down under Vonnie Hughes who is the author of some great Regency and contemporary novels.  She answers a very intriguing question.

Over to you Vonnie.

Do authors manipulate readers?

by Vonnie Hughes

You bet they do! Authors know what buttons to push.

By ‘what buttons to push’ I mean what buttons do authors use to manipulate (yep, being honest) their readers’ emotions, to get them on side with the characters in their books. For example, perhaps the author creates unlikeable, evil antagonists and emphasizes the sterling qualities of his protagonists.

The most obvious ploy is the ticking clock. It not only lends urgency but it yanks the reader along at a rush, keeping him intrigued.

Then there’s characterization. Of course in this dynamic world, what worked ten years ago may not have the same appeal in 2014. The innocent 1960s virgin, so prevalent in romances of that time, would drive a reader from 2014 to drink. We are much more cynical, well-informed and downright demanding than we were then. Historically though, some classics retain their appeal because they are much more than the sum of their characters’ emotions. To Kill A Mockingbird’s racial tensions are still not outmoded today, and that lazy description of the syrupy south’s inbred attitudes is not far from the truth in some out-of-the-way places. And that is why books like these are classics. They endure not just because of the characters in the books but because of the settings and historical attitudes. And Harper Lee manipulated the readers’ emotions. Think of the way she pushes Scout’s lack of desire to be a ‘lady’ so that the reader is on Scout’s side.

Perhaps today’s writers manipulate the readers in more subtle ways. What of Dick Francis’s heroes who are often of the working class up against a criminal upper class or just up against class bigotry where he is on the outside looking in? Dick Francis does that so well that even if the protagonist is not your usual Everyman, the reader is still very much on his side. That’s right. The modern protagonist need not be a perfect hero as he has been in novels and movies of the past. Some have patchy backgrounds and they’ve made mistakes.

There’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher who thrums a string in every male heart. They all want to be Jack with his freedom and lack of possessions but with an innate sense of responsibility. And of course Jack has been in the military and knows how to handle himself in vicious situations. Every man’s dream. There are a lot of wannabe Jacks out there. And Lee knows how to manipulate those readers.

Tami Hoag’s heroines are believably imperfect. They make mistakes and have hang-ups that readers can empathise with and they frequently have to form alliances with people they don’t trust. There’s that little brush of reality that lends credence to the stories.

So…empathy and sympathy are the buttons. And the harder those buttons are pushed by authors and movie makers, the more a reader/viewer becomes invested in the characters. We need to see how the protagonists get themselves out of a bind, or if the evil antagonists get their come-uppance. And the best books of all are where you know darned well that the author is pushing your buttons, but you just don’t care. The book is so good!


Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.


Win a paperback copy of Rebellious Cargo.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The frigate was his life. It was her nightmare.

Rebellious Cargo by Susan Lodge

Rebellious Cargo

by Susan Lodge

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Thank you for visiting my blog and  I hope you will take part in the Goodreads Book Giveaway, to win a signed copy of Rebellious Cargo.

Jane Charlesworth has no intention of trusting the Admiralty ever again. Not after the last time.

Sparks fly on the quarter deck as Captain and code-breaker embark on a dangerous voyage.

Please click here if you would like to read a review, or the first pages of Rebellious Cargo.  

Click here  if you would like to read about Jane’s first three days on Captain Marston’s ship, from her  Behind the scenes diary.

And finally, I would be delighted  if you visited my website   or my facebook page.








The Alternative CV – Quick fire questions for authors.

  • In the chair today UK author of Kindred Spirits Jennifer C. Wilson.

Welcome to The Alternative CV Jennifer, make yourself comfortable and help yourself to  a chocolate digestive.

Now tell me  …

 One quality you have which other people who know you might question.

I’m very cool and collected in genuine emergencies. I’ve got something of a reputation for fussing and faffing, and flapping in “not really emergency emergencies” but in genuine crises, I do come through!

 A fictional character you fantasise over/ fell in love with. (One of your own preferably.)
Well, I was going to say Richard III, but he’s not fictional… I’ll go for ‘James’ in one of my WIPs. He doesn’t have a surname as yet, but he’s a handsome Borderer, and a younger brother to a wastrel of an heir. As odd as it sounds, he came out of a dream I had after watching the final episode of The Last Kingdom, and the idea wouldn’t leave me alone..

One item you would consign to Room 101.
Does ‘reality TV’ count as an item? I don’t even watch it, and it still invades my life, creeping into my guilty pleasure of celebrity news.

 One line that sums up your  ‘work in progress’  this week.
Rejuvenated. I haven’t looked at it since the end of NaNoWriMo, and I even gave up on that half-way through, but this week, I’ve printed out where I am up to now, and started reading it through, so I know where I am, and can see (hopefully) where I’m aiming to go. Then I can start going there!

One sentence that sums up your thoughts about social media.
“When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).

 Kindle, tablet or paperback. Which one do you go to bed with and why?

Well, definitely not a tablet, as I haven’t quite reached that far into the 21st Century, but as for Kindle or paperback, it genuinely depends on what I’m reading. I still love to collect some series in hard-copy, such as Hilary Mantel or Philippa Gregory, but equally, Kindle allows me access to a greater range, and to dip in and out of various genres.

One thing lurking on your writing desk that shouldn’t be there?
Too many to mention! I’m in the middle of a clear-out, and my ‘writing desk’ has been reduced to a dumping ground, whilst I work on the dining table.

Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years’ time?
Able to class myself as a writer! I would love to have published something else, whether that’s another novel, some poetry, I don’t know, but I do know that this last year has been incredible, and I’m not willing to give it up…

Excellent answers Jennifer!  Judging from the  great reviews  I have seen for Kindred Spirits  I’m sure we will see a lot more of your writing in the future. Now please tell us about your  novel.

KS-ToL-kindered spirits blogKindred Spirits: Tower of London was released by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015, and follows the ‘lives’ of the resident ghosts in the Tower of London. It came about when a poetry competition sparked the idea that the ghosts of Anne Boleyn and Richard III would have a lot in common, and plenty to talk about, and it just grew from there.
A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them?
International Amazon link:

About  :
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.
Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015.