Thursday, March 22, 2012

What is it About Luck?

...by Shana Galen

I write a lot about luck. I don’t mean to, but it always seems as though some character is particularly superstitious or thinking about luck or wishing she had more luck or—uh-oh—out of luck.

I’m not a big believer in luck myself. I don’t play the lottery or gamble or toss pennies into fountains—very well, sometimes I give my daughter pennies to toss into fountains. My characters often do believe in luck. In reality (can you have reality in fiction?), they’re probably just smart or talented and make their own luck, but that doesn’t stop them from believing in it.

Take Bastien from my latest release, The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. He believes in luck. He’s a pirate, and sailors are notoriously superstitious. Here’s a few lines from the book where he discusses luck with the heroine, Raeven. Her father, a British admiral, has just spotted Bastien’s ship, which is currently housing the admiral's kidnapped daughter.


His cobalt eyes were steady, the question burning in them.

“Signal them,” she said, coldly, decisively. “When he’s close enough, I’ll make sure he sees me. He won’t fire if he sees me.”

Bastien held up a hand and the men stepped back. He took Raeven’s arm, steered her to the taffrail. “We can run. I’ve outrun a man-of-war before. I have the wind, so with a little luck…”

She shook her head. “And how long will you run? Weeks? Months? Years? He won’t stop, Bastien. He’ll keep coming after you—after us. Think of your men. How long will they tolerate running from a man-of-war when they could hand me over and resume more profitable ventures? Give it one week, maybe two and you’re looking at a mutiny.”

As you can see, Raeven doesn’t really believe in luck—not in the long-term anyway. She’s fallen in love with Bastien and doesn’t want to trust his life to something so flimsy as luck.

Luck plays a role in the book I published right before The Rogue Pirate’s Bride as well. Adrian and Sophia, Lord and Lady Smythe, are elite spies, who are married to one another, and who’ve just discovered one another’s true identities. They’re both great spies, but they have very different approaches. Here’s an excerpt from Lord and Lady Spy on luck.



“No, I knew Ducos hadn’t left for Paris the same way I knew Turnbull was hiding in Amsterdam.” She must have seen his eyes widen at the name of the infamous double agent because she added, “Yes, it was I who captured him, and I didn’t need a map or a chart. I used a spy’s true weapon—instinct.”

Adrian barked out a laugh. “So basically you were lucky. You had a feeling.”

She gave him a long, disapproving look. “I didn’t have a feeling. I used instinct.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Instinct is a skill, sharpened and honed. Instinct is what tells you to ask an informer one more question. It’s what tells you to duck during a fight to avoid a blow. It’s what led me to Ducos.”

“Preparation is what tells an agent the questions to ask an informer, practice tells him to duck, and luck is what led you to Ducos.” He leaned in close to speak the last few words, close enough to see the sprinkle of freckles on her nose. They were light, almost invisible on her otherwise porcelain complexion.

“Are you saying you never think on your feet?”

He shrugged. “Rarely necessary. I always have a plan.”

“But what do you do, sir, when you encounter a situation for which you have no plan?”

He frowned. “Never happens. I have a plan for every contingency.”

If only Adrian had a plan for how to deal with his wife! He’ll need plenty of luck. Can you think of any books you’ve enjoyed where luck played a role? Do your characters believe in luck?

15 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great excerpts, Shana. I have spies in my novel, too. Sounds like my characters' views are the opposite of yours in Lord and Lady Spy. My heroine has had her life planned since she was ten years old. And she rarely operates on instinct--except where the hero is concerned. :)

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  2. Tracey, I can't wait to read your book! It sounds like exactly the kind of book I am going to love. Next month, right?

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  3. Very interesting question, Shana. I'd say, no, at least in the beginning of my books, my characters don't believe even in bad luck. All the tough bends in their roads are their fault, and a bleak existence is what they deserve. They generally don't understand they've adopted this belief, either, they just live by it.

    I will have to examine the extent to which this undeveloped thinking afflicts me as well.

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  4. That's interesting, Grace. Plus, I notice you say at the beginning of your books. Do you think your characters grow to believe in luck, to perhaps believe they have been the victims of bad luck?

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  5. Yep! Officially 4/3, but it's on the shelves now. :)

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  6. I just love your covers! And I'm not talking about the quilts on your beds...LOL!
    Great post, Shana. I do sometimes wonder if there's not just a bit of "us" hiding in our characters that we keep hidden deep inside for no one to see?

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  7. Great excerpts, Shana, and wonderful covers.

    My characters believe in luck...both kinds...good and bad...and destiny. Given their Irish heritage, they'd have to. :)

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  8. I enjoyed the post. Great excerpts. I am sure that I have read some books with luck in them, but I just can't think of any at the moment. Thank you for sharing. :)

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  9. Really, Tracey? I see a stop at B&N in my future...

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  10. Carolyn, me in any of my characters? Nah. Well, maybe just a little. I love my covers too!

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  11. Colleen, I love reading books with Irish characters. You're right that they believe in luck!

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  12. Loved the excerpts, Shana! My characters blame me for all their troubles. But I have to ensure they're living life to the fullest! :) And in the end, they're happy! Even if they'll never admit I might have given them a nudge in right direction. :) Luck doesn't play a part in it at all. :)

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  13. Terry, don't you hate when characters blame you for their problems? So unfair!

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