Interview with Becca Puglisi of The Bookshelf Muse!

As I'm sure many of you know, Becca Puglisi and her partner-in-crime Angela Ackerman are the genius minds behind The Bookshelf Muse blog. As if that wasn't awesome enough, they recently released their new writer guide, The Emotion Thesaurus.

In honor of the book launch, I managed to catch Becca in my interview net and brought her over here to answer a few questions!

Becca, you and Angela have compiled a wonderful collection of resources for writers on your site: emotional indicators, settings, character traits, and even color and weather descriptors! How did such a cool idea get started? 

Back in 2004, I had just joined Critique Circle and my first critique group, not knowing at the time that one of the members, Angela Ackerman, was a complete and utter genius. One of the few things I knew for sure was that my characters were always shifting their feet, narrowing their eyes, and fidgeting. Very repetitive. Super annoying. But I didn’t know how else to show their feelings. So I started a list of physical cues for some of the more common emotions.

 Right about then, Angela opined that her characters were always biting their lips, nodding, and smiling or frowning. When everyone else in the group responded that they struggled with the same thing, I shared my bare-bones list of emotional indicators. We agreed to contribute to the list and Angela kept a master copy. 

When it came time to start the The Bookshelf Muse, we discussed at length what kind of blog we'd like to have. We decided that we wanted to offer resources to other writers in a format that would keep people coming back for more. So we started with that list of cues (back then, called the Please Beat Me over the Head Beat List). (Miriam: I LOVE that name!) When writers responded so enthusiastically to The Emotion Thesaurus, we started looking for other descriptive areas to highlight, and the rest of the resources followed.

Related to the first question, how did you find all the different movements and indicators that you use in The Emotion Thesaurus? Was there a specific place you went to research them? A specific person you asked? 

I did consult some professional websites for information on the stronger emotions (panic, grief, rage, etc.), but for my part, my research almost exclusively involved observation. I started making notes while watching movies--seeing what the actors’ bodies were doing when they experienced certain emotions. I did the same thing while observing real people, though that felt a little creepy. Because Angela and I collaborated on all of the entries in The Emotion Thesaurus, our combined observations led to some pretty lengthy lists of cues.

The Emotion Thesaurus is such a great tool. (And as someone whose characters clench their hands together ALL THE TIME, I'm not just saying that.) What's next for you and The Bookshelf Muse? 

Gosh, that’s a question Angela and I are always asking. The Emotion Thesaurus has been so well received, we like the idea of publishing more thesauri down the road and making expanded versions available. But for now, we’re just trying to make this first launch successful and learn as much as we can about marketing and promo along the way.

 And the last and most important question: who is your favorite Avenger and why? 

 Well, I must admit that I haven’t seen the movie. My husband, who has many wonderful qualities, has an inexplicable distaste for movies based on comic books, so I don’t get to see many of them. What I HAVE seen is Snow White and the Huntsmen, or as I like to call it, Snow White and that Totally Tasty Guy From The Avengers Poster. So I guess I’d have to say that Thor takes the cake, hands down.

(Hard to argue with that.)

Thanks for such a great interview, Becca! And if any of you lovely readers would like to check out The Emotion Thesaurus (which I highly recommend) here are some links!

  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • iTunes
  • Kobo
  • Smashwords
  • Goodreads

  • How about you? Do your characters have any annoying tics? And who IS the best Avenger of them all?


    1. Haha, I have very over-expressionate characters ... or else characters with nervous ticks, or ones whose expressions are too complicated for me to explain coherently. Might have to treat myself to a copy of this book, though, it sounds fantastic.

      Also, best Avenger in my opinion ... LOKI LOKI LOKI LOKI! Because he's gorgeous and tragic and funny and evil and ... I love him. However, if you want an "Avenger", I will say Thor. For obvious reasons. Or Hawkeye. He's seriously under-appreciated.

      ... Or you could just say I love all of them. That works too xD

    2. Oh, hellooooooo there, Thor.

      Retro, conflicted characters are so hard. Angela actually addresses this topic in our book; the gist of our suggestion is to narrow in on the root emotion. Focus your descriptive efforts mainly on that, then allude to the secondary emotions in other less concrete ways.

      Regarding the best Avenger, I agree that it's kind of hard to choose from such a varied collection of awesome. ;)

    3. We were just at the movies (my son's birthday today), but we watched Men in Black not the Avengers (soon, my sweet Thor, soon) but it was so awesome. They really came through--amazing for a #4 in a series. And is it any wonder that I love Becca. I mean she used the word GENIUS in the same breath as my name.  I mean, BAM, that's just how cool she is! :)

      Thanks Miriam for hosting Becca and being so awesome yourself!


    4. Thor's not bad, but I'm going to have to go with Loki. I'm sorry. LOKI. Even though he's not technically one of the Avengers... ;)

      Oh, and he's perfect for the emotional observation thing. Which is why looking at gifs on Tumblr is totally working on novels...

    5. Wonderful interview , I'm a big fan of Angel and Becca :)
      BTW LOVE the blog title, coolness!!!

    6. Thor, Thor, and Thor. I am totally addicted to The Emotion Thesaurus. Brilliant idea and priceless writing tool.

    7. Thank you Maryellen and Leslie! 

    8. Lol, I knew you were going to say Loki. :) 

      But I agree, Hawkeye is not appreciated enough. If I didn't love Mark Ruffalo so much, he'd be my favorite male Avenger. 

    9. I found that gif and thought you'd like it. *grin*

      Thanks for coming over!

    10. Awww, you guys are always welcome over here, Angela. And I didn't realize MIB 4 was out yet! I'll have to look for it in the video store when it releases on DVD. Between Hunger Games, Avengers and Prometheus, my in-theatre movie budget is shot for the year. :)

    11. Oh, I knew there was going to be some Loki fangirling when I asked the question, so I'll allow it. (lol) 

      I like the way you think. Tumblr  TOTALLY qualifies as working on novels. 

    12. Thank you Maryellen! And I agree, Becca and Angela are fantastic. :)

    13. Hahaha. Even though I'm a big Mark Ruffalo-as-Hulk fan, it is hard to argue with you with that adorable gif winking at me. :)

    14. It does! People in fandoms analyse more than English teachers and that's saying something. 
      (Often when I write I look at the scene and I think, okay, what is Tumblr going to pick out of this that I haven't seen? Do I want that subtext to come through? Because Tumblr is an expert on subtext and it's a good exercise to do to check the right ideas are coming across. Plus, one of my worst fears is having slash fic written of my work. Ordinary fan fic, I'm fine with. Slash fic, however, would traumatise me forever.)


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