Creating Characters – Real Virtue

I’m delighted to introduce you to Katy Lee, today. I read her book this weekend at it is soooooo good. One hundred percent romance and one hundred percent suspense and utterly enthralling!

I met Katy online in the writers’ loop of the Faith, Hope, Love chapter of RWA. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, three children, and two cats so we’ve yet to meet in person.

Katy writes higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds. As an inspirational author, speaker, home-schooling mom, and children’s ministry director, she has dedicated her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. 

She’s been a huge encouragement to me, so when I heard she’d landed her first publishing contract, I invited her to drop by and share with us the inspiration behind one of her characters.

Wow! What a story she has to share, too! Take it away Katy…

Hi, Sandra! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today to talk about characters. I’m especially excited to give a little more insight into one of my characters from my Inspirational-Romantic-Suspense, Real Virtue. Now, normally, I would share about my hero and heroine, but today I’m not going to talk too much about Jeremy Stiles and Mel Mesini. Instead, I want to share about my heroine’s mother, Arlene Mesini.

Arlene is near and dear to my heart because her character was influenced by my own mother. Like my mom, Arlene suffers from the horrible brain disease, Schizophrenia. When I set out to write Real Virtue, I did not plan for Arlene to have this disease. Never in my wildest imagination did I think my story would link up with it either, but during my research of online virtual-reality gaming I came across an avatar with this affliction.

You see, in Real Virtue, my heroine is a gamer who takes her pastime a little too far. She is living a life that is a bit removed from reality…just like her mother. But in Mel’s case, she has the choice.

It was during my research that I found this video of what a day in the life of a schizophrenic person is like, and in watching this video I knew I had found my heroine’s mother—and the perfect conflict for Mel to face. A conflict I understood very well.

I’m going to be honest here and say, growing up with someone who has this disease is extremely difficult, and it took me a long time to understand my mother’s pain, but more importantly, to accept her as she is. If I was ever to have a relationship with her, I needed to stop trying to escape from the reality of the situation, (excuse the pun) and get to know her.

The same goes for Mel.

So, once Arlene was “born,” I knew I had an opportunity to take it one step further and honor my own mom through her. I dedicated Real Virtue to my mom as the strongest person I know. I can only hope Arlene does her justice.

And now, here is a about Katy’s romantic-suspense, Real Virtue:

In a virtual reality game where she can fly, someone’s aiming to take her down.

Mel Mesini is a New York City restaurateur and an avid, virtual reality world traveler. But her successful life—both online and in reality—takes a swerve the night her father is seriously injured in a hit-and-run. To make matters worse, Officer Jeremy Stiles, the man who had once cut her deep with his harsh, rejecting words, is heading the investigation.

When Jeremy realizes Mel is the actual target, his plan is to protect her—whether she wants him to or not. What he wants is answers, especially about this online game she plays. Is it a harmless pastime as she says? Or is she using it to cover something up? As a faceless predator destroys the things that matter to her, Jeremy knows he’s running out of time before she loses the one thing that matters most—her real life.

  Katy, thanks so much for sharing with us. I am awed by how God directed you to Arlene’s characterization. How special that you’re honoring your mom by dedicating the book to her. And I’m sure your story will give hope to many others who face similar difficult experiences.

And I’ve got to add that I love the cover! 

Real Virtue is available now in ebook from and and from her publisher, Paperback coming this fall! Katy’s fresh and unique voice brings a fast-paced and modern feel to her romances that are sure to resonate with readers long after the last page.

Any last words?

Thank you, Sandra, for having me on your blog! Readers, I love comments and would love to hear from you.

And please keep in touch with me at my website:

You will see links for Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. Let’s connect and get to know each other!

“So then we are no longer strangers, but members of the household of God.”
          ~Ephesians 2:10

Your Turn:  Any questions for Katy?

Giveaway: I’m giving away an Ecopy of Katy’s book this week. If you’d like your name thrown into the hat, please leave a comment on today’s, Wednesday’s or Friday’s blog. The winner will be announced Saturday. Please stop by Wednesday to join the conversation about characters in the book.


  • Wow, Sandra! Thank you for the great introduction. You’re making me blush. 🙂 I am so excited to be your guest today. Thank you for inviting me!

    I just returned from the RT Convention in Chicago…that was quite an eye-opening experience, let me tell ya. But even though the inspy authors were few and far between, I think we shined God’s light rather well.

    Well, I’m looking forward to a wonderful day with you all!

    • I was blessed by the opportunity to meet and hug Katy in person at the RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago – and to say she’s a delight is gross understatement. After hearing about this book, I’ve definitely added it to my TBR list. What a unique and intriguing premise! We need as much great inspy romance/fiction as possible, so, keep up the great work, Katy!!

  • I love romantic suspense so Real Virtue sounds like the perfect fit for me. I’ll be looking out for it in print form come the Fall. I don’t have an e-reader and reading an entire book on my computer doesn’t sound like a comfy experience. LOL so don’t enter me in the draw.

    Katy, I’d love it if you’d be willing to share a bit about your publishing journey.

    And as a reader, I really appreciate the real life bits that get put into a novel. I know you’ll make a difference with this mother/daughter relationship between Mel and Arlene. Thanks for taking your story deeper.

    Also love the virtual reality angle of the novel. That alone would make me pick it up off the shelf. So are you a gamer as well and writing from that experience?

  • Ooh, loved this post. (Also loved “higher-purpose stories in high-speed worlds.” I don’t know if that’s Katy’s tagline, but if it is, it’s a sweet one!)

    Also a touching story of how God used your personal experiences to shape your character. I love that you dedicated it to your mom.

    Thanks for hosting Katy, Sandra!

  • I’m having a bit of trouble posting individually, so I will consolidate my responses up to this point here:

    Marianne – The blessing was all mine! Go Inspy!

    Kav – I am not a gamer, but my kids are. They were my go-to experts, for sure. Also when I was researching for this book I had to open accounts with various gaming sites so I could get a real feel for how to move about and change clothes and chat…stuff like that. I have since canceled all accounts. But I want people to know only a small portion of this book takes place in the virtual world. This story is really about the addictions we use to cover up things in our lives we don’t like.

    As for my publishing journey, RV placed in numerous contests last year (Third in FHL’s TBL contest and second in Georgia’s RWA Maggie to name a few) before Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract this past November. It took about a year to sell, so I am still fairly new to this industry and learning as I go. 🙂

    Marian – Thank you for stopping by! I’m looking forward to visiting you on your blog soon!

    Melissa – Yes, that is my tagline or brand as marketers would call it. 🙂 Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  • Wow, this sounds like a most interesting read. I think it is a wonderful thing that Katy was able to incorporate her own experience into the storyline. No one but a child of the person who has such a challenge could write the story. God bless her for doing it! Sandra you’ve really brought about an introduction that makes me want to seek out this book by an author I’m sure I’ll be watching in the future. 🙂 If I win, I’ll be happy.

  • Hi Susan,

    Thank you for your kind words and insight. I did not not enter into the decision lightly. I knew it would be a hard road, but I also knew my words would reach many who needed to read them. I did my best to not make RV an info dump on mental illness. I think we understand and learn more through story, and hope I accomplished that while keeping it entertaining.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • It’s wonderful to see many new faces here today. Katy’s characterizations are extremely compelling. I was totally enthralled, sucking up the details. It didn’t feel like an information dump in the least. Everything–the concepts of virtue, the dangers of virtual living, in all the layers of meaning that encompasses, the spiritual elements–all unfold in a completely organic way. As I said at the opening, I loved this book! I’m still living with the characters. I felt like I was right there. And the hero…my heart still flutters to think of him.

  • It doesn’t get any better than that! 🙂 Thank you for such wonderful words. It feels good to know I accomplished the task God set before me.

    I had a few other comments from people who posted in fb instead. One said she wasn’t surprised to learn I had personal experience with mental illness. After reading RV, she thought Arlene came across as so real.

    Well, it has been a fun day hanging out in your virtual home, Sandra. Thank you for having me, and I’ll check back during the week, so readers, feel free to continue to comment!

  • I really enjoyed Katie’s honesty and openness. This book sounds like a great story, and I would love to read it. If I don’t get it here, then I’ll save up and get it on Kindle. Thanks for a really inspirational interview!
    Tamara Cooper

  • Hi Sybil! Thanks for stopping by. And you’re not too late for the party. 🙂 Glad you posted! I hope you like Real Virtue.

    And yes, the price no matter where you buy is only $4.99.

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.