Let’s Talk with Karla Brandenburg

Billionaires or Average Joes?
by Karla Brandenburg

As a reader, there are so many different types of books to choose from. I have a very diverse reading list across several different genres. For me, reading is more about the characters I meet. Robert Langdon. Danny Torrance. The Holland family. I like characters I can relate to.

At one of the writer’s conferences I attended, an agent got up and said, “Pitch me your best story, and right now, the richer the better. Who’s writing billionaires?”

Not me. In my own little world, I prefer folks I’d like to meet. Does that mean I’m not interested in meeting a movie star or a fabulously wealthy person? No, it’s just that they come with their own set of issues. Those issues might make for a more complex character while writing, but those same issues make me less likely to adopt a celebrity as my best friend. Call it personal bias.

Some characters have unknown sources of wealth. Robert Langdon. Certainly he doesn’t come across as a millionaire/billionaire, and his source of wealth is never disclosed. He’s a working man who can afford to take fantastic trips all around the world at the drop of a hat. I don’t normally question the source of his wealth, but he *must* have money tucked away somewhere.

And then there is the Holland family. They own a vineyard in upstate New York. They come from money, and the other characters in their books respond to that in positive and negative ways. But they’re also “real” people. They are people I can relate to, for the most part. Then again, Kristan Higgins draws very relatable characters.

Most of the books I read don’t address the wealth (or lack thereof) of the characters. I like it that way. I like to read about Average Joes. People I’d meet on the street or in everyday life. I do realize there is a population out there who want their heroes/heroines wealthy, and the richer the better. They can do anything. Go anywhere. There are some very successful authors who write about the jet set life and the prince and the pauper scenarios where the wealthy benefactor saves the life of a down on his luck person or the wealthy guy falls in love with the dirt-poor girl, etc. etc. etc.

What about you? Do you like reading about how the other half lives? Or do you like to read about people more like you?


  1. I like to read books with characters from all walks of life because I feel there is something we can always learn from others about the world and ourselves. However, I prefer them to be real people in today’s world. I have a hard time reading books in the Fantasy or Sci-Fi genre because they just seem silly to me. But, to each their own. If I can relate to or understand the time period and setting (meaning a place that actually could exist), then the characters seem more real and interesting to me. Also, I love books that are set in places I’ve never been because it makes me feel like I traveled there while reading! I always hope for a book that uses the setting to help me get a better understanding the characters, as well as the real people (and culture) who live in that area of the world today. 🙂

    • Me, too! Although a well-written book can carry me off regardless of genre. I have read some sci-fi/fantasy books that were very entertaining, but they are exceptions rather than the rule for me

  2. I occasionally read about wealthy people – but these are “Cinderella” types of romances. For the most part, I enjoy stories about regular joes.

  3. I do like to read about royals or CEOs and such rather than down-and-out characters. I’m more of a Hallmark gal that way. I’d rather read about characters more beautiful, wealthier, and powerful than I am. Even Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, is cleverer and braver than me. I like the guy next door as a romantic hero, though. He’s always the right man for the heroine and not the rich and suave fiance she starts out with who ends up being a jerk.

  4. tinawhittle says:

    I have a certain fascination with the trappings of wealth (one of my protags drives a Ferrari, for example) but mostly as a way of pondering identity. How what we own defines who we are. I don’t really enjoy reading about rich people per se, people who swim in wealth like fish in water. Plus, I enjoy reading about people who work hard for a living!

  5. Any book with “Billionaire” in the title is an automatic “no thanks.” I like people I can relate to, although I do forgive a lot of other implausible stuff when I’m reading romantic suspense.