Through all of this, I am noticing something about my heroes – they tend to be a lot alike – i.e. rugged, take no sh--, well built, extremely able with fists, guns or in the case of the Native Americans, sometimes knife, tomahawk or lance. They are survivors. I am falling in love all over again with each one of them as I read these older books and am re-discovering some great characters – both the heroes and the heroines. Even the heroines are, for the most part, very strong women who “match” the men they’ve chosen to love and can stand right up to them (and often wrap them right around their little fingers)! I was afraid I would find some “fainting flowers” in some of those older books, but so far I haven’t.
Let’s face it. Women love to read about the bad-ass who’s vulnerable in some way when it comes to his woman – a man who would die for her, who loves her unconditionally (actually he adores her) – who always has her back and who is true to her. He might be hard to live with, but what woman wants to live without him!
I am noticing with great relief that it’s only the bad-ass aspect that is very similar in most of my heroes. Each one so far is turning out to be unique in his background and his reasons for turning out as he has. I never want to be accused of writing the same man over and over. Each hero has to be his own man with his own special story – and not all of them are tall and dark and have 6-pack abs, although that seems to be the preferred description. My hero Mitch Brady in DESPERATE HEARTS (September 2014) has sandy hair and very blue eyes, but he is, of course, tall and has those abs!
I like to write a hero (and often a heroine) who has some kind of tragedy in his past that has caused him to turn out the way he has, either some traumatic childhood experience, or the horrors of the Civil War or Indian wars, or he’s been robbed of everything he called his own or his inheritance – or has lost a wife or child tragically – something that makes the heroine’s (and the reader’s) heart ache for the poor guy and want to just hug him and tell him everything will be all right – but of course he’s rugged and stoic and refuses (at first) to admit that he needs that hug. After all, in the “old days” a man just didn’t cry. When they do in my books, it tears your heart out because he’s such a macho man that it is a real surprise when he even gets tears in his eyes, let alone actually weeping. No cry-babies here. Just men who have suffered and finally meet a woman who understands that at least once he has to “let it all out.”
I think another required “ingredient” for a hero is that he doesn’t just love and want the heroine – he NEEDS the heroine. He should feel he couldn’t go on without her – feelings he of course fights at first, but feelings he can’t ignore forever. In my books the hero often feels he is unworthy of the heroine’s love, or feels he could never be the kind of man he “thinks” she wants or needs. I usually always find a way for hero and heroine to finally be together without either of them having to give up his and her own dreams. That’s the way most romances turn out, but I refuse to do it the “soft, flowery” way. Hero and heroine have to fight together to realize their dreams and to be able to spend their lives together.
It’s really fun reading these older books. One book I haven’t read in about 28 years or so is LAWLESS LOVE. I am going to re-read that one, because if I remember right, the hero is NOT the typical tall man with six-pack abs. He’s pretty rugged, average height and very robust – one of those men who is just big and solid all over. I remember when I wrote the book that I was picturing Johnny Cash throughout the story – not a beautifully handsome man but rather worn from tragedy and hard living, handsome in the way of a man who has a beautiful spirit and hasn’t an ounce of ego, a man who just loves faithfully and honestly and gratefully – and the heroine is absolutely NOT the typical beautiful young woman looking for a man. She’s traveling to a convent to become a Nun!! I really want to re-read that story, and see about getting it reissued. It’s one of those “old” books that kind of got lost in the shuffle of my 60 titles over the past 32 years and wasn’t talked about much. I remember it as a lovely story and very different from the typical hero/heroine descriptions.
Well, I will soon be editing and re-writing DO NOT FORSAKE ME (Jake Harkner is one of the baddest asses I’ve ever written other than Zeke Monroe). The book will be published next July (2015) after the reissue of its predecessor in June (2015) – OUTLAW HEARTS. Then it’s on to a new story – and I think the hero will be Native American who will be – what else? – tall, dark, devastatingly handsome and built like … well, you know.