Claire Thompson writes about a different kind of hero, not necessarily the romantic ideal. What’s your ideal hero?
Think Romance Novel Hero and what comes to mind? A big, strong, sexy guy with a roguish twinkle in his brilliant blue (or dangerous glint in his brooding dark – you pick) eyes. He’s strong, sexy, well-endowed, and confident, even to the point of swagger. He’s an alpha through and through. No one ever took his lunch money or made fun of his skinny legs. He never lived in a crappy basement apartment with roaches and dirty dishes in the sink. He doesn’t stutter and he’s never at a loss for words. He always knows what to do when he finally gets the heroine (or, in m/m novels, the other hero) naked and at his mercy.
We romance readers really like Mr. Alpha Perfect Man. We like to close our eyes and imagine he is sweeping us off our feet, carrying us away in strong arms, only to set us down on fine sheets in his chateau/mansion/secluded house by the sea and make perfect, endless love to us until we swoon with satisfaction and fall into a deep sleep, safe in his warm embrace…
So how come I never seem to write those guys?
I think it’s because I came at romance through the side door. I just sort of slipped in. My earlier background is rough and tumble dirty books that expose the dark, raw side of life. And yet I love to write romance. It makes me happy to create that “awww” moment for readers, when a tear comes to their eye, and they close the book with a happy sigh.
Maybe a broader question is what makes a romance? Need only alphas apply? In real life, there aren’t too many alphas out there. Most guys you meet are as fucked up and miserable as you are. But it’s the potential for happiness that makes a romance possible.
Maybe that’s why my heroes, and I use the term very loosely, are usually just regular guys. Not necessarily that good looking, often extremely confused, sometimes really fucked up, always flawed. Eric, the Dom in Golden Boy, appeared to the world at large as the always-in control Über-Dom. Yet he took Johnny too far, too fast, in the BDSM scene, and nearly cost himself Johnny’s love in the process. Certainly he damaged his trust. I had to write a whole second book for Eric to put things to right.
In Wicked Hearts, Reese, one of my “heroes”, is a cocky, arrogant, manipulating, screwed up asshole (sorry, no way to clean this one up, folks). The focus of his attentions, Jeff, is an introverted, stuttering geek with the social skills of a potted plant.
So what makes these characters compelling? Why would you, the romance reader, want to be bothered with all-too-real-life jerks and losers, when Fabian awaits just a novel away, ready to sweep you into his strong arms and clutch you to his muscular chest?
I think the key is watching the change. Watching how love can transform even the most miserable wretch into someone worth rooting for; someone worth caring for. Helping these men to grow and transform when loves comes into their lives is what the writing journey is all about. Which isn’t to say they suddenly become rich, or younger, or better looking, or even smarter. They might remain conflicted, confused, even scared to death at how much love, or rather, love lost, has the potential to devastate them, now that they’re learning how to feel.
But they try. Love gives them courage they wouldn’t otherwise have. Love, by its very definition, makes them more lovable. Love provides the door that opens to a greater happiness and peace, because suddenly, maybe for the first time, they see themselves reflected in the eyes and hearts of the men who love them. They are permitted to see the best of themselves. And that, dear readers, is definitely worth reading about.