Recently I was writing a workshop to give at a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The topic was Crafting Historical Heroines (and Heroes) That Rock, and I was speaking about how to create characters that are historically accurate but who still appeal to modern readers. One thing I did in preparation was to ask my readers (via Facebook, of course!) who their favorite heroes and heroines are and why.
Here are a few of the responses.
Cora DeBeau from Tracey Devlyn’s A LADY’S REVENGE because she came out of France tortured not broken. I think this book should be given out at lady’s shelters. I understand abuse and ladies in abusive relationships should know THEY ARE NOT BROKEN only slightly dented.
Ian Mackenzie from Jennifer Ashley’s THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. He is labeled “crazy/mad” to the world because of eccentricities. What draws me to him is he doesn’t hide who or what he is. He lives his life with the stares and whispers. Every time I read this story I am amazed how far he comes from the beginning to the end. I love how complex his character is and how Ms. Ashley doesn’t fix him but makes his eccentricities part of the great man he is.
Eve Dallas from the JD Robb series because she saves herself.
Darius Carsington (From NOT QUITE A LADY by Loretta Chase) because he runs so very, very hard and far from his heart, then slams back to it in an instant when the woman he admires is threatened. Then he runs that much faster back to her side, intellectual sword at the ready.
Skye O’Malley (the entire series and Legacy series) by Bertrice Small. She was as intelligent as any man, went against Elizabeth Tudor and won, survived countless obstacles in the pursuit of her own happiness and empowered her children, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren to do the same!
I love all the characters from the Stephanie Lauren’s Bar Cynster series all the men are heroes to their ladies and family as well as the ton, but their women are strong and a force to be reckoned with!
Sebastian and Evie from DEVIL IN WINTER. Sebastian taking a bullet for Evie was a sign of true sacrifice.
Jamie Fraser. There are many reasons to like Jamie (other than being a kilted, Highlander, of course!). He loves with his entire being. And he is willing to sacrifice himself for the people he loves. He sent Claire back through the stones to keep her and their unborn child safe even though it broke his heart to do so.
I wish I could have shared all the responses because I received so many fabulous ones. A lot of the characters mentioned were also my favorites and others I added to my TBR pile. As far as my workshop, One thing this “scientific” survey showed me was what all of these characters have in common.
In my opinion, the heroines are strong and resilient. They save themselves and empower other women. The heroes are at peace with themselves (at least by the end of the book). They don’t have anything to prove to society. They are willing to love with their whole beings and make ultimate sacrifices. In short, these heroes and heroines rock!
Who are some of your favorite heroes and heroines and why? WE are having some problems with an overactive spam filter. Please go ahead and comment, and if the comment doesn’t show right away, don’t worry. The JQs will be freeing comments all day.
I’m betting you’ve seen the movie Frozen. If you haven’t, go rent it and watch. We’ll wait. Come back and let us know your thoughts.
I don’t know if what Disney did with that movie was intentional or not (I sort of think not), but they really created different heroines for different audiences. I’m guessing most of you saw it and thought of Anna as the heroine. She’s the one who goes on the quest to find her sister. She’s the one who, in the end, sacrifices all to save her sister. She risks everything to save Elsa and the kingdom of Arendell. Anna’s funny, brave, kind, but she’s also a bit impulsive and starved for love. We can relate to her vulnerability. Who among us hasn’t felt lonely at one time or another? We admire her because she embodies what it means to be a hero—sacrifice, risk, doing what is right even when no one else will.
But I bet if you have a young child, especially a daughter, she isn’t enamored of Anna. She loves Elsa. Princess Galen adores Elsa and even has an Elsa dress.
Why? Elsa is not the heroine of the story. In fact, Elsa seems to be the villain until relatively late in the movie when Hans’s real character is revealed. So why do kids love Elsa? Because she’s strong and powerful. No matter that her power is a fluke. That she’s actually kind of a coward because instead of facing her weakness (her powers) head on, she tries to hide them and runs away when the going gets tough. When PG and I play with her Anna and Elsa dolls, my daughter always wants to be Elsa. All her little friends want to be Elsa. No one wants to be Anna. She isn’t special. She doesn’t have the unique powers Elsa has.
And as an aside, I don’t think Disney expected Elsa to be the more popular one because they were not prepared for it. We were at Disneyworld right after the release of Frozen, and Elsa dolls were sold out. We got the last one in Epcot while we were there. A few months later, I decided to buy an Elsa doll for my daughter’s friend’s birthday. I couldn’t get one anywhere for under $150. Even now if you look on Amazon, Anna dolls are about $23 while Elsa dolls are $45. Scarcity increases desirability, but I think Disney would rather have the money from all of those Elsa doll sales than disappointed kids who will move on to the next big thing in a couple of months when doll production has caught up.
Creating heroines like Elsa is something authors have to watch out for. Sometimes we create a really strong character, but forget to make him or her heroic. It’s not enough for a character to be strong or brave or special, he or she has to use those talents in heroic ways. Incidentally, Disney is able to redeem Elsa at the end of the movie because we have a foundation for her heroism at the beginning of the movie. She was a good sister to Anna when they were children.
So who’s your favorite? Anna or Elsa? Why? One person who comments wins the DVD of Frozen (U.S. and Canada only). Winner announced Sunday (April 6).
On Saturday Jesse blogged about watching movies over and over. It made me think about books I loved to read over and over (and over). With so many new books released each month and so little reading time, I sometimes feel guilty about re-reading books I’ve already read several times. But then I read an article titled “Re-Reading: The Ultimate Guilty Pleasure,” and I thought, yes, exactly!
The article looked at why readers re-read. One of the reasons that really struck home to me was the “security blanket” reason. There are some books I come back to over and over again because they make me feel happy or lift my spirits when I’m in a bad mood. My daughter has a blankie, and when she is naughty and gets in trouble, she often runs to her room for a few minutes of quality time with blankie. It soothes her and helps her to feel ready to face the world again. I’d have to say a lot of my Julie Garwood historicals fall into this category.
Another reason we re-read, which the article calls “heart of the matter” but which I’m calling time warp, is to remember who we were at the time we first read the book. Whenever I pick up one of the Earth’s Children books from Jean Auel, I remember being in college, because that’s when I first read that series. When I re-read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I remember my first years of teaching and my trip to Scotland and Culloden. It’s fun to go back and “relive” a previous time in our lives but also bring those books into our present reality too.
Finally, I re-read because I want a “refresher.” A lot of non-fiction books fall into this category. I read them for research but have forgotten details over the passage of time and need to refresh my memory. But I like to refresh fiction too. I re-read my Jane Austen books often just because every time I read Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion, I pick up new details I’ve either forgotten or didn’t catch the first time.
Do you ever re-read books? Which are your go-to books?
I’m not the kind of author who crafts really great villains. In fact, I sort of prefer for my hero or heroine to be their own worst enemy. It’s more interesting to me in some ways. I do love reading a great villain. I think Nora Roberts writes great villains. Julie Garwood has some good ones too. There are lots of romantic suspense authors who write great villains. They really get into the head of the serial killer, which pretty much just creeps me out.
So you might be surprised to learn that in Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, which is out today (woohoo!), I have not one but two villains! I’m not really sure how that happened. I’m tempted to blame it on Princess Galen. She is oddly attracted and repelled by villains. On the one hand, she is terrified of the movie Sleeping Beauty because of the “evil Maleficent.” She has imposed a moratorium on movie trailers because we saw the Maleficent trailer before Frozen back in November. To this day, she won’t enter a movie theater until all the trailers have ended.
On the other hand, her favorite game is playing Laverna with a frog puppet (long story). If you don’t know, Laverna is a villain in the Barbie Fairytopia movies. I have to play Laverna, and Princess Galen’s job is to defeat Laverna. But Laverna is also her friend. She shows her Laverna puppet her artwork, her new outfits, and any special news.
Maybe we’re all both drawn to and repelled by villains. I know they are some of the more interesting characters I write. In Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, one villain is Lucifer. He is the owner of a gambling hell in London. He’s after the man he believes stole a valuable list of spies’ secret identities. The man Lucifer suspects is our other villain, the Duke of Ravenscroft. The heroine, Lily, is investigating him because the Crown sispects he might be a vile double agent known as Artemis. Is he Artemis or simply falsely accused? That’s Lily’s job to discover, and she has her work cut out for her, considering the duke’s son is suspicious of her and won’t let her out of his sight. Added to that problem, Lily’s always been in love with Andrew, the Earl of Darlington.
It was a fun book to write, even if it meant balancing two villains. Who are some of your favorite villains? One person who responds will win a copy of When You Give a Duke a Diamond and If You Give a Rake a Ruby (U.S. and Canada only).
Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend
Lily Dawson, dubbed the Countess of Charm, has the gentlemen of the ton eating out of her hand—all but one. As one of The Three Diamonds, Lily has borne her share of scandal, but none so great as the scandal that forced her into a the role of a courtesan. But there’s more to Lily than a pretty face. What better disguise for a secret agent than that of a courtesan?
Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington, is in love with Lily’s best friend. He wants to hate Lily for taking up with his father. When he discovers there’s more to her flirtation with his father than greed, he knows he must help her uncover a traitor, even if that traitor is his own father.
Monday was President’s Day, and though we still had school and work, I was reminded by all the flags lining the streets how proud we are to be Americans.
I’m not from Texas, but I moved here in the early 1980s from Michigan. I don’t remember Michigan being quite so patriotic as Texas is. I actually don’t think any state is as patriotic as Texas is. But maybe I’m wrong. Is it common where you live to put up both the American and the state flag? Because you rarely see an American flag without a Texas flag here.
Princess Galen could recognize both flags when she was only 3. I moved to Texas when I was about 9, and I still couldn’t tell you what the Michigan flag looks like. But I learned real quick to identify not only the Texas flag but also how to recite the Texas pledge.
That’s right. In Texas, after we pledge allegiance to the US of A, we pledge allegiance to Texas. Maybe we’re so proud in Texas because we’re such a big state. Maybe because we’re the only state ever to have been a country in its own right. And maybe it’s true that everything is just bigger in Texas, including the pride.
What is it like where you live? Is there this much state pride?