Have you ever wondered how bestselling authors can get away with writing the same hero over and over again?
I’m not talking about carrying an original character into a spin-off novel or sequel (like Ian Fleming did with James Bond.)
I’m talking about supplying the same archetypal persona for every protagonist ever written. (If you were to change the name, eyes, and hair color, Hero B would read much the same as Hero A.) Call me crazy, but I’ve always thought that authors who keep writing the same archetypal hero lack creativity.
Eventually, of course, my “creativity argument” was disproved, so I drew the conclusion that these authors were so busy fulfilling their own fantasies that they didn’t give a rat’s fanny about what their readers wanted.
But that logic didn’t make sense, either. After all, readers seemed to keep putting these authors on bestseller lists.
So then I thought that maybe, just maybe, I had become a Writing Snob. That I should get over myself and start writing the same hero-with-a-new-name for the next 50 novels. That way, I could sell a lot more books, retire to my own private island, and adopt bird-watching as a hobby to keep from going Loony-Tunes while writing the same protagonist for the rest of my life.
Then a curious thing happened. I like to think it was my Muse’s way of keeping me from committing Hari-Kari with a keyboard.
You see, I started getting revelatory email from readers.
And I thought, “Huh? I always thought my steamiest love scene was in TEXAS LOVER.”
So naturally, I raced back to HIS WICKED DREAM to figure out what I’d done right. Oddly enough, I didn’t “see” what my reader saw.
But then, I’m totally in love with Wes from TEXAS LOVER. Michael from HIS WICKED DREAM was my first attempt at an Alpha Hero, and I’m really not fond of Alphas. (Again, call me CRAZY, but I like to read about men who laugh and make wisecracks – you know, men who feel more than angst, anger, and lust for 400 pages.)
As if to confuse me further, another reader wrote about HIS WICKED DREAM, “The characters in SCOUNDREL FOR HIRE were much more interesting. I didn’t like Michael.”
Once again, my brain blurted out the profound “Huh?” I couldn’t help but marvel, “Are we talking about the same Michael who won an Avon Books reader’s poll for Best Hero? The Michael who made a hardback editor gush tears at Doubleday and name HIS WICKED DREAM a Book of the Month?”
Knock me down with a feather!
So what about the hero that I liked writing the least? (Fess up. You KNOW you have one of these!)
In my Wild Texas Nights series, I deliberately set out to create three totally different brothers. I saved for last the archetype that I had trouble dating in school: the shy one. The one that suffered from mood swings. The one that I, personally, would not have chosen as a mate. Nevertheless, in TEXAS WILDCAT, Zack is a salt-of-the-earth character who honors, protects, and respects females – even if they mystify him.
Well, guess what? Another fan sent me a letter recently. Her comment went something like this, “Oh, I just love Zack in TEXAS WILDCAT! He’s my favorite Rawlins brother of all!”
And I kind of freaked out. I mean, who could possibly love Zack more than my darling Wes?!
Eventually, however, I remembered how Romantic Times Magazine had given Zack a K.I.S.S. Award for being such a lovable hero. And how Calico Trails Magazine had named TEXAS WILDCAT the Best Historical Romance of the Year.
So what do I know about writing best-selling heroes?
Not a whole lot, apparently.
But thanks to my recent batch of fan mail, I have drawn an important conclusion:
There’s room on the bestseller lists for ALL kinds of hero archetypes.
Even when those archetypes are written by the same author.