Romance Writer Seeks Hero – Must Be Willing to Work Odd Hours
A Guest Post by Anna D. Allen
If it were up to me, all my heroes would be beautiful, ginger-haired men… or “tall, dark, and handsome.” Of course, I can’t make them all ginger, and “tall, dark, and handsome” is relative to me—taller than me (I’m short), darker than me (I’m a shade darker than death warmed over), and handsome just means he’s got that something-something that makes me like him.
When the idea for a hero first takes hold in my mind, I can see him, but it’s like an impressionist painting with all the details burred (in keeping with my eyesight). So in order to describe those details, I seek out photos of men who fit that vision of my hero. This is purely a tool for myself.
It’s surprising how important these photos can be. In one story, the character had to be blond. No way around it. And thankfully, I found a photo to work from… because no matter what I did, no matter how I described him in print, in my mind, he had raven locks (and bore an uncanny resemblance to Duncan McLeod of Clan McLeod—aka Adrian Paul).
It can take some time to find the right image. And when I do, it never fails that I tend to describe the hero in negative terms—his ears were too long, his eyes too far apart, but she thought he was hot nonetheless.
For the novella A Light in Winter or the Wicked Will (published in Christmas Revels: Four Regency Novellas), the hero, Connor Grayson, had to be boyish and ginger. Easy. Eddie Redmayne! But as the story progressed, the heroine, Katherine Woodbridge, realized Connor was no boy and she was drawn to the “broad expanse of his back.” I needed another visual reference for that one… and discovered it while watching the latest version of Jane Eyre when Michael Fassbender, as Mr. Rochester, transplants a shrubbery. (What is it about 19th Century men in waistcoat and shirt sleeves? Okay, any man in waistcoat and shirt sleeves!)
Problems finding a suitable image arose while working on my novel, Miss Pritchard’s Happy, Wanton Christmas (and the Consequences Thereof). The hero was in his late thirties, very much a man, and had yet to hit that middle-aged spread. I could see the image in my head perfectly. I knew exactly whom to cast in the role. He was that British actor… I didn’t know his name. No problem. We live in the age of Google. I just had to Google something I had seen him in.
Only… what had I seen him in? There was that episode of Law and Order UK. No idea which one (but I bet someone was murdered). Well, he was in an episode of that mystery mini-series on PBS… No, I don’t know the name it. It was with…? With… oh, what is his name? That guy… from Ballykissangel… the one I associate with Robson Green. (Why didn’t I just pick Robson Green? After all, he is gorgeous! Probably because he wasn’t my hero.)
This was not working. Didn’t know the actor’s name, and what little I could recall about him would potentially require hours of searching through the casts of countless television episodes.
So I sought out other possibilities that were a close match to the image in my head. That guy who played the doctor in Bleak House (at least that one was easier to track down—Google Bleak House—the one with Charles Dance—and see who played the doctor). Sadly, the photos I found of him were blurrier than my eyesight. The only other prospect that immediately came to mind was… he played the handyman who married the older woman on Guiding Light. Good gracious! That was thirty years ago! Besides, I don’t remember anyone’s name from the show (I just remember everyone got food poisoning at their wedding).
Finally, I just started Googling actors with dark(ish) hair.
Richard Armitage? No.
Colin Ferrell? Such a beautiful Irish lilt, but my hero is English.
Marton Csorka? Too broad…but let’s remember to use him in something else.
Hugh Jackman? Hmmm? Well? Maybe… No, no, no. I can’t do that. Way too obvious. Besides, he’s not right for the part. But I’ll scroll through photos just a bit more. No, nothing. You know, I don’t have anything more pressing right now, maybe a few more photos.
And then I found one specific photo that worked. Maybe it was the lighting, the background, the look in his eyes, but, yeah, he’d do in a pinch. Still not my ideal hero for the novel, but what girl would turn down Hugh Jackman as a stand-in?
I had my hero.
Or so I thought.
Two nights later, the British actor I originally wanted to cast in the role was in a movie on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries—Honeymoon for One. He played the cheating fiancé! (Alongside Greg Wise—why didn’t I just cast him as my hero?) Now I had his name—Patrick Baladi. True, he was a tad too old for the part, but I found some photos of him from a few years ago, and, ta-dah, I had my hero. And I described him in the novel accordingly.
Sadly, this meant I had to fire Hugh Jackman! The poor man. With a family to support. He never saw it coming. I felt bad. Really, I did. So I named the hero Hugh to make it up to him. (You know he’s thrilled.)
Meanwhile, as all this was going on, I had the artist, Adam Tetzlaff, hard at work creating an image for the cover. It was to depict the hero and heroine. Furthermore, my sometimes co-anthologist, Hannah Meredith, had read the opening chapters of my novel in progress. She had no idea of all I’d gone through to get the hero just right in my mind. When Adam finished the artwork, I showed it Hannah. She was impressed and said it was great… only…
“I imagined the hero as Hugh Jackman,” she confessed.
Of course, by the end of the novel, I was imagining the hero as Henry Cavill, despite my careful descriptions to the contrary.
Clearly, this need for an image of my hero is purely for my benefit, because readers create their own image of the hero.
For The Vicar’s Christmas (published in Christmas Revels II: Four Regency Novellas), it turned out much the same. I had the perfect image in mind for my vicar (with the receding hairline). I tracked down a photo, this time, casting an American in the role. Knowing nothing about the actor, I was shocked to learn he was approximately 60 years old! He could easily pass for my almost-40-year-old vicar. When I learned Hannah Meredith was a fan of the recently defunct television show he starred in as the side-kick, I told her, “Oh, I based the appearance of Henry Ogden on him.” Well, Hannah informed me, the actor bore no resemblance to the Henry she imagined!
Decide for yourself. Read the excerpt, and with what scant clues I’ve provided, decide whom you would cast in the role of my mild-mannered village vicar, Henry Ogden. I’m looking forward to reading your choices. Tomorrow, I’ll post my own comment and tell you who provided my inspiration.
Title: Christmas Revels II : Four Regency Novellas
Author: Anna D. Allen
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Singing Spring Press
Let the Revels begin-again! Four new stories with four distinctive voices:
The Vicar’s Christmas – Margaret Trent never needs anything or anyone, but when two London solicitors show up on her doorstep, she needs a hero. Enter Henry Ogden, mild-mannered village vicar. Hardly the stuff of heroes . . . until adversity brings out unexpected talents.
A Christmas Equation – A chance meeting between a reluctant viscount and a self-effacing companion revives memories of their shared past-a time when they were very different people. With secrets to keep, Sarah Clendenin wishes Benjamin Radcliff gone . . . but he’s making calculations of his own.
Crimson Snow – A trail of blood drops leads Jane Merrywether to a wounded stranger-the only person standing in the way of her wicked guardian becoming an earl. John Rexford, long-thought dead, has returned to claim his inheritance and his promised bride . . . if he can survive a murderous Christmas.
A Perfectly Unregimented Christmas – After years at war, Viscount Pennyworth returns to his ancestral home to find some peace and quiet and to avoid the holiday he loathes. But four naughty boys, a bonnet-wearing goat, a one-eyed cat, a family secret, and one Annabelle Winters, governess, make this a Christmas he’ll never forget.
Christmas in July Fete Sackful of Giveaways:
Grand Prize: $75 USD Amazon Gift Card
$5 Amazon gift card and a 1940’s style hair wrap
(plus more prizes…)
Starts July 1, 2017 12:01 am EST and ends August 1, 2017 12:00 am EST
A violent tapping at his window startled the vicar out of his thoughts. On the opposite side of the glass stood a grinning Jack Carden, the stable boy from Edgecombe Hall, all rosy cheeked with ringlets and the vapor of his breath creating a very false cherub-like appearance. He waved a note clutched firmly between the hand and thumb of his mitten. Had it been summer, Henry would have just opened the window and taken the note—no doubt with Jack crawling through in the process to land in a jumble on the carpet. But with these cold days settling in and thoughts of summer far away, Henry was not about to open the window. He probably should not have even drawn the curtains but he couldn’t resist the sun pouring into the dark room.
“Go around,” Henry said and motioned the boy toward the back of the house. Holbein, Mr. Clarke, His Majesty the mad king, and even God would all have to wait for the more pressing matters of village life.
Henry met the boy inside the hall by the back door and took the note.
“You should hear Miss Trent!” Jack exclaimed with much too much eagerness. “If she weren’t a lady, she’d be swearing like a groomsman.”
“Ah. None of that, now,” Henry calmly scolded, then pointed toward the kitchen. “Have Mrs. Brown give you something hot to warm yourself. There may be a reply.” Between the boy and Henry’s housekeeper, the vicar knew the whole village would know of the goings on at Edgecombe Hall within the hour.
As Jack scampered off to the kitchen—Mrs. Brown shouting for the boy to walk and refrain from behaving like a little heathen—Henry broke the seal on the note.
It was a summons from Miss Margaret Trent. Or more precisely, from Mr. Jonah Henderson, the late Sir William’s London solicitor’s junior partner who had called on Miss Trent that morning. He reported the lady was quite hysterical—how Henry hated that word, especially as he doubted Miss Trent had ever been anywhere near exhibiting such symptoms in her entire life—and that she needed Reverend Ogden to come immediately to offer comfort and consolation in her time of bereavement.
A solicitor, especially one up from London, never boded well. And this note reeked of mendacity. While anyone and everyone in the village could more than happily lecture on what exactly Miss Trent needed, comfort and consolation in her time of bereavement were definitely not among them. If anything, the gossips said she demonstrated an unusual lack of emotion upon her father’s death. Never one to put store by gossips, Henry knew Miss Trent to be dignified, proud even, and that she would never allow for a public display of her feelings to all and sundry. Tears were a private matter reserved for intimates.
Margaret Trent, in Henry’s view, was probably the most self-reliant of all his parishioners and therein—he suspected—lay the reason for her continued spinsterhood. She managed quite well on her own, and whatever the situation unfolding today at the hall, Henry sincerely doubted Miss Trent needed him for anything.
He took out his pocket watch and clicked it open. Quarter to eleven. Blast and blazes! He would have to do without his eleven o’clock tea. Worse—well, maybe not worse—the farrier had told him not to ride his horse until after Christmas due to a recent bout of lameness. Walking from the vicarage to the church was easy enough, but all the way to Edgecombe Hall, a distance of at least two miles, in this cold, would be miserable. Still. Needs must. If Jack could manage it as cheerfully as he did, so too could Henry. And the lad could keep him company on the way.
Henry informed Mrs. Brown that he had been called to Edgecombe Hall about a matter and did not know when he would return home. He checked himself in the mirror; despite his dark, spiky hair and the ever-growing number of faint lines around his eyes, he would do. He bundled up against the cold, wrapped a muffler around his head, pulled on his gloves and hat, and, seeing Jack was finished with his cup of tea and biscuit, headed out into the gray frosty world with the boy tagging along beside him.
Amazon – http://a.co/4ogrKbC
Anna D. Allen is essentially half-Finnish and half-Southern, which means she has no sense of humor and will shoot you for wearing white shoes after Labor Day… unless you are attending a wedding and happen to be the bride. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in Language and Literature. She is a recipient of the Writers of the Future award and a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but she also has a great passion for Regency Romances. It is generally acknowledged that she spends way too much time with the dead and her mind got lost somewhere in the 19th Century. Along with her contributions to the Regency anthologies, Christmas Revels and Christmas Revels II, her available works include two collections: Mrs. Hewitt’s Barbeque: Seven Eclectic Tales of Food, Humor, and Love and Lake People and Other Speculative Tales; the novel Charles Waverly and the Deadly African Safari; the Regency Romance novelette “A Christmas Wager;” the Regency Romance novel Miss Pritchard’s Happy, Wanton Christmas (and the Consequences Thereof), as well as some boring scholarly stuff about dead people. Rumor has it she has run off with the Doctor—picking up Matthew Brady along the way—and was last seen in 1858 in a hoop skirt and running shoes, but she doesn’t believe it.
Social Media Links: