Please welcome guest author Linda Palmer to the Cafe.
My imagination triggers are almost always someone else’s art–a book, a photograph, a song, a painting, a film. I absorb everything that intrigues or pleases me, and these things ultimately manifest in my writing. This is particularly true of movies and TV, where the trigger is visual, because I’m a very visual person. So it’s no wonder that the hero/heroine of my romance short stories, novellas, and books are the result of years in front of the TV or at a movie theater watching some actor/ actress breathe life into a character that was once nothing more than words in a script.
And what did I learn? We’ll undress—Oops!–address our heroes first.
My childhood Hollywood crush was Roy Rogers. I was around four years old, I think. I have a vivid memory of listening to him on the radio while I was jumping on the bed. When Roy graduated to a television series and movies, I was right there, watching him rounding up the bad guys, getting the girl, and riding into the sunset. Another early TV influence was the “Flash Gordon” (as played by Steve Holland) series. This was my first awareness of science fiction as a genre–not that I had any idea what a genre was. I just knew I wanted more of it. Oddly enough, both Roy (in his series) and Flash had girlfriends named Dale.
Lesson learned from these two?
1. A traditional (good, brave, trustworthy) hero is very easy to love.
After Roy and Flash there were a string of Disney heroes who thrilled me, with two standing out: Zorro and Robin Hood. That was in the fifties, but modern remakes have not disappointed. Who doesn’t love Antonio Banderas in The Legend of Zorro? As for Robin of Loxley, Russell Crowe gets my vote for best portrayal. Of. All. Time. We can also add vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) of “True Blood” to the list, as well as assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and mercenary Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) from the Bourne movies. Then there’s 007 James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Casino Royale, mercenary Roy (Adrien Brody) in Predators, and sniper Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) in “Bones.” All have well-hidden compassion that ultimately redeems them.
So what did I learn from these tough guys?
2. A bad boy is tempting, and when he has a heart of gold, he’s irresistible.
And then there are the silent guys–the ones we gals fall for because we want to mother them. These men, while outwardly genteel, have the inner strength to do the right thing. A character who lands here is “the Virginian” (as portrayed by Gary Cooper and, years later, Bill Pullman). Although there have been a lot of movies and even a television series about this particular cowboy, those two are my favorites. The Virginian, who has no other name (even in the book), has not only southern charm and manners enough to win the heart of the gentle school marm, but the courage to risk losing her when he has to hang cattle rustlers because it’s the law—the only law–of the land. Another quiet hero is Alex Bernier aka Heath Ledger in The Order. Alex is a Carolingian priest who resists his lady love as long as he can, and, once he abandons priesthood, has to then do the unthinkable to save her soul. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) in Constantine is pretty much the opposite of a priest, but he dwells in an ecclesiastical world, too. His mission? Help a cop named Angela figure out if her troubled twin sister really committed suicide or was helped just a little by a demon with plans.
What is the lesson here?
3. An enigmatic man is very damn sexy.
And now to the women who inspire me (and they’re very important because I write from a first person, female point of view). I have a huge list of SHEroes dating back to Calamity Jane (Doris Day) in the movie of the same name. A cowgirl who’s a little rough around the edges, she can ride and shoot as well as the guys. Although she thinks she loves the handsome cavalry Lieutenant, her heart is really in the pocket of Wild Bill Hickok. Then there’s Max Guevera (Jessica Alba) of the “Dark Angel” series. Bioengineering has given her superior reflexes, enhanced senses, and a burning desire to find the others of her kind who were scattered when they escaped their military hell. Blatantly using her skills for his own causes, Logan Cale feeds her just enough information about her friends to keep her coming back for more. Somehow, they fall in love. A third example is Domino Harvey (Kiera Knightly) in the movie Domino. A misfit in her parents’ wealthy world, she becomes a bounty hunter to fear. And when the love/hate relationship she has with Choco, another bounty hunter, tips to love, the screen flat-out sizzles.
1. A badass heroine is cool, especially if she can’t hold onto her heart.
Next comes the heroine who is a victim of circumstances, but courageously rises above it. I’m thinking of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar in the series; Kristy Swanson in the movie) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Poor Buffy. All she wants is to be a cheerleader with a jock boyfriend. What does she get? A legacy of wooden stakes and garlic. Buffy has to dig deep, but before long she’s more than a teenage girl with her eye on the nearest mall. She’s a young woman every vampire should fear. And even falling in love with someone she can’t have isn’t enough to stop her. Another amazing heroine is Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games. Hard times have landed her in a deadly situation, yet she somehow survives and learns to love the boy who has loved her forever. And then there’s Lisbeth Salander (Mara Rooney and Noomi Rapace were equally astounding) in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. What a heroine. Although brutalized, she is never a victim. Even better, she is still capable of trust and, ultimately, love.
What do we learn from these awesome women?
2. No one can resist a scarred, reluctant heroine, especially if she falls in love, and even more so if she can seriously kick tail.
The last group of inspirational women is made up of heroines who could be considered dutiful and low key when compared to my previous examples. These women are trustworthy, honest, and hardworking. They deserve better, but may not get it. First on that list is Jane Eyre. I think I have a DVD of every version of Jane Eyre that exists—a whole shelf, plus three copies of the book. It’s hard to say which actress played her best. I’m leaning toward Mia Wasikowska, but Susannah York was equally amazing. Jane is a modern woman in a time when independence isn’t really allowed. She has inner strength that enables her to say no to love, even when it breaks her heart to do it. Next on the list is Elizabeth Bennett as played to perfection by Keira Knightly in the movie Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie is simply a jewel–so relatable since we all struggle with pride and prejudices that make us foolish and sometimes hold us back. Her happy ending is our happy ending. And then there’s Mary Yellan, played by Jane Seymour in Jamaica Inn. When Mary’s mother dies, she goes to live with an aunt in a mysterious inn on the moors that’s frequented by ruffians. There she faces a cruel uncle with deadly secrets and his rascal of a brother named Jem. Can Mary resist falling for Jem? Of course not. (It’s that bad boy thing again.)
And what did these amazing women teach me?
3. A spunky heroine is easy to admire and even easier to root for since they deserve all the joy life can give them.
So there we have it—irresistible characters.
If I’m honest, I’ll admit that watching TV and movies has also helped my writing in other ways. In fact, I actually went so far as to make a list of…
But that’s another blog.
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In Wildest Dreams by Linda Palmer (release date July 2015 by Uncial Press):
Ellie Boone bakes novelty cakes for a living. Kit Macchiano is the photographer who lives down the hall. They occasionally have lunch together, but never without her best friend and other neighbor, Hanna. Both women are fascinated by Kit, who is up to his elbows in beautiful women.
She never tells Kit that her parents hunt mythical monsters for a living and host their own cable television series. But they do, and they’re in a jam, with the threat of cancellation hanging over their heads. Ellie’s mom Leigh begs her to accompany them on a hunt for the Cherufe, a legendary Chilean cave monster. Ellie is torn. While Leigh seems to have forgotten that her only daughter once got lost in a cave, Ellie vividly recalls the aftermath.
For years she had nightmares so frightening that her subconscious finally inserted a male savior into them—a personal dream catcher to chase the monsters away. But rather than admit to anything, she agrees to the trip if Hanna can go, too, to keep her focused. Unfortunately, a last-minute emergency sidetracks Hanna, and when Kit volunteers to step in for her, Ellie lets him out of pure desperation.
It’s only when Kit and a frightened Ellie are deep inside the enormous, creepy cave looking for the Cherufe that déjà vu slams her. She’s suddenly sure they know each other way better than she originally thought. In fact, it almost feels as if Kit has helped her through this ordeal before. But how? Her dream catcher is just a figment…isn’t he?
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Linda Palmer has always had a vivid imagination and loved creating elaborate scenarios when playing with her sisters and friends as a child. She began writing for pleasure in the third grade, mostly poetry, and has letters from her grade school teachers predicting she’d be an author. Her poems eventually became short stories; her short stories became books. And even though a writing career was never actually a dream, it was something she pursued with intent after joining a writer’s group. Silhouette Books published Linda’s first novel in l989 and the next twenty over a ten-year period (writing as Linda Varner). In 1999 she took a break to take care of her family, but learned that she couldn’t not write and began again, changing her genre to young adult/new adult paranormal romance. She has now written over forty full-length novels as well as numerous novellas and short stories. There are always more in the works.
Linda was a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. She married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her family. Her website is www.lindavpalmer.com. Facebook her: Linda Varner Palmer. Twitter @ lvarnerpalmer.