I need to take an aside. I’ll get back to the blonds in a minute.
After yesterday’s post, someone asked if I always developed the hero from a celebrity crush. Actually, it’s usually the other way around. The hero is built, then I cast him. For instance, Fletcher MacAllister, the hero of A Murder Among Friends, came into existence in about 1982 (and I still have the first rejection letter to prove it). He was always tall and lanky, of Scottish-Thai descent, and had a quiet determination about him, calm and strong. It wasn’t until about 2003 that he started to look like this guy:
The character definitely came first. After all, in 1982, Mr. Reeves was still a spritely young’un hanging out in Canada. (Although I did lift Fletcher’s first name from Mr. Knight’s character in The Immortal.) Likewise, Mason DuBroc, my half-Cajun, slightly hyper, art crime investigator in The Face of Deceit bounced around in my head for almost a year before starting to resemble this young man:
I suspect most writers work in that direction. As Marti and Jen pointed out previously, other characteristics tend to blossom first: their hero’s integrity, an intriguing past, or some physical aspect. A voice, heard in the night, or the movement of the head. Words or phrases that linger, telling you a lot about a man . . .
I, for instance, have a weakness for intelligent men with a twisted sense of humor. Also a weakness for floppy hair. And strong forearms. And a bright, unexpected smile that reaches into the eyes and lights up a face. And light hair.
Back to the hero at hand, who will take up residence in The Bones of Gregory Miller. Set in Nashville, it’s actually four books away (I hope), following three I’m proposing to Steeple Hill, and Reclaiming Daisy Doe, which I plan to finish by November 1. Although the plot is new, my hero has been growing in my head for a long time. Take, for instance, this slight side trip through the 80s, when one of my celebrity “crushes” was on a woman (and, no, it’s not THAT kind of crush).
I became fascinated with Beryl Markham, a remarkable woman.
When the announcement of her death made the news, along with a number of brief bio sketches, it set me off on a whirlwind of research. Among other details about this fascinating woman was the tidbit that one of the great loves of her life was Denys Finch Hatton, who had previously been in a hot affair with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – an affair richly portrayed in the movie Out of Africa, with Robert Redford (a blond!) taking the role of Denys, to great acclaim.
I read everything I could on Beryl Markham and Denys Finch Hatton. Then, in 1988, there came a television bio pic starring Stefanie Powers.
I was glued to the screen, discovering that the guy playing Denys looked an awful lot like 1979′s Jonathan Harker.
Well, yeah. Same guy. But, again, this was the 80s. British character actor not seen in the US much. Had to shelve the interest. Just not a lot out there.
But that was about to change . . .