I am funny. Okay, I may not be stand-on-a-stage-do-The-Last-Comic-Standing funny, but I can tell a funny story and I have a quirky sense of humor. I really like to laugh and I am silly more often than I care to admit in a public forum. When people meet me and they find out what I do, they often assume that I write light-hearted romantic comedies with a sarcastic sense of humor that matches my life “voice”.
They are wrong.
No, I don’t write romps. I don’t do slapstick. I can’t tell funny to save my life. Instead, I write highly sensual, intensely emotional, dark historical romances set in the Regency period for Avon Books and Avon Red (erotic romances, those are written as Jess Michaels). People emailed me after my debut, Scandalous, came out in October 2005 and told me I made them cry. And I was happy about it!
So how did this happen? How did I go from being a reasonably happy person with a high sense of the absurd and the amusing to writing super dark romance?
I tell you what, I blame the men. That’s right, it’s not my fault, it’s my heroes. You see, I tried my hand at a few light stories in the dark days before Avon came calling. I sat down and I told myself that there would be no angst. There would be no brooding. There would just be a nice, normal, sexy hero with a sense of humor.
And then he whispered to me, “By the way, I accidentally killed my brother three years ago. I’ve never quite gotten over the guilt.”
No!!! Bad hero. BAD. You aren’t supposed to be wracked by a guilty secret. You aren’t supposed to be torn apart and broken by emotional turmoil. And yet, as soon as he said that… I knew it was true. And it made him far more compelling to me. Although that story never sold, ten books have and all of them feature the common thread of a emotionally tortured hero in one way or another.
My latest book, Lessons From A Courtesan (which just came out Tuesday) features a hero, the Earl of Baybary, Justin Talbot, who isn’t any different. Like many of my previous heroes, he has a dark secret that he’s trying to keep. He has a complicated relationship with the members of his family. Oh yes, and he was blackmailed into a marriage of convenience with his wife, Victoria, who just showed up in London posing as a courtesan.
Well, that’s just enough to make any man dark and brooding, isn’t it?
So, as a reader do you like the tortured, brooding, darkly sexy hero? What do you think draws us to these alpha male types? And is there a twelve-step program for writers who are addicted to tormenting their characters?