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Joyce Lamb | Romantic TV Couples and How They Inspire Fiction

February 13, 2011

Joyce LambTRUE COLORSHi, Fresh Fiction! Thanks so much for having me today!

I thought I’d yak a bit about the television romances that have inspired me as a writer. Some of them probably aren’t what you’d expect. No McDreamy or McSteamy in the bunch. Nothing wrong with the McDreamys and McSteamys of the TV world, of course — I love a hunky guy as much as anyone. Put him in leather pants or slap a tool belt on him, and I’m so there! But the TV relationships and/or scenes that have inspired me as a writer are a bit less mainstream. So here goes …

Buffy kills Angel (probably not that much of a surprise for a romance writer): One of the things I loved so much about Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the metaphor for high school … and life, actually. I mean, I feel as though I fight demons every day, either mine or someone else’s. I remember clearly the exact moment I fell in love with the world of Buffy and Angel. Near the end of the second episode, Buffy has saved the day, and Angel stands outside the Bronze, looking surprised that she pulled it off. “I’ll be damned,” he says — and I toppled head over heels. Because he was already damned! I just love the layers there. By the time we got to the end of the second season, my emotions were so tangled up in Buffy and Angel that I watched riveted when she had to face that devastating choice: Kill Angel or save the world. Every time I get to the end of writing a book, I think about that and try to figure out how I can put my characters in a similar situation. It doesn’t always come together, but I try! I think I managed it best in one of my earlier titles, Found Wanting. The heroine has to choose between trying to save the life of her sister, who’s just overdosed, or trying to find her son, who’s also in immediate peril. See, she’s right there with her sister, but her son is somewhere else, hidden from her but also in danger right that instant. She has to make the decision: Abandon the sister who hasn’t been very nice to her, most likely leaving her to die, or try to find her son, whom she might not be able to find anyway. It was wrenching to write.

Aeryn on the ledge: Farscape wasn’t a widely watched show. It was science fiction, after all. But what a lot of people don’t know, is that the show revolved around the epic romance between John Crichton and Aeryn Sun. Their relationship turned the hero-heroine dynamic around, so that she was the unemotional soldier, and he was the naïve, sensitive one. Don’t get me wrong: He wasn’t weak. Oh, hell no. He was smart and inventive and looked super hot in leather pants. (I’m getting warm just thinking about that!) Through the wonder that is sci-fi, there ends up being two John Crichtons. Don’t ask, just trust me that it really does work, no matter how goofy it sounds. Now, John and Aeyrn were already in love before this happened, but Aeryn the soldier held back, believing that emotion leads to mistakes that get people killed. When Aeryn and one of the Johns get separated from the rest of their group, they fall the rest of the way in love, and Aeryn finally lets her emotions take control. This is a drama, and the writers are clearly sadists (aren’t we all?), so tragedy comes calling. John dies in Aeryn’s arms, and her grief knocks her flat. This is a woman who’s been bred to deny her emotions her entire life, and when she finally lets them go, she gets slammed by an unimaginable loss. After John’s death, she spends much of the next episode on a ledge, literally and figuratively, and you as the viewer really have no idea if she’ll jump. I figured she wouldn’t, cuz, you know, the show wasn’t ending then — and there was still another John Crichton somewhere else in the universe pining for her. But, still. During that same episode, Aeryn says, “Love leaves you in pieces.” That really spoke to me, because as a romance writer, my goal is to leave my characters in pieces — so I can put them back together, better than they were before, and faster … possibly bionic. It’s kind of funny, isn’t it, that a sci-fi show — mostly written by men, incidentally — did so incredibly well what romance writers try to do in their stories.

Castle decks a man to save Beckett: This one was just a few weeks ago. One reason I love Castle is because Nathan Fillion (yum!) plays a mystery writer, which I happen to know a little something about. : ) He behaves pretty much the way I probably would in his position, rambling on at crime scenes while he hypothesizes the story of what happened to the homicide victim and why. In another twist on the typical romance, Castle is the sensitive, mostly normal guy, while Kate Beckett is the police detective who’s seen plenty. When it’s time to nail the bad guy, Beckett’s the one with the gun, and Castle’s the one who’s told to stay in the car (not that he ever does). In this particular episode, Beckett lands in the bad guy’s sights, and Castle whacks him to save her then beats the crap out of him. This is a huge thing for Castle, because he’s only written about violence — he’s never actually committed it. I think of that act as his “John Crichton Moment” (Farscape again!). Here’s the sweet, good-natured guy thrust into a situation where he has to do something completely out of character — and previously unthinkable — to save the woman he loves. For a romantic suspense writer, that’s the ultimate in romance! Oh, and by the way, that’s the episode where Castle and Beckett share their first kiss — and it’s HOT.

Speaking of HOT: TRUE COLORS (Berkley Sensation), the second in my True trilogy, was released in January (it follows TRUE VISION). TRUE COLORS is the story of Alex Trudeau, who picked up an intense, but sometimes awesome, psychic ability when she was shot after being mistaken for her sister in TRUE VISION. If Alex touches someone, her psychic ability sends her careening into a traumatic event from that person’s past, where she feels and sees everything the person felt and saw at the time of the event as if it actually happened to her. Not fun. Her ability has a major impact on her budding relationship with police detective John Logan. See, Logan is haunted by a tragedy from his past, and that tragedy is related to a serial killer who wants revenge. Unfortunately, said serial killer focuses on Alex as a way to make Logan pay, and when the killer kidnaps her, her psychic ability shows her the things in his past that made him a madman. So not only are Logan and Alex racing against time to stop a killer, but they’re also faced with the challenge of preserving Alex’s sanity. Luckily, there’s some sizzling romance along the way.

If you want to read an excerpt from TRUE COLORS, you can visit

Thanks for letting me hang out with you today! And, hey, are there any romance-inspiring relationships or scenes you’d like to share? If you leave a comment, you could win copies of both TRUE COLORS and TRUE VISION.

Joyce Lamb

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