Monday, May 03, 2010

Guest - Kelley Heckart

Good morning everyone! Today's guest is Kelley Heckart who'll be discussing our favorite subject - the romantic hero. Kelley writes Celtic historical romances with fantasy elements. Her stories reflect her passion for history, storytelling and the supernatural. Inspired by the ancient Celts, her tales are filled with fierce warriors, bold women, magic, conflict and romance.

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The Perfect Hero

How does a romance writer create that perfect hero? Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. In paranormal and fantasy romance, they may even be supernatural. There are Alpha, Beta and Omega males to choose from. The Alpha hero seems to be popular, but I prefer a hero somewhere in between Alpha and Beta. While the Alpha can set a female’s blood on fire, he does not make a great long term, monogamous romantic partner. A Beta is a better choice, maybe not as exciting as the Alpha, but give him some Alpha qualities and he can make a woman’s pulse race. Either way, the perfect hero should be appealing to the reader. It can be challenging for a writer to combine just the right ingredients to make that ideal hero.

My heroes are usually warriors, which is weird because in real life I am married to a pacifist musician. Ancient warriors are fascinating to me because they are a mix of courage, fierceness and passion. I grew up reading about them in Greek classics like The Iliad, in the tales of King Arthur and in Irish/Celtic mythology where they usually battled mythical monsters and were enchanted by goddesses or faery women. Some of them even had magical powers of their own.

I usually base my heroes on the Irish Fianna. In early Ireland, fianna were small warrior bands living apart from society as mercenaries, bandits and hunters, but could be called upon by kings in time of war. They appear in Irish mythology as an otherworldly, fierce band of warriors with the hearts of poets. Yes, I said poets. Along with other rigorous tests to prove their supernatural strength, expertise and bravery, one of the requirements to be initiated into the Fianna was to be a skilled poet. That mix of fierceness, courage, passion and sensitivity fascinates me and I like to create heroes with those qualities.

When I say perfect, I do not actually mean that the hero should be without imperfections. I like complicated heroes, ones with flaws. This is where a writer needs to use caution because a hero with too many flaws or unlikable traits might turn a reader off. For instance, I had the challenge of taking a real sixth century Irish king known as one of the most feared warlords of his time and turn him into the hero in my latest release. He was called Aedan the Treacherous in the Welsh poems. I thought about this and realized that his enemies would probably not call him something nice, but to be a successful king in that century he would have to be a tough ruler. And to the outside world he is strong and merciless, but in private with the woman he loves, he shows a more tender side. But he is not without his faults. He can be arrogant and has a jealous streak. This adds some conflict to the story, but I had to be careful not to take things too far or my hero could come across as a tyrannical jerk. Those are the risks writers have to take when creating a flawed hero.

My perfect hero has some qualities of the Alpha male, he is a leader and has a touch of arrogance, but also possesses some Beta qualities like compassion. Oh, and he should have a cool name. My perfect hero is also tall, muscular and has long hair. That last part about long hair is probably influenced by my real life infatuation with musicians.

What type of male is your perfect hero?

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Cat’s Curse, Book One: Dark Goddess Trilogy: A Celtic prince, an ancient vampire and two curses…



Excerpt from Cat’s Curse:
The man started at her sudden words, turning toward her with the sword blade stopping just before the blade cut into Cardea's neck, the coldness of the iron striking a shudder in her. That was the second time in one night she almost lost her head to his sword blade.

“Why are ye following me?” Irritation filled his voice.

“You look like you need some help starting that fire.”

“I do not need yer help.” He stared at her. His brows knitted together, his eyes scrutinizing her. “A good Christian lass would not be out here all alone in the forest at night,” he remarked with a sneer.

Cardea’s mocking laughter filled the air.

“Do I amuse ye?” He peered at her, eyes narrowed in annoyance.

She found her courage again. “You presume much of me, but what about you? I can only imagine what dreadful act you committed to be banished into these dark-winged woods. Though I can assume your misdeeds had nothing to do with fire,” she smirked, crossing her arms and planting her feet firm to the ground.

“Ye lass, are a rude minion of the Devil himself.” His handsome face rippled with indignation.

“That I may be indeed.” She stared hard at him. His ranting recalled images of the hated Levite priests. A shudder tore through her body and rage fumed inside of her, threatening to rise. She flirted with the temptation to rip his neck open and drink him dry. No one would find his rotting corpse out this far in the forest. The beasts would clean the bones of all flesh. She did not understand why she held back, but her hesitation had something to do with the odd way this man stirred her senses.

He turned around and strode with great arrogance back to his fire pit, striking the blade with the flint rock in angry thrusts. After watching him for a few moments, she approached him.

“Do ye have more insults for me?”

“No. I just cannot stand to watch you make a mockery of fire starting.”

“I can start the fire,” he insisted, turning back to the fire pit.

She watched him struggle again with the stone and blade, trying not to laugh.

“Please, allow me to assist you. It is much too cold tonight to be without a warm fire.” She did not understand why she felt compelled to help him and reached for the dagger she carried on her belt. His cold blade touched her throat before she could blink. Three times now his blade touched her throat and she wondered if it were a portent. “I need my dagger to start your fire.”

He eyed her with suspicion, but withdrew his blade from her throat.

“Ye live alone?” he asked, giving her room to start the fire, but he did not sheath his sword.

“Yes.” She noticed how he bit back a derisive retort.

Cardea held the stone with the sharp edge facing the blade and struck the blade in one swift movement. A spark shot out and the dry peat began to smolder. She struck the blade one more time and a flame rose from the peat, sending out warmth.

“You have to strike the blade in one swift movement with the stone to create a spark. Rubbing it like you were doing only wears the stone down. And it is best to strike the blade with the sharpest edge of the stone.”

“I have a capable pair of eyes. I saw how ye did it.” The bitter tone of his voice revealed his irritation toward her.

“I did not intend to offend you.”

“Good night to ye.” He waited for her to leave the fire before sheathing his sword. Keeping his eyes on her, he stoked the flames.

She stepped toward him and he jumped up, moving away from her. “Do not touch me.” His eyes turned an angry shade of dark blue and an aura of torment surrounded him. “I wish to be left alone.”

Cardea bristled at his surliness, thinking him to be the most arrogant man she'd ever met.
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Kelley’s links:
http://www.kelleyheckart.com
http://kelleysrealm.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/CelticChick
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelley-Heckart/111838455604
Kelley’s book page at Awe-Struck:
http://www.king-cart.com/Awe-Struck/category=Kelley+Heckart/exact_match=exact
http://www.goodreads.com/kheckart
http://www.myspace.com/phantomqueen3

Kelley has two books, Cat's Curse available now at Awe-Struck Publishing:
http://www.king-cart.com/Awe-Struck/category=Kelley+Heckart/exact_match=exact

and Beltaine’s Song, the second book in the Dark Goddess Trilogy, will be available soon from Awe-Struck.
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Thanks, Kelley, for being with us today and for sharing your insights on heroes. I'm sure our readers will have enjoyed your article as much as I have.

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7 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

Enjoyed the article and the excerpt. I have to agree that Alpha males would be hard to live with! I enjoy reading them, but am glad the heroines have to take them home and not me. lol

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kelley,

I agree with Pauline. Alpha males are great to fantasize about. Wonderful in novels. But I wouldn't want to have to live with one either!

Wishing you every success with your very interesting novels. Like you, I like to write romance with a paranormal twist.

Kelley said...

Hi ladies,

Thanks for commenting on my post. This was a fun subject to write about. It brought up memories of before I was married when I dated Alpha men. I didn't marry one though.

Kari Thomas said...

WONDERFUL post, Kelley! And its so kewl to hear that others agree that you can give a Beta hero a few Alpha qualities --and he turns out the best!

Adding your books to my TBB list!

hugs, Kari Thomas, www.authorkari.com

Linda Andrews said...

Very nice insight on heros

I had to laugh at the excerpt. For some reason I kept equating his stubbornness about the fire to a modern man refusing to ask for directions.

Suzanne said...

Great insight into heroes. I'd never thought about how hard those sexy alphas would really be to live with. Guess that's what fantasy is for!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I like a strong alpha hero, too, and mine tend to come from outer space! What could be sexier than a guy who can fly a starship, shoot a laser pistol, and still punch out his enemies to defend the heroine? Although in the case of my next futuristic, she's more of a kick ass than he is. Mix in some Beta sensitivty and you've got a guy we can care about.