“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.
Today’s guest is Rose Lerner, Romance novelist, author of one of Ana’s favourite Romance novels of 2010: In For a Penny. Her newest book is called A Lily Among Thorns (which Ana will review later today) and we are pleased to welcome Rose back to the blog to talk about the inspirations for her new book.
Please give it up for Rose Lerner!
1. Old-school Regencies
There was a certain type of alpha hero that was very common in older Regency romances, the ones I read when I was just starting out as a romance reader. Stiff-upper-lip isn’t even in it. This guy had a whole stiff face thing going on. His only visible expression of emotion was going a shade whiter under his tan, or a muscle twitching in his jaw. Sometimes (and sometimes for no apparent reason) he had a broad, deep knowledge of the criminal underworld.
The following exchange takes place after Sir Richard has foiled a burglar with great sangfroid:
“When I meet up with a leery cove, I don’t bear malice,” Jimmy announced, raising a tankard of ale. “So here’s to your wery good healthy, guv’nor, and no hard feelings!”
Sir Richard seemed to be rather bored, and merely nodded.
I read The Gamble by Joan Wolf about four hundred times in high school. There’s a scene towards the end where the heroine Georgiana goes to see the “king of the London underworld” and he calls the hero “Phillip.” This sort of thing has happened a couple of times before in the book, and Georgiana says, “It occurred to me that my husband appeared to be on a first-name basis with every scoundrel in London.”
I loved that idea of an aristocrat incongruously not just knowing, but being friends with dozens of shady characters, to the amazement of a new acquaintance. The idea that my heroine Serena “knows every rogue in London by his (or her) Christian name” is a running joke in my book.
This type of hero was generally saved from his degenerate ways and emotionally deadened state by a fresh-faced young woman who steadfastly refused to be shocked by him or his past. And I really, really wanted to see what that dynamic would look like with the genders flipped.
Nicholas Lea is my favorite actor in the whole world. He’s best known for his role as Krycek on the X-Files, but…don’t think about that right now? Because I’m about to tell you that I based my hero Solomon’s appearance and mannerisms on him, and I really really don’t mean Krycek. That isn’t how he normally looks or talks! (But he IS that handsome full time.) Here are a couple of pictures that I think get across the vibe I wanted:
from Lonesome Dove: the Outlaw Years.
from Lunch with Charles
Yes, I want to talk about it! I’ll take some of that tea, too.
He’s got a wonderful, boyish smile, but he’s got a great frown too, and a temper. He’s funny, and willing to look a little goofy to make you laugh. He has an amazingly sexy voice, deep and a little husky. He’s tall and broad, with arms like…like REALLY NICE ARMS, and freckled shoulders that should be immortalized in sculpture. In fight scenes, he’s efficient and businesslike. He can be scary when he wants to be. But for all that, he’s totally beta. My eyes are drawn to him in every scene, but it’s because I love him, not because he’s dominating the room. It took me about ten X-Files episodes before I even realized that yes, he’s several inches taller than David Duchovny.
He has this way of kissing a woman’s hand that’s both playful (he knows it’s cheesy) and totally sincere (she’s a queen and he wants her to know it). When he says, “You’re perfect,” or “you’re wonderful” (yes, this has come up multiple times in his career), he says it with a reverence and intensity that makes me swoon. It doesn’t sound like a compliment. It sounds like a statement of fact.
Don’t worry, my hero doesn’t look anything like him! But he has that one song, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” that perfectly encapsulates the dynamic I wanted between Solomon and Serena.
The lyrics are perfect, especially
All the servants in your new hotel
Throw their roses at your feet
Fool them all but, baby, I can tell
You’re no stranger to the street
And it’s not just that Serena owns a hotel! “Fool them all but, baby, I can tell”: that’s it right there. One of the sexiest things anyone can say. More than the line itself, it’s the way it’s delivered.
Solomon gets Serena. He sees her, really sees her for who she is, in a way no one’s seen her her entire life. And he’s not going to let her get away with hiding or pretending that everything is fine. But at the same time, he isn’t aggressive or dismissive about it. And he is never, ever going to judge her. Solomon takes something that’s always been deathly serious for Serena and he’s playful and gently teasing about it. He says, “I know you’re hurting, but come have fun with me.”
Solomon’s attempts to get closer to Serena are a really fine balance of pushing and giving space, and of humor and earnestness. This song helped me find that mood when I was floundering.
4.Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
No one in the book looks like him either, which is a shame because that is one fine beard.
The thing about Tennyson’s writing is that it’s very Victorian and proper, but it’s also got this incredible sexual tension going on right below the surface. Here’s a stanza from “Maud”:
She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.
It seems pretty innocuous at first, maybe, but then you think about what he’s saying: he is so intensely physically drawn to this girl that his hundred-year-old corpse would bloom in bright, sexy colors if she walked by. “Erotic” isn’t in it, I’m going to have to go with “dirty”!
Solomon and Serena are trying not to openly express their connection to each other: he because he knows it will scare her off, and her because she’s scared of intimacy and of being vulnerable. They’re tiptoeing around it, but all the while there’s this undeniable, electric physical link between them. The more they try to deny it, the more charged it becomes and the more they’re drawn to it.
I’ll be giving away a copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one commenter! Tell me your favorite Billy Joel song, or who you’d cast to play your favorite fictional character.
You heard her: leave a comment here answering her question in order to win a copy of A Lily Among Thorns. Contest is open to ALL and will run till Saturday Nov 5th 11:59PM (PST). Good luck!