Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Finding the hero

I'm having a wine break. I would just like to point out it's nearly midnight and I haven't done my word count for the day so my bottom is still firmly in the chair. The next person who even suggests writing series fiction is 'easy' is liable to be smacked in the face. And, I promise, I'm not usually a violent person.

But, I digress.

I had an email today from an unpublished writer who wanted my take on 'casting' characters. Do I really use actors as the basis of my characters? Do I fill out character charts? Do I ever get muddled and forget the colour of their eyes?

So, the answers are: sometimes/sort of, never and fairly often if my writing time is broken up.

I've said in in a number of places that I 'used' British actor Richard Armitage as the 'hero inspiration' for my character Domenic in 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride'. And, I suspect that's what prompted the question.

Anyone who has read 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' will know that Domenic isn't Richard Armitage. Domenic is from an island called Mont Avellana. Richard's English. Domenic has brown eyes and Richard blue/grey.

But he helped - and it was all to do with the expression in his eyes. Finding Domenic was tricky. For a start he wasn't my creation. Not in the beginning. He was part of an editor-led continuity series which means I had certain 'facts' I needed to work around.

'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' is the fourth book in the Niroli series and I was asked to write it because the editors felt my 'voice' would suit the story they had in mind. Once the contracts were signed I was given 'The Bible'.

So, what did I know? Domenic was a hotel owner with light, slightly curly brown hair. He had brown eyes, was 6ft 2" tall, a lean and toned physique (so someone explain the muppet I've got on the front cover) and aged 34. It's not a lot to go on, is it? And I couldn't deviate because if any of the other six authors mentioned him we'd be contradicting each other.

I knew, too, that he was 'scarred, both emotionally and physically, from the tragic fire in which his wife and child died'. I had the same amount of infomation on Isabella Fierezza and some 'Key Themes' (scarred hero, traumatic pasts, forbidden love, working together). And that was me.

Now find the story.

Find the hero.

Make it 'real'.

Every book is different. It's inception is different. At least for me. If you really want to get to grips with what fellow author Trish Wylie calls 'backward casting' you need to check out her website here. I don't work the same. At least not always.

For me, ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes I begin a book with the 'hook'. As in now when my editor has 'suggested' I might like to try a sheikh story. It could just as easily been an 'office' one or 'royalty'. These are 'hooks' which we know readers like and since we're in the business of entertainment ...

Sometimes I begin with a place. For example I wrote 'A Family To Belong To' because I happened to be on the Isle of Wight when I started writing it.

Some books start with the hero or heroine. It can be a line in a movie which starts you off. Sometimes a picture. It's not 'them', it's the way they make you feel when you look at them.

For 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' I needed to find the characters which would make the 'facts' possible. So, why would Isabella go to Mont Avellana? Because she had to. What kind of man would be fascinated by her?

I decided he needed to be quite intense. Brooding. Passionate.

And that's what I meant about Richard Armitage being my hero inspiration for Domenic. My character's physical characteristics were set by the demands of being part of a continuity. Domenic is a burns survivor. He doesn't look like this.

BUT ...

When you look at this photo what do you 'feel'? I think there's an intensity in the eyes. A sense that he's really looking at the person out of sight. And, that's what I needed for Domenic. When he looks at Isabella he really looks. He really sees the woman she is.

And I suppose that's the fantasy. What woman doesn't want to be really seen???

Now wine over I need to go back to my WIP. With a Sheikh who doesn't really have a picture. Well, he does. Sort of. But, I'll tell you about that another day.

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  • At 1:43 pm, Blogger Liz Fielding said…

    I've been really, really bad and stolen Richard Armitage pictures from your blog. I'm at chapter nine in the w that isn't ip and the heroine hasn't actually seen him yet. She knows he has dark hair, that he needs a shave, that he's got a broken nose and seriously firm jaw. One of those pictures of RA just fit the bill perfectly!

    Thanks, Natasha!

  • At 3:24 am, Blogger Lee Morrison said…

    Good luck! I can see the intensity.



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