I’m back for another blog hop hosted by H.D. Thomson at http://www.hdthomson.com, the same folks who brought us the Bad Boys of Summer. Since summer ain’t over yet, they’re keeping the heat on with a look at Hot Heroes. At the last writer’s convention I attended, I visited more than a few panels discussing that very subject, particularly as they apply with the growing popularity of paranormal romance. After all, not of all our heroes could make the cover of Teen People. Fangoria, maybe, but never Teen People. Heck, I’ve got eight books out—soon to be nine—and only one of them has a hero that could even pass for human, and that’s just if no one looks too close.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the oldest romances ever told, with variations in virtually every culture, whose message inspired and continues to inspire authors, screenwriters, playwrights and especially audiences for centuries. Today’s romances are full of aliens, shifters, fairies, demons, dragons and demi-gods and are they hot? Can I get a hell-yeah! You just have to look for it a little harder. The real question is not are these heroes hot, but where does the hotness come from? A vampire, at least, can still have a great smile, but a werewolf’s grin is hardly a romantic gesture.
At the writer’s convention, one of the things I heard again and again was to emphasize the traits to which your (mostly) human audience can relate. In each of my heroes, I found the button that said ‘hot’ to me and I mashed that sucker like it was Call of Duty. There are heroic archetypes and I embrace them shamelessly. Every writer wants to create something original and memorable, but I think there’s a lot to be said for knowing what the rules are before you break ‘em.
However, I also heard that you should de-emphasize your hero’s inhuman qualities. “Always have your shifter shift in the bedroom,” one said. “No one wants to feel fur on her back.” And, man, I cannot disagree enough. I say, if you’re writing paranormal, you’re writing for people who want to read paranormal. They not only want fur on their back, they want teeth on their neck and claws pricking at their thighs. They want to shiver when they hear the dry rasp of scales on skin, feel cold metal where it meets the scarred warmth of a cyborg’s last true flesh, smell the coppery blood and ancient spice in a vampire’s kiss. My heroes have horns, wings, spikes, scales, antennae, fur, fangs, claws, exoskeletons, mandibles, hooves, tentacles…and let me tell you, I de-emphasize nothing in a sex scene. Hotness is not about good looks; it’s about putting the reader in that moment with that man. Of course it helps if your hero isn’t dripping cold slime during a passionate moment, but here’s the thing—if he’s hot enough, even a little cold slime can be sexy.
I’ve gone a bit off-topic, so I’m going to go a little further. A long time ago, I read the world’s worst book. I’ve forgotten the title, but it had to do with gruesome murders and disappearances in an edge-of-nowhere-type town where a kind of alien conservation program turned out to be responsible. It seems humans were the perfect genetic template for a variety of functionally extinct aliens, so the main aliens were kidnapping Earth women, removing their bones so physiology wouldn’t be an issue and then breeding them with horrible monsters. I was twelve or thirteen when I read this, so I’m sure there were fine points I’ve lost over the years, but one thing I’ve never forgotten is the bit where one gelatinous captive smiles up into a chittering bug-thing’s faceted eyes while he lovingly scooped matter from a pouch on his body into hers. I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking, “Ew.” And you’re right, of course. That’s gross. But I direct your attention back to those two words that—for me, anyway—changed the context of that entire scene. That she smiled. And that he did it lovingly. And as hokey as the whole rest of the book was, those two words made it unforgettable, because there was a story in that—in two aliens who found some way, despite the horrific nature of their shared captivity, to come together and to make love—and it was a hell of a better story than the one the author wrote. (Yeah, yeah, there’s people out there who hate my books too.) Once upon a time, a boneless abductee and the last chittering bug-thing in the universe fell in love and, folks, we should all be so lucky.
Now, I can hear you out there asking me why I’m telling you this (and muttering that you’ll never be able to scrub your brain clean enough to get that image out. Yeah, it’s been with me over twenty years. Sorry). To answer that, I’ll give you yet another piece of advice from that writer’s convention, in which we were all informed that a writer should have a goal. Oh, and it can’t be to sell books. That, to quote Dr. Lecter, is incidental. A good writer tells a good story, this panelist said, but a great writer writes for a reason. “Ask yourself,” she said in her sternest, most professionally authorial tone, “what is your goal?”
Well folks, my goal is to write a sex scene someday that involves tentacles, is romantic and is not ridiculous. Not exactly The Great American Novel, but that’s the goal and I stand by it. “What is hot?” asks H.D. Thomson. Might as well ask what is love. (Baby, don’t hurt me…shut up, brain.) Hot is what you find when you love the one you’re with. Maybe he’s the Beauty and maybe he’s the Beast, but if he’s the reason you’re reading the book, he’s a Hot Hero—cold slime and all.
For more insights on hotness and the heroes we want to sweat with, check out the other authors on H.D. Thomson’s Hot Heroes blog hops for lots of giveaways and great reads. And feel free to check out the rest of my blog and if you like what you read, please leave a comment and enter to win an ecopy of my newest book, The Last Hour of Gann. One lucky winner will be drawn from the old hat when the last edits are done and the book goes live (sometime in September).