Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ah, research . . . in search of a hero :: Anne McAllister

Last month when I was here, I talked about research.

Research, last month, was about interviewing bull riders and baseball umpires and finding castles in Ireland or perfect Caribbean islands or leaning how to build an 11 ton sandcastle. All the things, in other words, that make books authentic, that give me details to hang my story on.

But there is another kind of research that's equally important -- and no less enjoyable.

It's finding heroes.

Those of you who have been on my blog or Kate Walker's or the Pink Heart Society blog are aware of the Hugh-in-a-towel motivational technique. If you aren't familiar with it, it goes like this: whenever you get stuck or, in a lecture, whenever you want to bring your audience back to what you are saying, you flash a picture of Hugh-in-a-towel in front of them.

Works every time.

But when you've written as many books as I have, you sometimes need other inspiration (not to mention the fact that when I wrote my first book, Hugh was in high school).

Anyway, this requires research. Finding appropriate heroes who embody visual aspects of the man I'm writing about. Sometimes this means clipping pictures out of catalogs or magazines. More recently, it's meant trawling the internet in search of buttoned
down intense dark-haired men who could be my current architect hero.

When I first began my book I had what I thought was the perfect hero. But as I've written, he's changed. He no longer looks like this guy on the left. Well, if he ever smiled, he might.

But presently, he doesn't. He looks more . . . intense. And he has a neater haircut. My Sebastian is controlled, focused. This guy above is too easy-going.

So I think I'm going to borrow Kate Walker's inspiration (below) for my current guy as well. Or maybe this other guy to the right. I'll have to see which one feels the most, um, Sebastian.

Whichever, he'll be entirely different as a McAllister hero than as a Walker hero in any case, trust me.

Sometimes I get the right guy right off. But sometimes, like Sebastian, he shapeshifts on me.

Flynn, in my ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD started out looking a lot like James Purefoy. But by the time I finished the book he didn't at all. Weird. I had to go and find another hero. This is definitely more Flynn.

If you write, do you need to visualize your hero? And if you're a reader, do you visualize a particular guy when you're reading?

Most important of all, who can you suggest as great hero material? I'd love to hear from you!

Anne McAllister's ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD is a March 2008 Harlequin Presents. It is the story of Flynn Murray and Sara McMaster who first appeared 6 years ago in her Silhouette Code of the West book, THE GREAT MONTANA COWBOY AUCTION.

If you remember them, you can find out what happened next in
ONE-NIGHT LOVE CHILD. And if you don't remember them or didn't read the earlier book, that's all right, too. Anne can barely remember what she wrote yesterday let alone what she wrote six years ago. So this book stands on its own!


Kate Walker said...

I'm quite happy to share my inspiration with you seeing as we had fun sharing the reasearch on this one (it's a tough job but someone had to do it) - and knowing that when/if my hero inspiration appears as your Sebastian in person, he won't be anything like Santos Cordero which is how he will appear in my book. But I'll look forward to meeting him as I know I'll enjoy his manifestation as a Mc Allister hero. And I'll look forward to doing some more vitally necessary research in the future


Madeline said...

Hi Anne, When I read a book, I like to visualize what the Hero looks like in my head. For some reason, when I visualized Flynn, Colin Farrell came to mind. I'm not sure why I chose to visualize him but, it seemed to work for me.

As for visualizing the Heroes in the books that I read, I guess it really depends on the authors description of the character. Some of my favorites are Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Dwane Johnson(The Rock),and Antonio Banderas.

Gigi said...

Hi Anne,
I loved One-Night Love Child. I had been meaning to send you a note.
Now that I think about it when I read a story I let my imagination run wild. I take what descipton the author puts in place and run with it.
I think the art department did a pretty good job of finding a nice Flynn for the front cover.

The story of ONLC is wonderful.
I could read it over and over again. It was so good.
I admired the hero so much. Not the son that should have inherited the title and the problems but Flynn did what was right no matter what a pain in the butt the family problems were.

I really liked Sara but I fell in love with little Liam.

Great names for the characters by the way.

Pat Cochran said...

I'm sure that the research for a
subject such as this must really
be an intense project ! In my case, I don't necessarily have to "see" the character. I usually follow the author's description
of the hero and go with that. If
I feel a need for visualization,
my hero almost always seems to
look like David Boreanaz of the Buffy/Angel/Bones shows.

Pat Cochran

Anne McAllister said...

Kate, Thanks for being so willing to share! And yes, I know your Santos and my Sebastian won't be anything alike, even if they are 'twins' visually.

Mads, Colin Farrell works for me. I think it's because he is Irish and so he's your prototype for Flynn. A young Pierce Brosnan would do the trick, too!

Gigi, Thanks so much for your wonderful words about One-Night Love Child. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it. And yes, I very much agree that the art dept did a good job with portraying him. I'm delighted.

Pat, I think you're like me -- you find a hero who resonates with you (like David B) and you can put his face on almost any hero in a book who appeals. I did that for years with the actor Robert Fuller (and I'm still capable of doing it now given half a chance!)

Jane said...

I usually visual my heroes as Christian Bale, Eric Bana and Gerard Butler.

Anne McAllister said...

Jane, what terrific taste you have! I've cast Christian Bale in one of my books when I started the book, but he morphed into someone else by the end. It's odd how they do that.

And Gerard Butler in Dear Frankie was wonderful. In other things as well, of course, but that's where I first saw him.

Cryna said...

Hi Anne - It is funny when I read a book I visualize the hero that the Author describes and very seldom visualize anyone in particular. I love the research that you and Kate did - and it looks like it was profitable as

Dina said...

I'm still trying to past Hugh in the towel, lol.

Jane and I have very similar tastes, My heroes are Christian Bale, Eric Bana, Hugh Jackman and my first is Gerard Butler.

Anne McAllister said...

Cryna, I think that sometimes for me when I'm reading someone else's book that the hero's voice is what makes him come alive for me. And if I can hear a particular actor's voice doing his 'dialogue' then that's the man I envision.

Dina, it's hard to get past Hugh-in-a-towel on the best of days. Congratulations for making it all the way to the comments! Obviously you and Jane have very good taste! I haven't seen the film Gerard Butler was in over Christmas. I think I need to rent it. Somehow him being dead in the beginning of it didn't make me want to rent it! Where's the happy ending???????

Maureen said...

I usually go by who the description the author gives in the story. Sometimes that will remind me of someone and then that's who I see in the story.

Anne McAllister said...

Thanks, Maureen. It's for readers like you that I will have to remember to describe my hero! Sometimes he's so clear in my head that I think everyone else can see inside my brain. Thank heavens they can't! What a mess. But I'm glad you reminded me to make sure I spell him out to some degree -- and then let the readers take over and bring their own best fantasy to the man on the page.