I’ve spent much of my life in majority-male environments. Not intentionally; it just worked out that way. My mother died when I was young, leaving me in a household that was all male except for myself. Many of my neighborhood friends happened to be boys. In college, I majored in Computer Science, ensuring that most of my classmates would be men, and then I worked at a technology company where the employees were, again, nearly all men.
Nowadays, most of my friends are women, but I feel comfortable around men, and I enjoy writing them. They are not a mysterious other species to me; they’re just people.
And that’s how I like to write them: as people. Not as billionaire hunks of masculine perfection, who always know the right things to say, but as human beings with flaws, who make mistakes and have moments of weakness and sometimes say the wrong thing. In my books, a hero isn’t somebody born with all the advantages: the right family, the right genes, the right opportunities. He’s a man who’s not perfect but who strives to be better, who makes mistakes and learns from them, who finds love with the woman who understands him and loves his flawed self.
In my fantasy romance novel Assassin’s Gambit, the hero is a powerful young emperor who is disabled. In his youth, he was attacked by a group of assassins, and while he managed to fight them off, he lost his lower left leg. Now he walks with a prosthetic and a crutch. The Kjallan Empire, which he rules, is steeped in warrior culture and holds up physical perfection in men as an ideal to be worshiped.
Lucien doesn’t fit this ideal. He will never take the field of battle again—at least not physically. Instead, he tries to prove his worth by being a great battlefield tactician and by playing the war game Caturanga. He is excellent at both, yet he knows that many people will not accept or value him. He yearns for a woman who can see past his physical limitations and appreciate his many other wonderful qualities.
I like to write about imperfect heroes and heroines because, let’s face it, hardly any of us are perfect. And I think imperfect people should have as much of a chance as anybody to find their happily ever after. Who are your favorite flawed heroes and heroines in literature?
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