The Book of My Heart

wings-cover.jpgStories have lives of their own.  Some spring into being and race to completion.  Others follow their authors around for years, demanding to be told.  My January Harlequin Historical, ON THE WINGS OF LOVE, is the second kind of story.  Even though it isn’t a Western, I’d like to share it with you here.            

          For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by flight—especially the men and women who first ventured into the sky.  About fifteen years ago I came up with an idea for a story with a hero and heroine, Rafe and Alexandra, who are drawn together by their passion for flying.  I loved it.  From the very beginning I knew it was the book of my heart.             

           I wrote a proposal and sent it out.  It came back again and again and again for two reasons.  First, nobody wanted a story set in the early 20th Century.  Second, nobody was neutral about Alex, my reckless, strong-willed heroine.  Some editors hated her.  A few loved her. After I started writing for Harlequin I tried the story again.  The senior editor almost bought it but changed her mind at the last minute.  “I loved the chemistry between Rafe and Alex,” she said, “but the time period is too modern for our historical line.”              Years passed, editorial policies changed.  I sent the story to my new editor.  “Interesting time period,” she said.  “But I can’t stand your heroine.”              More time passed.  I had another new editor, and suddenly Harlequin Historicals was looking for new settings.  I sent my story in again.  Finally… it sold!             

       Even then the saga wasn’t over.  I’d conceived the book as an epic, covering the early days of flight through World War I.  To fit the Harlequin format, I had to cut, and cut, and cut.  Every lost word was painful.  But I got to keep Alex with all her faults.  The final result was a thrilling love story that I’m still proud to call the book of my heart.             

       At last it was done and I sent an ARC out for an early review.  “Interesting time period,” the reviewer said in essence.  “And it’s a nice story.  But I didn’t like the heroine!”            

        And so, dear readers and fellow fillies, I leave it in your hands.  Alex is a rich man’s daughter, desperate to escape her restricted life.  She is passionate and courageous, but determined to do things her way.  She makes terrible mistakes, including one that almost costs her marriage, her life and something even more precious. Will you love her or hate her?  If you happen to read my book next month, I’d like to know.                          Meanwhile, let’s discuss heroines in general.  What qualities do you like or dislike in a heroine?  Do you have a favorite heroine?   Why did she touch you?   I’d love to hear. I will put the names of readers who post in a drawing.  The winner will receive a copy of ON THE WINGS OF LOVE.   I’ll do my best to get it to her before it hits the shelves in January.  Good luck to all of you.

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26 thoughts on “The Book of My Heart”

  1. Qualities I dislike are generally the same- a whiny heroine or one who is spoilt, seemingly beyond hope. The prissy kind of heroine.

    As for qualities I like- it varies depending on the character herself- I suppose most of all I enjoy the heroine who is strong beyond her petite stature or her femininity. Maybe she has an independent streak half a mile wide and refuses to accept help from a man until she realizes she has no choice but to allow him “in”- into her life and into her heart. I love when the heroine is as downright human as the next person- someone you could know or be friends with IRL.

    I have a lot of favorite heroines, but just too many to think of one right off the top of my head this early in the morning. LOL

  2. Thanks for your insightful comments, Taryn. I am honestly trying to learn from these posts what kind of heroines readers love (and I may have missed the mark with my beloved Alex, who is more Scarlett O’Hara than Jane Eyre).
    Your mention of “petite” was interesting. Maybe because I’m 5’7″, I tend to create tall heroines. There are, however, a few tiny ones in the mix. Have a great day and good luck in the drawing.

  3. I tend to write heroines so strong they’re almost Super Girl. My theory is, I do it because I’m the peacemaker in my family. Lots of … oh, let’s call it passionate … people. I’m in the middle of my daughters and my husband doing my job, pouring oil on troubled waters. I rarely get to cast the deciding vote and rule a decision.
    So, in reaction to that, I write heroines who say exactly what they think and keep a gun handy if there is trouble.
    But I’m finished now with a character I really fell in love with. I started the book deliberately trying to create a quiet, wounded heroine. Dominated by her much older husband, Cassie is now an 18 year old pregnant widow in 1880 Montana.
    I had quite a time with this one. I was trying to make her absolutely repressed but this this simmering volcano inside her. I got a lot of comments about her and, maybe, learned to really find depth in a character and show that to the ready. Comments on the book almost always said, “I LOVE this hero, but your heroine doesn’t work for me.” So I played with her a lot before I got it right and now she’s about the sweetest little, “Let me die for you” heroine I’ve ever done and I love her. I love the moment when she finally feels safe enough to erupt. We end up with this delicate, courageous woman that’s one of my favorite characters ever.

  4. Wow, what an intriguing heroine, Mary. I love characters that aren’t stereotypes–real human beings with depth. Please let us know the name of your book and when it’s coming out. I fell in love with a secondary character, Alex’s mother, who starts looking like a total doormat, but then…well you’ll have to read the story.

  5. Off for a thrilling visit to the dentist. If you don’t hear from me in the next few hours you’ll know I didn’t survive. 🙂 But I’ll get back to your comments a.s.a.p.

  6. Elizabeth- Hugs on the woes of selling your story, but horray for sticking with it and getting it published!! I love all kinds of heroines. I can relate to a heroine most when she’s lost everything and has to battle her way back, emotionally and literally. I also love humor in a story, but not when it’s too contrived. That’s why Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of my favorite authors – her humor seems natural and fitting. I hope I get the chance to read On the Wings of Love. You’ve made me curious!!

  7. A heroine who knows her strengths and weaknesses, and does not put up with nonsense. She has her values which are important to her and is able to be consistent and strong minded.

  8. Congrats, Elizabeth! Sounds like a great read. I particularly like heroines set in the mid-to-late 1800’s who have been influenced by Margaret Fuller and Susan B. Anthony and are interested in social causes like abolition and Native American abuse as well as suffrage for themselves.

    (P.s. I just had the dentist too and found out I need a crown. Next Wednesday. Aargh.)

  9. Hi Elizabeth. I love hearing the story behind the story. :o) But I find it hard to imagine that you’ve written a heroine some would consider unsympathetic. I look forward to reading it to see what you’ve done. *g*

    I like all kinds of heroines, mostly historical, rich or poor, they can start out downtrodden so long as they learn to be strong by the end of the story. The heroines I dislike are the wealthy or titled who have everything and their goals are something completely frivolous. I can’t relate to that. I don’t like whiney heroines. Put her in a situation she has to work her way out of, but please let her suck it up and not whine about it. I like a heroine who isn’t afraid or above getting her hands dirty. I want them to really work at and struggle for their h.e.a. I guess it boils down to, I’m most drawn to characters I feel are deserving of achieving their goals.

    I hope you are pain-free after your dentist visit. :o)

  10. Yea, Elizabeth!! I’m so happy that you got the book of your heart into print. That’s thrilling. Perseverance does pay huge rewards. I wish you overwhelming sales figures and lots of chocolate.

    My favorite heroine is one who has this softness on the inside and is tough as all get out on the outside. She’s a woman who can get things done, no matter what she’s faced with. She definitely doesn’t fold when the going gets rough. The heroine I hate and have trouble reading is the one who cries all the time, who wants everyone to feel sorry for her, and one who has to be the center of attention. Not my idea of a heroine, I’m sorry.

    Excellent blog! 🙂 And congrats again on your book release.

  11. Some of my favorites are the Concannon sisters in Born-trilogy by Nora Roberts. They all know what they want, although they perhaps show it in different ways…

  12. Your book sounds great. I like heroines who are strong, independent and go for what they want. They are not held back by the restrictions that society puts on women. I don’t like heroines who are wilting flowers that wait around for someone to take care of them.

  13. I like heroines who are clever, they have a sense of humor and are sympathetic to others. I also enjoy the flawed ones if they grow and learn from their mistakes during the book.

  14. Hi, everybody, I’m back. My sympathies to Tanya. I’m getting a crown, too, on Jan. 9. Ow!
    And thanks also to Christy, Charlene, Pearl, Devon, Linda, Eva, Crystal and Maureen for sharing what you like in a heroine.
    I think Alex was born after I read The Thorn Birds. Meggy, the sweet heroine, didn’t do much for me, but I fell in love with her bratty, outrageous, flawed yet good-hearted daughter Justine. Maybe she appealed to my inner brat. 🙂

  15. This book sounds wonderful! I have been looking forward to it since I first heard about it.

    As for heroines, I like all types of heriones. I like ones that are the complete opposite of me so that I can live vicariously through them…they do or say things I wish I had the courage too…LOL. I also like ones that I can relate to. I am not perfect so I like heroines that have flaws and acknowledge those flaws. I really identify with insecure and self-conscious heroines. One of my favorite heroines was Penelope Bridgerton from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. We first met Penelope in an earlier book when she was a self-conscious wallflower making her debut. In her book though she has grown into a strong young woman who is still a bit self-conscious and worried about what others will think once they discover the other side of her. She had real emotions and feelings and I could relate to her.

  16. Congrats on sticking with the book of your heart until someone realized how wonderful it is!

    I know the cutting is painful..but hey, if you saved that info in another file…maybe, just maybe you can recycle it into another story!

    I love strong heroines, but those who are not afraid to cling to their man when necessary — even if its only to let him know he’s THE man LOL!

  17. I don’t like whiney or bitchy heroines. Butsometimes I like strong heroines, sometimes I like insecure heroines. F.e. Heather in ‘The flame and the flower’ by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She’s very insecure, she obeys her aunt no matter what,… But as the story goes on, Brandon’s love for her makes her stronger. And that is something I love to read about. How love can bring the best in two people to the surface. Anyhow,the characters just have to feel ‘alive’. They have to be able to laugh and cry, to worry or to be foolish sometimes. I have to be able to feel what they feel, to ‘know’ them.

  18. I loved Heather, Stefanie–especially the way she grew into a strong woman. Several of you have mentioned having a heroine who grows over the course of a story. That’s something I really like. I’ve also read some good stories, mostly contemps, about heroines who start out thinking they’re perfect and can do it all and the lessons they learn when their world crumbles.

  19. I admire a heroine who is intelligent, intuitive and aware of what life holds for her. In other words she is capable of handling most crises.

  20. I don’t like a heroine who is stupid through most of the book. It is one thing to make mistakes in the beginning but if she has not redeemed herself by the middle of the book I am going to hate it. Otherwise, I am pretty flexible.

  21. Not anything really specific other than maybe someone who is honest with herself and others. Making mistakes is okay with me unless they were done in meaness. Oh, and someone who doesn’t go along with everything others tell her – I want her to have some independence.

  22. I don’t like weak little wusses, I like the strong type of women that gets things done. Whiners are out of the question too, hate them. The ones that are always crying about something.

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