Legendary Wyoming lawman J.D. McNulty, the hero of my time travel book, CHRISTMAS MOON, is unlike any hero I’ve ever created. To start with, he’s older – forty-four when the story takes place. He’s also grumpy, bitter, salty-mouthed, smokes smelly cheroots and tends to drink too much. Plagued by a violent past, all he wants to do is forget.
Emma Carlyle, my 21st Century heroine, is pregnant, unmarried, and researching J.D.’s life for her master’s thesis. Despite the fact that J.D. died more than a hundred years before her time, when the story begins she’s already fallen in love with the man.
By the time I’d written the first couple of chapters, I was in love with him, too. I would’ve traded places with the time-traveling Emma in a heartbeat. But all I could do was finish the book.
So here I am, with CHRISTMAS MOON in print, still trying to figure out where this man came from and how he got into my head. What did I see when I pictured him? A younger version of Tom Selleck’s Jesse Stone character comes to mind – tall, rangy, broodingly handsome in a battered way. I even gave him Tom’s moustache. As for the red long johns he wears (with nothing but boots) in his opening scene – yes, I know one-piece men’s underwear wasn’t worn in the 1870’s. But this was my fantasy, and the image of J.D. in that getup was too delicious to resist.
J.D.’s voice…now that’s a story in itself. I’d never given much though to a character’s voice before. But I was driving when I heard a radio interview with an author who was coming to a local bookstore. Charles Bowden, who writes documentary fiction about the Mexican border and the drug wars, has this gravelly voice several steps below basso profundo (he also writes like he’d made a deal with the devil). Hearing him was like hearing J.D. That voice stayed with me through the entire book. I went to the signing of course, along with a mob of other middle-aged women who’d heard the same interview. He looked like his voice, and if he’d crooked his finger, he could’ve led us out the door like the Pied Piper.
But a hero is more than rugged good looks and a riveting voice. Hidden beneath J.D.’s rough exterior is a loving, decent man. A man who’d take in a homeless, one-eyed cat for winter company. A man who’d lend a friend enough money to buy a saloon and not hold it against her when she didn’t pay him back. A man who’d give his only bed to a chilled, pregnant woman. A man who could change a diaper, make a cradle from an ammo box, shovel a path to the privy and come home with a fresh pine tree because a tiny girl’s first Christmas was something to celebrate.
For this side of J.D. I drew from the men I’ve loved in my life – my father, my grandfathers and uncles, and the generous, compassionate man I’m lucky enough to call my own hero. Maybe that’s why I really fell in love with J.D. And I hope you will, too.
As a writer or reader, who’s your favorite romance hero, either your own or someone else’s creation?
You can read more about CHRISTMAS MOON and find a purchase link on my web site, www.elizabethlaneauthor.com.