The Making of a Hero

 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,

+ posts

27 thoughts on “The Making of a Hero”

  1. Hi Elizabeth, I love tortured rugged heroes! J.D. sounds like exactly my kind of guy. Tough on the outside, but deep down a man of great compassion. I love the image of a cradle out of an ammo box.

    My own favorite hero has a similiar name. He’s J.T. Quinn, soon to appear in “The Outlaw’s Return,” my February release for Love Inspired Historicals. Like the title indicates, he’s got a past and he’s trying to make up for a big mess.

    Time travel is such a fun format . . . especially when it involves a great hero!

  2. Thanks, Vicki. Yeah, there’s something about a tortured hero who needs a good woman to heal him.
    JT Quinn sounds like my kind of guy. And THE OUTLAW’s RETURN sounds like a great story.

  3. My husband doesn’t have the rough edges that J. D. does, but he is a man of honor and does nice things for people all the time. Little things that many wouldn’t think of, but they mean so very much to the person they are done for. I really wonder how I was lucky enough to end up with him as my personal hero.
    Can’t wait to read CHRISTMAS MOON. I am currently looking at e-readers and hope to have one soon. The hard part is to decide which one is best.

    Hope your Christmas season is going well.

  4. Your husband sounds wonderful, Patricia. And even though we sigh over those troubled, rough-edged fictional heroes, how many of us would want to take one home for keeps? You’re one wise lady.

  5. Don’t we all love those wounded heroes who hide their fundamental decency under a tough, bitter shell? I could never pick a favourite. But like Patricia, I think my own hero is pretty special.

  6. Elizabeth, I’m so glad you blogged on this book again. I literally devoured it. You captured me on the first page and as the book progressed I found myself reading faster and faster. The suspense was killing me. I had to know how you were going to save J.D. and give him and Emma their HEA. I wasn’t disappointed. The ending was perfect. I hated the book to end though because I’d fallen in love with J.D. I hope to see more time travel stories from you. You have a definite knack for that genre!

    Strangely, Tom Selleck is the man I pictured as J.D. also. He’s excellent at trying not care for someone when he’d cut off his right arm for them. Right now, J.D. happens to be my favorite hero.

  7. Oh, Linda, thanks for making my day. If I ever meet you in person I will hug you to pieces.

    So glad you enjoyed CHRISTMAS MOON. I’d love to see it as a movie. Alas, Tom Selleck’s probably too old to play JD, and I can’t think of anyone else who fits that well.

  8. Elizabeth, some books just really, really have to be written and this is one of them. It’s not hard to spread the word to everyone I know. Everyone who loves western romance will need to snap up this book.

    Hopefully, we will meet someday. That’s my fondest wish, not only to meet you but all the Fillies who I’ve come to know, respect, and love.

  9. Don’t you just hate it when reality tries to stomp it’s way into our books. No long johns. Boo.

    Glad you defied reality, girl.

    I had a Stetson in a book set in the mid 1860s. Guess what? No stetsons yet.

    And it’s absolutely true. A Stetson is not only a very specific name the history of which is clear, but it’s also a very specific STYLE, there really were no cowboy hats before about 1870.

    But I want that date adn my cowboys HAVE to wear cowboy hats!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. I’ve come across many heroes in books but my real
    hero is the man I married almost 50 years ago. He
    is a real hero to all of our family. No matter what
    I, our children, and our grandchildren need, he does
    his very best to provide. Could be a hug, computer
    question, or a sleepy baby needing to be rocked. He’s always there for us!

    Pat Cochran

  11. I’m with you Mary–and Elizabeth. The hats the cowboys wore in the ’60s were wide brimmed and flat. That’s just not right! 😉

    Elizabeth, congratulations on the release of Christmas Moon!

  12. No cowboy hats before 1870, Mary? Not fair! Now I’m wondering if I’ve ever gotten that wrong in my books.
    Wish we could write a rule that says cowboy hats and long johns are ok anytime.

  13. I bought this book for myself for Christmas and I can’t wait to read it. Tom Selleck-yum. Look how long he’s been around and been popular with women for decades now. That should tell us something. I’ve been married to my own personal hero for nearly 19 years, but we’ve known each other for about 30. He has a great sense of humor, performs little acts of kindness, and every time I think I know everything there is to know about him, he surprises me again.


  14. oooh, i love your story premise–the man jammies and the time travel
    jd sounds fabulous!
    i love how you came up with who he is!

    my favorite romance hero thus far is Jed in Stacey Kane’s Bride of Shadown Canyon
    he is my dream man to a T

  15. I absolutely have to read Christmas Moon. I have always loved time travel.
    My all time fav romance hero is Rhett Butler. Only I have him looking like Tom Selleck. With the voice of Sam Elliott. Now, how’s that for a combination?
    I have been watching the National Finals Rodeo all week and get to hear “the voice” on each Dodge Commercial! And watch all the beautiful cowboys.
    For an old lady, I can’t take too much of this!

  16. Now you’re giving me hot flashes, Mary J. I love Sam Elliot’s voice (and the rest of Sam isn’t too bad either).
    And those cute, brave young cowboys…sigh.
    Thanks for the hormone surge.

  17. Stetson created a rugged hat for himself made from thick beaver felt while panning for gold in Colorado. According to legend, Stetson invented the hat while on a hunting trip while showing his companions how he could make cloth out of fur without tanning. Fur-felt hats are lighter, they maintain their shape, and withstand weather and renovation better.

    Stetson made an unusually large hat from felt he made from hides collected on the trip, and wore the hat for the remainder of the expedition. Although initially worn as a joke, Stetson soon grew fond of the hat for its ability to protect him from the elements. It had a wide brim, a high crown to keep an insulating pocket of air on the head, and was used to carry water.

    As their travels continued, a cowboy is said to have seen J.B. Stetson and his unusual hat, rode up, tried the hat on for himself, and paid Stetson for it with a five dollar gold piece, riding off with the first western Stetson hat on his head

    The original “Boss,” manufactured by John Batterson Stetson in 1865
    “Within a decade the name John B. Stetson became synonymous with the word “hat,” in every corner and culture of the West.”

  18. Great post. I think my favorite hero is the hero I am reading about at the time. They always seem to change for me.

Comments are closed.