Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Please welcome author Elaine Cantrell
Elaine: Everyone always wants to know where authors get their ideas, and the answer is fairly simple. We get them anywhere and everywhere. Perhaps we hear a piece of music that speaks to us. Perhaps a lovely picture stimulates our imagination. Sometimes we simply see an intriguing person and wonder about their story. Sometimes the creative process reminds me of clicking links on the internet. You start with a thought, and there’s no telling where you’ll end up.
In the case of my new novel Return Engagement, the entire concept rests on my definition of what constitutes a hero. As time went by and I wrote more and more, I started to notice that all of my heroes had certain qualities in common. I decided to take all of those heroes and create a composite that would be my perfect hero. This is what I came up with.
First, I know it’s shallow, but I wanted him to be good looking. Heroes don’t have to be classically handsome. They can be rugged, have big noses, etc. The important thing is that they have to be compelling in some way. In real life I’m usually attracted to dark haired men; I even married one, but most of my heroes were blonde with blue eyes so I decided that Richard Lovinggood would be blonde.
Second, my heroes all know what they want. They might have their eye on the presidency as Richard does, or they might be struggling to reestablish a good name as Kyle Alexander did in A New Leaf, but they all have a goal and don’t mind working hard to achieve it.
Third, my heroes are all one woman men. Who’d want a man whose loyalties were divided? Richard loved his Elizabeth through a ten year separation, and once they reunited she became the center of his universe. All of his career plans, his family, everything took second place to her.
Fourth, my heroes have a romantic streak. Richard’s the kind of man who’d send flowers for no reason except he thought of you and wanted to please you. In Return Engagement he once sent Elizabeth little gifts every hour on the hour.
By the way, this irritated my husband no end. “Richard’s trying to buy her love,” he insisted. I disagree. He sent her some flowers, some helium balloons, a picture of himself-nothing extremely valuable, but I thought it was romantic. Hmm. My husband doesn’t see that in this case I copied him. He sends me little gifts all the time. His last gift was a GPS. No, that isn’t right. When we went to Charleston he saw me looking at a basket and waved some money under the basket maker’s nose before I knew what he was doing.
Fifth, heroes aren’t perfect. All of my heroes have faults. In Richard’s case, he’s impulsive and has a quick temper. Perfection isn’t very exciting, is it? It’s irritating.
Some of my heroes are a little dangerous. In real life I don’t think I’d like a dangerous man, but in fiction it suits me just fine. Richard is a little dangerous.
Once I had my hero all I had to do was people his world with characters that would be a match for him. Elizabeth Lane is my heroine. Elizabeth comes from humble origins, but by the time she meets Richard she’s rich and famous. She knows she’s throwing her life into chaos by getting involved with Richard, but she doesn’t care. She loves him too much to let anything stand in their way.
Richard’s family is also prominently featured in the book. His father is a powerful senator who wants to make Richard the President of the United States. He’s totally focused on his goal, and he doesn’t like Elizabeth at all. The senator is a formidable enemy so Elizabeth has her work cut out for her.
Richard’s mother is as high strung, hot tempered, and passionate as Richard is. As Richard’s uncle points out, at the end of the day Richard is very much his mother’s son.
With my fictitious world peopled with characters, I had to come up with a plot. Richard works for the FBI so that created a lot of opportunities for me to explore. My villain is genteel, soft spoken, and comes totally out of left field to wreak havoc with my characters’ lives.
Here’s a blurb and excerpt from Return Engagement. If you like it you can read the first chapter and order the book at the publisher’s website at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com.
Elizabeth Lane has heard the call of the four most seductive words in the entire English language: what might have been. Would you risk everything you hold dear to find out what might have been? That’s the choice which Elizabeth has to make.
Elizabeth is lucky, for she has it all, money, fame, a satisfying career and a devoted fiancé. Her humble beginnings are all but obscured, but she isn’t the kind of woman Senator Henry Lovinggood wants for his son, Richard. Senator Lovinggood plans to make Richard the President of the United States; he’ll need a woman from a wealthy, powerful family by his side.
Ten years ago he broke Richard and Elizabeth up, but this time it won’t be so easy, for Elizabeth wants to know what might have been. This time she’ll fight back, a struggle which ultimately leads to kidnapping and attempted murder and alienates her from the man of her dreams.
Excerpt: In this excerpt Richard and Elizabeth have met each other on a beach after a ten year separation. They go to a carnival, and now they are on the way back to their cars.
“Look at the moon, Richard. Have you ever seen anything so big and beautiful? Isn’t it lovely the way it’s reflecting off the water?”
“Yes, but not as lovely as you are.” Richard made a sound of disgust. “That is so trite. You’d think I could do better, but all evening I’ve had trouble saying what I mean.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re trying too hard, but for the record, I think you’re doing just fine.” She shivered and hunched her shoulders as she hugged herself. “That wind is cold.”
Richard immediately removed his jacket and handed it to her. “Here, put this on.”
“Won’t you be cold?”
“I’m fine. I’ve got on long sleeves and that’s enough.” His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. “In fact, I kind of like the idea of you wearing my clothes. Sounds like high school, huh?”
The chilly wind that blew across the moon-drenched water snatched Elizabeth’s laughter away. “Who cares? Sometimes it’s nice to be as irresponsible as a teenager.”
“Let’s sit down and watch the moon awhile.”
Elizabeth willingly sank into the damp sand and cuddled close beside him.
“Richard, about this evening….”
“Elizabeth, about Alex….”
“You go first,” Elizabeth urged, glad to put off telling him she couldn’t see him again.
“All right, I will.” He turned slightly, an almost angry look on his face. “What the hell do you think you’re doing getting yourself engaged to Alex Crawford? It’s obvious to a blind man that you don’t love him. You’ve been teasing me and flirting with me all evening. You’ve even kissed me. Right now your body language makes me think if I wanted to take this snuggling any further you’d be willing.”
“Wha…” Elizabeth sputtered.
“You don’t strike me as the type of woman who’d pick a man for a night of sex and then go back to her fiancé like nothing had happened. If that’s true I don’t think you love Alex as much as you think you do. The question is: what are you going to do about it?”
Elizabeth moaned and hid her face in her hands. Richard expected this surprise meeting to lead to something more that a hot dog on the beach, a casual meeting between two old…friends. I’ve done enough damage for one evening; I’m going home before I cause any more trouble. I’ve betrayed Alex and given Richard hope for a relationship with me when there is no hope.
She tried to jump up, but Richard grabbed her and held her close. “The wind is cold, and you can think just as well, no better, in my arms.”
Elizabeth gave up the effort to get away from him. “Yeah, right. Being in your arms clarifies everything! I’m so confused I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” she cried. “I do love Alex. I do! That’s why I agreed to marry him, but with you I feel like a different person.
“I know I shouldn’t have flirted with you and kissed you, but I couldn’t help myself.” Her eyes misted with tears. “I didn’t want to help myself. It’s like it was ten years ago only better because now nobody can accuse me of corrupting a minor. You asked me what I’m going to do, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t think I can stand it if you walk away again.”
Elizabeth threw her hands over her burning face again. “What kind of woman am I? I haven’t seen you in ten years, yet here I am leading you on and encouraging you to… What’s wrong with me!”
Richard jerked her hand away from her face and kissed it. “From my point of view things have finally taken a turn for the better.” Satisfaction oozed from his voice.
“You’re willing to admit you don’t want to lose me. It’s taken ten years, but we’re back where we belong-together. Everything I ever felt for you came back the minute you spoke to me. Don’t tell me you didn’t feel it too.”
“I…” Elizabeth fell silent. After all; what could she say?
“Let me help you make up your mind about what to do.” Richard pushed her back into the sand and kissed her, a delicate, brushing of lips that deepened as hearts caught fire. Elizabeth imagined she could feel the thudding of his heart against her own and shivered against him. She didn’t really notice when his hand slipped under her blouse, but when she felt its warmth on her breast she cried aloud and shoved him away.
“I want to finish this in private,” Richard whispered. “We’ve waited ten years, and we deserve this night. Ask me to go home with you.”
Thanks, Laura, for having me today. I’ve enjoyed visiting your blog.
-I appreciate having you as a guest, Elaine! I find your thoughts on heroes wonderful, and your book looks so good. Best of luck with your writing. -Laura
Posted by Historical Writer/Editor at 8:06 PM