Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Interview on Chivalrous Heroes

I recently participated in an interview with a few others about Chivalrous Heroes.  So, I thought I would post the interview on my blog as well.

From the blogger and author, Katharine Grubb,
"I am very interested in chivalrous heroes, mostly because I want my children to grow up in a world where they can expect mutual respect, kindness, and old-fashioned courtesy.  This is really the reason why I wrote my romantic comedy Falling For Your Madness. It’s a quirky modern romance about how things should be done.  In an effort to promote the ideas of chivalry I’ve been hosting a #30DaysChivalry on my blog, (www.10minutewriter.com) on my Facebook page and on Twitter. The campaign ends February 14 (which is also the last day of my Goodreads giveaway.)"


Recently on Goodreads I asked members of the Clean Romance Group what they thought about chivalrous heroes in the books they read. These four ladies were so generous with their time and thoughtful with their answers. Hope you enjoy it.

First, let’s meet my new friends:

D.D. Chant lives in Devon, England, with her family and an assortment of unconventional pets. She is currently in the middle of writing her 5th novel. You can get to know her better on her blog: www.ddchant.blogspot.co.uk her webpage: www.buymybook.biz or her facebook page: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10000...

Beth Carpenter is the pen name of an avid reader and writer with a book-cluttered home and a packed Kindle. She reads and writes mysteries as well as romances. Her books are available here: Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/...
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beth-Carpenter/...
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/choic...

Soph is a 17-year old student from good old England! She is an avid Janeite, hopeless romantic and not a stereotypical ‘teenager’! You never see her without a book – generally a regency romance – and she is now waiting for her own happy ending! She blogs at http://laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.com

And Zoe, who enjoys pressing the stop button on the bus, she owns a horse named Miss Muffet and she has never been kissed. She’s into Krav Maga (Israeli self defense) and finds Ryan Gosling unattractive. She’s on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/14... and she is always looking for lovely new people with similar book tastes.

Now for the Questions:

Katharine: On the group thread much is said about what we like in our heroes: Consideration, bravery, vulnerability, trustworthiness, etc. What is it about these characteristics that appeals to romance readers?

When I read a book I don't want page long descriptions of how the hero or heroine look and I don't want a catalogue of the hero's muscles. I want to hear how he treats his friends, the waitress in the coffee shop, or the guy that has just accidentally hit his shiny new car. I want to find out that he's a nice person. Because falling in love is a scary thing, you have to open yourself up to someone, without reserve and in doing that open yourself up for heartbreak. It's the people who we love most in the world who have the greatest power to hurt us, so when you hear that the hero is kind, trustworthy and caring, you believe that he is worthy of the trust the heroine is putting in him by becoming emotionally involved.

A hero should be heroic, which doesn’t mean perfect. Perfect is boring, but a man should be worthy of a woman’s love. He needs to have a true heart, a core of goodness. A romance reader wants true love to win out, and for true love to exist, both characters need the moral fiber to commit themselves, to give of themselves.

Well, I think that all these characteristics and many others, such as gallantry, compassion, kindness and generosity, are what are expected from our literary heroes. I think that at sometime during a story, the hero needs to be put in a situation to show him to be vulnerable. This makes him all the more relatable and human; a perfect man who has a perfect life with no problems whatsoever is not exactly believable, and these characters I find, quite frankly, annoying! I find a book much more enjoyable to read if the characters are… realistic. Then finally, other characteristics such as trustworthiness and generosity are just bonuses. And all these characteristics added together make the hero... a hero, and much preferable to the ‘bad boy’ of the story!

Consideration - um, no one wants to be treated like rubbish. We want little gestures to gush over because what with the feminist views out there (in addition to lazy guys) the sweet details in real-life romance sometimes get lost.
Bravery - is probably the biggest strength you can give to a hero. There's nobility in bravery - the whole knight in shining armour thing. Heroes who are brave really hit the spot for me because they are willing to make sacrifices .
Vulnerability - women like to care for people - give the hero a scar or two so we can patch it up! Personally, I like to know that the hero can allow himself to be comforted.
Trustworthiness - this encompasses a whole bunch of issues such as fidelity, loyalty and the ability to sit back and let the hero pamper you a little.

Katharine: Can you give some good examples in literature of the chivalrous hero? Why do you like them?

I love Freddy in Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. What I love about him is that he's not the usual hero: tall, dark, suave, Andonis' better looking brother... you get the picture. Freddy isn't like that, he's averagely tall, averagely handsome... you can see where this is going right? He's nice, cheerful and friendly. Basically he's everyone's friend but nobodies crush.
However Freddy is willing to do anything to see that his girl is happy, he'll take a beating, hand her over to the man of her choice and smile at her wedding if that's what she wants, and when she gets in to trouble he'll move heaven and earth to save her.
Freddy is just plain awesome!

Oddly, in one of my favorites, true love doesn’t win. In “Casablanca,” our flawed hero lets her go, knowing that it is the right thing to do, even though it is breaking his heart. In a YA romance called “Smile for Me,” the hero truly likes and respects the heroine, and I love that.

Narrowing it down, the two I most admire would have to be Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility. I admire both these characters for similar reasons. They are both incredibly loyal; Mr Darcy’s loyalty to his sister in particular and Colonel Brandon’s to his first love and then to the protection of her daughter. And they are both very gentlemanly; Brandon doesn’t push Marianne’s affections when he believes them engaged elsewhere and Darcy’s actions to save the Bennet’s family from ruin. There are many other reasons but I won’t go into them all! Another hero I admire is Lord Walter Percy from Louisa May Alcot’s The Inheritance. For this character in particular is would be his consideration for the heroine’s feelings; he realises she would find a declaration of love disagreeable due to certain circumstances and so, against his feelings and wishes, he doesn’t declare himself.

Chase McCree from, well, Chasing McCree. He's a wonderfully masculine character who carries his responsibilities and his dignity without a hint of goody-two-shoes-ness. I liked him because he is so considerate and protective over his girl Briar while encouraging her to be herself. He helps her become a better person but doesn't stuff his values down her throat. That's one kind of chivalry. But there's also the kind that you see in Josh Bennett from The Sea of Tranquility. I love this guy. I mean, the way he helped his girl Nastya heal, the way he never pushed her for anything, the way he was always so patient, the way he never let his own blazing hurt blind him from hers, he always put her first...GAH! He's the best.
Finally, there's 16 year old Ryan from Skin Deep. He's just regular old chivalry. At his age, it's really admirable. Plus he was willing to go to jail to protect his girlfriend from something getting in trouble with her parents.

Katharine: Why do you think that so many bestsellers have selfish, abusive men as the main character? Do you think that it’s the attraction to the “bad boy”? Do we as women think we can “save” them? Or, do we feel so badly about ourselves that we think we don’t deserve any better? Or is it just human nature to drift toward the low, the base and the vulgar?

The hook for readers seems to be in the idea that the worst of men will change in order to stay by the 'saintly' heroines side, it appeals to the vanity in all of us. The 'Oh I'm so wonderful this man will change his very personality so that I allow him to stay by my side', so not just vanity but self delusion as well. And, when you dig deep and get to the root of it, your find it gives the women all of the power in the relationship, making the relationship 'safer'. Which is pretty funny really because these 'Alpha' males are sold to the reader as being all powerful and yet they turn in to the heroine's puppy.

A story is drama. It’s easy to create drama when the characters are selfish and abusive; it creates instant conflict. An author has to work a lot harder to create a conflict keeping two rational, loving people apart, giving them something to overcome. We all enjoy a story of redemption, but I have trouble identifying with a woman who chooses a man that doesn’t respect her.
The other common fallacy in romance is the “I love you so much that I want to change everything about you,” story. That’s not love.

I do not understand the attraction to the ‘bad boy’. I like having the villain or ‘bad boy’ as a foil to the hero and as a contrast, highlighting the heroes character more. Some people do just seem to prefer to go for the rebel rather than the heroic good guy. I think some people may find this type of character more interesting and make the story more eventful. (I don’t believe this; a bad guy makes the story more interesting as they cause problems to be overcome but not to be in place of the hero. (If Elizabeth had ended up with Wickham rather than Darcy I would not have been pleased!) Unfortunately, in some cases I do believe people think they don’t deserve any better and also I think it is becoming more common to drift to the bad rather than the good and I think this is due to influences from other aspects of life in today’s society, which is such a shame!

I think authors get away with these sorts of heroes because a) the hero is extremely attractive and b) he is, (how shall I put this delicately?) good in bed. In addition, there's more to these heroes than just the negatives – they are often extraordinarily generous, and like to make big romantic gestures, to make up for their inadequacies, I suppose. But it's all so fictitious. The hero has these terrible lows and is forgiven because he counters with incredible, realistically unattainable highs.The bad boy persona is made up of mystery, creativity, unpredictability, mistakes, moodiness and forbidden-ness. Not all of those traits are bad. The problem is the switchside. The “good boy” is often sappy, predictable and mundane. Yes, there is definitely an attraction for the bad boy.
Or is it just human nature to drift toward the low, the base and the vulgar? I think this is true. People want new and exotic topics – they feel they've exhausted simple romance. The massive turn to BDSM demonstrates this.

Katharine: Do you think that the stories we read have an effect on us? Do you think that stories that uplift and encourage can change the world for the better? And in the same way, do stories that glamourise abuse or selfishness harm the reader, even if he/she doesn’t realize it?

I do! I can't help thinking that some of the books girls read are dangerous, it's all very well to say it's 'just' a story, but they do influence you. I think it's sad that, at the moment, the majority of books are telling girls that boyfriends who want to hurt them but don't are hot, hunky and romantic when in reality they need medical attention!

I believe that mature people can separate fiction from reality, but the tone of the literature in which we immerse ourselves has to affect us. It’s a sad thing when a woman tries to create drama in her real life by choosing someone to love who isn’t worthy. Ladies, bullies aren’t romantic. True redemption stories are the exception, not the rule. You can’t change someone else. As a happy wife of thirty years, I have a little advice. Find a man who loves you and respects you, just as you are, and who you love, just as he is.

I definitely think that stories that we read have an effect on us – they definitely have had an effect on me! Reading has also helped give me the confidence to keep my resolve to not just ‘settle’ in life, and to wait for the right person to come along, my hero, who fulfils my romantic requirements (which are high after reading all these stories!), however long it may take! Stories that make abusive relationships seem the ‘thing to do’ can also affect the reader, and this is an awful message to be sending out. A current example of this, I think, would be 50 Shades of Grey. A few of my friends have read the trilogy and recommended it to me but I have no wish to read them at all. The message sent out by the relationship between the main characters is not a healthy one, in my opinion, and I think it can and will have a bad affect on some of the readers, especially the younger readers (around my age, 17).

Yes to all of them. Garbage in garbage out. I think it's easyto accept a fictitious bad boy that you would never get involved with and subconsciously translate that acceptance into the real world and get into a heap of trouble.

Katharine: Have you ever read a book that you were so put off by the behavior of the “hero” that you gave up? What would you have liked to have said to the author?

So many times!!! I won't give any names because, in the end, I chose to read the books, no one forced me! I don't think I would have said anything to the author: if that's the sort of stories that they want to write, that's fine by me, I just wont read them.

I almost always finish a story, but there have been books in which I had no idea why the heroine kept trying. I just wanted to shout, “Dump him!" I’ve seen the opposite too, where the hero persists in chasing after a nasty, selfish woman. “Run away. She’ll never make you happy!”

I have always done very thorough research into the books before reading them so as to avoid the situation of coming across a ‘bad’ hero. I am also one for the clean romance, and make sure of this before reading a romance as a bedroom scene for me is unnecessary and ruins the story and the romance in a book, and it would count for me as behaviour from the hero which puts me off.

Yes! Out of control anger, bitterness, murderous intentions, abuse and rape is not cool. My God! You call this jerk a hero?

Your affectionate friend,
post signature