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Friday, February 24, 2012

I Need a Hero

Actually, I need some help—and not just the kind a hero can provide. I’m looking to you, the NYUS readers, for a little assistance.


I write the Mindhunters series for Carina Press. I’m hoping it’ll become several books (currently, it’s two, with a third in the works). I have no shortage of heroes and heroines in my head that are screaming for their story to be told. But there's one character in particular who longs to be a hero...


Which leads me to my question: When creating or relating to a hero, does age matter?


As a parallel, I started thinking about the movies. Many actors are sixty-something (or more), and they can still make females swoon...








But does that work in books, too?


You see, Damian Manchester, head of the organization that is the backbone of my series, the group that hunts repeat violent offenders, was a victim himself twenty years ago, which is what motivated him to create the Society for the Study of the Aberrant Mind (a.k.a., SSAM). Now in his early sixties, he’s strong, fit, and takes on the criminal underbelly through his agency's resources. He sometimes works in the field, but is mostly a source of support and advice for his team.


I’d originally planned to explore Damian’s story as a substory that arcs across all of the books, so we get a little clearer picture of him and how he finds justice as each book progresses. But a reader recently approached me with the idea of giving him his own book. Though he’s fit and sexy at sixty, his age gave me pause. I want readers to see his happy ending, but would they read a book with a sixty-something hero as a main character? Or would it be better to keep his resolution as part of a substory?


So I thought I’d ask your opinion: As a romantic suspense reader (and/or writer), what makes a satisfying hero? How do you like to see them change? And does age matter when you’re reading a book?


21 comments:

Wynter Daniels said...

Good question. Heroic isn't limited to very young men. But there's a limit. A strong, powerful hero is less believable as such when he crosses a certain age threshold - for me, that threshold is about 55, but I think it's different for each reader.

Rita said...

GREAT POST!
Since I was born before the Grand Canyon formed, I may not be the one to ask. To a very young (less than 30) woman you may have a problem. Who are you targeting with your story? The last book buyer survey I saw had women 45-62 as the overwhelming number of buyers. Richard Gear is 62 and can hold the attention of most women over 30. So could Sean Connery when he was in his 60c’s. Michael Connelly’s LAPD detective Harry Bosch is in his 50’s and still got it. Less Child’s hero, Jack Reacher, is on dark side of 40. 48 now I think. Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930. Yep Dirty Harry is going to be 82. He was 61 when he filmed Unforgiven. As far as the sexual side, men can father children well into their 70’s and with the advent of the little blue pill maybe even longer. In my opinion an ‘older’ hero has to be smart, both brain and street, reasonably healthy, know his limitations and have evolved enough to take care of himself, i.e. sew on a button, cook and do laundry. He wants companionship and sex from a woman and knows how to treat her. If all an older man wants is a nurse and a purse –forget it.

Arm Chair Philosopher said...

Perhaps it depends more on what kind of hero he is than it does his age. If he single-handedly fended off 6 20-somethings with his bare hands, it might lack credibility unless you've built him up to be some type of Chuck Norris.

But heroes 'reveal' themselves in many ways other than physical ones. Older people are more experienced, tend to see more angles of an issue, and can solve problems cerebrally as well as physically. They can bring a lot more depth and caring to a situation, and that's pretty sexy in my book!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Wynter - thank you for letting me know...that's the kind of feedback I need! I think, as a reader, I forget the age factor once I get involved in the character, as long as the writer doesn't keep bringing it up and hitting me over the head with that detail. ;)

Rita, I love all of your examples. And I love how you sum up what an "older" hero should be.

Arm Chair Philosopher - what a great point! I hadn't thought about making this type of hero "kick butt"...he does that in more intellectual ways. He's fit (a.k.a., healthy and takes care of himself), but he's not out fighting hand-to-hand combat. I love how you add the "brainy" part to the equation. Yes, older people would have much more experience to draw from (especially Damian)...and I find brains so sexy!

And I feel I should have added that the heroine I'm picturing to play his counterpart wouldn't be super-young. She'd be in her forties, probably...although I'm still toying with the idea of getting him back together with his ex-wife (who is 60, and still attractive, sexy to him, etc., of course)...they broke up when their marriage couldn't withstand the pressure of losing their daughter to a serial killer. I haven't decided who he'll end up with yet. ;)

Toni Anderson said...

I remember Suzanne Brockmann had an older man hero, THE ADMIRAL'S BRIDE (I think). In theory I would have said I wouldn't have liked the older man younger woman scenario, especially as the Admiral in question had already been very happily married for many years previously before she died. BUT, and it's a big but (not big butt), the story worked. Older men can be sexy :)
However, I also like the idea of exploring his story through subplots. Those can create real breakout moments in my mind. Good luck with your ideas :)

Wendy Soliman said...

Depends on the age of the readership you're aiming at, I guess. Also depends in they're going to get down and dirty. Graphic sex between pensionable aged h/h may not be that attractive. I'd play safe and go for a forty something hero.

Autumn Jordon said...

I'd read a older hero, if written realisticly. I love, love, Sean Connery and Richard Gere. The movie 'First Knight' is on my buy in any format shelf. Each man had his strengths and draw. I would've loved them both too.

As far as your story, he could love both women, but ex-wife realizes the younger woman is his true soul mate and walks moving forward with her own life. She was the love of his youth.

Rita said...

HA! Just saw the Stephen Tyler took his shirt off on American Idol last night. He's 63.
Hmmm. Do I want tyo see tha that video?

KarenB said...

If you're thinking fit and 60, take a look at Stephen Lang in the sci fi series Terra Nova. And speaking as a woman of 50, I would definitely read a romantic suspense with a hero of that age, and who says women over 60 aren't sexy - think of Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Jaclyn Smith. Bring on the older heroes and heroines I say.

Bailey Stewart said...

For me .. I hate the older man/younger woman story-lines. While I wouldn't be interested in someone over 70, I have no problem with an older hero ... between 45 and 70 ... as long as the heroine is age appropriate. As a woman over 50 who reads romances, the fact that someone my age could find love would be wonderful. But according to the movies, men my age only want woman younger than me ... while movies and books are fiction, they need to have some foundation in reality (unless sci-fi), so why can't they show older people falling in love? Why should the romance books only be for the "young" crowd?

Anne Marie Becker said...

Toni - thanks. I love Suzanne Brockmann's work, so I'll have to check that one out.

Ah, Wendy... I didn't think about the "down-and-dirty" LOL. But I don't tend to write *really* dirty, so I may be okay?? I can't change his age, since he's already set up as 60 in the first book (already pubbed). Hmmm...

Hi, Autumn! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I'm leaning toward the younger woman (she's 45 in the first book) winning his heart. He has too much painful past with his ex-wife, though they have something of a breakthrough in their friendship in Book 2.

Exactly, Bailey! I was thinking the same thing...not enough "older romance" shown. And that's what this reader was hoping I'd show eventually. But this book would end the series (since it would resolve Damian's daughter's death, which ties all the books together). I'm not sure if I can get away with ending it that way.

Anne Marie Becker said...

You guys are so helpful. The wheels are turning for me, and even though Damian's resolution is several years down the road... you've given me a lot to think about so far.

Keep it coming! :D

Anne Marie Becker said...

Oh, absolutely, Karen!! Great examples of older actresses/heroines. Damian's ex-wife appears in Book 2 and helps solve a case. She's very poised and elegant and celebrates her 60th birthday in it. I could totally see Meryl Streep in that part. ;)

Laurie Wood said...

As I'm turning 50-something next month, I have to agree with everyone's comments. :) I don't know how old Adam Dagliesh is supposed to be in P.D.James books, but I always picture him late 40s-early 50s when I read her books. I think sex would have to be handled sensitively and I'd shoot for a heroine 45 and up. And Intellectual is very sexy! As well as a guy who's "grown up" and not hanging on to flawed emotinal baggage - maybe some sorrows that have taught him about life as you've explained with your hero. As boomers age I think there's going to be a bigger niche for older heros/heroine storys. Good luck with it!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Laurie - thank you for your input. I agree - Intellectual is sexy. And Damian definitely has that going on. He's also got that "wounded warrior" vibe - a guy who's seen and experienced hardships in life but is surviving. Now I want him to THRIVE. ;)

Elise Warner said...

An old line but...Clint Eastwood could put his shoes under my bed anytime.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Great post, Anne Marie. I see no problem with a 60-year-old hero. I would expect him to use his brains rather than his brawn, but he would have to be able to get physical if needed. The heroine would want to feel safe and protected with him. And speaking of which, I would like to see an age appropriate heroine -- after all, they need to be able to understand each other's cultural references, which a younger woman wouldn't.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Marcelle - cultural differences - yes, nicely put! That's one of my concerns...I'm almost 40, and can write younger heroes/heroines confidently. And I have secondary characters of all ages. But delving into the psyche of a 60-year-old man, to the depths that would be required for a fully-formed hero, would be new for me. But it would also be a challenge, and I love a good challenge. ;)

Anne Marie Becker said...

LOL, Elise. I've heard that line...timeless.

Romance Reader said...

A hero is a hero- whatever the age!

Okay- this is from a reader perspective!

Riya.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Thanks, Riya! I appreciate a reader's perspective. It was a reader who gave me the idea of giving Damian his own book...I just wanted to make sure it wasn't just a sample size of 1. ;)

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