Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: Creating Continuity with 8 Heroes

Louise Allen gives a sneak peek into how the upcoming Historical continuity Silk & Scandal was created! Start with the Heroes (where else?)

Harlequin Mills & Boon have given six of us – Annie Burrows, Julia Justiss, Margaret McPhee, Christine Merrill, Gayle Wilson and me, Louise Allen, the opportunity to join together to write an eight-part Historical continuity.
It was exciting enough to be part of Regency Silk & Scandal, especially when we were asked to come up with the over-arching concept for the series, plus the individual stories, ourselves – but then it dawned on us: we had eight heroes to discover and we got to write about each other’s heroes as well as our own.
I’m always fascinated by where the inspiration comes from for a hero – sometimes a picture will do it, sometimes an image comes much later. Here are our individual stories of how we found our heroes.

Book 1: The Lord & the Wayward Lady by Louise Allen

I haven’t found a picture of Marcus Carlow, Viscount Stanegate yet, at least, not one who matches the man in my imagination. All I knew at first was that he is dark, he has flint-grey eyes – and he frowns a lot. The man has a strong sense of duty and lot on his mind – a father whose health was wrecked by a shocking murder and spy scandal years before, a rakehell brother, one sister who is headstrong and wild and another who is far too innocent for her own good. And then a mysterious milliner and murderous enemy arrive to make his life even more fraught: Marcus finds himself fighting for his family ad for a woman who fascinates him but who he cannot trust. But when he smiles, and when he kisses – then the responsible gentleman becomes a reckless lover, as Nell Latham and I realised to our delight.

Book 2: Paying the Virgin's Price by Christine Merrill

By the time we meet Nathan Wardale in the second book, he has gone from wealth to poverty and back again. His father's disgrace has stripped him of a title, and after escaping from a press ganged stint in the Navy, he is back in London making his living as a professional gambler. I wanted a hero who had been physically toughened by life, and whose appearance had been changed by hardship to such an extent that close friends and family might not immediately recognize him. Although he is worldweary and has reason to be cynical, he still has the manners of a gentleman. The separation from his mother and sisters has left him more than a little protective of the women he cares for.
I wrote Nathan with tanned skin, green eyes and prematurely grey hair. And then, after I had the image in my head, I discovered how hard it is to find a picture of a youngish, good looking man who isn't trying to hide that grey. But Anderson Cooper of CNN comes close.

Book 3: The Smuggler & the Society Bride by Julia Justiss

Since we’d already established the families for Regency Silk & Scandal, I had a heroine, but no hero. After Lady Honoria Carlow is ruined by some unknown adversary, she wants to get as far from London as possible. She’s also angry at her family for initially believing she was responsible.
How much further away can one get than Land’s End? And if one wants a hero guaranteed to horrify one’s very proper family, how much more dashing and ineligible can he be than a smuggler?
Enter Gabe Hawksworth. Blacksheep younger son of an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Gabe is returning a favor to the army friend who saved his life by becoming temporary captain of one Dickon Kessel’s smuggling sloops. In Kessel’s small Cornish town, the incognito gentleman encounters runaway English beauty “Marie Foxe.”
Why would such a stunning girl reside with her well-born aunt near Land’s End rather than in London, dazzling suitors? Gabe scents a scandal—and if the lady is of a mind to be seduced, he’s just the man to oblige.
My image of Gabe, though, is a Scot—Gerard Butler, here courtesy of Celebriosity Today. Is there any wonder Honoria/Marie finds this supposed “low-born brigand” so appealing?

Book 4: Claiming the Forbidden Bride by Gayle Wilson

I have always had a strong affinity for the military hero—very natural, I suppose, since I married one. Rhys Morgan, the hero of Claiming the Forbidden Bride, is an ex-soldier, someone who has known the deprivations of war and suffered grievously as a result of his service to King and Country. At the beginning of my story, Rhys is seeking other ways in which to serve when, as a result of his daring rescue of a little girl, he becomes involved with a beautiful Romany healer, the forbidden heroine of the title.
I confess that I was primarily conscious of Rhys’s character as I began to write, particularly his courage, his honor and his sense of duty. How a character acts has always resonated more strongly with me than how he—or she—looks. That was true in this case as well. It was not until the editors requested a visual of my hero and heroine that I went searching for a real person who was a physical representation of Rhys. Sadly, I don’t remember where I found this picture nor do I know who the model is. I wish I did so that I could give credit where credit is certainly due, but I have only this picture to share with you.

Book 5: The Viscount & the Virgin by Annie Burrows

This is the picture that gave me the inspiration for the hero of my contribution to the continuity series.
I seem to remember first seeing it posted on the PHS! Somebody was bemoaning the fact that so few heroes are blond. And a short discussion followed, during which I remarked that I could just see this guy in skin tight breeches, top boots, and a ruffled shirt. One of the comments was, “Oooh, I’d read that book!”
And thus, Viscount Mildenhall was born. Like the Green Arrow (the character this actor is portraying) he has a bit of a dual personality. In public, he dresses like a dandy, with those aforementioned skin tight breeches, flamboyant waistcoats, and an obscene amount of jewellery. Yet he has only just sold out of the army, having endured all the privations common to the nineteenth century soldier, and rising to the rank of Major.

Book 6: Unlacing the Innocent Miss by Margaret McPhee

For my hero Wolf's character I wanted a strong man, an out and out alpha male who had got where he was off his own bat and through guts and determination. From a disadvantaged background, just to strike even Wolf has to do everything twice as well as his rich-boy counterparts. He's been raised with a chip on his shoulder, learned to survive on the mean streets from an early age and yet Wolf has his own moral boundaries. He might not be a gentleman but he is, as my heroine, Rosalind Meadowfield, comes to discover, an intrinsically good man
I envisaged him from the North, a tough, gritty Yorkshire man – sexy and tall and scarred – both physically and emotionally. Not a million miles from Sean Bean's Sharpe. Wolf is no pretty boy. He's handsome in a rugged masculine way. A real hottie that women find irresistible. Even Rosalind who is, quite literally, trying to escape him finds herself falling for him – in a BIG way – as did I. Undoubtedly common, untitled, not even a gentleman...and blond (see Annie's comments above)! And still hot!

Book 7: The Officer & the Proper Lady by Louise Allen

My second hero is Major Hal Carlow, the rakehell brother of Marcus Carlow from book 1. Hal is a hellion: blond, blue-eyed, a devil with the ladies and lucky with any form of gambling. But I could not get a clear mental picture of him until I found one of the officers who fought at Waterloo, as Hal, who is seriously wounded in the battle, does.
In Heaphy’s portrait of Sir John Fox Burgoyne I saw the other side of Hal’s character – the courageous, dedicated and honourable soldier. His heroine, Julia Tresilian, falls in love with the rake but it is the man in the portrait for whom she risks everything – her reputation, her safety and her love.

Book 8: Taken by the Wicked Rake by Christine Merrill

As we were creating the Silk and Scandal universe, we began with a nebulous concept of a someone that would be in each of the stories, not necessarily as a hero, but as a reoccurring character who would act as a catalyst to start out the plots. As I remember it, he started out with adjectives like avuncular, and puckish.
But as the story morphed, and the plot thickened, Gypsies arrived. And the character that eventually became Stephano Beshaley got younger, and angrier, and darker both physically and mentally.
And I became more and more obsessed with him, feeling much more sympathetic towards his past than I should have, considering how terribly he was likely to be treating all the other characters. I desperately wanted him to have his own book, so he could redeem some of his bad behavior and tie up the series with a happy end for everybody.
His Gypsy heritage meant that I had to settle for a tall, dark and handsome hero with a tortured soul that could probably be seen in his big brown eyes. And to undergo the burden of a light shower of pictures of good looking men posted by the other continuistas, who were also using him as a character. Good looking models from perfume ads and Canadian Olympic divers eventually lost out to Aidan Turner from the BBC series Being Human.

We all discovered our heroes differently, but we hope you like the sound – and look - of all of them. You will be able to make up your own mind about them when Regency Silk & Scandal comes out next year. In the UK it will run May to December 2010 (Harlequin Mills & Boon) and in North America (Harlequin) June 2010 – January 2011.


  1. just wanted to add that it's been tremendous fun, witnessing the other seven heroes in this series coming to life. Marcus and Hal Carlow got invited to the wedding of my own hero and heroine, and Stephano plays his part too.
    Only wish I could have managed to get the others in somewhere...they all look gorgeous!

  2. Wow, that is some line-up! Am in Cornwall at the moment, so as you may imagine I am on my look-out for smuggling ketches...

  3. Oh, these men look scrumptious. I couldn't choose if I wanted to, and they all have such great stories behind the handsome faces. This is one book I am definitely not going to miss.
    Great work ladies.

  4. It is great to see them all together in the same place. We've created a really handsome bunch, haven't we?

    I can hardly wait to read the other stories.

  5. I enjed Gayle's post best - I'm afraid that all these pictures of handsome men do nothing for me, and in fact turn me off more than anything. What someone is like, and especially how you would talk with him, is what attracts me.