The fabulous Kate Walker is here at the Pink Heart Society, talking about her penchant for the redheaded male...
I was teaching a class on writing romance at this time last year and one of the topics for discussion was ‘what makes a hero?’ I was looking for important aspects of character and behaviour, rather than anything more shallow like a personal jet or a Rolex watch. But of course, inevitably, the subject of looks came up.
Tall dark and handsome was the obvious response – though not everyone had stopped to think of just what ‘TDH’ meant to everyone – and how it can differ from one heroine/one reader to another. There were several people who put in the case for a blond hero too. So what, I suggested about a redheaded hero?
I was intrigued to find that for everyone who nodded in enthusiastic agreement, there was another who frowned rejection. One student went so far as to say that I could never write a book that would make her think that a particular redhead I mentioned - Damian Lewis - was attractive.
That puzzles me. I have to admit to having a strong weakness (is that possible ?) for a redheaded male. I don’t know if it goes back to being taught by a charismatic redhead when I was eleven. Or the fact that my Irish best friend in that same junior school had two fabulous older brothers, Francis and Dominic. Francis was the ‘Black Celt’ – black hair blue eyes – and Dominic was a fiery redhead. I was in awe of both of them.
I was taken right back to those memories last week when the BBC’s production of Wolf Hall started and the aforementioned Damian Lewis appeared as Henry VII. He was only on the screen for about five minutes but he made the best use of that time, as one reviewer said, by appearing as ‘a man who made the earth tremble. He was fearsome.’
It made me wonder if Wolf Hall would have the same effect as another TV production years back – when The Jewel In The Crown brought so much attention to its star Charles Dance. I remember the sudden rush of redheaded heroes who resulted from that particular TV hit.
Sadly, it didn’t last, Most heroes still are the tall dark handsome type, and I’ll admit I’ve written my share of them., But I can’t be the only one who longs for a bit of variety - and particularly some redheads.
I’d like to suggest a few possibilities to act as inspiration:
Damien Lewis of course - before Henry VII there was Homeland and before that Band of Brothers - or the Forsyte Saga. I first discovered him in a long ago BBC series Hearts and Bones when he played a teacher. Wearing spectacles - and still looked amazing.
Toby Stephens – who can forget his brilliant portrayal of Mr Rochester – or the egomanic and villainous Prince John in Robin Hood.
I was lucky enough to be just four rows from the stage when he was in Private Lives at the Gielgud Theatre - and even closer when I met him as he was collecting for charity at the end of the show.
Smile... voice... handclasp... (Slips off into happy daydream of memory)
Benedict Cumberbatch - yes, I know that fans of this actor as Sherlock will be questioning this choice. After all, doesn’t Sherlock have black hair?
Well, yes, perhaps Sherlock might but the actor himself says that in reality he's 'auburn' and what is that if not a shade of red?
Similarly with James Norton. He might have appeared as a platinum blond/dark mix as Tommy in Happy Valley - but as Sidney in Grantchester his hair has a natural reddish tint to it.
Then there's CSI Miami’s David Caruso...
And of course what about the current other highlight on the redhead scene – Sam Heughan as he plays Jamie in the TV Production of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series?
I'm going to find it tricky to give my latest hero any 'ginger' tint - he's a sheikh - but I remember way back at the beginning of my writing career, in a book called First Man I had a hero named Adam Rochford - 'with hair the colour of conkers in the autumn'.
Of course, I do have a personal interest in all this red/titian/auburn colouring. My own Irish grandmother - the woman who gave me the name Kate Walker - was a beautiful red head in her youth.
What about you? Do you prefer authors to stick with 'Tall, Dark and Handsome'? Or do you prefer to see more variety in the heroes' colouring? Do you have any favourite redheaded actors or celebrities?
PS. I really do have a thing about redheads - even my cat is a ginger, the third in a line of ginger toms since I married. He says I should share his red handsomeness with you so I'm posting a pic of another of my favorite ginger boys!
Kate's latest releases are two reissues - first there's Kept For Her Baby which is out in the 3 in 1 By Request called Secret Love -Child.
And coming up next, there's the reissue of The Konstantos Marriage Demand again in a 3 in 1 collection - His Revenge Seduction.