Sunday, August 8, 2010

Falling in Love with Your Heroes by Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy is the author of the Aidan and Liam bodyguard adventure series, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert and Dancing with the Tide.

His other books are Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, Mahu Vice, and Mahu Men, about openly gay Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka,, and In Dog We Trust, a golden retriever mystery.

He edited Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog and the gay erotic anthologies Hard Hats, Surfer Boys and Skater Boys (2010).

Plakcy is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College’s south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.

Falling in Love with Your Heroes 
by Neil Plakcy

Remember that feeling of falling in love? You want to spend time with that special someone, get to know everything about him or her, see how that initial attraction develops. That’s the way I feel about the heroes of my books. I fall in love with every one of them.

Kimo Kanapa’aka, the Honolulu homicide detective hero of my Mahu mystery series, is the character who has evolved the most of all my heroes, perhaps because I’ve been writing about him the longest. In 1992 I went to Hawai’i on vacation, and began work on a book about a private eye who was also a surfer, and who spent a lot of time on the beach at Waikiki. He was a handsome, sexy, mixed-race guy, and I was intrigued as I got to know him.

But I didn’t know him that well, as it turns out. I was challenged to explain why he’d left the police force to become a private eye, and I didn’t know the answer. I ended up abandoning that book and writing Mahu, where I worked through many drafts, and Kimo be became a gay cop struggling with his sexuality. By the time I finished that first book, I had fallen in love with him.

From book to book, he has grown and changed, just like any lover. He’s become more comfortable with his sexuality, met and lost a boyfriend then found him again. Like Kimo, I fell for that guy, handsome fire investigator Mike Riccardi, and like Kimo, I had to get to know him in order to love him. Working through Mike’s issues deepened my affection for him. I even wrote a short story from his point of view, which helped me understand him on his own, not just through the lens of Kimo’s affection for him.

It was a different story with the heroes of my Have Body, Will Guard series. The first book, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, began with the image of a handsome, well-built guy taking a shower outdoors. ESL teacher Aidan Greene, on his own in Tunis, spies former SEAL Liam McCullough at that shower, and falls for him hard—hard enough that he lets himself get dragged on a crazy adventure through the Sahara.

My love affair with Aidan began as I investigated his back story, how he’d been dumped by a long-term lover and fled Philadelphia for a job several time zones away from his ex. I empathized with him and wanted to provide him the happy ending I thought he deserved.

I fell for Liam, too. His back story wasn’t as clear to me; he had left the SEALs after violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and set himself up as a bodyguard in Tunis. When he mistakes Aidan for a client, and the client is killed, the job of completing his client’s mission gets very personal for him. Since I was writing from Aidan’s point of view, for the most part, it was harder to get a grip on Liam. Was he just using Aidan? Or was he falling in love, too?

My editor helped me figure that out, and see that Liam needed Aidan in his life just as much as Aidan needed Liam. Understanding his vulnerability made him come alive to me.

The second book in that series, Dancing with the Tide, debuted in June, and I’ve written a draft of the third book in the series, Teach Me Tonight. The more I get to know Aidan and Liam, the more I love them.

Not that I don’t love the guys in my other books, but when you work on a series, it’s like you’ve taken your relationship to the next level. Now you start to see the dirty clothes dropped on the floor, the open tube of toothpaste in the bathroom. To keep on writing about them, you have to love them, and you hope that readers will love them, too.

I do, and I hope my readers do, too.


Julia Buckley said...

Neil, I'm with you. I fall in love with my characters, and I think about what they might say to each other. Let's face it, fictional people are often far more fascinating than real people. :)

Neil Plakcy said...

I had a fan write recently asking if the characters from my two series were ever going to cross over. At first I said no-- but now I keep thinking about what they would say to each other!

Vicki Lane said...

Interesting post. Neil! I admit to having made my protag's significant other into the kind of guy I'd get involved with -- though I did stop short of such over the top wish fulfillment as Dorothy L. Sayers indulged in with Lord Peter.

Patrick Brian Miller said...

Neil, the two characters definitely need to meet. That would be fun for all your fans. At the very least, it would sell more copies.

bo parker said...

Neil, I am a widower with no significant other in my life at the moment, but when I began to circulate my latest manuscript among my reading group--all women--the reaction to a female character in the story line was, “Do we know her? You must be in love with her.”
I had given no such consideration to the thought while creating the character, but the questions gave me pause. It left me thinking that all authors, when they write about a character who could be a significant other in their life create what would be the ideal partner. And, yeah, one could say, I’ve fallen in love with the creation. I’d like to meet her in real life

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Admittedly - I have a bit of a crush on a character or two. I'll always rush to get Linda Fairstein's newest 'cause I can't wait to see how Mike Chapman is doing and what he's up to. Although, I do wish he and Alex could see what they're missing by not being together . . . .

Great post, Neil - thanks for being here!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

I agree, Kaye, a great post! When we fall in love with one of our characters, I think that is when I truly get to know them--and it shows in my writing! Thanks, Neil. Great article!

Sylvia Dickey Smith