Author Ruthie Knox and The Romance Man Talk Heroes
Enjoy this duo’s discourse and be prepared to laugh out loud and comment profusely as that is what usually happens when The Romance Man is on R@R – enjoy! And, remember every week on R@R, 5 winners win a free book, winners announced on Sunday – good luck!
The Romance Man has turned himself into something of a phenomenon of the world of romance blogging ever since he reviewed Jessica Scott’s Because of You back in February. He caught my attention with his just-a-regular-guy tone, his humor (which ranges from middle-school level to faux-humble and sly, depending on his mood), and — okay, well, just because he’s a man. A man, reading romance and talking about it online. We don’t have many of those!
It didn’t hurt that his review of my debut novel, Ride with Me, completely cracked me up. It’s not every day that a girl gets the backhanded compliment along the lines of, “I really wanted to hate your book, and I read it with every intention of mocking it publicly, but then it was so good, I had to write a good review.”
Still makes me smile just thinking about it.
So when Sue asked The Romance Man and I to do a post together to talk about my June release, About Last Night, I jumped at the chance to discuss the male point of view with a male who always has a point of view on everything. Usually a loud one.
Without further ado…
RK: As a romance writer, I’m really interested to hear the male point of view on reading romance heroes. You loved the hero of Ride with Me, Tom, but you admit in your review of About Last Night that you wanted to punch its hero, Nev. Tell me why.
RM: It’s not really that I didn’t like Nev. Nev is a good character with great qualities and is perfect for the heroine. It’s more that I don’t like art. [RK: Nev is a banker, but he paints portraits on the weekends, and that’s clearly where his heart is.] And I have always had a problem with people who have a good job and a good life and wish for something lesser. And there is always this undertone that art is some kind of noble field, and I don’t see it that way, especially modern art. So it wasn’t really that I didn’t like Nev as much as I wished he wanted to be something else, like a boxer.
RK: Boxers are hot. I’m not supposed to think that, but I do.
Now I’m all distracted, sorry.
To get back to your point, it wasn’t my intention in the book to make art seem any more noble than any other field — except to the extent that it was what Nev enjoyed. I think there’s heroism in figuring out how to be happy. And I mean that not in a really hippy-dippy, Everyone be happy! sense, but more in the sense that we only have a limited number of years to be alive, and I can’t admire a character — or a person — who spends them being miserable by choice. To me, a lot of what romance is about is characters figuring out how to be authentic people — whatever that means for them.
But it sounds like you have a different sense of what heroism (or heroine-ism?) is all about. Do you?
RM: Yes, I have a much different definition of heroism. I believe heroism is sacrifice for other people. I would sacrifice my own happiness for someone I loved. I believe part of being a man (you’re gonna hate this) is doing things you don’t necessarily want to do for the good of those you care about. The fact that life is short only makes sacrifice more heroic.
And I agree about romance novels to a certain extent, but to me it is very sexy to sacrifice for someone else, which is something you never see in romance. They both get what they want. I would like to see a hero give up what he loves for the woman he loves. I know that is chivalrous and you will hate it, but it is how I feel.
RK: How is it even possible that you like my books?
No, no, I hear you. Sacrifice is admirable, and I think the willingness to sacrifice is really attractive in a partner. But at the same time, living with someone whose day-to-day life is unpleasant, but he’s bearing it, because he’s doing it for you? That would make me want to scratch my own eyeballs out.
RM: First of all, why would I not like your books?
RK: Kidding, I was kidding!
RM: You write strong men and strong women, and I like that. Just because romance novels don’t always end the way I want doesn’t mean I don’t like them. And I see the sacrifice differently. A man who is more interested in the happiness of his woman is heroic to me. If I have to dig ditches all day to make my wife happy, I will do that, because inevitably her happiness is what makes me happy. I think the difference between the way we think is that you focus on occupational happiness, and I focus on relationship happiness. You always wind up with both in a romance novel, and I just wish there was more sacrifice. And I love your books because books are more than just an ending.
All I’m trying to say is to me there is something very romantic about sacrificing for someone else. You never see it in romance, because everyone gets what they want, but I would like to see it.
RK: I think you do see it, but it has to be a sacrifice that both people can live with. That is, it has to be a sacrifice that solves the problem but also opens up a mutually acceptable solution.
I’ve heard romance conflict described before as a situation where both characters want something, but neither one can get what they want without giving something up. But to my mind, they have to give something up in a way that opens up a new opportunity.
I think, too, that romance is meant to be cathartic — that for the reader, it should be an emotional experience that leaves them feeling settled, because a problem has been raised and solved. And if, at the end, the hero has to sacrifice in a way that leaves him in the same unpleasant situation he was in at the beginning, then the problem persists, for me. There’s no sense of closure.
RM: I agree with everything you said except the end. The hero isn’t in an unpleasant situation because he got what he most wants, the heroine. To me, it is cathartic to witness someone who loves someone else more than he loves himself.
RK: You’re such a romantic!
Okay, let’s change the subject. You liked Lexie, the heroine of Ride with Me, so much that you named your wife after her. (That’s my understanding of the situation, anyway. It may lack nuance.) But you liked Cath, too, even though you called her “as flawed as beef jerky salad.” Who did you like more, and why?
RM: I am not really romantic as far as flowers and things that are considered romantic gestures. I believe romance is putting your partner first, which is something I fail at quite often.
As for your question — wow, that is so hard to answer, because they are so much different, and I think you did it on purpose. Lexie was always in control and perfect in so many ways Cath never is. Plus, the story is so different. I did name my wife after Lexie because I love Lexie — seriously, I absolutely love that character, because she is everything I like a woman to be. Smart, tough, adventurous. If you are asking me which one I would choose in a real-life situation, it would be Lexie because, well, I love her, and Cath may have a little too much baggage for me. That’s all I can say so I don’t give away any spoilers. And when I read, I like to put myself in the spot of the hero, and because of that I would choose Lexie. However, I loved Cath, because I love redemption stories and I love flawed characters, and she is very flawed and her redemption is very sweet. So I would say that if I wasn’t happily married I would like to be married to Lexie with Cath as my best friend.
Is that what you meant?
RK: Yep! That’s funny, because I feel the same way about Tom (the hero of Ride with Me) and Nev (the hero of About Last Night). Tom is great, and super-hot, and I think he’d make an awesome neighbor, but hoo boy, the baggage! I’d take Nev. He’s much more straightforward.
(This is the part where readers tell me I’m insane, and then they divide into Team Tom and Team Nev and start shooting at each other. Then there’s panic in the streets, and we require intervention by The Romance Man.)
RM: RM will intervene on the side of Tom.
RM: That really surprises me that you chose Nev.
RK: Well, Tom turned out all right in the end, but for most of Ride with Me he was basically a human emotional weather system. I think in real life he’d wear me out. Nev is more easy-going, accepting, and laid-back. And both of them have big…hearts, so there’s no real competition there.
RM: They all have big hearts. I wish someone would write a hero with a little heart that was good at other things. It would make me feel better.
RK: I’ll get right on that. Pending my editor’s approval.
RM: Who do you consider yourself most similar to, Cath or Lexie?
RK: I’m sure I’ve got elements of both Cath and Lexie in me, or I wouldn’t have been able to write them. I think personality-wise, I’m pretty evenly split between the two. I have Lexie’s confidence and optimism, but I’m not nearly as outgoing as she is, and I’m not a control freak, either. Though I may have certain tendencies…
And while I don’t have Cath’s checkered past, I have made mistakes — some of them with my eyes open. So I can sympathize with the feeling that Cath has, from the very beginning of the novel, that she’s doing something stupid, and she knows it, and she wishes she were a strong enough person not to do it. But she’s not.
Hmm, I seem to have dodged the question. Okay, let’s say I’m 65% Lexie and 35% Cath.
RM: Any chance you can write a book with a heroine like Lexie who falls for a middle-aged man who is a nice guy with an average-sized heart who writes a romance blog?
RK: Can he have washboard abs?
RK: Then no. Sorry. But thanks for chatting with me today.
Readers, what do you think makes a hero? What kind of endings satisfy you, and which ones leave you cold?
About the author:
After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use. These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to-earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.
You can find Ruthie on her website|Twitter|Facebook|Gooreads|Subscribe to her mailing list
What would make Ruthie really happy is if you’d like to pre-order ABOUT LAST NIGHT here | or, her debut novel, RIDE WITH ME here | both retail at just $2.99 each!