Monday, September 15, 2008

Vampire Strippers Save the Day

Talk about good timing.
I was just begining to recover from finishing up some fairly extensive edits at the end of this past week (like, "my brain currently has all the retentive ability of swiss cheese" extensive) when a wonderful email showed up from Ms. Danielle. Contained within was an absolutely awesome review for my upcoming release, Dark Highland Fire, and it said all the things I would want someone to say about the book after reading it...which is to say that the piece in its entirety inspired a shuffling, semi-zombiefied happy dance from She Who Stays Up Too Late Working (aka ME). Kinda like being a Thriller extra, but happier. And I can't moonwalk. But anyway, I think that one of the best compliments was that the reviewer really enjoyed my heroine being "a little bit different." It was something I had been just a little bit worried about.
After all, there aren't that many books where the heroine is a blood-drinking stripper.
So why did I make Rowan an Morgaine a stripper? Interesting question. It's not in the realm of usual heroine professions, that's for sure, though I've seen it done (and very well) a couple of times. In fact, it was those couple of examples that I clung to when Rowan showed up in hot pants, a corset, and death-defying heels and refused to budge from her position that she was an exiled demigoddess who now moonlighted at a Reno dive called The Pretty Kitty. I was worried. Were readers going to be okay with this? Could I pull off opening with one of Rowan's performances without eliciting cringes? And then there was my mom, who read a draft of that opening scene and kind of shuddered about any would-be heroine wrapping herself around a pole and having money tucked in her g-string as a means of introduction to the reader. The problem, though, was that I had a heroine on my hands who was as stubborn as the day is long. I tried to make her a cocktail waitress. She refused. I tried to make her a bartender. She quit speaking to me. Finally, I caved and let her back up on the stage. And I'm glad I did, because while Rowan's job might be unconventional, I began to realize that she was too.
Rowan is the next in line to lead her tribe of otherworld demigoddesses, the Dyadd Morgaine. They're a powerful, all-female group who must drink blood to retain their magic...and they have plenty of men throwing themselves at their feet to volunteer, since not only are the Dyadd powerful, but they're famed for their physical beauty. Rowan herself has the gift of Fire, and her personality is just as fiery. Sharp-tongued and hot-tempered, she finds herself on the run from a dragon prince who will stop at nothing to have her, and her world-jumping brother manages to hide her, you guessed it, right here on Earth. They find themselves expected to earn their keep after falling in with a nest of vampires in Reno, Nevada, months before the story really begins. And since she has no money, no connections, and no degree, Rowan's options are seriously limited.
Still...a stripper?
And yet as I toyed with the idea (and thought grouchy things at my obstinate heroine), it started to make perfect sense. Our heroines professions reveal something about them, even if they happen to just stumble into those professions, and this case was no exception. Rowan isn't human, so her attitudes aren't either. Her people have always been revered for their beauty, and their dancing ability is known far and wide. She's incredibly comfortable in her own skin, and not at all bothered by nudity, so long as her space is respected. So a job as an exotic dancer, I realized, would look like an easy few bucks to her. To me, it was an excellent illustration of Rowan's confidence that she could do a job like that and be nothing more than bored and irritated most of the time. Still, the difficulties she had with stripping revealed a lot about her too. She's used to being respected, even revered by men, and the lack of it on Earth gets to her. She hisses at the customers when they get too close (and has flat-out refused to do lap dances). And the smoky, dirty atmosphere in the club makes her long for the forests of her home, so much that she's become depressed with the work. Rowan reminded me of a princess in hiding, forced to do drudge work but still obviously too regal by half for it. Of course, there's nothing regal about Rowan's mouth, but her attitude made the whole stint as a stripper, and her eventual relationship with a certain slacker ladykiller of a werewolf, far more interesting. I liked not knowing whether she might not just incinerate anyone who ticked her off. And I honestly loved how fearless she was, how supremely confident. The stripping served to illustrate that nicely, I think, even though I was reluctant at first. But after the fun I had with her, and that lovely review, I believe I'll be a lot less reluctant when the next unconventional heroine shows up on my doorstep!
So what about you? What's the most unconventional heroine you've ever written or read? And did you love her or hate her? I'd love to hear!


  1. I'm of the opinion that there are no "wrong" professions for our heroines, only wrongly handled ones. I've read books in which the author missteps with a job as ordinary and respectable as housewife, so I think the magic is in the author's hands. And if your character fought you for her job choice, you had to listen. The most unusually occupied heroine I remember was a dentist for a maximum security prison. That was a different set of problems for her altogether, as I recall. And congrats on the great review!

  2. I must admit a vampire stripper would not be my first thought when casting around for a romance heroine. :-) Talk about outside-the-box thinking!

    One of the things I love about writing for Casablanca is that there's room for thinking beyond romance stereotypes.

    Regardless of her job description challenge is always to make the heroine sympathetic and capable of winning the reader's respect. It sounds like you're accomplished that with Rowan.

    Right this minute I'm dealing with a kickass, very conscious sexpot owner of a car dealership who is giving in to emotional blackmail, working title: Her Fate is SEALed.

  3. Your new book sounds fabulous! As for your question, I think the vampire stripper takes the cake!

    So far, I've had a space trader and a witch in my series, but I took it in the other direction with my next heroine, who just so happens to be a piano teacher. HOWEVER, she gets to do something that no other heroine does: she gets not one, but two of my luscious nekked slave boys! Not too bad for a little ol' piano teacher from Upper Sandusky, now is it?

  4. I love the idea of the vampire stripper, Kendra! Bring it on! I haven't had that scenario with a heroine, but as I've mentioned here often I didn't want to write about a football player. I tried o remake Ryan into someone I could better understand--a baseball player--except he was football all the way. The characters do have a way of asserting themselves, and I find that to be endlessly fascinating! Can't wait to read your new book!

  5. Thanks, ladies! I totally agree, Christina, that the magic is entirely in the author's hands. I don't think there are any "wrong" professions either for a heroine...I loved Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and there aren't too many hooker heroines! Prison dentist is definitely one I haven't heard before:-)

    Mary Margret, I love the idea of a sexy car-dealer heroine! You all are doing some very cool things!

    Cheryl, I love the way your new heroine's not her job that's unconventional, it's her (very delightful sounding) situation! I will be verrrry interested to see how she handles that.

    I know what you mean, Marie, the characters can be obnoxiously assertive...Rowan has been my bossiest, and that didn't change throughout the writing of the entire book. However, she was so much fun to write, I would take a dozen more like her. You probably feel the same about Ryan! And football star heroes aren't very conventional either, so he totally counts as an answer to my question:-)

  6. I too love the idea of a stripper vampire, as long as she has a good reason for what she does why not.

    It is the motivation that makes a heroine heroic, not the actions.

    Sounds like a great read.