Fangtastic Friday Finds a Muse

When I returned from a Civil War tour of Virginia and Pennsylvania this summer, I knew my next tome would be about our country’s most devastating conflict.  Before I did my character sketches, I devoured a series of  historical novels, including The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize), Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara, and Gettysburg by Newt Gingrich.  Then I rented the movie, “Gettysburg,” which was based on The Killer Angels.  Finally, I found the 1990 Civil War series by Ken Burns on NetFlix and sat enraptured through the 11 episodes.   My storyline for The Gettysburg Vampire involved further research into Gettysburg College (formerly Pennsylvania College), and into the current goth clubs in Philadelphia, since I’m alternating chapters between 1863 and 2010.  I had some trepidation about writing about the Civil War, and I’ve heard it’s not the most popular subject for a romance, but I’ve been intrigued with the steampunk genre and figured I could infuse the story with some steam technology based on the railroad supply trains of the Civil War.  Hence, additional research.  Whew.  Any more resesarch, and I wouldn’t have room for the romance.

Which begs the critical question:  Do I think all this research is necessary in a romance?  Well, no, but I’m a history nut, so it’s part of the fun for me.  I DO believe it’s essential to be accurate, so certainly any historical references should be on the mark, but the in-depth stuff I do is more than most would find palatable.  About 12 years ago, when I was working on my first historical about 1850’s New Orleans, I included population figures in the first chapter.  My mentor, who’s a 40-book published author for Harlequin, had to laugh as she marked through the numbers with a big red X.  I’ve learned that no one wants too much background, so I don’t reference 95 percent of what I research, but for me, all the background sets me firmly in the period.  And if I’m firmly in the setting, then I have a better chance of taking my reader there.

So, I’m writing along.  The plot’s clicking, but something’s missing.  My muse is sounding flat.  If you’re writing romance, this is a problem akin to being locked out of the house in a snowstorm.  I use that metaphor because it’s frickin’ cold where I live, and I’m blowing on my fingers so they don’t ice up and render my keyboard useless.

Just who could fill the boots of Colonel Malcolm McClellan, my West Point-educated cavalry officer?  Hmm.  I had a general impression, but I needed a face (and solid bod) to come into focus.  As I caught up on the final season of “The Tudors,” my conundrum was delightfully solved.  Squinting just enough, I had no problem stripping the Duke of Suffolk out of his Elizabethan togs and helping him into (with a bit of a bicep squeeze) his new Union uniform.  Yep, it’s English actor Henry Cavill.

And here’s another shot that works for me.  The long hair’s a winner!

So, I’m curious.  Do you need a real person to fill your muse’s shoes, or do you conjure a general impression of sexiness and run with that?  I typically start with a general impression, and then I find a hottie to fit the bill.  Here’s another cute shot of Henry.  I’d heard Stephenie Meyer wanted him for the part of Edward Cullen in the movie version of Twilight, but he got too old (read manly) by the time the cast was selected.   

Okay, I’m duly inspired.  Back to my story.  And since I don’t have an exclusive on Mr. Cavill (wouldn’t that be nice?), you’re welcome to insert him into your hero slot.  Happy writing, everyone!

10 Responses to “Fangtastic Friday Finds a Muse”
  1. Tara Ryan says:

    I don’t typically have a real person in mind for my characters, but if having a muse involves someone that hot catering to my every need while I write, sign me up!

  2. Susan, for me the problem is that I have such a perfect image of my characters in my head that very rarely can any living person resemble them to the extent I prefer. But I agree with you that historical research is half the fun of writing, and what you don’t use in one novel you may use in the next.

    • Heide Katros says:

      I agree with you Miriam. We all have our own ideas how our heroes are supposed to look like. And so true that the stuff you research can be used in more than one novel.
      Susan, very nice eye candy. So good of you to proivde us with something good to look at, I just wish you had posted that a few days ago, when it was cold in Florida LOL

      • Susan Blexrud says:

        Heide, I hope you’ve sufficiently warmed things up for me in Florida. I’m heading your way. Thanks for commenting (and enjoying Henry).

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      I think we’d be good traveling companions, Miriam.

  3. Sonya Clark says:

    I’ve got a folder called Central Casting where I save pics that might come in handy for a character. Sometimes I “cast” my characters, sometimes I just use the folder as an excuse to save pics of Jensen Ackles and your choice here, Henry Cavill. I did finally use Henry as the model for a character recently, a shapeshifting park ranger. All that chest hair made him seem a good choice for that character. 🙂

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Oh, I like the idea of a Central Casting folder, and I agree that Henry would be a fine shapeshifting park ranger. Thanks, Sonya.

  4. I don’t often have anyone specific in mind when I come up with a character, but sometimes I’ll search out photos later on just to check how certain aspects of my descriptions might work together.

    Currently I’m going through pictures of Haitian women to assess what looks would or wouldn’t work for one particular character.

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