Getting to know my hero is something I do early in the novel planning process and giving him a past is one of my first priorities. My son once told me that a friend of his was the only male in a household full of women and it had made him aware of female sensitivities – but if he hadn’t stuck up for himself he would’ve spent his life being bossed about. I was intrigued! I know the friend and he certainly is no pushover, so I decided to give a similar background to Martyn Mayfair in Love & Freedom.
Having the novelist’s gene for drama and emotion, I embroidered it a bit, and decided that Clarissa, Martyn’s eldest sister, is really his mother. So his other sisters are really his aunts … And Martyn and Clarissa have a relationship so prickly that cacti are jealous.
You might wonder why I bother knowing the ins and outs of Martyn’s family. After all, he just has to stride on stage being tall, dark and handsome (which he is, as it happens) wearing a label that says ‘hunk’, right? The heroine will find him irresistible and …
Wrong. How could he act, react and interact with the plot, if he didn’t know who he is? If he hasn’t lived a life to make him that person? How would Honor fancy a one-dimensional man? (Actually, here’s a hint about what first grabs Honor’s attention: His stubble was as dark as the straight hair that fell either side of his face and flicked across his forehead above near-black eyes, like a Manga character. Exotic cheekbones and a sculpted jaw … UK dictionaries probably said: toned – see Martyn Mayfair.)
Anyway, to get back on-topic, throughout the book Martyn has little skirmishes with his … OK, we’ll call them sisters, because he does and it’s easier. They look on him as their kid brother and aren’t shy about trying to give him errands. They turn up when he doesn’t want them (‘Sisters are like limpets,’ he says, at one point), say things he would rather they kept to themselves, stick their noses into his business and get in his way when he has seduction on his mind. However annoying they are, though, he recognises them as good people; he takes them home safely when they turn up drunk (yes, I’m afraid they do!), and even when Clarissa interferes and the plot pivots catastrophically, he finds a way to forgive her. Eventually.
So, not only do we get a chance to see the life that made the man, we see, too, how the man reacts to life: like a hero – although he does explode occasionally and is prone to speaking first and thinking later. Could you honestly fall for a hero who’s snarky and sneery to his sisters? It would be about as attractive as kicking puppies or stealing old ladies’ walking frames.
There are loads of aspects to Martyn’s history that have a bearing on the man we meet in Love & Freedom – how it felt to be brought up in a non-standard household, what it means to be part of a family that’s gossip fodder, how he fell into his career, what happened when he dropped out of university, and what keeps him living on the cliff top in Eastingdean when he could so easily move.
And they all count. They all make him who he is. I wouldn’t remove a single one.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Combining that success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum. She's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.