Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Need A Hero!

Why I Write & Read Romance
Lise Horton

In recent days the gossip-ravenous media has latched on to the latest Mel Gibson saga. There’s been his long-reported history of over imbibing, fisticuffs and DUIs. A while back there was his anti-Semitic rant. More recently the revelation that this member of an extreme Catholic sect, husband to Robyn and father of seven children with her was being divorced. Fast upon the heels of this was the exposure of his extra-marital affair with the beautiful, much younger, Oksana Grigorieva and the ensuing love child (kid # 8).

Now the latest. Lurid, downright ugly tapes have been released and are being listened to and reported on in every news outlet available. Racist, sexist, violent, threatening and lewd screaming at the mother of his child who alleges that Gibson also hit her and threatened her with a gun, in the first case while she was holding the baby in her arms. A restraining order is in place and the entertainment trades reported that his agency, William Morris Endeavor has removed him from their roster. Which, I assume, means they fired him.

Add this to the cacophony of other news of men behaving badly. John Edwards, Al Gore, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown, Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, and those are just the guys who’ve been leaving broken hearts hither and yon. How about the truly abhorrent cases of mad love like Scott Peterson, Brian David Mitchell, Josef Fritzl, Bruno Fernandes? Every day’s headlines bring more horror, betrayal, disappointment (and don’t get me started on the likes of Bernie Madoff, Ken Starr, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby – it isn’t just in the arena of love where guys are doing their darndest to disappoint!) It begs one to ask the burning question:

Where have all the heroes gone?

It is this tawdry state of public affairs, my readers, that is the reason I write and read romance. When this gal’s faced with a tsunami of infidelity, disloyalty, dishonor, rage, hatred, and homicidal acts, not to mention back room business double dealings and greedy shenanigans, I need to escape. Where I turn for solace from the daily grind of reality is to a good fantasy. As in a romance novel. Where a man may have a stock portfolio or a race car, fur or fangs, but he treats his woman right, he’s brave, loyal and true, and, after some good loving, a girl’s guaranteed a happily ever after.

But it’s a fairy tale, you say! My response? Darn right it is! The kind that helps me escape to a world where good triumphs over evil, where the bad guy always gets his just desserts and men don’t cheat with the babysitter, beat the crap out of their lover, or kill them and feed the body to their dog. It’s where heroes and their women battle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune side by side and hand in hand and share smooches and a glorious, happy ending.

I’m sure that there a oodles of good guys out there, and women lucky enough to have them. For the ladies who enjoy both a good romance and a good man, congratulations on your good fortune! (Would that the press saw fit to cover everyday heroes and honorable men doing good deeds. But NOOOO! What fun would THAT be? So the bilious deluge continues.)

For me, however, I create the heroes I’d love to encounter in my own romances, and I voraciously read others’ novels about their ideal men. And there are great romances to enjoy. Entertaining stories filled with wonderful characters and terrific tales of love. There’s a genre for every taste and heroes and heroines for every sensibility, from virtuous Regency misses to kick-ass urban fantasy heroines who never let their dudes forget they are men, to the Scottish rogues and starship troopers who can make a girl’s bosom heave with a single sardonic glance.

So when I cannot stomach another exposé of a man who done his woman wrong, I indulge in romance. Rather than ponder the broken marriages, destroyed lives, damaged children and families, instead, like Dr. Frankenstein-builds-a-romance-hero, I create my own perfect men. I compile the characteristics of the sort of fella I’d like to get up close and personal with. The kind of dude who’d do my heroines justice and though they may be high maintenance, they’re never low down dirty dogs. When not penning my own, I enjoying the romantic literary fruits of other creative minds. It is how I keep from despairing over the sad state of affairs that is in my face at every turn.

Say what you will - that I’m being unrealistic, that I am turning a blind eye to the harsh truths of life. True and true. But I am certainly less angst ridden, less depressed, and more hopeful for it.

In these trying times, that’s my reason for loving romance novels.

What’s yours?

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I believe that everything happens for a reason. Such as why my yoga class was canceled and I decided to indulge myself in its place by buying Apple gadgets and essential oils. It was in the store with said oils that I met a model--an alternative model who does fetish. I was fascinated. Recently I began a short story about a model who almost suffocated in a corset. I had read as Diane Kruger described in Allure magazine that feeling and it inspired me. I wrote the first few lines organically, after combining it with a piece I was working on that I had gotten stuck on. Meeting this model who told me that yes it can happen, that you can suffocate while wearing a corset if a photographer does not know what s/he is doing. She also described the beauty in what she does and how her background made her to want to make people think about expressions of their sensuality in different ways. She believes that people are creative in every other part of their lives but when it comes to sex and intimacy they are one-sighted. I read, write and watch erotica. I think a lot is learned about people in how they express themselves in that way.

I had the pleasure of spending time recently with Thea Devine about whom I am going to be doing a Bits and Pieces on, my regular column at the RWA-NYC blog. She changed the way that I think about everything with my craft. I identified with the way she described love and sex and I found my eyes wider because of her. I even got a tiny black Moleskine to write down observations that I make and--surprise, surprise--there are only sensual bits so far! Maybe they will make it into a story but they definitely show me how I see the world and what inspires me...

I am taking an art course focusing on Francis Bacon and for the most part I do not think anyone would describe Bacon as "lovely" or "sexy." When I saw my first Bacon I thought, why would anyone like that?! But I changed my mind about him. I love the rawness of his work--there is a lot lovely and sexy about him. Not even considering that a lot of his work focuses on his lover who was his muse, or that his paintings are featured in the opening credits of the Last Tango in Paris. In my art course, we were shown a Diane Arbus photograph, which I commented on that the two people depicted could not have been a couple because they did not look happy. The instructor said to me that all couples do not have to be happy. I think my mindset was that an unhappy couple would not pose for a picture. But the idea that everything romantic does not have to be happy...When people call me a romantic the last thing they are saying about me is that I am unhappy! I am typing this post on my MacBook with the screen for Before Sunrise minimized, happy for a change that I am able to listen to it and not need to glance at the subtitles. I am fond of the ironically darker love themes in love movies from other countries. Hearing the instructor voice aloud that romance does not have to be happy, it was not that I did not know that, not that I have not explored the themes in fiction and maybe in real life...but to hear something makes it less indelible in my mind. When the fetish model told me you can suffocate in a corset, I had to reread fashion guru Polly Guerin's post about corsets!

I have been writing a lot more since then; the fairly dark love story that I have been working on is developing...which I am going to work on as soon as I finish this post. Every encounter should lead to something that can be transferred to the page or the computer screen.