Interview with Deborah Camp
Interview with Deborah Camp
Affaire de Coeur's
January Calendar Girl
Deborah Camp has been spinning love stories since she was a kid and was first published in 1979. Her romances, both contemporary and historical, feature strong men and stronger women. She lives in Tulsa, OK where she enjoys reading, volunteering with a dog/cat rescue group, and trying to stay out of trouble. She has taught romance writing and several of her former students are published romance authors.
The Perfect Hero
I spend a lot of time creating characters. I love reading about all kinds of romantic heroes, but my personal favorite is the “misunderstood hero.” If you fell in love with Mr. Darcy, Rhett Butler, Christian Grey, or the Beast then I’m right there with you! There is something infinitely touching about a man who is gruff, stoic, or even brusque on the outside but has a soft heart and a good reason for his behavior.
When I wrote my romantic suspense/paranormal The Mind’s Eye series, I gave myself the opportunity to create a multi-layered, misunderstood male protagonist. I put everything I love about a hero into Levi Wolfe. Brooding, brusque, arrogant, gorgeous, intelligent, ambitious, brave, broken, lonely, and misunderstood. I loved writing about him and removing a layer at a time until readers finally discovered his big, gooey heart. Some reviews of the first book noted that readers didn’t care for Levi all that much, but that he grew on them by the end of the book. That’s okay. That was the first impression people usually had of Levi.
It’s not a good thing for a single title hero to be disliked in the first chapter. You want the reader to be attracted to the hero quickly in those because you only have three hundred or so pages to work with. But in a series, you can take your time. And I did. Each book revealed more about Levi, his inner workings, the reasons for him keeping himself apart from most people, and why and how the heroine (Trudy Tucker) managed to storm his defenses.
For a single title hero, as I’ve stated, it’s imperative that the hero make a grand entrance and that the reader be intrigued, attracted, or both. For my current historical romance, Ropin’ the Moon, I opened the book with the arrival of the hero and how he is seen through the heroine’s eyes.
She noticed him right off.
He was hard to miss, astride a high-stepping buckskin gelding with black socks and flowing mane. The stranger’s black and silver gun belt with a silver handled six shooter glinted in the sunlight. Horseshoes and clover leafs adorned his heavily tooled saddle where a rifle hung from a sling in easy reach.
With a spine as straight as a ruler and shoulders squared with confidence, he cut a dashing figure as he made his way down the main street of Far Creek. The slack way he held the reins and the liquid movement of his body in rhythm with the big gelding’s gait lent him a masculine grace. Curling, raven black hair grew over his shirt collar and a day or two’s growth of whiskers darkened the lower half of his face. Dressed in dark trousers, pale gray shirt, and a black leather vest, he looked fresh as a daisy, but his mount was lathered, giving evidence that he’d been riding for a spell.
As he rode past the hotel, he swung his half-lidded gaze toward her and it stayed there for several seconds that seemed like minutes. Normally, Lacy Tyrell would have looked away from a stranger’s brazen attention, but she didn’t this time. Couldn’t. She stared right back at him until the corners of his wide mouth tipped up in a droll smile. He lifted one black-gloved hand and touched his fingers to the brim of his hat in a flirty salute before he rode on past the hotel.
Lacy released her breath in a whoosh, only then realizing that it had been trapped in her burning lungs. Who in blazes was that?
So, we’re introduced to Dalton Moon, the new town marshal. Lacy fashions her own first opinion of him, but is forced to change it as she comes to know him – right along with the readers. Like most people, he is complex and a result of his upbringing and personal experiences. He was raised on the east coast and fought for the Union in the Civil War. He’s arrogant and polite, intelligent and stubborn, hard and soft. And, yes, he’s misunderstood. He’s known for his lightning fast quick draw. However, he takes no joy in shooting anyone and tries to avoid it. While most people assume that he’s tough and can be ruthless, Lacy (and the readers) discover that he’s brave and kind.
The Perfect Heroine
I love a gal with sass. That gets me in trouble when I’m creating heroines because I have a tendency to go too far. Too much sass and my editor (and early readers) mention that she’s a smart aleck and they don’t care for her. That’s not what you aim for when creating a heroine.
The heroine is the character that readers identify with the most. She and the reader become one. So, if she’s too acerbic, readers won’t want to be her. Therefore, it’s walking a fine line.
I don’t think I could like a meek heroine or a goody-two-shoes gal. If she won’t stand up for herself and give as good as she gets, then I don’t have much interest in her. I don’t want to be like her. However, if she’s as prickly as a cactus, why would the hero want to be around her? Creating a feisty heroine requires finding that perfect blend of opinionated independence and wise compassion.
In Ropin’ the Moon Dalton gets an early taste of Lacy’s spirit:
“Were you injured in the war? Is that where you got that scar?”
He touched the place on his face that had drawn her attention. Sickle-shaped, the thin scar ran from the corner of his left brow to just below his eyelashes. “Yes. A chunk of shrapnel struck me there. It was nothing much. But it did land me in a Rebel prison.”
“Oh?” Her blue eyes widened with alarm. “How horrible for you.”
“I was fortunate that it was at the very end of the war. I was there for less than a month before they had to turn us all loose.”
She shook her head in a gentle rebuke. “One doesn’t often hear a man speak about getting wounded and imprisoned as fortunate occurrences.”
“That is the craziness of war, ma’am.”
For a few moments, their gazes held and time slowed. A beam of sunlight found her face, making her eyes sparkle like jewels. She moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue and Dalton thought his heart might burst from his chest.
“I suppose you may call me Lacy,” she said, in a near whisper as her lashes swept down to hide her eyes from him.
“I suppose you may call me Marshal or Sir.”
Her sable lashes lifted and her eyes sparked with blue fire that made him laugh.
“I’m joshing with you. Call me Dalton.”
She banked the fire in her eyes. “Very well, Marshal Dalton.” Her sly grin made his blood heat.
They’ve squared off in this scene and decided they have found worthy adversaries. From here, there is the push-pull of getting to know each other and test the boundaries. Although they both are cautious about forming a tight bond because Dalton will be leaving town as soon as he has set things to right, they are hopelessly drawn to each other.
The Perfect Temperature
Romances come in all shapes, sizes, and passion potent. I’ve written sweet romances and erotic romances. My contemporary romances these days are hot. My historical romances sizzle when the characters aren’t married and are brought to a boil when they are married (usually mail-order brides and the like). While there is a healthy market for sweet western romances, I’m just not interested in writing them. I try to remain true to the morals of the period. My westerns take place in the mid to late 1800s. Therefore, my heroines don’t sleep around. They are virgins unless they are widows or something bad happened to them. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t sorely tempted to let the hero have his way with them. I feel that folks back then weren’t that different from folks today. When you’re turned on, you’re turned on!
From Ropin the Moon:
“Lacy, Lacy,” he whispered in her ear, and she loved the way he made her name a tortured moan. His lips trailed from there along the side of her neck and then to the hollow of her throat. “God help me, I want you.” He kissed her chin, gave it a little bite, and then settled his mouth on hers again. His tongue teased the sensitive corners of her mouth before delving inside to stoke her inner fire. His arm came around her waist and she rested her hands on his wide chest and felt the incessant beating of his heart. Kiss after kiss, he drugged her until her head swam and her body ached with surging desire. She slipped her arms around him. He was solid and muscled. She felt safe enough to be reckless in his embrace.
When his mouth freed hers and she was able to gather a decent breath, she opened her eyes to witness the stark passion in his, leaping like flames, eager to consume her. He was breathing hard and so was she. His gaze moved hungrily over her face, her hair, and then back to her throbbing lips.
“What am I going to do about this?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
“About what?” she asked, her mind still in a soup of yearning.
“About wanting to make love to you. Here. Now. On this bed of leaves under a canopy of blue?”
Ah, the sweet dilemma, right? That’s what makes romances sing – the heat and fire, the doubts and concerns, and the ultimate decision to let go and let your heart take the lead. It’s what makes every romance writer eager to create the next hero and heroine and place them dead center in a plot that will test them. And it’s why we love to read romances!
I plan to write two more westerns with misunderstood fast-draw heroes. Right now, I’m finishing up a contemporary romance and then I’ll concentrate on my next historical romance hero. I know his name and a little about his background already. I also know the heroine’s name and her current situation. Their story simmers in my brain and I’m ready to flesh them out. It’s what keeps me going. Getting to know another misunderstood hero and a feisty heroine is like making two new friends. Sometimes I will read one of my early books and I get to know those characters all over again! However, I’m more interested in making new friends and charting a course to true love for them. It’s a journey that never gets old for me.