A lot of people, including my husband, think it's odd when I say I have known I wanted to write a romance novel (a dirty book) since I was in sixth grade. Of course, I didn't know I wanted to write EROTICA when I was that age, but I knew I wanted to write about love, romance and sex -- although I had no clue how to do that, since I had never had sex, of course, and was actually really prudish.
When I wrote my early stories and I got to the sex parts, I would write in big bold letters something like "SEX SCENE GOES HERE," thinking maybe one day I would go back to it. I never did, of course, but I kept writing fictional, fan-girling stories for years.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the kind of guy I created in those early stories. It turns out, those guys had a LOT in common with the hero of my new novella, Invisible Ink. I guess I've always lusted after the same kind of guy -- a "bad boy" who is kind of an asshole and feels conflicted about commitments. In some of my early variations this guy was more "sensitive," but he was always pretty standoffish about his feelings.
Where did I get the idea for this kind of guy when I was 12? Where did my romantic ideas come from? I clearly wasn't doing anything at that age other than crushing on boys I knew from school or my neighborhood.
Then I realized...a lot of my ideas for my own personal romantic hero came from movies or books I loved at that time and those inspirations from 20 years ago continue to this day and subconsciously helped me form Invisible Ink's Jake Reed.
So what were those early romantic inspirations for me? Here goes. You might laugh. Read them and then think about how your own early ideas of ideal love formed.
1. The Dominating Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind
I saw this movie right around the time I decided I wanted to be a writer for a living. It was the summer before I started 7th grade and I watched it (with commercials!) with my grandparents. Gone with the Wind then became an obsession. I have watched it so many times I have the whole thing memorized.
Rhett is my favorite character in the film for obvious reasons. He is the alpha male to end all alpha males as you can see in the clip above. The way he loves Scarlett and tortures himself over it and then just GOES OFF on her in this scene just gets my heart pounding every time I see it. Love him.
2. The beautiful, lost Johnny Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Johnny Nolan is a complete loser as a father and a person. He's an alcoholic, he can't keep a job, he's inconsistently in and out of the life of his loved ones. Yet, the reader falls madly in love with him because the narrator, Johnny's daughter, loves him so much. He's charming, he can sing and he's beautiful to look at. When he died in the book, the 12 year old me actually cried. I have never cried over a book character before or since. I really loved Johnny Nolan and this line from the novel has stuck with me for 20 years, about Johnny's long-suffering wife, Katie.:
"She should have waited until some man came along who felt that way about her. Then her children would not have gone hungry; she would not have had to scrub floors for their living and her memory of him would have remained a tender shining thing. But she wanted Johnny Nolan and no one else and she set out to get him." Chapter 7, pg. 56
Thus began my love of men with lost souls.
3. Heathcliff and Cathy's doomed love affair in Wuthering Heights
I also happened to read this book around that same time in my life I was becoming a woman and a future writer. I read it for fun in the summer. I know, I have no idea why I would have decided to read such a complex book at the age of 12 for FUN! Regardless, I fell in love with the tortured love story of Cathy and Heathcliff. Heathcliff is a brooding asshole and complete jerk but I love him. If you haven't seen the movie version of this with Ralph Fiennes, you need to. Watch this clip where Cathy describes how she loves Heathcliff and try not to have your heart break.
4. Jordan Catalano. You know you agree.
I saved the best for last. You know if you're in your 30s you also fell in love with Jordan Catalano, the lovable, gorgeous moron in My So Called Life. Jordan is basically just everything any teenage girl ever wants. He's smokin' hot, he is in a band (of course), he has the most beautiful nose anyone has ever seen (okay, maybe it's just me that thinks that) and he's a great kisser. Of course, he's also too stupid to know when he's in love. Sigh. I dare you to watch the scene above and not want to jump him. I loved him then and love him now. He's probably the reason I dated a loser in high school myself. Ha!
So...what movies, books or shows helped form your early ideas of love? It is definitely an interesting game to play with your mind in the shower some day.