Quickie with Lisa Kleypas

(September 15, 1997)

Connie Flynn's Quickie on Tormented Heroines

In Issue #33 of Laurie's News & Views, I wrote of tormented heroines - of Princess Diana and of Lily, the heroine from Lisa Kleypas' Then Came You. Lisa, who is a longtime reader of the column, wrote in about both.

Here is what she had to say:

I loved the column on tormented heroines. For some reason the tragic death of Princess Diana has affected me more than I would have expected, and I think you did a beautiful job of exploring why this is true for me and many other women. It is so easy to become deeply involved in the story of a tormented heroine, whether real or fictional, and we all learn from watching her struggle. It breaks my heart each time I realized anew that Diana will never achieve the happy ending I think she deserved.

In regard to romance heroines, I love a novel in which a woman not only battles great obstacles and terrible odds, but also has to deal with her own inner wounds inflicted by past events. As a writer, I would say that it's relatively easy to create a tormented character, male or female. The real problem or trick is to balance the relationship with a partner of equal or greater strength. In my novel Then Came You, the tormented heroine Lily, was a mother whose child had been kidnapped. Her quest to recover her daughter resulted in emotional problems, debt, and occasional physical danger. Lily was such a powerful character with overwhelming needs that I knew her partner would have to be something along the lines of a beta male disguised as an alpha. I tried to write Alex, her mate, as a man who seems to be powerful and very domineering. However, as soon as Lily takes the first small steps toward trusting him, Alex's apparent arrogance and domination are stripped away to reveal a man who is utterly tender and protective. I think he came across as a strong character in his own right, but it took a great deal of care and consideration to make certain that Lily didn't throw the whole story off balance.

It is really difficult to find the right chemistry between two characters, especially if the woman is the tortured half of the couple. The risk for a writer in trying this kind of story is that many readers tend to think a hero is less "manly" if all he does is run around and take care of the heroine's problems. (Of course, if one encounters a man like this in real life, one should marry him as quickly as possible!)

Connie Flynn's Quickie on Tormented Heroines
Lisa Kleypas at AAR