Bad Boy Burnout

One of the questions I get asked most often about Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story is who Ben is based on. Did I know a Ben in high school? (Answer: I wish). Ben is actually a combination of several men I know but the main idea for his character came from a case of bad-boy burnout.

A total Boy Scout who will steal your heart.

Bad boys have been standard fare in romance for a long time. The romance novels I read in high school were full of scoundrels and rogues who led sweet-innocents astray. I gave up on the genre around the time I started college. Fun reading was replaced with text books (I swear I did read some of them) and I got tired of the predictability of the novels. Before the days of self-publishing there were fewer choices and fewer retail outlets where you could find different options. If it wasn’t on the paperback shelf at Target, I probably didn’t read it in the 1980’s. 

But now we have options, tons of options. Not only do we have Amazon, but with the advent of the e-reader, it’s possible for local libraries to carry thousands more titles than their brick and motor buildings can hold. When I jumped back into romance reading a few years ago I started searching for the best novels that were published during my missing years. I found Outlander and Twilight then 50 Shades of Grey and Beautiful Disaster. I was devouring these and loving them. Internet searches also brought me the “If you loved (name of book) then try…” lists. So if I loved 50 Shades of Grey then I will love This Man or Bared to You. Ummm, no. That’s where I hit a wall. For me the follow-up novels were way too close to the original.  I felt like I was reading the same story but with different character names.  I tried other suggestions and kept running into more and more bad boys, who were starting to feel more like colossal a-holes.

But frustration is a good thing for a writer. The more I hated the “heros” I was finding the more I wanted to create my own.  I was dying to read about a smart guy who was going somewhere in life. I wanted a story where there wasn’t a “good girl” out to save some misogynistic loser–so I wrote it. 

Ben was created to turn the current standard for romance writing around. He is the antithesis of the previaling bad boy. He is smart and geeky and driven. And like most real people his assets are also his deficits. He is also a controlling, rigid perfectionist. The final piece I added to make him real was that he was a virgin, but sexual. Logic tells me that just because a teenage boy isn’t having sex doesn’t mean it isn’t on his mind, a lot. Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks is a broody, angsty, bad-boy free zone. 

So, how about you? What type of romance books are you drawn to? Have you reached bad-boy burnout or are you ready for more? Who is the best hero you’ve read lately? Comment below and let me know.

Geek Love

Ben may be the easiest character to give you background on because he hits closest to home. I live in the house of geek, myself included.  How do you know if you have a geek house?  
If your 8 year old asks for a periodic table poster for his birthday – you live in a geek house.
If you watch The Big Bang Theory because it’s so much like your family – you live in a geek house.
If they know you by name at the local library and all local museums – you live in a geek house.  
In another post on another day I want to write more about geek life.  Today, I want to take a closer look at Ben Gorman, geek hero.  

Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story really started with Ben.  While I love a good bad-boy hero in a romance novel, I want some variety too.  After “Beautiful Disaster” and “50 Shades” I was ready for a different kind of hero and had a really hard time finding him (in a book).  So I created him.  I’ve seriously got a thing for smart men, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to create Ben and wrap a story around him.  

I used some of the great characteristics of smart men and some of the seriously annoying ones because I wanted him to be real.  In the first chapter his strong personality comes through in his actions.  Geeks love consistency and pattern, so Ben has to bounce a basketball exactly three times before he will shoot it.  He follows rules, including manners (because they bring order), and wants others to follow them too.  He tries to train the neighbor kid in manners and gets irritated with Carrie uses bad table manners.  He also has a tendency to say things that are true, but might not be socially acceptable.  A trait he knows he has, but can’t seem to stop.  

His geeky traits are also what make him a great romance hero (at least in my eyes).  He is aware of his status as a social outsider and generally fine with it.  He never does or says things to increase his social standing and he is honest to a fault.  These traits allow the heroine, Carrie, to trust him in a way she won’t trust other guys. As I say in the blurb, their love begins with trust.  

Physically, I made him a late bloomer.  By not getting his growth spurt till high school he experiences some of the big social years in junior high school and early high school as the little geeky kid.  When he does grow up (literally) he’s mature enough to not want to use his new-found stature for revenge on those who bullied him in the past.  His focus, like most of my character’s, is not on the social buzz of high school.  His goals go way beyond winning a football game, so he isn’t concerned with winning popularity once it’s in his grasp.

The question I get asked most often is if Ben is based on a real person. Yes and no.  He is actually a combination of four men.  I found a pic online of a young, blonde soldier.  He was the perfect combination of innocence and steely focus.  That’s who I pictured in my mind as I wrote.  I didn’t have to look farther than my living room for geek traits, both good and bad.  And I was allowed to borrow high school memories from someone else for his romantic words and gestures.  

He’s different; imperfect, not wealthy, a little socially off key, but that’s why I created him.  I (and hopefully you) want some variety in my romance heroes.