I think there are themes that we as readers—and writers—return to again and again. Storylines that speak to us as individuals, that touch a chord within our hearts and show us new truths about old pains.
I have a few favorites themes I revisit often, both as a reader and writer. I bet you have favorites, too. So, I'll share mine if you'll share yours.
1. The redemption story
I love redemption stories. The idea that we can change, improve and overcome is such an appealing thing to me. One of my favorite characters on TV these days is James "Sawyer" Ford on the ABC drama LOST. In the first two seasons, Sawyer was a cross between a villain and a trickster, a rough, dark, often unpleasant character determined to look out for himself and his wants and needs, even at the sacrifice of everyone around him. But over the course of the series, he has evolved into a man able to make emotional connections with others, to look out for the well-being of his friends. He hasn't lost his edge; he's moody, irritable, sometimes selfish and often quick to anger, but he's still hero material, as he proved for most of last season.
In one of my books, COWBOY ALIBI, it was the heroine who needed redemption. A combination of a troubled upbringing and a series of foolish mistakes has led her to a place where she lied more than she told the truth. But when her memory is wiped clean after a trauma, the woman who now knows herself as Jane Doe has the chance to remake herself, to start fresh—but not before she faces her past.
Which brings us to...
2. Facing the past
In one way or another, almost all of my characters have to face their pasts in some way, come to terms with something that's been haunting them for years. This is especially true in my new Cooper Justice series from Harlequin Intrigue. In this month's Cooper Justice book, CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE, Kristen Tandy has to face a tragic crime perpetrated on herself and her deceased brothers and sisters by her mother. It's the kind of horror tale that most people would have trouble surviving emotionally, and Kristen is no exception. But as a police detective, she has to overcome the fears her past has wrought in order to protect a young child in danger.
Kristen's initial instinct is to let someone else take over the job of protecting young Maddy. But Maddy has chosen Kristen to protect her, which forces Kristen to deal with her phobias and come to terms with her past as well as what she wants from the future.
3. The reluctant hero
Speaking of characters whose initial instinct is to avoid getting involved, another theme I love is the reluctant hero. I think this particular theme resonates with me because I see myself as radically ordinary. I don't have a lot of exciting skills or captivating experiences in my life. I'm just a nice, middle class woman from the South who works as a graphic designer and writes books. I'm scared of heights, shy around strangers and prone to hermit-like behavior. But I still like to believe I'd step up to the plate in a crisis and do what it takes to help people survive.
Some of the heroes and heroines in my books are reluctant to get involved at first. Maddox Heller, the hero of FORBIDDEN TOUCH, doesn't think he has what it takes to help out Iris, the heroine, when her friend goes missing. He's tried playing hero before and it ended badly on a lot of different levels. But when it's clear Iris needs protection, Maddox can't let her try to go it alone. And in the process of helping Iris get to the bottom of the mystery of her missing fri
end, Maddox rediscovers his inner strength and his desire to do good in the world.
4. Stranger in a strange land
Finally, a favorite theme I've explored in several books is the hero or heroine thrust into an alien situation and forced to figure his or her way on instinct—and with the help of the person who turns out to be his or her soul mate. In my January 2010 Intrigue, CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING, Hannah Cooper is literally a stranger in town, a tourist driving through western Wyoming on her way to visit the state parks, when she's attacked by a would-be killer. When she escapes, making her the only living survivor of a serial killer Riley Patterson has been hunting for three long years, she becomes a person of extreme interest to Riley. I put an Alabama girl, a fishing guide, in the heart of Wyoming ranch country, targeted by a killer she can't remember or identify except in snippets and flashes of memory. I give her a protector still in love with his dead wife and driven to find a killer at almost any cost. There's inherent drama in be
ing thrust into unfamiliar, high stakes situations.
There you go. A few of my favorite themes. What about you? What story themes do you enjoy in the romances you read or write?
Don't forget my book CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE is out in stores this week. And you can still find my January Intrigue, CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING online at amazon.com, borders.com, barnesandnoble.com, Books-A-Million online and eHarlequin.com. Visit my website at www.paulagraves.com
or my blog, spinstersandlunatics.blogspot.com, to keep up with my current and future projects.
Comment on this blog and you could win. I'll give away a copy of Forbidden Touch and a copy of Cowboy Alibi.
Cooper Justice - coming from Harlequin Intrigue in 2010
Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming - January 2010
Chickasaw County Captive - February 2010
One Tough Marine - August 2010
Bachelor Sheriff - September 2010