Lately I find myself asking WHY? We all do and we all have different answers.
I attended the Historical Novel Society conference in 2010. And I was one of six would be authors sitting at a round table with an agent. The agent first asked us for a quick blurb of our book. That was easy, I had it all practiced – twenty five words give or take a few. After listening to five other pitches, I felt proud of myself. Then she asked us….why did you decide to write about him/her?
I hit a wall, a complete blank. I had never asked myself that question. Why did I have a male protagonist? Of course, when my turn came, I started rambling and she lost interest and suggested I refocus. Lately, as I began plotting my second book, I remembered her question.
Well I wanted to write a book about 1880 Chicago when the city started rebuilding after the fire. Why that time? Well my husband and I own an Architecture/Engineering company. We are both history buffs and over the years have amassed a collection of building artifacts – leaded glass, stone capitals, granite pavers etc. And, as I told the agent, I wanted to write about Louis Sullivan, but not a biography. In 1880 Sullivan was young, brash, full of ideas and had just become a partner with Dankmar Adler. Still it would make for a boring book of …and then I built…sort of thing. Sullivan loved Chicago. Why is Garrett Lyons the protagonist?
I decided to show city through the eyes of someone who does not particularly like being here. Garrett Lyons, former army lieutenant, Pinkerton agent, is broke and stranded in Chicago and turns to his poker buddy, Sullivan for help.
As I re-read “What Price Honor” and the three short stories that precede the book, I ask myself that very question. Why have a male hero? I guess Garrett is the big brother I always wanted and never had. My parents divorced when I was three and my mother raised me. I grew up reading and watching TV. My favorite show was “Gunsmoke”. Maybe James Arness was a father/brother figure. But I watched endless reruns. Unfortunately he seems to have the same problems, hang-ups that I have.
So fellow authors, what about you? Why did you pick you hero/heroine?