Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Guest Blogger - Colleen Gleason

Longtime friends of the playground will remember Colleen Gleason from her previous visit with us. We had such a wonderful time sharing the sandbox that we've asked her back to talk about her latest release, The Bleeding Dusk, the third book in her Gardella Vampire Chronicles. Please give Colleen a warm playground welcome!

With the release of the third book in my historical vampire hunter series, I’ve reached a point where readers are taking sides.

They’re taking sides as to which of the two main heroes my heroine, Victoria Gardella Grantworth, should end up with. And, like the discussions around Angel vs. Spike, or Morelli vs. Ranger, sometimes the opinions are very strong and quite erudite.

It’s a huge compliment to me that the readers of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles are fairly split between whether Victoria should end up with Max Pesaro or Sebastian Vioget. I hear over and over that it’s because the two men are well-developed, well-drawn characters—and yet, very different.

I share this because I thought it would be an interesting topic for blogging here at the Writing Playground: about those “multi-heroes”—and whether it’s a trend that romance readers (and writers) like.

Sometimes, when the heroine has more than one man to choose from, it’s sort of obvious that one choice isn’t Mr. Right—either he’s too much of a “best friend” or “brother” or “dufus” or “comic relief” sort of character. Or, as in some of my favorite gothics, he turns out to be The Villain.

But how do you write two men that are equally possibly Mr. Right?

First, though, let me speak about the whole multi-hero phenomenon, and how that affects romance.

We all know that romances have one hero, one heroine, and they ride off into the sunset together at the end of the book.

Well, in my books, that doesn’t happen—at least not yet.

(And although I don’t have the space to talk about why my books are labeled romance even though there’s no HEA, you can visit this recent post on my blog to read the answer.)

But Victoria’s HEA will happen—because I have always only planned for five books about her, and I’ve always known that she’ll get her HEA in the fifth book. And, in fact, by the end of the fourth book (When Twilight Burns, coming in August), her choice will be clear.

So, I’ve always had an end in mind. And, since the beginning of the series, I’ve known who Victoria’s hero will be. I’ve never wavered from that choice, and knowing where I’m going and what has to happen to get her there have helped me to develop her story, as well as each of their stories—and how they relate to her and each other.

I think part of the reason my two main heroes (there are other ones that come in and out of the series—Victoria might not even pick one of the two main ones) have been successful is because I’ve had five books instead of one in which I can develop their stories. I haven’t felt like I’ve had to fit everything into one book, nor have I felt like I’ve had to end each book with a Happy For Now ending, even if it isn’t the HEA. I think that makes a huge difference.

Now, the way I see it, there are two ways to attack a multi-hero storyline: either set up a love triangle (as Janet Evanovich does with Stephanie Plum, and Stephanie Bond is doing brilliantly with her Body-Movers series [she has three men for her heroine to choose from!])
—or make the story be an evolution (as happens in Sugar Daddy (Lisa Kleypas), Hot Shot (Susan E Phillips), and one of my favorite series ever, The Roselynde Chronicles [Roberta Gellis]).

In a love triangle, you’ve got two men vying for the same woman, or the woman wanting one man, and a second man wanting her. In order for it to work, in my opinion, the two men have to both want her (ergo Janet E’s never-ending Morelli vs. Ranger conundrum) so we feel the pull of attraction for both of them—and the heroine’s own indecision.

In an evolution story, the heroine starts off with one hero, and then evolves through that relationship into another one. She grows, matures, he dies, leaves her, whatever—but that first relationship ends, and the second one begins. And of course, that first one could come back and be the HEA…or the second one could be it.

An evolution happens in Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde Chronicles—in the first book, Alinor marries Simon, who is much older than she is. She also gets to know his squire, Ian diVipont, who becomes the hero (and one of my all-time favorites. Really. I read his book at least once a year.) in the second book, Alinor, after Simon dies. Bertrice Small also did this with her Sky O’Malley series.

What makes those examples of evolution stories different from what I’m doing with the Gardella Vampire Chronicles is that in each of those other cases, we get at least an HFN at the end of the book…which at the time, we think is an HEA.

While you don’t really get that with any of my books so far, you do see Victoria’s relationship evolving with the two men and you can see how different they are, how they want different things from her, how they act differently toward her.

The hardest scenes I have to write are scenes where she interacts with one of the men. I have to make sure they talk differently, react differently, and want different things. I love writing them, but at the same time, it’s hard, hard, hard.

So…what do the smart ladies here at Writing Playground think about the multi-hero romances? Can you deal with them, knowing that there will be an HEA…at some defined point? Do you like the opportunity to have more than one hero to lust after? How will you feel if, when the series ends, the heroine ends up with the guy you didn’t choose?

What do you think about this trend?

For more information on The Bleeding Dusk you can visit Colleen's website Thanks for visiting with us Colleen!


Anonymous said...

I like multi heroes. I usually figure out who heroine will end up with and it is usually the correct hero - in my mind anyway. LOL. But if the 2nd hero is really nice; I always feel sorry for him and want him to get his own book.

Love the cover by the way.

Pat L.

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome, Colleen. I think its an interesting trend and one that should be explored if you've got the pages to do it. Real life is rarely so cut and dry with a neat HEA. I think it also gives readers choices. Some like the tall, dark brooding hero. Some like the lighter haired pretty boy. Others like a sarcastic bad boy. If there's more than one hero, there's something for everyone. The readers will be happy, at least until the heroine picks someone else. But, like Pat said, that opens the door for the other guys to possibly get their own stories, if they're worthy of it.

I always like it when the perfect boyfriend turns out to be the villian. That way the heroine can run to the rude, pushy, totally sexy and completely wrong for her hero without me thinking she's stupid.

Angel said...

I guess I haven't run into this issue much, because to be honest, I haven't read many series that do this. I know everyone raves over the Stephanie Plum books, but I've always kind of been a different couple per book kind of gal.

I think it is all in how you handle the scenario. It is intriguing to have 2 guys who could equally be the hero and I can imagine the challenges in writing them that way. And by the end you are so invested in each man, they are so real to you, that whatever twists come about are that much more intense.

And of course, in the longer series, you have the room to explore these issues.

When you are writing the scenes for each hero, do you have to consciously go through a checklist of their attitudes and actions or does it come naturally over time?


Colleen Gleason said...

Hi Pat!

Thanks for coming by. I like multi-heroes too, but I also want my happy some defined point.

And then, yes, the second hero could always have his own book, once he's over the devastation of losing his true love--or who he thinks is his true love.

Thanks for the compliments on the cover!

Colleen Gleason said...

Smarty Pants, I love those old gothics where the "perfect" guy turns out to be the villain, and the brooding, cranky reclusive one turns out to be the hero.

Sigh. Love those. Barbara Michaels does that so well.

I think that writing the second hero (meaning the one that the heroine doesn't end up with) as very strong hero material definitely makes sense--because he can have his own book and then everyone will be happy.

Plus, I like the suspense of how things evolve between the two options.

Colleen Gleason said...

Angel, I think what makes the multi-hero story compelling to me is to see how either one could appeal to the heroine--just as might happen in real life.

And to see how she could appeal to them, AND how they react toward her.

And your question about writing the scenes with these different men: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Those are The Hardest scenes to write. I do have to think about how they speak, what they would say, what they WANT from Victoria, and how they would go about getting it.

They act, speak, and react differently. In fact, in order to check myself, I will take a scene and think about how the other guy (who's not in it) would act if he were. That way I make sure that they do stay as separate entities.

Make sense?

Playground Monitor said...

Welcome back to the Playground!

The only ones I've read are the Plum books (I'm rooting for Morelli by the way) and I read Sugar Daddy a month or so ago. SD was well-written but not my cup of tea, and not because of the multi-hero thing (and Hardy turned out to be not so much of a hero, tho I understand he gets his own book pretty soon).

I know life isn't always a perfect scenario, but I guess in my reading I like to read about one gal/one guy stories.

But, my cup of tea isn't for everyone's palate, so it's great that you and other authors are writing books to whet those appetites.


MaryKate said...

Hi Colleen! Fancy meeting you here. I love the multiple hero arc, and I think it's to your credit that your fans are so divided about who Victoria should end up with. That's a credit both to the way the potential heroes are written, but also to the deep investment that the fans feel with Victoria.

As a reader, I'm cool with a multi-hero arc if I know that an HEA is coming. It's why I don't read Stephanie Plum, I couldn't deal with the dragging out of the triangle.

I've just finished reading Patricia Brigg's three Mercy Thompson books. She too had two potential heroes. For me, the choice was always clear, and fortunately for me, Mercy chose the way I wanted her to. But I was definitely on pins and needles to see what happened.

I'm glad to hear that by the end of WHEN TWILIGHT BURNS we'll know who Victoria choses. Because then I hope we can sit back and watch the sparks fly as she and her hero interact.

Playground Monitor said...

I hear ya, MK, on the Plum triangle being dragged out. Maybe that's why I still haven't read book 13 and why I don't read any of the in-between books.


MsHellion said...

I love your multi-hero romances--and I'm relieved that you'll have a CHOICE made clear and wound by book 5. (I say this because although I love the Plum novels, it's irking me to DEATH that Plum hasn't chosen Ranger.) I think there is a fine line in the series where it appears the character is no longer evolving or growing--but being stagnant.

I think 5 is a good number for growth, but then tidied up in the end. *LOL*

And by the way, I'm so for Sebastian! Even if he's not the one, I still root for him!

Instigator said...

Welcome back to the Playground, Colleen!

I like both multi and single hero books depending on what I'm in the mood for. And how well they're done.

From a writer's perspective multi hero books do add a level of conflict that can make the job easier - although it can make it more difficult too.


Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks for having me back, PM!

I'm glad you said that--it's true. What one person loves, another one isn't going to.

There are plenty of well-loved authors/series that just don't do it for me, and because the Gardella books ARE different, and DO push the boundaries of romance, I would rather that people sort of knew what they were getting into before jumping in...and being disappointed!

I always have so much fun here at the Playground--thanks so much for having me back!

Colleen Gleason said...

MaryKate! Glad to see you here.

My friend just started reading the Mercy Thompson series. Those books are marketed as fantasy, though, not romance...which gives them a little better positioning for a non HEA or multi-hero.

I'm glad my publisher chose to go with a romance target, and I think the reason is because it is a limited series and there WILL be an end...unlike the Plum books (and others) that don't wind down.

MsHellion, you and MK can duke it out. Sebastian v. Max.

Whew. I'm glad I already know!

And by August, you'll know's just that the wrap-up won't happen until book five.

Colleen Gleason said...

Hi Instigator! Thanks for the warm welcome!

I'm so glad to be back.

And I too like multi-heroes and singular heroes....depending on my mood, as well.

Stephanie Bond is doing a fun thing with her BODY MOVERS series, and while I have a definite fave of the three guys, I think she's written them all as possibilities.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Colleen! I'm a Max fan all the way, but I've only read the first book so far. Love, love, love Max. Though Sebastian was intriguing too.... :)

I haven't read anything multi-hero in a while, really. I did read a JR Ward recently where two men wanted the heroine, but it was clear which one she preferred.

I don't think I mind multi-hero when done well and both are viable choices. I loved the hint in the first Gardella book that both these men could be hero material. And I was upset for poor Phillip. :(

I know who I'd like Victoria to end up with, but that's based on one book. Guess I better get busy on the next two! My mind may change. :)

Colleen Gleason said...

Hi Lynne:

Thanks for coming by, and for reading my book! I'm sure MaryKate will be glad to have another Max fan around here too. ;-)

I hope you get a chance to read RISES THE NIGHT and THE BLEEDING DUSK to see if your mind changes.

Colleen Gleason said...

oooops...sorry about misspelling your name, LYNN.

Had a friend who spelled it with an "e" and it just SLIPPED out.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

It's okay. :) With the 'e' seems to be the more common spelling for women anyway. I wanted that 'e' when I was growing up! :)

I am definitely reading the next two books! I just get lost in my TBR pile sometimes. And I tend to take a break between series books so I don't read them all at once and then miss the characters, if that makes sense. :) If I hoard them like candy, read one when I've waited, then the pleasure is greater. :)

Can I ask what is next for you after the Gardella books? Will you stay with vampires, or do you have something else in mind?

Colleen Gleason said...

Lynn (without an E), I'm currently working on the fifth and final book about Victoria Gardella...and then I'm not sure what I'll be working on!

My publisher and I have tossed around a few ideas, including taking the Gardella series to a different time period, or even bringing it to the 21st century, but nothing's been decided yet. We might even come up with an idea to go in a completely different direction.

But for now, I'm just concentrating on finishing Victoria's story. It's so much fun!

Problem Child said...

I'm here! Finally. Why Blogger decides I can go to any blog other than my own is beyond me. So, I'm tardy, as usual.

Hi Colleen! Welcome back!

We've had a few discussions about Skye O'Malley and her many men around here. (I'm a Geoffrey fan who finally warmed up to Adam.)

I think the evolution-type often brings home the fact that you often need different things out of a relationship at different points in your life. Skye's men weren't really able to adapt as her life changed. If a hero comes back at the end for round two, I want to see that he recognizes that the heroine isn't the same girl she was 300 pages ago. But I digress.

The fact your readers are taking sides--strong sides at that--is high homage to you and the characters you create. It may be hard, but with a reaction like that, I think you're doing it really well!

Colleen Gleason said...

Hi Problem Child! Glad you could make it. That Blogger, she is a funny thing sometimes.

Thanks for the compliments about my characters. It does make me happy that people can have diverse opinions about who for Victoria.