Creating an Unconventional Hero

Why don’t you introduce yourself?   Hi!  My name is Mary Gorman, and I live in Western Massachusetts.

Tell us about your book.  It’s a romantic comedy called Love’s Little Instruction Book.  It’s about a guy who uses romance novels as instructor’s manuals in how to win the woman of his dreams, and it was released on August 20, 2012.

There’s something that’s a little unusual about your hero, isn’t there?  Actually, there are a lot of things that are unusual about Dave.  He’s not the traditional handsome, hot and brooding romance hero.  He’s short, a little on the chubby side and he’s very aware of his deficiencies.  He worries that the woman he’s attracted to will never even notice a man like him because she is what you’d call a hottie.  That’s why he has to come up with such an unorthodox plan to win her affections.  The way he sees it, most men approach dating by thinking about what it is that they, that is, the men, want.  By reading romance novels, he hopes that he can discover what it is that women want.

That’s quite a plan.  Yeah, but it doesn’t work out quite as well as he might have liked.

Can you give an example?  Well, one of the themes that you see in a lot of romance novels is that the heroine takes care of the hero when he’s sick or injured, and it brings out her nurturing instincts and they fall in love.  So when Dave gets the flu, he calls Denise to bring him some chicken soup, thinking that she’ll feel all warm and fuzzy toward him as a result.

I take it that doesn’t happen?  Oh, she can’t get out of there fast enough.  In reality, the only thing worse than a kid with the flu is a grown man with it.


How did you come up with the basic premise for your story?  It kind of came together in bits and pieces.  I love to watch a really handsome man, but honestly, I think they’re kind of high maintenance.  My ideal man is one who’s a nice guy at heart of gold, who’s reliable, faithful, and totally adores the woman that he’s with.  A warm sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.

You have some interesting discussions of romance novels throughout the book.  Are those about real books?  Well … most of them parodies of real books that I’ve read.  I’m hoping that they’re accurate enough that readers will read them and start thinking “I’ve read that.  I think she’s talking about….” and will fill in the name of the book.

Have you always been a story teller?  Pretty much.  I remember being eleven years old and my friend Ida and I would play writer and secretary.  I’d dictate a story and she’d write it down.  And when my family used to get together on Christmas Eve, a lot of the time my brothers, father and I would engage in competitive story telling.  And when I worked as a substitute teacher, I discovered that I could get control of a rowdy class by telling them a story; they’d always quiet down to listen.  I recently met a teenager who said I looked familiar.  When I told him that he had probably had me as a substitute teacher, he suddenly remembered having me as a sub seven years before, and then proceeded to summarize a story from my “Evil Twin Trilogy” of scary stories for kids.  That blew my mind – he went to a school where I didn’t sub often and he likely only had me for that one day, but my story that I told him that day stayed with him for years.  I doubt he could recall anything else he learned that day.  That’s pretty powerful.

So what’s next?  When Love’s Little Instruction Book sold, I was working on a non-fiction book on the last two years in the life of Frederic Augustus James, a Civil War sailor on the first ship ever to be sunk by an enemy submarine, and he was captured by the Confederates and eventually died at Andersonville Confederate Prison in Georgia, a place that by all accounts was like the eighth circle of Hell.  I have copies of his letters and diary, which may be the only surviving diary by a prisoner who died at Andersonville – in a place where they’d strip the clothes off a corpse in an effort to keep warm survive, the diary probably would have been burned for fuel if someone hadn’t gotten hold of it as soon as Fred died and made sure that it got back to Fred’s widow.  Fred would have made a great romantic hero – he was naïve in some ways, but you can tell by his writings that he loved his wife and little girls more than anything save the Lord God Himself.  I need to finish writing about Fred, then I have a couple of ideas for another romance book, including one about a maid of honor and a best man at a wedding who are at odds – she’s trying her best to make sure it turns out to be the perfect wedding while he’s been burned by an unfaithful wife and sees it as his job to smuggle the groom out the back door at the first sign of cold feet.  Sparks and sexual tension ensue.