A New York Times article that caught my attention long before I started the Impressions Series is titled “Tapping Your Inner Wolf” In it the author describes observations made of a pack of gray wolves:
“The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,” the veteran wolf researcher Rick McIntyre told me as we were watching gray wolves, ‘…is a quiet confidence, quiet self-assurance. You know what you need to do; you know what’s best for your pack… You lead by example’ The point is, alpha males are not aggressive. They don’t need to be.”
I’m a huge fan of anything that questions the norm of our expectations; and in this case it seemed to me that almost everyone who described the so-called ‘alpha’ male (in life as in romance novels) was describing the last person that would ever inspire any sort of following.
When I read the article it interested me that the author captured the true essence of alpha qualities. After all, the very name ‘alpha’ would indicate a ranking; a place atop a hierarchy, as in the alpha of a pack of wolves. In pop culture, however, somehow the expression became coopted to mean the dominant, aggressive male who walks around with a bad attitude and a puffed out chest, ready to strike fear into anyone who stands in his way.
When I set out to write Impressions of You, I knew that having a male character that women would want to read about was crucial to being successful. After all, it’s a romance novel! If the male character comes off as too abrasive, or too aggressive, or otherwise unattractive, all the well strung together sentences in the world won’t save the book. So I knew that who Wesley Marsden’s character would be key to the telling of the entire story, even though that story is seen through Mia’s eyes. So how did I go about crafting Wesley Marsden from scratch?
I knew that I wanted to keep him mysterious, and that the mystery surrounding him would unfold as the story unfolded; and I of course wanted him to be physically attractive.
But then came this whole alpha male thing. Although there are some great books that follow this model, I really had no interest in writing about a dominant guy who was hyper sexual towards the main character the second he laid eyes on her. I wanted instant attraction, and I wanted to a strong connection, but I didn’t want to write 300 pages of a good looking douche bag. More than anything I wanted to write a good man who was living with a few things that haunted him. At the same time, I wanted him to fight tooth and nail to confront those demons for the woman he ends up loving – Mia Careri.
In writing, as in life, there’s a balance. The connection between characters, the sex, the banter, the drama of the story – all things must be balanced, and more than anything I tried to add complexity to the characters without devolving into too dark or too over-sexualized a story. That word – story – it always comes first. And I wanted a story of a guy I could relate to – not the guy who’d steal your girlfriend in high school and break her heart. Even with a six pack and chiseled face, that guy will always be a dick, and I wanted to write my alpha – the real thing – a guy who can be confident, caring, and most importantly puts the needs of those he loves above his own. Wesley is the most non-alpha-alpha I could write – and I wouldn’t have him any other way.