Write Byte

Taking a Risk with Anti-Heroes

(November 20, 1998)

Our own Anne Marble enjoys Theresa Weir’s romances and was recently in touch with her after having written a Desert Isle Keeper review of Weir’s Cool Shade. Theresa was kind enough to sit down with Anne for a few minutes to talk about the type of heroes she most likes to write. Here’s are the results of their brief Q&A about anti-heroes:

Anne: You take a risk and write about heroes who are not typical romance novel material – for example, the hero in Cool Shade was agoraphobic. Your heroes don’t deal with the world in the normal way. They might be anti-heroes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be sensitive. Still, they don’t always do the right thing – and we feel their pain when they make mistakes. The same is true of your heroines. What have the reactions of editors been to your choice of heroes?

Theresa: Back in the early to mid-eighties when I first started writing, I wasn’t really thinking about what publishers were looking for, and I had no idea that what I was doing went against the accepted romance standards of the day. Even though I’d read hundreds of romances, I didn’t know the rules. I’d never heard of any writers’ organizations, and I didn’t know any other writers. I just wrote a book the way I thought it should be, the way I would want it to be as a reader. I think my only rule was, Am I enjoying this book? Am I having fun now? If the answer was yes, then I felt I was on the right track. I didn’t know I was coloring outside the lines. It wasn’t until the book was finished and I began sending it to agents and editors that I found out how little I knew. It was turned down again and again. I received some incredibly hostile letters – most of which I took quite personally. The recurring theme in the letters was this: They hated my hero. It took a couple of years, but the book finally sold. That book was Amazon Lily. (Note: Savvy romance readers will recognize Amazon Lily as one of those famous hard-to-find titles. Only a few readers were lucky enough to buy a copy when it first came out. Others had to hunt through the used bookstores.)

By then I’d learned quite a few things, one of which was to write with more restraint. Several books later I was trying hard to stay within certain perimeters, but I was still being told that my characters were unlikable. Even despicable. And now my heroines were even getting attacked. In my own mind, I was writing about imperfect people who had problems, who didn’t always make the right choices, but in the end triumphed. I think we have all reached a point in our lives when we think we’ve made a wrong choice, or taken a wrong life direction, and it seems like a dead end. I like to start my characters off in that dark place and watch them get themselves out of there. It’s just a good, life affirming feeling.

Anne: Romance readers don’t always respond the way editors think we do. How do readers react to your choice of heroes?

Theresa: Readers are savvy, and I don’t think they are being given nearly enough credit. I do want people to know that for a lot of writers, this is our living. And in order to get those bills paid, we sometimes have to bend. I’ve gotten mail from people bemoaning the fact that my writing has changed. Of course I’m not going to write the same book I was writing in the mid-eighties, but some of that change is brought about by the simple need to remain employed. So sometimes I do bend, sometimes I do write a safer book, and sometimes I realize too late that maybe I shouldn’t have bent because the end result is a book that isn’t as good as it could have been.

Anne: Why do prefer to take the risk of writing about unusual characters? And are the publishers still troubled by your characters?

Theresa: It has been a risk to write the kind of books I write, but my characters are the book, and without them there wouldn’t be much left. I just finished book thirteen. Title: Bad Karma. (Book thirteen. Bad Karma. This could be a sign of good luck, or bad.) The heroine has an eating disorder and suffers a trauma that leaves her thinking she may have discovered the secret to transcending time and space. At a time when light, fun books are the rage, it wasn’t really what my publisher had hoped for – but to their credit they are publishing it. And with the next book, I will try to write with restraint, try to get it closer to what they want. It’s all about compromise.

Theresa Weir’s Backlist:

  • Some Kind of Magic
  • Cool Shade
  • American Dreamer (Harper, 1997)
  • Long Night Moon
  • One Fine Day
  • Last Summer
  • Forever
  • Iguana Bay
  • Pictures of Emily
  • Loving Jenny
  • Amazon Lily
  • The Forever Man

You can visit Theresa’s web site at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/8078/weir.html

E-mail TheresaFind links to Theresa Weir reviews following our Desert Isle Keeper Review of Cool Shade