By Victoria Curran, senior editor
As I was leaving for my cousin’s funeral yesterday afternoon, my boss asked me if John had been married and if he had any children. I started to reply that none of my aunt and uncle’s three boys, now each deceased—before their parents (unbelievable, isn’t it?)—had reached an age or stage of life to marry. But then I realized John was 42; lots of people are settled down with families at that age. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. I hope you don’t find me morbid, but I can’t help reimagining how life might have turned out for my cousin if he’d been the hero of his own romance. Do writers’ minds go through this kind of reimagining all the time?
At the visitation before the service, I listened to friends and work buddies of my techie/roadie cousin celebrate and also lament the fact that John loved to party and didn’t take enough care of his health…which surely must’ve contributed to his heart attack. I remember the kid who was eight years younger than me and how he was a bit ADD in his energy and always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a terrific sense of humor, like his mom. Was it simply his love of life and fun that made him a partier? Was it his career, which involved being on the road and different gigs and late hours? Or could the loss of his two older brothers when he was still quite young have somehow contributed to his carefree single lifestyle? I’ll never know the subtext to his fun-loving, and that’s okay.
But if he was a romantic lead and I was choosing his story? I’d give his carefree bachelor lifestyle the deeper emotional context of his having a need to protect the wound of having survived when the older brothers he’d always looked up to did not. And I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of heroine would be able to make this hero face his vulnerability and see that life is more than a big party?
I wouldn’t pull a Breaking Bad, which paired a recovering drug addict with a girlfriend who enjoys heroin—too risky. And maybe it’s too predictable to pair my hero with the bartender at his favourite watering hole. (And way too predictable if that bartender is also coincidentally studying to be a psychologist at nights! No convenient savior heroines to make light of the difficult journey my hero has to go through.)
Maybe the heroine is a client at one of my hero’s tech gigs, who takes life far more seriously than him and disapproves of his seemingly casual attitude. Or maybe the heroine is a woman back at the family home up north on the river in cottage country, where my hero escapes on occasion back to a place where life had been simpler and happier, and he can satisfy his love of nature. But how can they be together when my hero’s job means he has to go back to the city—to various cities—to earn a decent living. Not to mention, how can he give up the person he thinks he is—the gay vivant—and set aside all his partier friends and nights on the town, to settle down with a woman who probably doesn’t get more than one channel on her television set and who probably spends her Friday night with her neighbours at a quilting bee (I LOVE quilting bees)?
I haven’t figured out the ideal heroine for my hero yet. But I’m leaning toward the country girl, even if I have no idea how she can be making a living herself! (Up in Muskoka, which is the reality behind the story, it’s rare to find young single women surviving on their own. It’s more of a retirement community…unless you own a local bakery or antique shop, I suppose…hm.)
If any of you have a wonderful idea for a heroine who’s up to the job of showing my hero the light, I’d love to hear who she is! I think my cousin would approve of our match-making.
Best wishes for the holiday season,