I’m going back to Hollywood for my next contemporary romance novel. This time my lead character is a musician whose dream is to become a recording star.
The Harvey Weinstein story broke while I was in the early planning stages for my last contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, which also takes place in Hollywood. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the real-life scandal really threw a wrench into my plans. My original intention was for my lead antagonist, studio head Calvin Michaelson, to be a sexual manipulator, but with the Weinstein scandal came the #Me Too movement. I keep politics out of my novels, and the last thing I wanted was for my book to become politicized. So, after many, many revisions and rewrites, Cal ended up becoming a redeemable character, and I had to place many of his negative traits into another antagonist, tabloid journalist Randy Hall.
This time around things are different. Weinstein is now serving twenty-three years in the pen, as well he should be, and the #MeToo movement seems to have run its course. Now I can finally create the villain I wanted to create in The Scandal. His name is George Monroe. He’s a high-level executive with a record company, and he’s going to be like the devil incarnate. Seemingly charming, compassionate and caring on the outside, but underneath the mask is a manipulative control freak who micromanages the lives of those around him for his own narcissistic pleasure. The working title is, The Diversion, although it may be subject to change. What I can tell you for certain is this is going to be fun write.
All stories have their antagonists, and in my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, Randy Hall is perhaps one of my most villainous characters to date. Randy is the ex-husband of lead character Lauren McAllen, and his goal is to destroy her at all costs.
Randy and Lauren had a dream marriage until Randy developed an addiction disorder, leaving Lauren no alternative but to file for divorce once the marriage became toxic. Randy, however, doesn’t think he has a problem. He sees Lauren’s departure as abandonment, and, in Lauren’s words, “no one dumps Randy Hall and gets away with it.” As the story unfolds Lauren is unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal, which Randy skillfully uses as a weapon to wreak havoc on her life and her career.
Many of us have experienced relationships which started out well, only to unravel because, unknown to us at the time, the person we became involved with had an addiction disorder. Unfortunately, people with addictions don’t come with warning labels, and addicts are oftentimes masters at hiding their addictions until it becomes too late. Once the addiction becomes known some partners will end the relationship as quickly as possible, while others may go into their own form of denial, believing they can change the addict. It’s a great romantic fairytale, but one I will never write about, because the reality is that the only person who can change the addict is the addict him or herself. In the real world the so-called helpful partner becomes the enabler who reinforces the addiction, and the relationship typically doesn’t end well.
Randy is a composite character whose inspiration comes from a few men I’ve known in the past who, sadly, turned out to have addictive disorders. Thankfully, none were as toxic as Randy, and none of the relationships lasted long.
Sometimes life imitates art. The Harvey Weinstein scandal broke shortly after I had decided to write a contemporary romance novel about Hollywood. This created an unexpected challenge as I strive to create unique, original characters. Therefore, I would have to make a point of not having a character with too close of a resemblance to Mr. Weinstein. Enter Calvin Michaelson, a Hollywood mogul and the catalyst for The Scandal.
I had envisioned Cal as a predator, but he would be similar to Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, it came out way too creepy for my taste. I wrote a couple of revisions, but Cal remained too creepy. Novel writing, like other endeavours, doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes what sounds good in a treatment, or the story summary, simply doesn’t work once pen is put to paper, as was certainly the case here. The character would have to be reinvented. So, after much thought, Cal went from a creepy predator to a Hugh Hefner like playboy. He’s a womanizer who makes no apologies for who he is. Unfortunately, like many of his real-life counterparts, Cal will become his own undoing and he soon finds himself in the middle of scandal that rocks Hollywood. Later on, however, Cal will become an unlikely hero, and readers will discover a hidden side to this complex character.
Calvin Michaelson is a purely fictional character. His inspiration comes from powerful men who thought they were too big to fall and thus became their own undoing.
Ask any fiction author. They’ll tell you characters have minds of their own. And believe me, I have experienced this phenomenon many times myself. There’ve been times when a character came out differently than planned, and always been for the better.
Other villains, however, had a certain quality about them. They’re more complex, more charismatic and, for lack of a better word, sexy. Jeremy Palmer in The Reunion was the first. Originally intended to be a rogue character who would do his dirty deed and disappear, Jeremy had that special charisma. He became a rival, competing with his father to win Gillian’s affections. Josh Ramsey in The Letter was a conman. Then the chemistry between him and Stephanie unexpectedly sizzled. So I revamped him into a mystery man.
I strive to make my villains as despicable as I can. There’s nothing more fun than a villain we love to hate getting their comeuppance. Some of my more dastardly villains include Scott Andrews in The Betrayal. Scott was a married guy presenting himself as a single guy to entice unsuspecting single women. Then there’s Beau Fowler, the corrupt detective in The Betrayal. He tried to frame an innocent woman for a crime she didn’t commit. And finally, there’s Craig Walker, the sociopathic villain in The Stalker. He’ll resort to kidnapping and murder to get what he wants.
Now it’s happening again. This time it’s Calvin Michaelson, in my upcoming contemporary romance novel, The Scandal. Cal’s a Hollywood mogul with a reputation as a playboy. Intended to be a despicable villain for readers to hate, his character became more dynamic than expected. He too is being revamped. He’ll still be a playboy, but at the end of the story a new and completely unexpected side to Cal will be revealed.
Unlike most of my antagonists, Martha isn’t an evil person. She’s extremely annoying. The kind of person who gets under your skin like a bad rash.
Martha briefly dated leading man Danny. He told her upfront there would be no strings attached. Lonely and vulnerable, Martha ignored Danny’s conditions and latched onto him, believing that he was the man she was destined to spend her life with. Danny soon met Stephanie and ended his relationship with Martha. But even without Stephanie, Danny had already decided to move on.
Martha’s reaction to their breakup wasn’t what Danny expected. Believing that Danny simply needs a timeout, she fully supports him dating other women. In her mind, dating other women will prove to him, once and for all, that she’s the only woman for him, and she’s willing to wait for as long as it takes. In the meantime, she’ll stay in touch.
She begins with emails and text messages, but when a family member openly disapproves, she switches tactics. Handwritten love letters would eliminate an electronic paper trail. She also thinks handwritten letters are more romantic. Danny never responds to any of her messages. However, he’s keeping all of her letters in a file to build a case against her. This will, unfortunately, have serious unintended consequences for him.
Unlike like Craig Walker, Martha hasn’t set out to intentionally cause any harm. A desperately lonely woman, she’s afraid of being on her own, and unable to accept the fact that Danny isn’t love with her.
We have a saying in the writing business that goes, You can’t make this stuff up. Martha is loosely based on a woman who dated a friend’s husband before he married my friend. The old girlfriend kept writing him love letters thinking he’d come back to her someday. Of course, he never did.
Few things are more fun about this job than creating truly evil, nasty, vile antagonists. And when it comes to mean, nasty and downright evil, Craig Walker from The Stalker is an absolute delight.
A writer by profession, Craig met leading lady Rachel while working as a staff writer for a regional lifestyle magazine. Rachel considered Craig a mentor, but he had much bigger plans for her, and they went well above and beyond being her mentor. Those plans, however, were suddenly foiled when she accepted a promotion he felt she didn’t deserve. Unaware that she had applied for the position, he reacted with rage, and after an ugly confrontation she ended the friendship. Craig, however, had no intention of letting Rachel go. He began stalking her, long after the magazine went out of business. Craig wants Rachel, and he intends to have her at all costs, whether she wants him or not. Now he’s come up with plan for getting his way with her, once and for all.
The inspiration Craig came from a man who stalked someone I knew, and he made her life miserable for years.
There are two kinds of women who get involved with married men. Some are like Carrie, the leading lady in my earlier novel, The Deception. They’re duped into believing the man is single and available. Then there is the other kind. She knows upfront the man is married, but chooses to get involved with him anyway.
Annette, one of the antagonists in The Betrayal, is the latter. Not only does she know, from the get-go, that Jesse is a married man, she also knows his wife, Emily. Jesse, however, is nothing if not charming and seductive. He takes full advantage of the fact that Annette has become disillusioned with her significant other, and he uses it as the catalyst to initiate their affair.
Annette thinks she’s doing Emily a favor by breaking them up. She knows Emily put her dream of becoming a concert pianist on hold to help Jesse with his career. Therefore, she is, “helping” Emily by freeing her so she can finally pursue her dream. Emily, however, doesn’t quite see it that way.
Jesse soon tires of Annette. He ends the affair and tries to win Emily back. Annette, however, has no intention of going quietly into the night. She comes up with her own desperate scheme to get Jesse back. The consequences of which will forever change the lives of everyone involved.
Annette is a purely fictitious character, and, thankfully, not inspired by anyone I’ve ever encountered. There are, unfortunately, plenty of real life Annettes out there. That’s what makes her the woman you’ll love to hate.
What would a romance novel of betrayal and adultery be without a cheating spouse? Jesse St. Claire, the unfaithful husband in The Betrayal, is perhaps my most complicated and enigmatic antagonist to date. Unlike Scott Andrews, the cheating husband in my earlier novel, The Deception, Jesse really isn’t a player. In fact, he’s never cheated before. A highly successful motivational speaker, Jesse steadfastly claims to love his wife, and, in his own strange way, he does. Or, at least he thinks he does.
Jesse has built his career on helping people take control of their lives, but his own life begins spiraling out of control when his wife, Emily, catches him in the act with Annette, his personal assistant. As Emily packs her bags and walks out the door, a determined Jesse tries to come up with a plan to win her back. Not only does he want to save his marriage, he also wants to save his career. Unfortunately for Jesse, bad habits prove difficult to break. His past soon comes back to haunt him, forcing him to once again betray his wife.
Jesse is a fictitious character not based on anyone I know. His inspiration comes from many stories of unfaithful men who claim to love their wives, which, for those of us who don’t cheat, is something we can never fully understand.
Sometimes the people we think we can trust the most are the very people who’ll betray us. The Betrayal is a good cop vs bad cop story. Kyle Madden, the leading man, is a good cop. He risks his career and his life to save Emily, the leading lady. However his partner, Beau Fowler, is also his nemesis.
A thirty-year police veteran, Beau has caught his fair share of bad guys. During that time, however, he’s also been passed up for promotions, oftentimes by younger officers he helped train. Now his luck appears to be changing. He’s been called to investigate a suspicious death at the home of a well-known motivational speaker. It’s the high profile case he’s been waiting for. All he has to do is get a conviction and he’s sure to get his long overdue promotion; even if it means framing an innocent woman. In Beau’s mind, people sometimes have the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Beau Fowler is a purely fictitious character. Sadly, his inspiration is the occasional bad cop out there who inflicts harm innocent citizens. Fortunately, such officers are rare. Most police officers are like Kyle; good people who put their lives on the line each and everyday.
If I had to list the most evil of the villains I’ve created so far in any of my romance novels, Denise Sanderson would most certainly near at the top. She’s the last person readers would expect to be so evil.
Denise is a young nurse. At first she appears to be genuinely compassionate and caring. However, Denise has a darker side. When she was in nursing school, she frequented a bar called O’Malley’s Grill, and soon fell in love with one of the bartenders. Jeremy Palmer. Unfortunately for Denise, Jeremy, didn’t feel the same. When she tried to come onto him, he turned her down. Jeremy soon moved on, but Denise neither forgave, nor forgot, his rejection.
Jeremy and Denise would meet again, this time under different circumstances. Denise, now a nurse, has been assigned to care for Jeremy’s wife. Cassie has been seriously injured in a car crash. Denise quickly befriends both Cassie and Jeremy, and while Jeremy can’t quite place her, she seems familiar nonetheless. He feels he can trust her, but Denise will use his trust to unleash her revenge, and Jeremy’s life will never be the same.
Denise is a fictitious character, but she also represents a deep-seeded fear many of us may have. What if the people we trust to take care of us during our most vulnerable times really don’t have our best interests in mind?