A couple of weeks back, I told you all I had a guest post in the German magazine, Love-Letter, to coincide with the release of DRIVEN in Germany on January 15th. Since then, several of you have asked what my article was about and if I could share it. The answer to question number one is that they asked me to write an article explaining why I felt readers would love a race car driver. The answer to number two is the article itself. Here you go:
Picture a man walking along an asphalt stretch, race suit unzipped so that the arms hang loose, shirt beneath fits tight, and an arrogant smirk turns up one corner of his mouth. He walks with the ghosts of a nightmarish childhood always over his shoulder, always haunting him, a constant reminder of the things he never wants, the things he’ll never allow himself to have. He is in the only place he can find solace and outrun his demons, even if just for a moment, the racetrack. He suits up, straps in the car, and drops the hammer as he exits pit row.
Adrenaline rushes through him, blood thunders in his ears, his head is clear for the first time in days, and his hands grip the wheel to give him complete control. It’s just him and the track. His actions and reactions, racer against racer, man against machine, and the ghosts of his past left in his dust as he hits two hundred miles per hour. The concrete wall beside him and the finish line ahead of him, both can make or break him, but neither can define him.
This is his peace. This is who he is, no apologies, no regrets. His need for speed is his salvation and his damnation all at the same time.
We all love our romance heroes in whatever career that makes them who they are – a businessman, a firefighter, a military hero, a boxer, a rock star – but something about a racecar driver called to me. Of course like all literary heroes, we expect him to be a little troubled and a lot good looking, but the question I asked myself was will women be drawn to read a story where the main character has a profession with an inherently male following?
Colton Donavan had been in my head – his story, his denial of worth, his drive to find redemption – and as hard as I tried to fit him in the three piece suit genre that was popular at the time I wrote Driven, that just wasn’t him. All I could see him as, the only career he could have, was a racecar driver.
Of course the career choice and symbolism of it plays perfectly into the plotline with the heroine, a woman recovering from her own ghosts, who spends her life helping damaged boys, but something about Colton’s career stood out to me and made me want to delve further. When women think of a racecar driver, they think Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder or Chris Hemsworth in Rush, so what was it that made me think women would want to read about mine?
First of all, there is something inherently sexy about a man drawn to speed, one who chooses to live his life on that razor thin edge between control and recklessness, life and death. The notion begs the reader to question if he pushes the limits in all aspects of his life. On the track the hero has the ability to control his moves – slow, fast, risky, safe – but off the track does he exert as much control over his lover and the unpredictability that love holds? Can he let go his dominating need for control and let someone in?
The athlete aspect of an alpha male character has always been a draw to readers. The need for the hero to be physically fit is something that is expected in a romance novel, and a racecar driver is no exception. A driver must be in exceptional shape to withstand hours on end in a car, to overcome the fatigue of fighting a steering wheel against the g-force they battle on the track, and to deal with the extreme temperatures they face inside of a helmet and race suit.
But here’s the thing, Colton’s career as a racecar driver helps him cope with his past, but its not what defines him. As with all male heroes in romance novels, it is what’s beneath the surface that captures our hearts. It is the rough exterior with the hints of vulnerability that tugs on our heartstrings and allows us as a reader to see past the actions that infuriate us because they hurt the heroine we’re rooting for. It is watching the female character delve deep enough with patience and obstinance to prove that she’s not going to hurt him like others have. As the reader we love to watch her try to unravel the tight hold the hero has on his control and succeed in unlocking the padlock protecting his heart for the very first time. We root for them when they struggle, blush from their combustible sexual chemistry, and swoon when the hero finally allows himself the chance at love.
The career may help distinguish the man, yes, but it’s the pieces of the little boy mixed with hardened man that wins our hearts in the end. Three-piece suit, military uniform, boxing shorts, baseball uniform – none of them matter because when the hero says “I love you” for the first time, it’s the transformation of the man that has won over our hearts. We can all identify with his profession, but we fall in love with the good guy the heroine has helped him become.
Will readers like Colton the race car driver? Definitely. He paints a striking picture in his fire suit with metal surrounding him, and adrenaline coursing through his veins like a necessity to survive. Will readers love Colton once they get a glimpse of the man beneath, who is struggling with his past and how he can overcome it, and find love with Rylee? There’s not a doubt in my mind.