Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht
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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Crystel Greene here today on tour for the latest World of Love story from Dreamspinner Press, Glacier Gold. Welcome, Crystel!
Hello everyone! I’m Crystel, and I’m so happy to be here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words to celebrate the release of my m/m romance novella . Thank you for having me!
I’m going to answer two questions about writing romance and talk about what my protagonist, Justin, has in common with fairy tale heroine Rapunzel…
- If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”? Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?
- With so much going on in the world, do you write to get away?
Can a character be too flawed? Like, a murderer who has greasy hair and hates puppies? Yes, I guess there is such a thing as too many faults, but as a writer and a reader, I feel the bigger problem would be a hero who’s too perfect.
Any story needs a flawed hero. Contemporary or fantasy, the main character needs to have at least one major flaw. How else could they grow? Why would I want to read about a hero who only has to kill that dragon or hunt down a murder suspect or defeat an army of aliens?
What I really want to know is, will they overcome their fear of dogs and try to get to know the cute guy running the dog shelter next door?
A flawed hero is certainly a challenge for a romance author, because they have to make not only the reader care for the protagonist but also the love interest. As a writer, I’m aware I’ve got to draw the line at some point when it comes to a hero’s faults. A fear of dogs is acceptable in a protagonist, I’d say; hatred for puppies isn’t. The same goes for a habit of murdering people: a serial killer wouldn’t be a protagonist I’d be interested in as a reader, and I wouldn’t enjoy writing their point of view either, nor want to force another character to develop a crush on them.
In my opinion the one flaw that destroys a character (and their story) is a lack of empathy. A character can have trouble showing emotions, they can be rough or cold on the outside, but they have to hide a heart somewhere.
As a romance writer, I have another hard limit concerning character flaws: I won’t write a main character who cheats on their partner or is unable to commit to a relationship.
But apart from that, flaws are fantastic! I love characters who are fussy, bossy, jealous, fearful, annoyingly meticulous, reckless, obsessive compulsive, or, like Justin in GLACIER GOLD, competitive and a little vain.
Character flaws are especially important in a love story. Because where’s the fun in writing about a perfect person finding love? It’s so infinitely more satisfying to write or read about someone who’s not that easy to love and who still finds someone who’ll put up with them because they’ve fallen for them.
What’s better than a protagonist making mistakes, making a fool of themselves, trying people’s patience with their deficiencies, and still winning the heart of the cool billionaire/sweet doctor/hot pirate? Because there’s good in them too, and the billionaire/doc/pirate can see that, and it counts more than the bad.
To me, the whole point of romance is to see love conquering all; to see it’s stronger than people’s (make that: my) flaws and weaknesses. In romance, there’s always the underlying certainty that ultimately the characters will find deliverance in love. No matter how much they might have fucked up before.
That’s something that never gets old, and it’s why I love this genre so much and couldn’t imagine writing anything else!
As a writer, I often fall in love with my characters not in spite of their imperfections, but because of them. I came to love Justin in GLACIER GOLD for his total lack of coolness. For being so emotional he’s sometimes a little irrational. Justin struggles with low self-esteem. He has a lot of talent as a graphic designer, he’s an artist really, but he has never seen himself as such. In fact, he’s rather self-conscious about his “doodling” on his graphic tablet and thinks of himself as a secret nerd. And as a loser who flunks their college exams: he has a history of academic failures, and since he hasn’t freed himself of his mother’s expectations and plans for his future, he seeks validation in hook-ups. To him, sex is just another opportunity for scoring, same as sports. His competitive streak is really just him coping with the feeling of not being good enough. He means no harm, he’d never hurt anyone, but he’s clueless about his true needs.
And here’s my answer to the second question: Yes, I am writing to get away, to help my readers get away. That’s romance. But that doesn’t mean I’m writing about perfect people whose journey to happiness is plain sailing. On the contrary.
Romance stories are like fairy tales: they seem to be the opposite of realism, but in truth they aren’t. They tell us about our flaws, how they lead us into trouble, and about how we need to put in work to grow. And about how we, too, can find love.
There’s this fantastic book by psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, “Children need Fairy Tales”. He makes the case that fairy tales, far from being simple bedtime stories, can be a tool for young people to understand their own soul and find confidence and hope. He argues that fairy tales deal with timeless human problems, and that they show us that we have the power to overcome them.
Rapunzel is probably the fairy tale character who’s closest to Justin (and not just because they both wear their hair long and like braids), so here’s a quick look at her story as an example: Rapunzel has to learn that she has allowed her foster mom to limit her and to define her future for her, and that she has to risk everything to break free, including taking a chance on the prince.
Translate: if we dare believe in our own strength, we will overcome what holds us back and find our way in this chaotic world, and we will find love, and all will be well.
This isn’t escapism; it’s a narrative of empowerment for young people and adults alike.
True empowerment starts with acknowledging we can’t do it all by ourselves. The Beatles got it right: We need love. In whatever form.
And here’s my bottom line: I think it’s not only legitimate to read and write romance with what’s going on in the world, I think it’s essential. The simple truth is, we can use all the empowerment we can get! And all the fun too.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading Justin’s journey to his happy ending as much as I did writing it! ―
Have you ever felt reading romance is more than just a guilty pleasure for you? Have you ever found images or concepts in a romance story that stayed with you for some reason?
About Glacier Gold
Up in the Alps, a single night can change your life.
Struggling college student and self-taught graphic artist Justin Bennet isn’t the most self-confident guy, but he knows he’s good at two things: snowboarding and sex. Why does Andi, the hot instructor at the Tyrolean ski resort, pretend Justin doesn’t exist?
Justin becomes all but obsessed with the idea of scoring with the young Austrian. Because for all the man’s reserve, he made it quite obvious he likes Justin—at least from the neck down.
When Justin books a private heliboarding trip with Andi as his guide, he thinks he’s one step away from striking gold.
But then the forces of nature take over, trapping the men in a snowstorm, and things get real. What was supposed to be about some freeriding fun and inviting a closeted guy to start exploring his options suddenly becomes about survival—and the hidden truths of the soul.
World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
(After a series of failed attempts on Justin’s part to flirt with Andi in public, the two guys have met at midnight in the hotel’s ski room for a private heart-to-heart. Justin wants to convince Andi it’s a good idea for them to hook up.)
“I get you aren’t out, and you don’t want to do anything here in your father’s hotel. Perfectly understandable. But here’s what we could do. How about we go to Innsbruck tomorrow night and rent a room in the youth hostel? It’s just a two-hour drive, but at a safe distance from here. It would be all discreet. No one would ever know.”
That’s the central point of the speech I’ve prepared.
He’s still listening. It’s great, but also a bit unnerving.
“Here’s the thing,” I plow on. “I think, in case you want to start, like, exploring your options, I might be just the right guy for you.”
He sharply inhales.
“For experimenting, I mean,” I quickly clarify. “Like, I’m this random dude? I’m going to leave in three days’ time? What I mean is, with me, there’s zero expectations. No strings attached and all that. Please, Andi. Say yes?”
I stand before him, eagerly waiting for his response.
When he finally looks up at me, his eyes are very bright. He quickly casts them down again and gets up from the bench, walking a few steps away from me.
“You’re making this harder than it has to be, Bennet.”
The sinking feeling is so strong I feel I might slip right through the concrete floor.
“But I thought you found me attractive! You said… I thought… I’ve been hoping….”
I break off, choked by the unexpected force of my feelings.
He gives me a quick, loaded glance. For a short, crazy moment I feel he’s about to close the distance between us and pull me in for a kiss. I feel ready to swoon, as if this were an ancient Hollywood romance movie.
But the movie kiss doesn’t happen. He doesn’t step up to me or try to touch me. He just stands with his hands clenched into fists, looking at the floor again. Eventually he says, “You are super hot, and you know it.”
“So you do find me attractive.”
“I like you, okay?”
Before I can think about whether he might actually mean by this that he likes me, like, as a person or something, he goes on, a little breathless.
“But I’m not interested in sneaking off to grab a quickie with a tourist. I’m not the type who’d sneak off to some shady corner for five minutes of sex, okay? Or for a night. I’ve never done it, and I won’t start now. It’s not what I’m looking for.”…
“The point is, you want me because I’m gay, and around. For you, it’s all about fun and not missing out on an opportunity. This is not an accusation, it’s just how it is. You and me, that doesn’t make sense.”
Okay, this sounds like not being out and his family potentially freaking out and all that is just part of the problem. This sounds like he wants someone who brings more to the table than just girth, muscle, and a good fashion sense. This sounds like he’s looking for a relationship.
And he doesn’t see me as someone who’d qualify for that.
“Maybe I want more too,” I say, floundering, feeling at sea. What he just said about me summed up my attitude about making out pretty accurately. Or what has been my attitude up to now.
He’s shaking his head at me.
“You just told me the best thing about you is that you’re going to be gone in three days’ time!”
I did, but I only said that because I thought he thought it was the best thing about me; I hoped it might tip the scales in my favor. Apparently it did the opposite. Fuck, I’m not used to having to navigate my way around all kinds of pitfalls in presex conversation, I’m not used to having to argue so much with guys who told me they liked me just to get them to act on it!
If he goes on like this, I’m going to crack and say something like I dream of you all the time, and I think I love you.
About the Author
The first man Crystel fell in love with was Beauty’s Beast. Next came Robin Hood, then Mr. Darcy. Two decades of married life later, she still loves fictional men—especially when there are two of them who are meant to be! She likes it best when she can create their plights and fights herself, and she can always be counted on to throw in some sizzling hotness and a lot of feels. Here’s her author promise: no fade-outs when things get steamy or emotional, and an ending that will leave you smiling.
Crystel is a lawyer by training, a lover of pastry, and a believer in Happy Ever Afters. Born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, and a North Sea girl at heart, she lives in the beautiful Austrian Alps with her husband and four kids.
PS She loves reader mail!
The author is giving away a prize a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
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