At the beginning of October, for the first time, I saw Forrest Gump. There had been reasons I hadn't watched it, even knowing it had been so highly praised as a classic film everyone should see. The reason to see it then came down to wondering how it dealt with a subject I had in my next book-- being slow-witted.
My hero in Lands of Fire was introduced in Echoes from the Past
as the hero's brother, a man who was physically perfect but mentally
slow. I saw Jesse's potential even though he was not the norm
as a romance hero. In discussing it with a few readers, they encouraged
me to explore this and give Jesse his own romance.
Every time I
begin to write a book, I do some thinking as to what makes a hero. You
can't just say-- here's the hero and expect the reader to buy into it.
Heroes have certain qualities that people react to when they see
them-- (Characteristics of a Hero-- such as courageous, skilled, sacrificial, destined, and wounded).
meets those qualities. In thinking about it, I saw that his wound was
his mental limitation-- or more importantly how he saw it. In writing
his story, I didn't want to get caught up in the hero aspect of Jesse
and forget that limitation. I didn't want to 'normalize' him. It was
always important to keep in mind that he was slow, not stupid.
When I watched Forrest Gump what pleased me was how that last point was emphasized. It made the point I also believe-- what makes us different can be our special quality.
Forrest had a wonderful mother, who fought to make him see himself
as good as anyone else, in my story, Jesse's parents had been filled
with fear at his difference. It's not hard to sympathize with them. In
the 1800s and into the early 1900s, our country dealt harshly with
those it regarded as mentally aberrant. His parents' fear had led to
Jesse avoiding people and places that would challenge him. It took life
and someone else to show him that his differences also had pluses.
Much as seeing Forrest Gump reinforced
my confidence in my hero and his qualities, I was happy I had not seen
it until after I'd written my book. If I'd seen it first, I'd not have
had the liberating experience of discovering for myself Jesse's
character and recognizing his power. That was the kind of serendipity
that I love as a writer and something that always gives me joy when it
Lands of Fire, will be out November 5, 2015.