One of the greatest head-scratchers in women’s fiction is writing good men. Not good as in ‘white knight, put their coat in a puddle for you’ good but good as in real, believable and still loveable good. At the moment I’m writing a novel that’s half-told by a male narrator. He’s 34, into any kind of sport, emotionally stunted and in most ways still a teenager. So, a massive stereotype, right? That’s my worry. But then again, I really actually know 30 something men who exactly fit that description. It doesn’t mean they sit around scratching their behinds and burping all day like pantomime villains, but they’re hardly metrosexuals in touch with their feminine side or even in touch with a Hoover for that matter.
I really want to write a guy who I could walk past in the street, or be introduced to at a party. Not one so two-dimensional and lame that he’d make you want to batter him with his own shoes, but also not one who’s so perfect and dreamy that he always says the right thing, brings you the perfect gift and is happy at a moment’s notice to fall on his romantic sword. To the point of being nauseating. Because that’s not real life either: men are flawed, just as women are flawed. And all the great heroines of women’s fiction are flawed in some way, that’s what makes them so easy to identify with and imagine as a friend in real life.
So to me, the perfect romantic hero can be hopeless, can be lazy, can fly off the handle and only grumpily apologise. He is anything but perfect. Because in real life, you love someone despite their faults (Harry’s big New Year speech to Sally being THE definitive version of this) and if the perfect prince charming was delivered on a platter, where’s the fun in that? I love giving my characters obstacles, things to trip them up, personality flaws they need to iron out. So that when they do meet The One, they need to earn that romance and really work for it. So my male narrator will stay sports-mad and immature. Until it’s time for him to make his transition from frog to reasonably attractive prince…
Poppy Dolan self-published her first book, The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, in 2012 and was amazed that someone other than her mum bought it. It made the Amazon top 100 and no former boyfriends have since come forward to sue. Her second book, There’s More to Life than Cupcakes, was published by Novelicious Books in the autumn of 2013. It’s about baking, babies and not knowing when to grow up. When she’s not glued to her laptop, Poppy loves cooking, reading and getting emotional over reality TV. She is in her early thirties and lives just outside London with her husband. You can get in touch with Poppy on Twitter @poppydwriter and on Facebook at PoppyDolanBooks. She doesn’t bite. Unless you are a muffin.