While most of the wenches were in NYC romping through the RWA conference, I was at home writing blogs and answering interview questions about DEVILISH MONTAGUE, the latest in my Rebellious Sons series. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I prefer to stay home and write. While I love visiting NYC and seeing friends and editors and agents, crowds give me hives. I don’t know how new authors remember those snappy elevator pitches they throw out when asked what they’re working on. I can’t even remember my own name when confronted with that question. I’m not shy. It’s simply the stress of the situation and my natural introversion that creates memory loss. Well, and maybe a mild case of ADD or as Jennifer Crusie calls it, the “importance of shiny things.”
I doubt that I’m alone in my inability to finesse social situations. I’m always fascinated with the differences between extroverts and introverts. It’s actually physical, so brain function is also of interest. It’s difficult to portray my fascination with brains in romance, however, since readers generally expect our protagonists to be well…heroic, unless they're zombies and eating brains. Painful shyness and Asperger’s don’t generally convey heroic, although Jennifer Ashley did a lovely job in THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE.
But autism and ADD and other forms of social ineptness did not develop with the 20th century just because we learned to identify them. They’ve existed throughout the ages. We simply didn’t understand the problem. Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_figures_sometimes_considered_autistic which gives a list of historical figures who could easily have been diagnosed as Asperger’s today. The description of Henry Cavendish is almost textbook accurate. Often, the brain malfunctions causing social ineptness are in the minds of geniuses. I guess it’s hard to have all that complicated wiring and function normally.
So I played with my fascination by including a secondary character with Asperger’s in my MONTAGUE tale. My legally blonde heroine might behave as the “flibbertiwidget” that my hero calls her, but she’s not stupid. Beneath her pretty blonde curls and flirtatious ways is a woman who loves her odd little brother and wants him to have the home where he’d once been happy. Unfortunately, her boorish half-brother has gambled the house away. The house is in Chelsea, not exactly the social center of the world, and it’s been left to dry rot for years, so it’s not exactly valuable to anyone except Jocelyn and her brother. Unfortunately, the extremely brainy, cynical, and violence-prone Blake Montague is the beneficiary of the Chelsea house. He doesn’t want it. But it belongs to his father, and he can’t sell it for the officer’s colors he wants. Access to Jocelyn’s newly acquired inheritance would be a fair trade off for the house, if marriage wasn’t the requirement for obtaining the deed.
How surly, brainiac Blake deals with a flaky wife who adores society, a brother-in-law who keeps duck eggs under pillows, a potty-mouthed parrot, a falling down shack of a house, and an encrypted message he’s determined to break should keep most readers entertained for an hour or two, I hope! If you're intrigued, there's an excerpt on my website: http://patriciarice.com/
Since I’m sitting here with a huge box of author’s copies, I’ll happily give one away to a random commenter. To stimulate your thinking caps, what flaws can you tolerate in your heroes and heroines? Which ones are beyond the pale?