Monday, 15 September 2014

Do you have 'favourite' occupations for your heroes/heroines?

Continuing my 'recycling' of past blogs which I think are worth repeating, here's another 'A' blog from my archives.

In three of the six books I’ve had published since 2011, my heroines have been actresses. In His Leading Lady Jess is a talented amateur actress who takes the opportunity to replace her sister on the professional stage in London. In Fragrance of Violets, Abbey has had a successful acting career but loses confidence after she fails to win a coveted role. My most recent release, Irish Inheritance, has a struggling actress, Jenna, who has given herself five years to discover whether she is good enough to make acting her lifetime career.

Why do I choose to have actresses as my heroines? I’ve never been an actress, apart from a few small roles in amateur plays when I was younger. I soon realised I wasn’t very good, and I can’t sing or dance either.

The first answer to the question is that I’ve been stage-struck for almost as long as I can remember. My mother used to take me sometimes to plays performed by the local repertory company. I still remembered being enthralled by a production of Jane Eyre when I was about ten. A couple of years later it was a school production of The Importance of Being Earnest that caught my imagination, and soon after this, a local amateur group introduced me to musical theatre, which I have loved ever since I first saw Oklahoma on the stage.

Fast forward about 20 years, and we come to my second answer. In the 1980s, when my daughters were in their early teens, I was the leader of a Girl Guide Company, and we decided to ‘put on a show’, namely ‘The Wizard of Oz’. That was the beginning of about 15 years of producing musical shows, first with the Girl Guides, and then with the junior section of the local Musical Theatre Group. Maybe I couldn’t act, sing or dance myself, but this was the next best thing. I was privileged to work with a lot of talented teenagers, and to see them develop from shy chorus members to confident youngsters who took the lead roles with self-assurance and amazing stage presence. Indeed, some of them went on to drama school and then the professional stage.

I also worked backstage with two musical theatre groups for several years, doing costumes, props, or as a stage hand. I know first-hand that there is no experience in the world like ‘show week’ at the theatre, with combination of panic, nerves, adrenalin, laughter, camaraderie, and the sheer satisfaction at the end of each evening.

Maybe this goes in part to explain why my heroines are actresses. It could be a subconscious yearning on my part, a wish that I’d had a talent for acting. At the same time, the theatre is an environment with which I am familiar (and even know some of the jargon!). Although I’ve worked with amateur groups, I’ve been backstage at two major professional theatres. The latter use far more high-tech stuff than the amateur theatre can afford but the process of rehearsals, backstage preparations, and actual appearance onstage is not much different from the amateur world.

Finally, from the purely practical angle of having actresses in my novels, it’s often useful to have a heroine who isn’t doing a nine to five job, as they can have periods when they’re not working at all!


  1. I love finding just the right occupation for my characters. It gives great psychological insight into them and it helps to make them more multi-dimensional.

    1. Oddly enough, my heroines' occupations seem to be already there with them as soon as I start thinking about a new story, but I sometimes have to find the right jobs for the heroes!