15 February 2018

The February Mid-Month Extra with Anna Belfrage

Can one fall in love with fictional characters?
by Anna Belfrage

I imagine many of you will snort at the idiocy of the above question. After all, many are the readers that have fallen in love with the invented peeps that populate a novel. As a writer, that’s an emotion you’re eager to promote. A reader who has irrevocably lost their heart to a character is willing to forgive a lot just to spend a few more hours with their love. Come to think of it, this is valid in real life as well: never do we make as many (in some cases irrational) excuses for the behaviour of another person as when we are in love with them.

Like many of you out there, I have crushed on Mr Rochester (why, one wonders: here’s a brooding man with a vicious streak who doesn’t even have the decency to inform poor Jane he’s got wife #1 stashed in the attic). I have definitely spent too much time imagining a future with Aragorn (a major challenge: he lives in an entirely different universe and has lost his heart to the ethereal Arwen) and really, really think I could make life easier (and more fun) for a certain Mr Acorne, pirate extraordinaire. And then, of course, there’s Jamie Fraser of Outlander.

For the record, I have never crushed on Mr Darcy. Never. Well, except when Colin Firth played him, but I suspect that was me crushing on Colin rather than on Darcy. Darcy, IMO, is too cool, too contained. There’s no edge to him, no danger—which is probably why I much prefer Kresley Cole’s males who run the gamut from vampires and werewolves through demons and dark elves to Russian tycoons. I’m stuck on Rune the Baneblood, who is half demon, half dark elf and has the teensy weensy handicap of having bodily fluids that are poison to everyone else. One drop of Rune’s blood or his saliva and you’re gone, which of course has a hampering impact on Rune’s love life. Or not.

Right: moving on here…

By now, we’ve established that yes, one can fall in love with invented peeps. (And I’m perfectly OK with your crushes being totally different from mine. I rather like keeping Rune to myself. And Gideon Cross…) As a reader, establishing these emotional connections enhance the reading experience. As a writer, they enhance the writing experience. At first. At some point, the way my heart goes pitter-patter at the thought of one of my invented characters becomes a problem. Why? Because I can’t let them go. Not quite. And I don’t want them to die, ever. And because I feel I am betraying them when I start concentrating on the New Kid in Town, a.k.a. the leading characters in my latest WIP.
Today is the publication day for the fourth book in The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series spanning 1321 to 1330 and based on the rise and fall of Roger Mortimer. Now, I prefer having a fictional character as my lead, so while Roger—yes, I know, a tad too familiar, but Roger and I are really, really close, okay?—is the sun around which all the planets dance, it is Adam de Guirande who really has the lead role in my series, together with his wife, Kit.

Adam is quite the man: not only is he tall, handsome and brave, he’s also a man of integrity and honour. Add to that the fact that he loves the young Edward III but also loves Roger Mortimer, and it is apparent I am setting him up for a lot of pain in my just released The Cold Light of Dawn. Thing is, his pain is my pain, and then there’s the fact that I intended this book to be the last book about Adam, which has resulted in a lot of sleepless nights while I’ve clutched my pillow to my chest and tried to convince myself I am a silly fool for being so affected by leaving him behind.

Turns out, I simply can’t tell him goodbye. This makes Adam smile. And Kit, who is more than delighted by the thought that I’ll give her man the opportunity to heal his broken heart.  Even Edward III is onboard, saying it’s not fair on either him or Adam to leave them like that. However: I have other people moving in to live inside my head, new characters that need TLC and attention as I carefully blow life into them, watching like a hawk over their first baby steps into the Belfrage universe.

“We can wait for a while,” Adam says, pounding his pillow into shape before reclining on his bed, Kit lying beside him. “As long as you don’t forget us.” He gives Robert FitzHugh a dark look. “He seems the monopolising type. He’ll throw a tantrum if you decide to spend time with us or Matthew and Alex.”
“Mmm,” I reply, eyeing my latest male lead. I rather like the thought of him throwing a tantrum, but in difference to Adam, I know he won’t. He’s too proud, too aware of just how thin the veneer his recent knighthood confers on him is.

The thing about falling in love with your characters is that they become an addiction. I need my regular Matthew and Alex fix (Duh! They’re my firstborn and therefore have a special hold on my heart) my Adam and Kit fix, my Jason and Helle fix. (Very few have as yet met Jason and Helle, but I am sure that when they do, they’ll understand why I need recurring fixes.) At the same time, I must move onwards and upwards. I think. Or maybe not. Or maybe yes. But how am I to abandon my previous creations? I have to keep tabs on them, ensure they’re okay. A conundrum, isn’t it?

So agonising do I find this separation from my invented peeps that I always have a little WIP going in which they feature. Some of those WIPs are For My Eyes Only. Some will probably see publication. In Adam de Guirande’s specific case he may very well gallop on for some books more, following his young bellicose king to Scotland and then to France. Along the way there will be adventures and death and pain and loss and love and joy and…

“Not exactly news,” Adam mutters. “You’ve put me through all of that several times by now.”
“She does that to all of us,” Alex pipes up from where she is making tea. Beside her is a plate loaded with cardamom buns – my recipe which Alex has filched from somewhere inside my brain. She claps her hands together, and out of every little nook and cranny in my head they come: Matthew Graham in his unlaced shirts and breeches, smiling at his wife as he claims the seat beside her: Adam and Kit, trailed by Adam’s brother William and look, there’s Roger Mortimer himself! 

“Just because I can’t gallop on after the 29th of November 1330 that doesn’t mean I don’t want a bun and a cuppa,” he tells me, gesturing for Queen Isabella to join him. Edward III sits down beside Adam, his grandsire Edward I prefers to remain standing, sniffing suspiciously at his tea. 

Jason and Helle come hand in hand, Robert FitzHugh guides his young wife Noor to the table, and soon enough they’re all munching their way through that mountain of cardamom buns while comparing notes about me. About me? Hey, stop that! I’m the author here, okay?

“They’re like an extended family,” I say to my BFF.
“Uh-hu,” she replies, rolling her eyes. “An invented family.”
“Nothing wrong with an invented family,” I tell her. Besides, she’s as addicted as I am to some of my characters. And let’s not get us started on her relationship with Jamie Fraser. This is a woman who has visited every stone circle in Scotland (I kid you not) at auspicious times to attempt to travel through the stones.
“As long as you remember which family is real and which isn’t,” she says, pouring us both a cup of tea. I smile into my mug. IMO, the whispering creations of my brain are just as real as my blood-and-flesh people. But there’s no need to say that out loud, I think.

About the author
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The fourth book in the series, The Cold Light of Dawn, has just been published.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. A ninth instalment has recently been published, despite Anna having thought eight books were enough. Turns out her 17th century dreamboat and his time travelling wife didn’t agree…
Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor  @abelfrageauthor
Link The Graham Saga: http://amzn.to/2sVzZsZ
Link The King’s Greatest Enemy: http://myBook.to/TKGE
Link The Cold Light of Dawn http://myBook.to/TCLOD

Anna and Helen at a Denver  Conference 2015

                                                   .... next month's post >


  1. Thank you for this insight, Anna - great post! My first 'love' was the Martian Dejah Thoris (whilst I, of course, was John Carter!). I can't remember too many 'crushes' since then, though one of these was definitely Kristin Lavransdatter - what a woman!! Maybe it is only in more recent years that writers have created 'strong' and 'fanciable' women, which makes Kristin's achievement even more remarkable. Or maybe its because we men look to the hero to do the things we would love to. It's love, Jim, but not as we know it .....

    1. Kristin is quite the lady, but of a very serious disposition, don't you think? Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. What a wonderful post Anna, thank you so much. While I have “fallen in love” with so many fictional characters, Helen’s lovable rascal of a pirate Jesamiah has been a long-standing “crush” of mine. The other has been Richard Cypher of the “Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind (which I am re-reading at the moment after discovering “Legend of the Seeker”, its TV counterpart on Hulu)

    1. Oh, dear: swords at dawn, m'lady? I agree, jesamiah is VERY loveable. I have as yet to make Mr Cypher's acquaintance, but feel it is about time I do :)

  3. Thank you Richard and Kelly - I happen to know that Anna is rather attached to Jesamiah as well! :-)

    1. Yes, we'd noticed! And she does mention him above!!!

  4. I must admit, I'm becoming rather attached to Giles de Soutenay. But Jesamiah is rather yummy. And who isn't a tiny bit in love with the flawed Cap'n Poldark?


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