"She's a Bad, Bad, Girl," by Irene Preston, or how I managed to write the 'wrong' kind of bad-girl for my debut romance novel
Jessica Sinclair is a bad-girl.
No, not the kind we all secretly want to be. Not the kick-ass bad-girl in the thigh-high boots, the short skirt, and the looooong jacket (thank you, Cake). Not the vampire hunter, the secret agent, or even the Disadvantaged Heroine with Tattoos Who Makes Good. Jessica Sinclair is the other kind of bad girl. The kind you see on TMZ, Access Hollywood, and the cover of the tabloids lining the check-out stand. The kind we don't want as a role-model for our daughters.
In short, Jessica is Paris Hilton (or Lindsay Lohan, or Kim Kardashian, or insert your favorite love-to-hate celebrity here).
When I started writing Infamous, I didn't set out to break any rules. Just the opposite in fact. The story was originally targeted for a category line – so I was aiming at some very traditional tropes – the rich and famous characters, glamorous Hollywood setting, maybe a hint of scandal. Of course, being me, I somehow managed to get everything backwards. Not only did I have a totally inappropriate heroine, but my 'alpha' male somehow turned out to be a nurturer. Huh.
It turns out, most readers weren't bothered by Morgan. Morgan was a sweetie, a hottie, and super dad. Morgan was fine.
Jessica was my problem child. Some of my early critique readers really did NOT like her. She was spoiled, brash, slutty, and didn't even have the decency to have any hang-ups about her body or sex. At least not the types of hang-ups I (and apparently most romance readers) identify with. I realized early on that I was going to have to work hard to make Jessica lovable – to get my readers rooting for her.
So I gave her a mostly empty apartment, an absentee mom, a love of old sitcoms, a big helping of loyalty, and an unwavering commitment to her step-daughter, Kinsey. Also, one major insecurity – that she'll never be able to make a 'normal' lifestyle work.
It wasn't until I started sending Infamous out on submission that I really started to get worried. There was one scene in particular, a club scene toward the end of the book, that really brought home the fact that Jessica's reputation wasn't all smoke and mirrors. We aren't going to discover that she was a misunderstood innocent. Jessica is who she is and some parts of her past aren't pretty.
Yes, I was a little worried about that scene. Worried enough that I told myself some lies when Infamous went out on submission. I'll change if it sells, I told myself. If my editor insists, I mentally added. The truth was, I didn't want to change that scene. To my surprise, I liked Jessica and that scene was integral to who Jessica was and who she was becoming. I have to admit I'm not a big Paris Hilton (or Lindsay Lohan, or Kim Kardashian) fan. But I am a romantic. I believe at the end of the day, we all want to love and be loved. Everyone deserves a chance at redemption. Everyone deserves love. Not just the pure and innocent. Not just the type of bad-girls who happen to hunt vampires.
Luckily, I was able to find a place for Infamous where Jessica could be herself. I'll always be grateful to Jennifer Lawler at Crimson Romance who accepted her as she was.
I've done a few guest blogs since Infamous was released. One thing I've discovered, Paris Hilton is not anyone's idea of a romantic heroine. When I've asked romance readers to tell me what 'infamous' celebrity they would trade places with, they have resoundingly responded 'nuh-uh – no way – none of them'. Despite the fame, the money, and the fabulous shoes, no one wanted that deal. Now, don't you feel a little sorry for Paris?
Today I'll ask something different. Have you ever had a moment of empathy with a mega-celebrity (preferably a notorious one)? A split-second when you felt a little sorry for them? Or, what might make you identify with such a person?
Tell me about it in the comments or just give me your thoughts on what makes a 'good' bad-girl. I'll give away a digital copy of Infamous to one commenter. Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you!
Meanwhile – here is the book blurb and a brief excerpt from Infamous (warning – you'll see the bad-girl side of Jessica). If you want more, you can read the entire first chapter at www.IrenePreston.com.
It's socialite meets soccer dad!
Everyone knows Jessica Sinclair. She's that girl on the cover of all the tabloids. As a Hollywood insider, Jessica has spent her life partying with A-list celebrities, shopping on Rodeo Drive, and living through scandal after scandal. When her estranged husband offers her a second chance at the 'All American' lifestyle she can't pass up a shot at real happiness. Back in suburbia, Jessica spends her nights in sexy role-play hoping Morgan will overlook her deficiencies as a homemaker. She spends her days attending P.T.A. meetings, burning cookies, and asking herself "What would June Cleaver do?" More to the point, what will Morgan do when she winds up back in the tabloids--with his teenage daughter right next to her?
He couldn't think, much less respond. At her husky words, every bit of blood drained out of his brain. He had been propositioned plenty of times, but somehow when Jessica did it...
He looked down at her. She smiled, her eyes dark with arousal and promise. His hands tightened around her upper arms as he focused helplessly on her lips.
Jessica swayed toward him.
"Not here." Then he was cutting through the crowd, practically dragging her along with him.
In the elevator, he fumbled for the room key that would allow them access to the suites on the top floors. His hands felt big and awkward as they swiped the key through the reader. If you stripped me naked on the hors d'oeuvres table... Christ. She always had a way of knocking him off balance, of peeling away every last bit of self control. She had thrown the words out so casually, and as soon as she said them he had pictured doing just that—imagined shoving aside the crudités and shrimp cocktail and spreading her out like his own personal feast.
The doors closed and she was in his arms. He pushed her against the elevator wall, his tongue thrusting urgently into her mouth. She wound around him, humming incoherent words of encouragement. They weren't nearly close enough. She tilted her head back, inviting his tongue deeper. He was drowning in the taste of her when he felt her hands slide down between them. His body jerked.
They were still in the elevator. He was damned if he was going to make love in a public elevator. He managed to wrest her hands away from him and anchored them above her head with one of his own.
|So bad it's good...|
"Not here." Could she hear the desperation in his voice?
She tilted her head back against the wall. With her arms up over her head, the motion thrust her breasts out. It was impossible not to look down; easier to stop breathing than to keep his eyes above her neck.
Her nipples were clearly visible under the thin silk halter top of her dress. He watched his own hands pushing aside the fabric, heard his own labored breathing as his thumb brushed across the tight peak. He wasn't aware of lowering his head until the sweet taste exploded on his tongue and he heard her moan.
The swish of the elevator doors slapped him back to sanity. He jerked the scrap of material back over her breast and sucked in some deep breaths. Was there a flash of triumph in her eyes? Jesus.
Read the entire first chapter: http://www.irenepreston.com/
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