Mindy has set a fascinating topic to discuss for her series of guests - archetype. I'm a lover of all kinds of archetypes and tropes, many of which crop up time and time again in my stories. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to relate my discussion to my Noble book, The Choirmaster, because it contains many of my favourites.
My hero, Matthew, is closest to the type of man I would like to know in real life. He isn't ostentatious or macho at all, but a quietly confident, competent individual with an absolute belief in himself and his vocation (he is a musician, as the title suggests). However, there is a side to him that needs a little work - I don't find 'perfect' characters interesting, so I would always include this. He can get carried away by his need for order and perfection, and he prefers to repress areas of his personality and sexuality rather than let anything 'messy' interfere with his life.
My heroine, Loveday, turns all that upside-down and brings the passionate man out of the somewhat cool shell he can present to the world. She is pretty typical of my heroines - scatty, a bit naïve, looking for something without knowing what she is looking for. Not that I don't also write other types of heroine, but I like it when the hero has something to offer her, like a way out of a tricky situation.
There isn't a villain in The Choirmaster, which is unusual for me because I adore a good baddy - the more complex and sinister the better. The Lothario, the Evil Overlord, the Good Man Gone Bad - all lovely. In fact, one of my first childhood crushes was on Darth Vader - analyse that!
Archetypes I'm not keen on - well, I don't have many. Overly perfect characters I've already mentioned, plus I'm not a great fan of the wimpy, weepy heroine. Loveday has her problems, but she isn't a limp lettuce type of girl. In fact, I don't think she even likes lettuce.
Please do come and join the fun at my blog http://justineelyot.wordpress.com/ or you can find a full list of my publications, plus plenty of other information at my sparkly new website http://justineelyot.com/.
The Choirmaster is available from a number of sites, including http://www.amazon.com/The-Choirmaster-ebook/dp/B004KAAUOM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ&s=books&qid=1300480301&sr=8-1
If you need extra convincing, here is an excerpt:
Loveday considered it to be the best pitch in London: the broad windswept piazza hemmed in by the concrete slabs of the Barbican Complex. For one thing, the passers-by were often well versed in culture, heading for a concert or a play. For another, the Guildhall School of Music was one of those concrete slabs, and she had clung to her fantasy of ‘discovery’ by one of the professors for the six months she had been busking in this spot. Not as crowded as Covent Garden, not as ugly as the South Bank, not as manic as Oxford Street, it was a comfortable billet, if a little exposed.
Most days, then, the slight, tattered figure of Loveday Morris, in raggedy tutu and several pairs of holey stripy tights, could be seen lugging a gigantic antique cassette deck to the steps, and today was no exception.
Before she could rummage in her canvas bag for the right backing tape, though, charcoal stormclouds ballooned on the horizon, swirling around the peaks and glass towers of the City.
Her face, a picture of dismay, turned itself skywards to receive a fat splash of rain. Bloody weather forecast. Always, always, wrong. Before she had had a chance to clasp the oversized tapedeck to her chest and run, the heavens had opened, spectacularly. The effect was as dramatic as if somebody had thrown a bucket of water over her head.
By the time Loveday skittered into the nearest tube station she was at saturation point, hair squiggling in rats tails down her back, nose dripping, a mascara emergency scrawled all over her face. She was cold, freezing cold, but if she wanted to eat tonight, the supper must be sung for.
At the bottom of the escalator, she found the backing tape and slid it into the cassette player with half-numb fingers. The lucrative concert-goer market could still be caught down here. Perhaps today would be the day. Discovery. A scholarship. A life in music, real music, beautiful music.
She fast-forwarded the tape until it arrived at her feelgood song, her theme tune. Time to shut her eyes, forget the kohl carnage, forget the freezing rain that had soaked into every pore, forget that she was hungry and tired and her knee hurt, and just…sing.
When Loveday sang, you did not see her pallor or her thinness, her torn shirt or her rent fishnets. When Loveday sang you only saw the pictures her voice painted. For three minutes there were Parisian boulevards instead of clinical tiles, the sun warmed the pavements and a bohemian beauty revelled in her charms before your fascinated eyes.
She awoke to the clink of a coin in her beret and leant down to wind the tape on.
“You’re very good,” said somebody. She straightened up to see a man leaning on the bottom of the escalator. “Are you at the Guildhall?”
“Oh, no,” she blushed self-consciously. “I’m on benefits.” Immediately she wanted to kick herself for the stupidly irrelevant response. Way to be discovered, Loveday! Make him think you’re a deadbeat!
“You’re in a choir though?”
“Oh, God, no, I don’t think one would have me,” she flustered, ever more discomposed beneath his cool blue-eyed scrutiny.
“Mine would.” He searched his inner jacket pocket and produced a card, holding it in front of Loveday’s still mascara-clogged eyes. The London Orchestral Singers. She had heard of them; indeed, seen them in concert years before. A proper choir.
“Really? Are you in the L.O.S.?” she asked, impressed.
He laughed. “No, I’m the chorus master. Why don’t you join? I’d have to audition you, of course, but I don’t see that it would be a problem. You can sight-read?”
Loveday nodded. This was mad, though. She couldn’t join a choir. She couldn’t offer a commitment, with her crazy chaotic life the way it was.
“Thanks, but I’m not sure…”
“Oh, I am,” he said. There was something steely about his smile, and Loveday got the impression that he was not a person you would argue with. “You look about to freeze to death. Look, I’m on my way to a rehearsal now. Why don’t you come along? Let me buy you a coffee first and do the proper hard-sell on you.”
He beckoned, turning away before she had a chance to reply, and Loveday felt a piercing shot of resentment at his expectation that she would trot along after him without question. Yet that was exactly what she did. Probably a serial killer, reasoned her not-very-reasonable mind, to which the rather dispiriting reply was, Let’s hope so, eh? Times were hard. Things were bad. Loveday had been on self-destruct for a long time, yet she still seemed to be here. Following him up the escalator, she noted that he was slender – not skinny, in the way a diet of lentils and brainrot cider had made her. Perhaps if he was trying to lure her to her doom, she might be able to put up some kind of fight. He was tall, though – much taller than her, and the leanness was probably all muscle.
He grinned down at her from the step above and said, “So, are you a ballerina too?”
Oh yes. The tutu. Though it was hardly suitable for performance-wear any more, and it would have been difficult to pull off a demi-plié in her clumpy biker boots. A shapeless black hand-knitted jumper and two armfuls of bangles completed the look. Just your average chorister, really.
“Oh, everyone’s wearing them, dahling,” she said vaguely. “Didn’t you know?” And you could be Rudolf Nuryev, with those cheekbones.
He chuckled, but there was an off note in there, carried through to the expression of veiled concern on his face. “You’re shivering,” he said.
“Oh.” She tried to stop, but her bones weren’t co-operating.
“Come on. Coffee,” he said, steering her around the corner as soon as they arrived on the street, straight into the million and first branch of Starbucks to open in that area that week. “We usually warm up before a rehearsal, but not as literally as this. Look, can I get you something to eat?”
“No, no, honestly!” Loveday was starving but she didn’t want to owe this stranger anything. A skinny latte was debt enough to be going on with.
When he brought the coffees over, it was clear that Loveday’s skinny latte was anything but. It was about triple-strength, full-fat, like a milkshake with a hint of coffee. You could have stuck a spoon upright in it. She didn’t complain though. It was very obviously intentional. And he seemed to mean well.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself,” he said, thrusting an arm towards her. “Matthew.”
It only remains for me to thank Mindy again for being such a gracious hostess and to remind you all to hop over and find Indigo Skye at Sarah Ballance's blog.