Monday, November 21, 2011

Redeemable Heroes: Fever with Joan Swan


When Dr. Alyssa Foster is taken hostage by a prison inmate, she knows she's in deep trouble. Not just because Teague Creek is desperate for freedom, but because the moment his fingers brush against her skin, Alyssa feels a razor-sharp pang of need...

A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose. At least Teague doesn't, until his escape plan develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives, he can only give her lies, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever...

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I’d like to thank Carrie for having me today. People are always commenting on how busy I am and how much I do, but I can’t quite fathom how Carrie has kept everything together these last several weeks—her blog, her writing, her life—with everything that’s been going on with her husband’s health lately. I work in a teaching hospital and I see people like Carrie every day, living hours from home, sleeping on pull-out chairs, eating hospital cafeteria food, waking every couple hours as staff come in to tend to their family member. To say it’s a rough existence would be a severe understatement.

Kudos, Carrie. Your hubby is truly a lucky man.

My debut novel, FEVER, also begins in a hospital setting, not all that unusual considering I spend so much time there—write what you know, right? My heroine, Alyssa Foster, a radiology fellow, is abducted by a convicted murderer, Teague Creek, in an escape attempt. Yep, you guessed it—he’s my hero. And he’s not a nice guy. He’s got a life sentence. With nothing to lose. And he’s desperate.

I suppose it’s a risky way to start a book—with an unlikeable hero. I don’t recall giving that a lot of consideration while I was writing, though now, as I promote the book and post excerpts in hopes of drawing readers, I have to admit, I’ve done a bit of nail biting in fear of turning readers off.

But recently my agent said something that helped ease my apprehension. She said that one of my strengths is putting my characters in impossible situations in unique ways that compel readers to read on. Which, of course, is good, because Teague does become more likable when we switch to his point of view in chapter two.

What makes Teague unlikeable in chapter one?

  • He’s portrayed as a white supremacist
  • He’s portrayed as a murderer
  • He puts chain around Alyssa’s neck
  • He threatens her
  • He physically hurts her
  • He puts her in harm’s way

How do I take the edge off and give him at least a shadow of redeemable qualities?

  • He’s hot (come on, you know this counts!)
  • He doesn’t cause her any undo/additional harm or pain
  • He doesn’t cause the guards any harm or pain when he abducts her
  • He’s smooth, in control
  • He’s smart
  • In comparison to his partner (a fellow prisoner/escapee), he’s Prince Charming
  • He guards her against the psycho partner

Subtle elements in a character’s personality can keep a questionable character above that redemption line, though, there are many, many authors who don’t bother with redeemable characters in heroes. And many readers love a pure no-excuse, take-me-as-I-am Alpha. Many have been and continue to be best sellers.

Personally, that’s not me. I love strength and drive and passion, don’t get me wrong. I don’t even mind a little bullying or back talking when it suits the situation or the character arc (both Teague and Alyssa are strong and mouthy!), but I can’t fall for a hero without compassion or a kind spot in his soul for the woman he loves.

How about you? Are you a raw Alpha hero-lover? Or do you need a softer side in your heroes? 

BONUS: Get an extra entry if you head over to my website, read chapter one of FEVER and tell me if Teague has any redeeming qualities. (Be honest…saying yes doesn’t guarantee a win!)

Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist, and a double Kiss of Death Daphne Du Maurier finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, debuts March, 2012. Her second book, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012.  Currently, she works as a sonographer at a one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation, and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.

You can find Joan at her website, Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Interesting. I didn't even think of Teague as an unlikable hero the other day when I read the excerpt. I did wonder awhile ago why the tattoo on the cover couldn't be the one in the book, and after reading the excerpt it is completely understandable. I guess I am expecting there to be some kind of justification for his behavior or that all is not as it seems. Or I was distracted by the cover, which has certainly happened before.

  2. Well, a lot of the heroes I've read may start off being very hard but usually it's because of prior experiences that have made them that way. And its when they meet a specific woman that their other softer side comes out or she brings out in them. So it works for me.


  3. I really love the raw Alpha hero-lover thing! I think there is nothing sexier in a hero... Men are supposed to be alpha in my eyes, but that doesn't mean the hero couldn't have a little softness when it comes to family/friends and even the heroine (given time, of course!)
    Thank you for the chance to win =D

  4. The hero is supposed to be an alpha and therefore be a little rough. If he doesn't have any redeeming qualities about him, then it is hard to see him with a love interest. She would probably just want to kill him and that defeats the purpose of a romance. Thanks for the giveaway.


  5. Now that's a little difficult to decide.. I like the rawness but then I would like a wee bit of softness.

    the link to your chapter one, for me didn't work. Luckily I know your website by now. * grins *

    So. Want. This. Book.

    I think Teague has some redeeming qualities. For one he was not willing to let Taz smack her around.

    Raonaid at gmail dot com

  6. Hi, Joan! The link didn't work for me either since it ended as .com instead of .htm

    Personally, I like beta heroes a bit more. They're less work for the heroine to figure out. Still, Teague can be redeemed, I guess. He does try to protect Alyssa from Taz (but it's his fault she has to tangle with Taz in the first place).

    ironss [at] gmial [dot] com

  7. I agree with you when it comes to heroes. Without some sort of compasion or even a soul what could a female heroine see in him. He doesn't have to be wishy washy just tough when the need arises and soft when it is called for.

    Seeing as Teague didn't hurt her the way Taz did and he kinda warned her about what she shouldn't do were Taz is concerned gives Teague his redeeming qualities. True, he is in no way a saint (at least in Chapter 1) you can see where he might not be as bad as we are lead to believe he is. I definitely want to know more about him and what his story really is.


  8. Thank you everyone for stopping by! And thank you Joan for being here.

    Also, I went though the site and found the right link, so now you should be able to get to Chapter 1. :-)

  9. Gayle - that's good news! I'm glad you anticipated justification and was willing to read on, that means, 1) he wasn't horrible enough NOT to read on and 2) I gave enough of a hint that there would be some justification that you were willing to read on :). And I'm glad the differences in the tattoos didn't turn you off.

  10. Eva -- fantastic news!! Whoo-hoo! :)

  11. Hi Emily - I too think Alpha's are helluv sexy. (Drooling)

  12. Jennifer - LOLOL, that would be a fun novel, the heroine killing the hero...not a romance, but a novel. :) Thanks for coming by!

  13. Rachel...darn links! :( Glad it works for you. If it didn't I might have to prostpone printing, pull it from the printers and rewrite. :/ Seriously.

  14. Hi Sheree,

    Betas are easier for the heroine true. And Teauge is definitely at fault, no doubt about it. I will be interested to see if you think he redeems himself -- and if so, where in the book you think that sufficiently happens.

  15. Hi Skyla,

    No Teague is not a saint...not for a long time in this book. He's in hell and it doesn't get better...well...yeah, til the end. But he grows and changes and I think you'll like who he becomes. At least I sure hope you do. :)

  16. Carrie Ann, Thanks for having me! Sorry about the link...I have a bad habit of putting .com behind everything! :) Thanks for fixing.

  17. Hey Joan,

    Your agent is right, you have a gift when it comes to how you write characters that compel readers to read on. In little ways here and there, I cheered for Teague to get away in that first chapter...that has everything to do with the more than redeemable characteristics inherent in him, and in your writing. I not only felt they were there, but felt myself hanging on to each word with the hope of a thoroughly invested reader. I truly don't think you created an unlikeable hero; I think you created a hero just waiting to be loved...

    Carrie: another great blog post! I second Joan's words--your hubs is a very lucky man. Still sending good thoughts your way. (=

  18. I love the raw alpha hero. He always seems to soften (only towards her) once he realizes that the female is "MINE." From the excerpts I know I'm going to enjoy him ;).

  19. Those are great things to hear, Nina...not because they're what all writers love to hear (of course) but because that was the intent and purpose of what I was going for when I wrote them. The fact that it came through...that's all a writer can hope for. Awesome! Thanks! XO

  20. Victoria,

    There is something inherently sexy about that MINE, isn't there? The possessive and protective instinct, the one woman for that one man ideal. *sigh* Can't deny those Alpha's have that going for them.

  21. Good question. I prefer the alpha heroes. Nothing makes you feel more feminine than a hero that says "mine" and is tough, fierce, protective, powerful, confident and capable.

    mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

  22. Definitely like the thought of a raw alpha hero but being human surely he would have a softer side too? So both please. He's got to have feelings but the way he expresses them may be different from a beta hero.

    In all honesty tho, I've not met an alpha male before (not any1 that comes close the those that i've read in bks anyway). I wonder if I'd still like them if I were to meet one in the flesh!

  23. ML, that's true, isn't it, the way a very male man makes a woman feel that much more feminine? Love that.

  24. Good questions Linda. I would probably like him if he was focused on me and crazy about me. Probably hate him if he wasn't. :) Just a guess.

  25. I think a true Alpha would need to have the tough, "I am in charge here" attitude but also the sensitive side to protect his mate or pack.

    I say, give me an Alpha male to take on the world for me because he sees me as his world.

    Joan, I can't wait until FEVER hits the shelves! As far as Teague goes, you can see he is not comfortable in the role he is about to play by the way he will not make eye contact with Alyssa. While he is gruff and rough around the edges, he is not defiant and definitely not a lost cause.

    Have a wonderful week! Happy writing!
    l_k_hunziker AT hotmail DOT com

  26. Great excerpt. I think Teague has some redeeming qualities. Yes, he kidnaps Alyssa, but he really doesn't hurt her. Then he doesn't want Taz to hurt her either.I can't wait for this book to come out. It is going on the top of my TBR pile.

  27. I need an alpha with a soft side. Without it, he's unappealing and unfeeling to me. I can't connect.

    :) Teague has awesome qualities, everything I'd look for in an alpha hero. Everything I'd want in the heroes I write about.

  28. Hi

    I have been following Joan on twitter for many months and during that time I have heard so much about Fever and I am very excited to read it. I love reading about alphas.

    Thanks for the chance and if I do not "win" don't worry because I will be buying it as soon as possible.

    Thanks for the chance

  29. Very interesting read, regarding
    your Alpha man Teague, (have not
    heard of this name before, sounds
    strong and powerful) His good
    features is that he is smart,
    and of course great on the eyes.
    thanks for the great giveaway too,
    and the chance to snag some swag.
    WTG on your writing skills.
    cheers dayle b at telus dot net

  30. I've been seeing this book on the book blogs and have been wondering what it was about. now that I know I'm loving the hot guy and plot. talk about a redemption story! I read the excerpt (which was great, btw. i loved the sriting style; i truly felt ljke i was there, too)

    Teague is a great example of the kind of hero I go for: flawed, but somehow caught in the system which has made things worse. The fact that he protected Alyssa against Taz says alot about his character and makes very curious why he appears to be a neo-nazi. I really want to win this one and if I don't, I'm definitely adding it my To Buy list.
    Thanks for chance to win it!
    msmjb65 AT gmail DOT com
    +1 read the excerpt

  31. Loraine,
    I've always believed -- even way back in high school when we were analyzing literature -- that not all the connections we found in the works were purposely made by the author. And this is a perfect example.

    I didn't consciously have Teague avoiding Alyssa's eyes because he couldn't meet them. I had him avoiding her eyes because he was preoccupied with the escape. But as soon as I read that, I knew it was true. Of course he couldn't stand looking into her eyes. Of course he couldn't stand the thought of what he was about to do to this woman -- and you'll see that from the next chapter on.

    And, even now, after rewriting the story three times and reading it I don't even know how many times now, I have a reader whose read it once notice that subtlty and point it out to me.

    That is the writer's subconscious at work. I love, love, love it.

    Thanks Loraine!

  32. Hi Joanne,

    Cool, it's great that came through (and I'm lovin' the view from the top of that pile) :-D

  33. Mirriam,

    So well said, an Alpha with a soft side. Nice. :)

  34. Hi Pam,

    You're too cute! Thanks so much!!


  35. Thanks Dayle! Smart and good looking -- can't beat that combo, huh? And I really like his name too. :)

  36. Hi MJB,

    I love the way you felt like you were there from the excerpt. I try really hard with my writing to get the reader into deep third person, meaning deep in the characters head and find myself doing backflips with my writing to keep them there. I really do love reading first person, but I'm better at writing deep third, love the way a reader can so completely lose themselves in a story in that point of view and the fact that you felt like you were there tells me I was doing something right. Thanks so much!

    I'm thrilled you've identified several of the bigger story questions too--him being trapped in the system, his neo nazi tattoos--things that make you want to keep reading for answers.

    Very thrilled those came through for you!!

    Thanks so much for commenting.