Phillipa Ashley’s Heroes.

To celebrate the launch of her new book, Miranda’s Mount, Phillipa Ashley shares her secrets on how to make our heroes work for us.

How to have several men on the go at once

I love being a romance writer. You can be happily married for 25 years yet still have several other men on the go at the same time.

Usually, you’ll have finished one affair and be about to tell the world about it, while keeping another one in progress. If you have US editions or re-releases, you may also be opening up old flirtations with previous loves.

I’m talking about writing heroes, of course, but such an embarrassment of riches does pose a dilemma. How do you keep your heroes distinct and avoid them all blurring into one?

The hero’s character is usually almost fully formed in my mind from page one, and it’s the heroine who I work hard to develop through the course of book.

However, in my new release, Miranda’s Mount, both the hero and heroine came to me from the start. I hadn’t written a word for months and was aimlessly drifting off on a long car journey when the idea came at me out of nowhere. I woke up and declared to my husband and daughter:

“I know the book I want to write next. I know the setting, I know the hero and the heroine and why they are in the situation they are and why they can’t get together.”

I went home, started writing and didn’t stop… how I wish every book was like that!

Everyone is different and one writer’s meat really is another one’s poison, but here are my tips for creating and developing distinctive heroes.

  • Ask why at every stage of your narrative. The hero’s motivation is the clue to the whole story so make his intentions credible and strong even when he’s doing and saying totally the wrong thing (and he will be!) Think of his back story as the invisible 90% of the iceberg; the reader needs to have a strong sense that here is a complex, living and breathing man under the surface exterior. It’s that complexity which will make him distinct from every other hero on the planet, and from all the other men you’ve written.
  • Fall in love with him but not so much that you lose complete sense of his effect on readers. If he’s behaving like a bastard and you’re still going weak at the knees, that’s because you know his motivations and how the story’s going to end. But your reader doesn’t so make sure you haven’t made him such a git that they won’t forgive him. I read a contemporary romance recently that was beautifully written but the hero crossed a big red line and there was no going back for me. After that I actually wanted the heroine not to get together with him!
  • Get inside his head – you need to convey the passionate, deep emotions that men don’t often like showing.
  • This is just me but if possible, make him able to laugh at himself: po-faced heroes, who thunder about, even if they’re billionaires or rulers of a country, just make me want to laugh for all the wrong reasons!  Your guy doesn’t have to crack jokes all the time but I think it’s all the more powerful when an ironic hero is finally forced to be serious and show his true emotions.
  • Torture him – not in a 50 shades way but make him really suffer. Bring him to his knees.
  • Make him your hero – I have to confess I like Alpha heroes but if you want an unusual hero with quirky looks, an off the wall job and outrageous dress sense, go for it, if *you* love him, hopefully the reader will too.  

Thank you, Romaniacs for having me on the blog – I’d love to hear how you develop your heroes.

Phillipa – thank you so much for this wonderful advice and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Miranda’s Mount is published as an E-book on October 4th by Piatkus Entice and is a sexy, funny contemporary romance set in Cornwall.

When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…

With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…

Twitter @phillipaashley

22 thoughts on “Phillipa Ashley’s Heroes.

  1. I found those pointers massively helpful. I’m writing my second novel soon and it’s an intimidating prospect, but this has given me food for thought, cheers! x

    • I like the idea of having more than one man on the go at once – all in the best possible taste, of course! I hadn’t quite thought of it that way before.
      Cannot wait to read Miranda’s Mount and find out more about the hero and heroine in the story. I do love the way Phillipa Ashley draws her characters so I am really looking forward to this one.
      This post offers great insight into how to make a hero realistic. Thank you, Phillipa.

      • Kim – someone at a college reunion told me I’d no need to have an affair because I could do it in my books – I’m glad Mr B was not in earshot! It’s difficult to give writing tips but the deeper inside the characters’ head the better. There are two good – but very flawed – men in Miranda. Making them both attractive but also imperfect wasn’t easy and one of them had to lose out. Hope it works. In the next book there are two gorgeous heroes & even i had trouble deciding who the heroine would end up with and even chnaged my mind once or twice.

  2. HI, after I’d sent this to the Romaniacs, I forgot one of the most important points: that I give the hero’s POV in my books which changes things. There are upsides and downsides to doing this: the big bonus is that obviously, you will be able to give direct insight into the hero’s motivation and develop his character in more depth. The bad news is that the reader will know what he is thinking – and how he plans to act at times, so you have to be very careful when you use his POV and what you reveal. I use about 70:30 Heroine to Hero POV.

  3. *Cuts, pastes and ponders*. Phillipa, this post is brilliant. I’m philandering with two new heroes at the moment and this has really given me food for thought on how I’m going to bring them to life, so thank you! And now I’m off to read Miranda’s Mount in my fave chair. xxx

  4. I agree with Rachel *cuts, pastes and ponders*. Really helpful advice, thanks Phillipa xx

  5. I’m glad to hear someone else struggles with heroines. I love my heroes and find their voices relatively easy to hear. It’s the heroines that give me trouble. (Maybe because women are that much more complicated than men…?). Great advice. Am making notes.

    • Rhoda – I know what you mean. Nell Dixon and Katie Fforde write great heroines IMO. I think the reader needs to live through the heroine so she has to be imperfect, fun, interesting and yet stillstay sympathetic. I think readers are less forgiving of heroines than heroes. the best bad heroine I know was Octavia by Jilly Cooper – hated her at first but then… I cried for her at one point.

  6. Your advice to ‘ask why at every stage of the narrative’ is especially helpful. Thank you. Also interesting how you juxtapose the two POV’s. For now though your first suggestion is exactly what I need to hear! Thank you! 🙂

  7. This is fantastic advice – I’ve read it through twice and still have lots of pondering to do! Thanks Phillipa – you’re inspiring and nurturing some great heroes for us all here.

    Celia x

  8. Your new book sounds great Philippa and I love Cornwall. A hero who isn’t too po-faced would definitely put the icing on the cake for me! Great pointers to creating likeable/loveable heroes, thank you.

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