Today I am thrilled to welcome fellow Loveswept author Ruthie Knox, super sharp, super mom, super writer-and-editor extraordinaire to my blog! Ruthie has the distinction of being my first guest, and luckily (for me), she really knows her stuff! Ruthie has a rabid following, and for excellent reason – her first novel, Ride with Me, was published to acclaim, and her second about-to-be released book, About Last Night has already garnered some rave reviews! And now, without further ado, Ms. Knox and I will start discussing the juicy stuff!
Elisabeth: Hi Ruthie! I’m so pleased that you agreed to join me today as part of your blog tour. I’ve had the pleasure of reading both Ride with Me and About Last Night, and both were outstanding reads. I must admit, however, to having a soft spot for Nev.
Ruthie: Thanks, Elisabeth! I, too, have a soft spot for Nev. Roughly the size of Nevada. I have a feeling that the release of About Last Night is going to divide my entire nascent fan base into Team Tom and Team Nev. At which point I’ll fan the flames, as one does. (But secretly: Team Nev.)
Elisabeth: Oh, yes. I am not-so-secretly Team Nev! He’s just delicious. Like really, truly, delicious. And I’m not the only one who thinks so! There are others….many others.
All right, I have a ton of questions to ask, so let’s get down to it, shall we? Of course I want to start with Nev, or shall I say, the perception of Nev?
Cath (the heroine in About Last Night) is convinced that Nev is a good guy. Too good. And so was I, when I started the book. Yet he spends a good bit of time stating that he’s not. Now here’s the kicker: I’d say it’s a trope (as some in the industry say) that women must fall for men who appear bad, but who are actually good. Nev, on the other hand, not only appears good, but is good. This makes him less desirable in bad-girl Cath’s eyes. It’s only when he shows her his artistic side – his naughty side, if you will – that she starts to get interested. And he plays this up, telling her repeatedly that he’s not good. At least, at first. Was it your intention to flip the script here?
Ruthie: Not precisely, but how clever you’ve made me look!
I’ll admit to being preoccupied, as a writer, with characters’ first impressions of each other. Cath only ever sees Nev at the train station and when they pass each other jogging in the park, but she’s certain long before she meets Nev that she knows what he’s like — so much so that she’s downright smug about it. And the version of Nev she’s so dismissive of is his public face: the suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying banker on the train platform. He’s a well spoken, well educated, ridiculously handsome man, and guys like that just aren’t for her.
What interests me about Nev is that he is all those things, but he doesn’t want to be only those things — and particularly not to Cath. He wants her to see the interior version of him, the one who’s more rebellious, less fettered, and sometimes downright wicked. That’s the place where all his talk about not being good in the early chapters comes from. And ultimately, the impulse to be bad for Cath, if you will, is good for him, because it leads him (eventually) to becoming a more authentic version of himself.
Elisabeth: Nev is a bit wicked! There’s one sex scene toward the end of the book where Nev’s naughtiness really comes into play. It was extremely well-written and very, very hot. When I first read the scene, I read it as him being wicked for her. Now I can see that his flash of naughtiness is there, all along, underlying his very proper exterior. I think that’s why I like Nev so much; he keeps a lot hidden and he blossoms with his desire for Cath.
Now let’s talk about our heroine, Cath. I think the one word I would use to describe her is “damaged.” I’m not saying that is a bad thing; she’s fully functional, despite her very difficult past, which just speaks to her strength. In fact, the more I realize what she’s been through, the more I think “heroine” is an apt word. Care to comment?
Ruthie: Yes, absolutely. Cath is one of those characters who’s more broken than she looks and less broken than she thinks — if that makes any sense at all. She’s had a difficult life, and because of it she’s made a choice to be different, to leave her past behind and be New Cath. I didn’t want to write a character who was caught in the past, moping and broken. Part of what “heroine” requires for me is a woman who takes what life throws at her and fights back. Cath carries on — bravely, I think — and she’s managing to make her way in the world. But sometimes the best you can do on your own isn’t nearly as good as the best you can do with the love and support of another person, you know? And that’s why she needs Nev.
Elisabeth: And from the start, Nev instinctively gets this. That she needs him, even though she’s telling him she doesn’t.
Ruthie: Yes. I love that about Nev — he has excellent instincts about Cath, and he doesn’t push. The alpha heroes of contemporary romance frequently have a very entitled, obnoxious way of insisting that their beloved heroines share Every. Single. Thing with them. If Nev had tried that with Cath, she would’ve walked out on him, and he knows it. Cath needs a lot of time and space to trust him, and even more to start trusting herself. The novel divides quite neatly in half around those two journeys.
Elisabeth: Okay, let’s get back to this alpha thing. I’ve talked with you about the fact that some people (you included?) thought Nev was more on the beta side. I totally disagreed, based in large part on the fact that Nev won’t take no for an answer when it comes to Cath. He doesn’t barrel through, but he has some creative work-arounds to get Cath to see things his way. Have you reconsidered your initial thoughts about the alpha/beta thing?
Ruthie: Well, yes and no. To a certain extent, the labels are useless, in that “alpha” often becomes shorthand for all positive male characteristics, and “beta” means “weenie.” We all develop our own sense of what these terms mean. I happen to like beta heroes. I like alpha heroes, too. Let me tell you another secret: I like men. All sorts.
So let me hasten to say that even if I think Nev is fairly beta, that doesn’t mean he’s a weenie. There’s no question that he’s strong and determined. He knows what he wants, and he goes after it. But I suppose I think of a beta hero as being a more fundamentally nurturing person — a man who’s more a facilitator than a take-charge warrior. Nev is a younger son in a powerful family. He’s the number two guy at work. And in his heart of hearts, he has no secret, burning desire to run the show. What he has a secret, burning desire to do is play rugby on the weekends and paint and have lots of hot, sweaty sex with his girlfriend.
Elisabeth: Okay, so how are you defining beta?
Ruthie: I guess I define it in terms of (a) tendency to lead and (b) tendency to nurture. I think the stereotypical “alpha male” is a leader who has to learn to nurture the heroine — or perhaps who doesn’t instinctively nurture, but is compelled to care for the heroine. Whereas my idea of a stereotypical “beta male” is someone who’s more of a follower, who nurtures instinctively. And while both alpha and beta heroes are strong — they wouldn’t be heroes if they weren’t — beta males are less likely to impose their will on others, and particularly on the heroine.
There’s a moment in the novel where Nev is thinking about Cath, frustrated with all the walls she puts up between them. He remembers every strategy he’s tried to win her trust, and he’s afraid he’s running out of ideas. He thinks, “If that didn’t work, he’d just have to–”
How would an alpha finish this sentence? “He’d just have to make her”? “He’d just have to kidnap her and take her to a Greek isle and seduce her into revealing her secrets”? “He’d just have to hire a private investigator to find out what she wouldn’t tell him”?
Nev thinks, “He’d just have to start begging.”
And that’s why I love him.
Elisabeth: Yes, but Nev doesn’t beg. He simply goes about achieving his “yes” in a different way, in this case, going for the grand gesture, which I don’t think is begging at all; it’s his own interpretation of their past….and their future. Is Nev maybe more alpha than you think? Am I reading too much into the character that you created? :)
Ruthie: Well, he does beg a little, but I kept it mostly off-screen. But you’re right about the ending — Nev finds a different way to achieve his “yes,” and in the end, his victory is about persuading Cath to see herself through his eyes — the way he’s already (finally) learned to see himself through hers. The romance catalyzes a metamorphosis for both characters that helps them find their way to being more authentic, more settled, happier versions of themselves, together.
Elisabeth: Well, you’ve pretty much summed up why I read romance! Ruthie, it has been a pleasure to have you as a guest. Please tell us where readers can learn more about you, and About Last Night (did you like my wordplay)?
Ruthie: I always like your wordplay. You’re so cute. Readers can find all the details about About Last Night, as well as news about me and my blog tour and whatnot, on my website, www.ruthieknox.com. I also have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ruthieknox, and I’m on Twitter constantly using the handle @ruthieknox.
About Last Night is available for preorder through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and after the release date (June 11) it will become more widely available at e-booksellers in the United States. Foreign versions (English-language) usually start showing up online a couple weeks after the U.S. release.