Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Foreign Hero

When people ask me about the most interesting thing I have ever done, I can’t help smiling as I answer without hesitation, “Traveling.” I visited over fifty countries on vacation or business trips.

Here are some of the fun things I enjoyed and included in scenes of my books:
• Toast with vodka in Russian countries. (See my contemporary romance TO LOVE A HERO)
• Exchange a romantic kiss with my husband on the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (See Rx IN FRENCH).
• Sleep in a chateau in the Loire Valley (See my romantic suspense FRENCH PERIL).
• Walk overdressed in bathing suit along a nude beach in Greece (still working on the scene in my work-in-progress, ISLAND OF PASSION)
But I experienced more exciting adventures that I plan to incorporate in future books:
Ride a camel in Egypt around the pyramids and sphinx; feed the turtle in Seychelles Islands; sail through the Norwegian Fjords; photograph the penguins in Chili; swim with baby sharks in Tahiti; smoke the narghile in Tunisia; and many more…

Traveling is not only about visiting monuments and palaces in foreign countries or snapping photos in front of famous landmarks. Traveling opens new horizons, exposes you to different cultures, and teaches you new words. Every time you travel you are indelibly marked by what you see, what you hear, even what you smell.

When I decided to start writing novels I already knew that my heroine would be an all-American gal, educated, assertive and independent. But I wanted my hero to be different from the men she meets everyday at work. I wanted to gift her with a man who measures up to my special heroine. During my numerous travels abroad, I observed the foreign male and study how he could attract my American heroine and be worthy of her love.

As a Director of an environmental laboratory I traveled to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to refurbish laboratories. In Belarus, I dealt mostly with officers, handsome, reserved, aloof at first sight. While writing TO LOVE A HERO, I practically relived my fantastic trips to Belarus and kept a detailed journal. My story highlights the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and valiant Belarusians officers who sing, toast with vodka and make a woman feel like a goddess.

The Russian hero, such as the dashing Major General Sergei of TO LOVE A HERO, is a perfect example of alpha hero: a patriotic officer, authoritative and chauvinistic but protective and gallant, honest and loyal.

In France, the old gallantry has survived and many Frenchmen would not hesitate to write a poem to their beloved. The aristocratic male greets a woman by bowing over her hand for a kiss while the average Frenchman kisses her three times on the cheeks. That custom is not only used with relatives and friends but also with colleagues every day at work. Frenchmen love wine and will have un petit vin, a little wine, at lunch on a daily basis. At dinner, a whole bottle is a must.

The French hero is a playboy and a womanizer, determined not to be entrapped, but also a generous and passionate lover.

FRENCH PERIL was inspired by a vacation I spent in the Loire Valley. My husband and I spent two nights in a modernized chateau. I was impressed by the wealth of history of that area and visualized gallant aristocrats entertaining beautiful women in lavishly decorated galleries and plush gardens. Stories played in my mind. I upped the stakes with a missing statue and the murder of a professor to create a romantic suspense, FRENCH PERIL.

The Greek hero is also an alpha hero.

In ISLAND OF PASSION, Greek billionaire Stephanos is broody, passionate, athletic and valiant, in love with the sea, he listens more than he talks and has trouble trusting a woman or handing his heart.

In Mexico, Puerto Rico and South America, I was impressed by the joyful atmosphere. Large families with three or more children are the norm. People dine at late hours. They like music and dance. The father is respected as head of the family.

The Latino hero is romantic, more of a beta hero. Fun-loving, easy-going.
In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, my sweet and spicy medical romance that will be released on July 03, 2009, Dr. Marc Suarez is adored by the female population of the hospital. He is said to collect sport trophies and nurses’ hearts. But a tragic accident changed him into a dedicated father to his orphan nephew.

In the Middle East, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel, I noticed that young couples do not demonstrate affection in public places. Children are polite and expected to obey their parents without arguments. Religion holds a strong place in family life.

The Egyptian Hero is another beta hero, shy and reserved. Jealous and old-fashioned, he prefers to marry a virgin. Yes, ma’am, they told me that!!!

In my present book I am dealing with Egyptian mythology and avoiding the pitfall of protagonists too serious for my taste. Egyptian gods are anything but gods of commitment.

If you like to travel and love to read, come tour my European romances and my blog.

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press: TO LOVE A HERO and FRENCH PERIL; and medical romance in the genre of ER and Grey's Anatomy for The Wild Rose Press: Rx FOR TRUST and BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, winner of 2009 BEST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE at READERS FAVORITE and 2009 BEST ROMANCE NOVEL at Preditors & Editors Readers Poll. All books are available at Amazon.com


Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I love how you've traveled all over Mona! I've been to Greece, didn't see the nude bathing beach. LOL!

Mona Risk said...

Terry, I have pictures of that nude beach. The funny part is that people were ready to pose for us.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

You know how much I love hearing about your adventures and seeing your photos. This was such a fun accounting to read and remember stories I had enjoyed before as well. I am jealous because I've only seen 6 percent of the world, but did enjoy every moment of it. Lost my heart in Scotland....

Mona Risk said...

Hi Paisley, your 6 includes Scotland and I bet Wales and maybe Ireland. Never been there. You are giving new ideas and new dreams.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

It was just Scotland we spent the 23 days in, Mona, but I am sure Wales and Ireland would be a dream, too. And, that is a yes for you to visit there because it is absolutely breathtaking to say nothing of the hunks in kilts. ;)

Tarot By Arwen said...

Some awesome photos, Mona. Thanks for sharing.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

I love travelling to places where the people and culture are different to my own. I always get inspired to write stories about the places--usually fantasy! The most interesting place I've visited recently is Morocco. Interesting blog, Mona!

Lisa Dale said...

Mona - I love the wide scope of your books. I hope someday to be able to travel as much. As of now, my books have been all East coast settings--I feel so lucky to be able to write about such fascinating American cities as Newport, RI and Burlington, VT. (My next book's set in Richmond, VA.)

Your books seem like they offer not only the fantasy of a great romance, but also the fantasy of escape. Great post!

Janet/Cricket said...

Someday I will have to write a story that takes place in another country the way you have. I've been to Egypt and Greece and China, but haven't really come up with a story that has a foreign locale yet. I admire that you have done so much with your traveling.

Mona Risk said...

Arwen I am glad you enjoy the pictures.

Mona Risk said...


You did wonder with your settings!!! Keep on traveling and give us more spellbinding romances.

Mona Risk said...

Thank you, Lisa. A story in Richmond VA will have my vote and that of many of my friends. It's such a beautiful historical area.

Mona Risk said...

Janet, you have been to three of my favorite countries, well, add France to that group. I would go to Paris every year if I could. I find it easier to set my stories in foreign countries. There is so much to describe and play with. Not only the scenery, but also the culture, traditions, food, drinks, and of course the hero's character.

Jill James said...

I have wanted to travel my whole life, then I married a home body. I may have to learn to travel alone or with a group of my own. Loved the stories of different foreign men. Very intriguing.

Mona Risk said...

Jill, the Florida Romance Writers chapter in Fort Lauderdale is organizing a 5 day cruise conference called, Cruise with your Muse, next January. It's fun and productive. A great way to visit the Caribbean while meeting editors and agents.

Joanne said...

Your books are so rich and vivid. I love to travel, and we do home exchanges every year. It's an interesting way to experience another culture--you are truly immersed in the country. Our trip to Glasgow, Scotland, a couple of years ago was truly a trip of a lifetime.

Leigh D'Ansey said...

I think the Greek hero is my favourite.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Great post, Mona, and thanks for sharing those pics. I was one of your critique partners for To Love a Hero, so seeing the picture makes the story much more real for me now. That said, I'd love to know which officer plays which part in TLAH so I have a visual. :-)

Thanks for sharing!