A Conversation with Sydney Logan, Author of SOLDIER ON

Today, Sydney Logan is stopping by. She's just released a new book Soldier On. I've been a fan of Sydney's since I read her first novel, Lessons Learned. (You can see my review of it here.)

Sydney was on the blog last month with an article entitled, The Sweet Romantic Hero - A Myth in Contemporary Romance? Considering we write similar types of heroes, I wanted to talk with her some more about the subject.

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Lissa: You recently did a blog post about sweet romantic heroes being a myth in contemporary romance. The post really spoke to me because you and I write similar sorts of heroes: men that —despite their flaws— love the women in their lives deeply and treat them with respect. Why do you think they’re a rarity in contemporary romance?

Sydney: I think there’s something about the bad boy/alpha male that attracts a lot of female readers. If you look at the Amazon bestsellers lists right now, you see a lot of bare chests on book covers (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and those chests belong to alpha males—a lot of whom are complete jerks at the beginning of the novel. I’ve actually had readers tell me that nice guys like the ones in our books don’t exist, but I know they do. I’m married to one of them, and from what you’ve shared about your husband, I think you are, too. Nicholas Sparks’ heroes are a lot like our guys, so at least we’re in good company.

Lissa: I’d like to see a wider variety of men in popular romance, because your reader was wrong that there aren’t sweet guys out there. There are sweet guys … and bad guys … Guys who are struggling to be good even though they have flaws, and guys who’ve redeemed themselves after dark pasts. In short, there are all kinds of men out there, and it would be great to see more types celebrated in romance.

That’s something that’s been wonderful about the self-publishing and ebook revolution… It’s given readers a chance to see more types of books out there than the narrow offerings of the small number of traditional publishers. It’s a great time to be a reader.

SydneyIt definitely is, and you’re right. There are all kinds of guys out there in the world. I just wish the good guys got as much attention as the bad ones. :)

Lissa: What do you think that says about modern women’s expectations in their own romantic lives?

SydneyI don’t want to sound too preachy, because it could just mean that women like the fantasy of loving and taming the bad boy, and they enjoy those books and those heroes for that reason. But it does make me wonder about expectations in relationships. As you know, I work with kids, and I see and hear about teenagers being treated like crap by their boyfriend/girlfriend. Is that because they’re repeating a pattern they’ve seen at home? Is it because they’re so desperate for affection that they’ll stay in a bad situation just to avoid being alone?

Lissa: Therein lies the danger of some of these romantic fantasies: believing that the man will change, that love will tame the “savage beast.” It’s an oft-repeated romantic trope. The heartless womanizer instantly changes his ways when he meets the heroine, or the mean, disrespectful man grovels his way to forgiveness in the last chapter.

Books, movies, and television shape can romantic expectations in our culture. I was reading something the other day about how young men are misled by movies which tell them if they’re just persistent enough, they’ll win the girl in the end. In real life, women can feel threatened and stalked by those “romantic” behaviors.

SydneyStalker tendencies can be very romanticized in literature. I know we both loved the Twilight books, and we’re adults and understood that the love story was a fantasy. But I’ve heard my female students say how “sweet” it was that Edward climbed through Bella’s window to watch her sleep. We then have to have a discussion about how, while that might have been swoon-worthy in the book and in the movie, that’s not the safest or smartest way to get to know a guy.

Lissa: If my books ever have a small chance of influencing someone’s outlook, I want it to be in a positive way.

SydneyI’m the exact same way. When readers finish one of my books, I want them to have a smile on their faces. Even if it’s a bittersweet smile, because that’s life. Everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

I’ve known women who’ve been emotionally abused by boyfriends or spouses because they truly didn’t believe they deserved better. I guess that’s why I write about decent guys. I want teenage girls and women to know that those guys do exist, and that it’s okay to demand to be treated with respect. And, it’s absolutely okay to be alone until you find someone who will do just that.

Lissa: Me, too. I want the romances in my books to be healthy relationships based on mutual respect and a solid foundation. Yes, romance is fantasy, and there’s always that element, but I also want readers to finish my book and think that my couples are strong enough to last for their happily-ever-after.

Do you think women “tolerate” more from a romantic hero in a novel than they would in their real romantic lives? In other words, that the “bad boy” is a fantasy but they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy being in a relationship with that sort of man in real life?

SydneyI can only speak for myself when I say I wouldn’t enjoy that kind of relationship. Love is hard enough without the drama!

Lissa: You’re absolutely right. Love is a lot of hard work. It’s much easier to fly off the handle and storm out than it is to sit down and look someone in the eye and say, “We need to discuss this problem.” But I want to write about emotionally mature couples who can do that. I want my heroes to be worthy of their heroines’ hearts, and vice versa.

Tell me about your hero in “Soldier On.” How does he exemplify the qualities you want in a romantic hero?

SydneyBrandon is an ROTC student and computer engineering major. He grew up with a major general father who had very high expectations for his only son. It was expected that Brandon would follow in his father’s footsteps and join the military, and Brandon was more than willing to do that. He didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life, and ROTC would pay for college, so it would satisfy his father and allow him to major in computers, which is what he enjoyed. His dad now has Alzheimer’s, so Brandon is even more determined to make his dad proud and graduate as an officer, which he’ll do at the end of the semester. Then he meets Stephanie, who lost her dad in Desert Storm and despises anything related to the military. He finds himself falling in love with a girl who may not be able to love him back, so he finds himself doubting his decision for the first time.

Brandon is smart, funny, and devoted to his family, which is the kind of guy I married so I guess he’s what exemplifies a romantic hero to me. He also loves The Princess Bride which makes him pretty perfect in Stephanie’s eyes.

Lissa: It goes without saying that loving The Princess Bride is an absolute REQUIREMENT in a perfect man!

My hero in The End of All Things is an ex-soldier. One of my reviewers criticized the fact that he was so warm emotionally and said he should have been more gruff and distant with the heroine. How have you bucked the “stereotypes” of a soldier in your novel?

SydneyWhile it’s obvious Brandon is a soldier, I don’t spend a lot of time focused on military life until after he graduates from college. I’ve written the story in a way that shows he’s a college guy who just happens to be in ROTC. It’s not his first love. It’s an obligation and a duty, and it’s one he takes seriously, but after growing up with a military dad, he realizes there has to be a balance. I will probably get criticized for not making him meaner and tougher, but oh well. I can take it. :)

Lissa: One of the things I like about your heroes is that they have a strong moral code, but they’re also very tolerant and kind. Did you intentionally set out to stress these qualities in your work?

SydneyIt wasn’t intentional. I think that’s just the type of guy I’m attracted to, so it’s something that comes out naturally in my writing. It’s very in my comfort zone.

Lissa: A just-for-fun question: You’re forced into getting a job at the zoo. What animal do you want to take care of, and why?

SydneyWell, I hate snakes and big birds tend to scare me, so maybe baby monkeys? They’d probably be cuddly, at least.

Lissa: I think I’d choose the penguins. Mostly harmless and so adorably roly-poly.

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Sydney Logan is an Amazon bestselling author who may or may not have an unhealthy obsession with music (seriously, she loves everything from Eminem to Johnny Cash). She also has an amazing husband and a ridiculously spoiled cat, both of whom join her in soaking up the stunning views from their East Tennessee front porch.

Find her on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and TWCS Publishing House.

Visit her online at www.sydneylogan.com.

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