Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Fictional crushes... by Cecilia Busby

I have a confession to make. I bought tickets six weeks in advance for The Force Awakens (for those of you who spent 2015 under a stone, that's the new Star Wars film) - and it wasn't because my kids were begging me to. It was because I couldn't wait to see it myself.

The main reason for this is that I was exactly the right age to be bowled over by the first two Star Wars films, and I was exactly the right age to develop a huge crush on Harrison Ford. I saw The Empire Strikes Back twice at the cinema (unheard of in my bookish, not very well-off family, where cinema visits were few and far between), and then refreshed my memories for months afterwards with the book of the film. My crush on Harrison Ford is a bit of a family joke now - but my excitement at heading to the cinema for the latest instalment in the Han Solo/Leia/Luke saga reminded me of just how strong those feelings can be.

Of course, crushes on fictional characters is a big part of growing up. My youngest is just coming up to the prime age for it - early teens - and I have a sneaking suspicion that her desire to see Spectre has less to do with the high speed chases and twisting plot and more to do with Daniel Craig's cheekbones... But crushes on fictional characters is something you can experience at any age - and although the classic crush is on a film star or pop singer, I think my strongest crushes have always been on book characters, because they are entirely my own. Even though other people may read the same book, and love the same character, they won't have exactly the same person in their head, because with books, you do some of the imaginative work yourself.

I still find that the books that grab me most are those where I have fallen just a little bit in love with one of the characters. Recently, my strongest fictional crush has been Thomas Cromwell, from Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. I'm in good company on that one - Caitlin Moran asked others on twitter if they also fancied T. Cromwell, and was inundated with responses agreeing that he was, indeed, the thinking woman's crush de jour.

But the best and strongest crushes will always be those from the books I read as a teenager. So step forward, Beau Geste, who took the rap for a crime he didn't commit to save the girl he loved, and ran away to join the Foreign Legion. Take a bow, Ged, from Ursula le Guin's Earthsea series - who moved from being an impatient, proud and impetuous boy with enormous magical power to a wiser and sadder man, but still a great wizard, and took my heart with him on his journeys. Wave your sword, Faramir, from Lord of the Rings, the gentle, bookish second son who had to deal with his father's rage and anger that he was not Boromir, and who found solace eventually with the shield-maiden Eowyn (aka myself). Duck down behind the hedge, Stalky, on your way to some adventure outside the school grounds, running rings round the stuffy boarding-school masters.
(I discovered recently that another children's author had had a crush on one of the characters from Stalky and Co, but to her credit, it was with the poetry-writing, bespectacled Beetle rather than the adventurous leader of the gang - I'm afraid my crushes were much more conventional, as you can tell!)

But I didn't just fall for handsome boys - and in fact, if the main character was a classic 'handsome boy' I tended to avoid the book like the plague - I've never been a fan of romance as a genre. I liked my crushes to be witty, unusual, interesting, maybe a bit tortured but definitely with more to do in the story than just fall in love. And they didn't have to be human - one of my earliest crushes was probably Bagheera, the panther, from The Jungle Book. (I was recently rather taken with his alter-ego, Silas, in Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.)

Now that I'm a writer, even though I concentrate on middle grade rather than YA, I find I can't help falling a little bit in love with some of my characters. I have to keep the crush well under wraps, but there are a few give-aways, and I like to think that some, at least, of my readers will share my crushes.
There's the partying, carefree Sir Gawaine, in the last of my Spell Series, who is very subtly an object of interest for would-be knight Olivia (previously a little bit in love with King Arthur). There's the bard, Caradoc, who has a little bit of magic and is surprisingly skilful with a blade (and you'll have to read Cauldron Spells to find out who he turns out to be). And in my Amber series, I have to confess to just a bit of a crush on the Druid - ex-Forest Agent, witty, sarcastic, strongly magical and with a distinctly shady past, as well as the bearer of a broken heart.

In my most recent work-in-progress, I've re-activated a longstanding crush on the Norse God Loki (I think I was always attracted to his combination of mischief and humour, as well as his tragic end, but Diana Wynne Jone's Eight Days of Luke sealed the deal when I was about 11).

(And talking of Diana Wynne Jones, she is responsible for quite a few of my teen and early adult crushes, including probably the biggest crush of them all - on Mitt, from the Dalemark Quartet).

My own version of Loki is, like many others, quick-witted, sarcastic, vain and powerfully magical. He's ready to fight when necessary but aims to run away whenever possible - doesn't suffer fools gladly, but won't stand for injustice either - and ultimately he's always willing to laugh at himself. He's probably my ideal fictional crush.

So there you are - my embarrassing crushes revealed. What are yours?

Cecilia Busby writes humorous fantasy adventures for ages 7-12 as C.J. Busby. Her latest book, The Amber Crown, was published in March by Templar.


"Great fun - made me chortle!" (Diana Wynne Jones on Frogspell)

"A rift-hoping romp with great wit, charm and pace" (Frances Hardinge on Deep Amber)


Emma Barnes said...

Never got on with Dalemark, but the vain, tantrum throwing, purple-haired Wizard Howl, and the magnificently dressinggowned Chrestocmanci are another matter. (Though I suspect I'd heartily dislike Howl in real life.) But Thomas Cromwell? Nooooo...

Sue Bursztynski said...

Must agree with you about Faramir! I always thought I'd much rather date him than Aragorn. And for good reason, BTW. Faramir is the one with whom Tolkien identified. You can understand crushing on the author's own favourite character. I imagine Faramir as the kind who would remember your birthday and take you out to some cosy Gondorian restaurant where the staff knew his name - and you could quite happily spend dinner with both your noses in your academic books without offending. A grown woman's book boyfriend, though you seem to have discovered him at an age when other girls would be crushing on Aragorn or Legolas. ;-)

Han Solo, yes, definitely! No need to admit to a secret vice for buying your Star Wars tickets for your own enjoyment. And Harrison Ford is the one who went on to stardom; the others were by no means forgotten, but he is the one who went on to yet another classic role. I must admit, I am more into Indiana Jones than Han Solo. He is an intellectual as well as an adventurer. (And by the way, archaeologists like him are not quite as unlikely as you might think; I interviewed one for a children's book - no secret lost Arks, but plenty of adventures that made me nickname him Indiana Spriggs)

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Oh, yes, I was a girl for a fictional crush. Starting with Laurie. Barney the circus boy was the only Enid Blyton character I could have had a crush on, though I had no problem crushing on lots of the Chalet girls.

M Peyton was best at sparking my adolescent need -- often more than one in the same book. Then I moved on to Lord Peter. I still can never feel the same way about a fictional experience if it doesn't offer crush-fodder. Films too.

Sue Purkiss said...

Definitely Faramir. Not Thomas Cromwell - I just don't see that. Horatio, from Hamlet - I think I pictured him as the French assistant we had at the time, who had floppy dark hair, glasses and a long scarf, and seemed very clever in a slightly world-weary way. Mr Whisper, from the book of the same name, by Brenda Macrow, which nobody else has ever heard of but I loved. Oh, this is fun...

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ooh, yes, Horatio! I'd much rather him than Hamlet, though I do worry about the fact that he is perfectly willing to add himself to the pile of bodies at the end and only the dying Hamlet talks him out of it, maybe the one sensible thing he ever does.

Well, I'd like to add Aubrey Fitzwilliam from Michael,Pryor's Laws Of Magic series and his SFnal "brother" from Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga, Miles Vorkosigan. Both gentlemen are intelligent and lively(perhaps TOO lively) and like their women smart and brave.

C.J.Busby said...

Ooh - K.M. Peyton - of course! Totally forgotten that I had a massive crush on Patrick Pennington! And Laurie (from Little Women, I assume). Those were the days... Sad no one else gets T. Cromwell though... ;-)

C.J.Busby said...

And if we're going on to Shakespeare, Mercutio has my vote.

Tabatha said...

Fun post! I'm a Faramir girl myself. You all have given me lots of ideas for a TBR list. (I haven't read the book w/T. Cromwell yet. Will have to read it and get back to you...)