What makes a hero in a book? How does he come alive to the reader? When I was a girl and first saw Matthew Kane in my imagination, I recognized him as a worthy hero for a story. Matt would, of course, not agree. He saw himself as someone who only did what was needed. Time and again though, he reached deep and did what heroes do.
Fictionally, from all the way back then, until I refined the draft that became Round the Bend, he stayed true to who he was. Although I am no fonder of the word hero, than Matthew would be, there are qualities to the men who become heroes in novels. Some would call that the ultimate man-- or the sacred masculine. I liked the following words I came across several months back in Facebook from the The Goddess Circle:
"The Sacred Masculine is not a look, an age, a body or a type. It is the ability to be present of body and heart, to be open in spirit and feeling, free in soul and mind. It is kindness merging with strength, passion blending with purpose, sexuality joining with expression, emotion meeting truth and imagination combining with intelligence. He does not hide from what his heart speaks; he listens with open ear embracing his intuition, knowing that as warrior his instincts are sharp. He does not run from conflict, knowing that resolution is the traits of Kings. He will not wall off his heart from the Divine Feminine, feeling that within the flow of her love is eternity.
"The Divine Masculine does not play games for he holds all others as equal to himself. He is open and honest in speaking his truth for he knows to hide his voice is to veil his purpose. He has no shame for the love in his heart for he knows to feel is sacred. He owns his mistakes and his past, but is not a prisoner to it's chains.
"The Sacred Masculine is a force of nature and as a part of nature, has a reverence for the natural world and all the creatures in it. His power is purposeful but not harmful, and wields a double edged sword of strength and compassion in equal measure. His love is a sacred space for himself to grow alone and with a companion in a place of trust, respect and soul connection . He would never lessen another to make himself more. He is a man that acknowledges his desires, his dreams and his deep emotions. He needs no lineage to be crowned King." ~Ara
Matt Kane is such a man. He came from a background that could have made him into a monster. Sometimes families do that to their offspring. He rose above it.
I have known men like him, who had every chance to become dishonorable but rose above it. One of them stands out in mind as a good example. He was the husband of a friend of mine. He shared my last name as he was a relative but distant one. When we moved to the farm, I knew that the family was out here, but we didn't really grow close. Well, I did to his wife. When he got cancer, she and I were together quite a bit as I tried to help in what small ways I could.
I remember her telling me once about a full moon when he told her that the two of them should go for a walk. They lived on a mountain where it was wilderness all around, and the walk he suggested was up a gravel road. She described it to me; and her moment became a special one to me, even though I only shared it in words.
This man was a loving father and a devoted husband. He had been to Vietnam and maybe it was there that he got the seed of what would kill him-- a particularly virulent leukemia. He fought to live but sometimes even heroes can be defeated.
The reason I thought of his story now is his upbringing had not been good. Not as bad as my hero in Round the Bend, but not the kind of thing that you'd expect to teach a man how to be someone everyone admired and who knew how to love fully. His childhood wouldn't explain the kind of man, who when he was dying of cancer, would ask his beautiful wife to go for a walk in the moonlight.
It's because of real men like him that I know people can overcome horrendous beginnings. It's what my hero had to do in the book coming out March 21, 2015. Matt saw himself a simple man who worked hard. He didn't do it to make people like him. He did it because he instinctively knew it was the right thing to do. He could have become like his brother or father, but instead he became a man all would come to admire. He was the kind of man they say-- he's one to ride the river with. Nothing had come easy for him, but with every difficulty he faced, he stood up to it and fought for what was right.
Finding a picture for Matt was nigh unto impossible. I wanted one for the cover of the book but blond, strong, young men are in short supply in model images. Many of them might be strong men, but they look like models. I can't count how many faces I looked at and even bought. Nothing was right; and then one day, I saw the face. It was the one I had seen all those years before. It really was after I had bought that image that I finally decided to bring out the Oregon historicals.