I recently had the pleasure of reading Margaret Locke's paranormal romance, "A Man of Character" and wanted to learn more about the book and the woman behind it. I spoke with Margaret and asked her the questions that I was dying to know after reading this charming romance. I fell in love with her Catherine and Eliza and hoped to gain more insight into how this gem came to be.
Book Title: A Man of Character (Matters of Love)
Book Genre: Light Paranormal Romantic Comedy
Book Audience: Adult 18+ (2 sex scenes, 1 detailed scene "sweet heat")
Book Description: What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you'd created long ago?
Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.
A startling revelation - that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago - forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.
Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect - who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which - or whom - she wants more.
Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we'll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.
What made you decide to become an Author and write a book series?
I’d pledged to write romances in my teen years—partly in defiance of the flak I received over my reading genre of choice, and partly because I just love stories about love. It took me a very, very long time, however, not to mention a career change or two, to do it.
After a stint as a doctoral student in medieval history, in which I did everything but write the dissertation, I then took on being a stay-at-home-mom. Both of those periods in my life were intense; both I loved.
As the kids have gotten older, though, it was time to figure out what I really wanted to do when I grew up—and it came right back to what I’d declared I’d do as a kid: write romance.
I wanted to see if I could emulate the authors I admired, craft those oh-so-alluring heroes, those flawed-but-loveable heroines, that sizzling sexual chemistry, those witty, seductive verbal exchanges. I’m not claiming to have succeeded on the level of, say, Julia Quinn, but I’m having so much fun trying.
As for writing a series? That’s because I fell in love with so many series written by authors like Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, and the like. It’s fun to follow characters from one story to another, to see minor figures go to major heroes and heroines, to get glimpses into the lives of earlier couples long after they’ve found their own Happily Ever Afters. It just seemed the thing to do.
Plus, well, that’s what “they” say readers want. Hook ‘em if you can and they’ll keep coming back, because they know what they’re getting and are likewise invested in the characters already. (Is that true? It is for me.)
What inspired you to write a story about fictional characters coming to life? Which fictional characters would you like to interact with?
The short answer is, it’s the first idea I thought of. The longer answer is, I was mulling over what to write after finally fessing up to husband this was what I wanted to do. But if I was going to do it, I needed an idea!
While I always assumed I’d write historical romance, it being my first and forever love, the idea that popped into my head involved not dukes and débutantes, but wondering what a woman would do if she figured out the guys pursuing her were characters she’d made up. I just couldn’t let go of it.
As for part two of the question, I want to hang out with Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam D’Arcy (would I like them in real life?), chill with Harry and Hermione (Ron can go drink butterbeer elsewhere; he never was my favorite), and have tea with too many romance heroes and heroines to name (though I don’t like tea, and they’d think I was weird). And, well, if I got the chance to hang out with the two very real actors who played the two fictional characters of King Arthur and Merlin (Bradley James and Colin Morgan) on the BBC show Merlin, I wouldn’t turn that down. No, sirree.
The main character Catherine has three different types of men that come into her life: the popular guy, the passionate lover, and loyal and devoted caring boyfriend. What made you choose these particular types of men for Cat to interact with? Were there other types of men that you considered sending in her direction?
I tried to think which kind of man would have been desirable to most women at those specific life stages—and yes, I intentionally sought out stereotypes.
In our teens, don’t we all dream of dating the most popular guy in high school, who often happened to be the star football player?
In college, at least among a lot of the people I knew, flings were the thing, and it was fun figuring out what kind of guy might make the coeds sigh (also, I, er, have a thing for intelligent men.)
And the Prince Charming idea, the fantasy of the rich, hot guy falling for the slightly-less-than-stellar woman, is ubiquitous in our culture. I happen to dig that (hello? It’s why I read romance!).
Regardless of how we feel about said fantasy, it’s one with which I think most women are familiar, culturally speaking. Pretty Woman, anyone?
As for other possibilities—if I thought them up at one point, I’ve since forgotten. These three guys came so quickly and easily to mind, I didn’t need others.
There are elements of magic or fantasy in the book that Catherine has a hard time believing in and accepting. Why did you decide to create this genre of book instead of a Contemporary Romance where Catherine finds these men by chance? What made you decided to write a book with elements of fantasy?
The premise itself, of characters coming to life, necessitated, of course, some form of magic, of suspension of disbelief.
I suppose it could have worked that she ran into each type of man and summarily dismissed them without anything supernatural being involved, if that is what you are suggesting—but that’s not how the story wrote itself in my head!
And I particularly like that Cat must analyze her own ideal fantasies, these men crafted just for her. It’s a tantalizing idea, that you could create your Perfect Man. But it also begs the question of whether what (and whom) you think is perfect for you, really is.
Catherine’s best friend Eliza seems to have the most amazing journey of anyone in the book. I won’t spoil the surprise, but was it a difficult decision to craft Eliza’s storyline knowing that it might surprise readers?
Eliza’s storyline wrote itself! I kid you not. Eliza popped up when I decided Cat needed something else going on besides just weird guys coming out of the woodwork at her. She needed a friend, a bestie, her opposite in many ways, but someone who’d help Cat figure out what she needed. Sure, I made her a Jane Austen fan on purpose, because I love Austen and the Regency period, but I was undecided as to where Eliza’s story was going for quite a while – and didn’t expect it to take over as much as it did. I love it, though.
Looking ahead to the next book, “A Matter of Time - Eliza and Deveric’s story,” what should your fans expect to see since you will most likely need to change genres slightly? Was this book planned when you started writing A Man of Character, or did it develop as you wrote about Eliza?
Wow, you ask great questions. And this probably does get minorly spoiler-y, but I’ll answer it anyway.
Was A Matter of Time planned? Yes and no. Yes, in that I’ve always intended to write Regency romance. I’d even decided to center them on a family with the family name of Mattersley, so that most of my book’s titles could have the word “Matter” in them, to immediately bring the family to mind and as a kind of cool little (geeky) trick. (In fact, it was five years ago, before I even began writing A Man of Character, that I sat around with my sister-in-law one night, giggling over potential romance titles. I hit upon the Matter thing and ran with it, and now have at least twenty to thirty potential titles utilizing that single word!)
But no, A Matter of Time wasn’t planned, in that I didn’t expect those Regencies to tie themselves to my first book, originally. In fact, I knew I was in trouble when my first book turned out to be a contemporary romantic comedy. How was I going to get from there to the nineteenth century in England? Would readers come with me?
Mulling over that question definitely influenced some of the events and outcome in A Man of Character, and in fact is why I said Eliza’s storyline rather wrote itself—I knew where I needed her to end up.
I’m hoping readers of my first book will take a chance my future books, but I know I run the risk of that not working.
A Matter of Time definitely is a more traditional romance, in plot and story structure. My third book, The Demon Duke, is also a Regency romance in the vein (I hope) of my Quadrumvirate—those Regency authors I simple adore: Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, Sarah MacLean, and Julia Quinn (and there are many more, of course). Book number four, A Matter of Scandal, returns us to twenty-first century Charlottesville. We will see Cat again, and some other familiar characters, though each novel stands on its own.
Still, whether I write more chick-lit-esque romance in the vein of A Man of Character remains to be seen; my guess is, if the readers want it, it will come.
Author Biography: As a teen, Margaret Locke pledged to write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things, not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader. Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fab kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person). Please visit her at margaretlocke.com.
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