Anne McAllister back again. I don't imagine that I'm alone in having had a crush on a guy or two while I was growing up. I fell in love with a cowboy when I was five and followed him everywhere. I think it was a case of imprinting, like a duck, since I seem to have written my share of cowboy heroes over the years. And there have been other "crushes" that have found their way into my writing brain, too. One of them turned out to be so much fun that I wanted to share it with you.
I'm dating myself here (as all women who have been married long enough to have four grown kids will do), but when I was in junior high, there was a television program on called Laramie. Of course, given my predilection for cowboys, I watched it. But it took about two minutes to stop watching it for generic cowboys and start watching it for Jess Harper -- the brooding, rough-and-tumble loner who never quite saw things in black and white (even though the TV was). He was an honorable guy -- but that didn't mean always being on the right side of the law. Sometimes honor took him the other way. I loved the character. And I loved the guy who played him -- Robert Fuller.
About 15 years ago when I was at a writers' conference I was listening to historical western romance author Jessica Douglass talk about why she wrote western heroes (she said, "Put a man on a horse and I'll follow him anywhere," as I recall). And then she talked about Little Joe Cartwright (played by Michael Landon) and how she had fantasies about how Little Joe was her brother and they had wonderful adventures. And then, she said, "But then I saw Jess Harper and he was definitely not my brother!" And I knew exactly what she meant. I was a little concerned though that Jess seemed to be two-timing me with her!
After the conference, Jessica and I recalled our mutual passion for Jess -- and I wrote a book called A COWBOY FOR CHRISTMAS (ghastly cover. But I still love the book and the character who inspired it!) which had a hero named Jess and, even though it was a contemporary, paid homage to the character I had loved.
Jessica (notice the name? Wonder how she thought of that. Hmmmm) and I decided to put together a talk called "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" which we gave at RWA National a few months later. In working on it, we thought it might be fun to ask Robert Fuller what his views were. So we wrote him a letter. And forgot about it.
One snowy day a month or so later, the phone rang while I was trying to get hold of my husband to pick up our son at the dentist. It was nearly 5 in the evening and the only people who call then are vacuum cleaner salesmen. So when this man asked to speak to me, I thought, oh hell, a vacuum cleaner salesman, and said, "Yes, but I'm on the other line. Please hold," and I went back to trying to get my husband. Finally got him. Got another call from son at dentist. Went back to the vacuum cleaner guy. Said, "I'll be right back. Got to tell my son when my husband will be there." Told son. Went back to vacuum cleaner guy and said, "Yes. What can I do for you?" knowing full well I was not going to buy a vacuum cleaner. And he said, "This is Robert Fuller."
Of course it was. Because I'd put him on hold twice ! (That'll teach me!). Anyway, we had a very interesting conversation about Jess -- whom he thinks is the best character he's ever had the privilege of playing. And he and I and Jessica had a two hour conference conversation a couple of weeks later (He'd called her, too, and she was even more blithering than I was by the end of it). And we got a great workshop out of it. And I also got lunch.
A few months later when I was in California, he took me to lunch at a very nice place (whose name I forget) near the Warner Bros. lot and I discovered I had terrific taste as a thirteen year old.
Because he is a genuinely nice guy, he also helped me with the background for Sloan Gallagher, the hero of my GREAT MONTANA COWBOY AUCTION and put me in touch with the stunt coordinator who was my background guy for COWBOYS DON'T QUIT. All in all, a great return on a junior high school crush, wouldn't you say? (And I'm not even mentioning the kiss)
If I were having crushes now, instead of simply evaluating the "hero potential" of certain males of the species, I'd be keeping an eye on Hugh Jackman. Actually I have been keeping an eye on Hugh since my friend and fellow writer, Lucy Gordon, told me about him when he was starring as Curly in the British stage production of OKLAHOMA. And while he's had lots of memorable roles since, if you never got to see him in the Aussie film PAPERBACK HERO, where he plays a closet romance writer, well, you haven't lived!
Kate Walker and I had a running Hugh-in-a-towel thing going when we spoke at the NZ and RWAustralia conferences two years ago. I'm wondering if we should expand that hero workshop Jessica and I were working on to include Hugh. I suspect I'd recognize the Aussie accent and wouldn't mistake him for a vacuum cleaner salesman if he called!
So, there, now you know the details of the fantasy love of my youth. What about yours? Who did you have a crush on? Did you ever meet that person? What happened if you did? And did you ever write a book based on it????!!!!
Besides the three Code of the West books which are among the prizes today, if you want to enter a drawing for a copy of THE GREAT MONTANA COWBOY AUCTION , come by my blog and leave a comment saying so or email me at anne.mcallister(at)gmail.com. I'll pick a winner August 1st!
And because I haven't yet mentioned my most recent book, THE ANTONIDES MARRIAGE DEAL (which in a very roundabout way connects to THE GREAT MONTANA COWBOY AUCTION because it's all one big alternative universe that Anne McAllister characters live in) I'll give away a copy of that today. Lucy can pick the winner from among those who respond to this blog. Think Hugh when you're reading it. I did!
Thanks, Lucy -- and everyone else -- who has made this the best conference ever!