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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Trouble with Angels

Please welcome guest blogger Claire Delacroix

We’ve all seen beautiful images of angels. They’re lovely, with white feathered wings. They’re innately good. Angels often are sweet, or helpful, or just dispense goodwill to all. The trouble with angels as characters is that they have no innate flaws or weaknesses. As a result, they have no character arc over the course of the story – if they know everything, what’s left for them to learn? If they’re already perfect and good, how can they change for the better? Although they are endearing characters, and many readers are fond of them, traditionally, they have appeared as secondary characters in romantic fiction. They have often been portrayed as cute little cherubs, maybe with a little bit of mischief in them. They have been helpmates and matchmakers, often appearing in romantic comedies.

But in recent years, with the heat of the paranormal market, authors have gone over to the dark side. Fallen angels are, by their very situation, much more interesting. They have surrendered perfection, for whatever reason, and chosen the pleasures of the flesh. They can have all sorts of flaws and weaknesses – although a weakness for sensation is a common choice – and they certainly have lots to learn. Or maybe they just have to remember what they knew before they fell. Fallen angels can be characterized anywhere on the spectrum from misunderstood to downright wicked.

This makes them terrific heroes in romantic fiction. When I started my Republic trilogy, I knew that the heroes would be fallen angels. I knew that they would volunteer to surrender their wings, in order to help humanity and try to stave off the Apocalypse. I had no idea just how much fun I would have with these characters.

The choice to sacrifice an exalted state to help others is fundamentally heroic. It’s a noble choice, selfless and typical of an angel. The problem is that in so doing, these angels become men. They become mortal and indistinguishable from humans. They lose their ability to telepathically communicate with other angels and even their connection to the divine. They become like us, creatures of sensation, who maybe lose track of their higher purpose in the heat of the moment. They are susceptible to temptation.

I had a lot of fun distinguishing the reactions of my three fallen angel heroes. Montgomery, the hero of FALLEN, simply wants to finish his assignment and return home. He’s not that interested in physical sensation and its exploration, and remains aloof from human society. That all changes when he meets Lilia, a woman who messes with assumptions and turns his mind in unexpected directions. She not only challenges him but irritates the heck out of him. (The feeling is mutual, just in case you’re wondering.) Lilia awakens Montgomery to a whole ‘nuther facet of existence.

In contrast to Montgomery, Rafe in GUARDIAN, was in his element in the physical realm. He’s my charming rake. He wanted to sample every sensation possible, master them all, then do it all again. Since he couldn’t remember his angelic mission, he simply pursued pleasure and didn’t care about the consequences. That all changed when he reluctantly decided to pursue his mission and met Delilah, a woman who shook his world. Just as Rafe is cavalier, Delilah is earnest and serious. She doesn’t even know how to play – she’s bent on doing whatever is necessary to fulfil her destiny. In order to win her, Rafe has to play by her rules and help her to succeed. Again, this angel is exposed to another world, one that urges him to change.

Finally, there is Armand, the fallen angel hero in REBEL. He’s the angry one of the three. In fact, Armand is livid. He’s sure that he and his buddy (the fallen angel Baruch, with whom he volunteered) have been tricked. Tricked by angels! How can it be their divine mission to assassinate someone? Now they’re trapped between heaven and hell –fulfilling their mission which will only condemn them forever. If they don’t fulfill the mission, though, they’ll be stuck on earth and mortal for the duration. And earth is the last place Armand wants to be. He misses being an angel. He’s not too enchanted with humans and what we’ve done with the world. When his partner is injured and he has to fulfill their mission himself, Armand turns to Theodora, a woman who seems to know how to navigate this sphere. With or without her willing help, Armand is determined to do whatever is necessary to save his friend. Of course, Theodora isn’t who she seems to be, and Armand is perceptive enough to catch intriguing glimmers of her truth. I enjoyed how these two understood each other and learned to work together.

What happens when fallen angels in my world complete their missions. Well, they have the chance to regain their wings and return to the sphere they know best. It’s not much of a spoiler (these are romances, after all) to tell you that these heroes decide to stay, that being “fallen” works for them just fine once each has won the heart of the woman he loves.

Shouldn’t angels be happy ever after, too?

Do you read or write about angels? Do you prefer fallen angels or those who are still living in the celestial realm? Wings or not? Tell me what you think about angels, fallen angels, and heroes who are less than angelic.

Claire Delacroix sold her first romance novel, a medieval romance called THE ROMANCE FO THE ROSE, in 1992. Since then, she has written over forty romance novels and novellas - contemporary romances, mainstream romances, historical romances, paranormal and fantasy romances - published under the names Claire Delacroix, Claire Cross and Deborah Cooke, and won numerous awards. Her first book to land on the New York Times list of Bestselling Books was THE BEAUTY, part of her bestselling Bride Quest series. In October and November 2009, she was the writer in residence for the Toronto Public Library, the first time that the library has hosted a residency focused on the romance genre.

She maintains two websites (http://www.delacroix.net and http://www.deborahcooke.com) and posts regularly to her blog, Alive & Knitting, at http://www.delacroix.net/blog Her current release is REBEL, book #3 in the Prometheus Project trilogy. This is a finite trilogy set in a post-nuclear pre-Apocalyptic future featuring fallen angel heroes. Visit her website for excerpts from all three books.)


Having sacrificed his wings in a bid save humanity, fallen angel Armand has a bold plan to assassinate Presidential candidate Maximilian Blackstone. When things go awry and his partner Baruch is gravely injured, Armand fears that he will fail in his task and forever lose the chance to rejoin the angels in Heaven.

Theodora is a wraith, a woman who officially doesn't exist. She lives in the shadows, taking risks to earn the bounty placed on dangerous assassinations - bounty that buys the chance at a new life for those she loves. Captured when her latest hit goes horribly wrong, Theodora finds herself the prisoner of a strong,
arrogant stranger.

Soon enough, these two solitary souls find their missions-and their hearts-entwined. But in their desperate attempt to save the world, will they be able to save each other?


Amanda said...

I find both sides of the story facinating. The angels and the fallen angels. After all an angel can at any point become a fallen angel, but what would it take to redeem a fallen angel.

I read FALLEN and loved your take on the angel realm. I can't wait to read the rest.

The Reading Frenzy said...

CLaire/Deb, I love your angels in the series, I love the fact they've fallen for a higher purpose and I love how they fall in love. Can't wait to read Rebel
Great article, thanks

Sharon Hamilton said...

I loved Fallen and try to read every book I can find on angels, since that's what I write as well. Just like in vampire stories, with this new type of character, there is such a wide variety of types, and I find them fascinating, not only to write, but see what creative things the writer can do with it. I also like the possibility that the "angelic" ones are bait to the beasties, and sometimes need saving, even with all their special powers. I'm going to enjoy reading the rest of your series.

Nightingale said...

I write about angels--the fallen kind, too. One of my manuscripts is about the Grigori while another is about the devil himself. Enjoyed the post and can't wait to read your books.

Unknown said...

I don't do angel romances for one reason - angels are scary! I grew up with "Old Testament" angels, and if you understand where I'm coming from, that means the angels are the furthest thing from these beings with halos playing harps on white fluffy clouds.

No thank you! I'm more scared of angels in some ways than the thoughts of vampires or werewolves.

Lina Gardiner said...

I am your biggest fan. I rave about your books on every loop, because they're THAT good. I like the dark grittiness of them. Love the world you've built, and the way you've rewoven the stories of fallen angels from the bible into what they'd be like in the future. Fabulous idea, and you've done a really amazing job with your characters! I hope this isn't just a trilogy. Please tell me it's a series that will continue. :)