It's Rhett Butler's fault I'm a romance writer today.
Gone With the Wind was re-released in brilliantly restored Technicolor the year I was in seventh grade. My friends and I saw it in the theater four times. I have never paid to see any other movie four times, but it was worth every penny. It stirred my post-pubescent self in ways I'd never experienced or even imagined.
Could there possibly be a more romantically impressionable age than twelve? Hormones are awakening but haven't yet built up a full head of steam. The concept of the opposite sex has growing appeal, but most boys in school seem sadly lacking. Your mind is open to grand gestures, deep emotions, and great passions. What a time to be introduced to Rhett Butler.
I'll never forget the sight of Clark Gable at the foot of the stairs at the barbecue at Tara. Those eyes, that smile, those deep, masculine dimples. I was smitten. I rushed out and bought a poster for the wall of my room. Other girls had teenybopper singers on their walls; I had a man old enough to be my grandfather. But he was a MAN, not a boy. Even at twelve, I knew the difference.
I had read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and even seen Olivier's interpretation of Heathcliff, all brooding eyes and tousled curls. But Clark Gable as Rhett Butler set a new standard of romantic hero. He was strong, yet gentle. A man of action who loved children. Patient, but gloriously impatient when he'd waited long enough. Even though I was aware of the mechanics of sex, I didn't fully understand the scene where he hauled Scarlett up the stairs (nor her kittenish glow the following morning) when I was twelve, but I understood the emotion. And I wanted it. What woman doesn't?
So, it's all his fault I write romance. I'm still searching for my own version of Rhett Butler. Every time I sit down to write a new hero, he's is somewhere in the back of my mind. I don't want to create a carbon copy, but all my heroes have a bit of Rhett Butler in them. Don't yours?