Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Writing Wicked Heroes by Zara West


It's a wicked day and we love bad boys. Welcome Zara to Discover yourself...

Do you think all romance heroes have to be good guys? I don’t. I like it when a bad, bad boy turns out to have a heart of gold under all that gritty, tough armor. But as I have learned writing a “bad” hero is really hard to do.

In my just released romantic suspense, Close to the Skin, the billionaire hero, Vernon Newell, is a murdering criminal who runs a huge criminal operation. Not only that, but he kidnaps the woman he loves, and when her brother comes to rescue her, injures him and leaves him penniless.

Needless to say, based on my Amazon reviews, many readers instantly dislike Vernon and fully agree with the heroine that no matter how much she loves him, he is somebody to stay far away from. But that was exactly what I wanted my readers to think at the start of the book.

But this is not the expected way to write a romance novel. As a writer, my challenge was to come up with a way to save this man and make him worthy of the heroine’s love.

In order to do this, I decided that Vernon has to be put through the proverbial writer’s wringer until he has nothing left to give. So that is what I do. Among other things, Vernon’s family betrays him, innocent people are killed, he is tortured near to death. In the end has to give up everything.

But through it all one thing remains constant. His love for Bella. But what woman in her right mind wants a penniless ex-crook? Read Close to the Skin to find out.

Four tips on crafting wicked heroes

1. Give him at least one good characteristic.

2. For every bad thing he has done, make sure he pays retribution.

3. Match him up with a strong woman with the power to make him change.

4. Make sure that when he changes, the event is earthshattering for him, and the people who know him.

Let me know. Do you like romances in which the hero has to give up everything to win the woman he loves?

Never back down, never turn your back, and never fall in love. Head of a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise, Vernon Newell doesn’t let family ties or misplaced sympathy get in his way. But there is one chink in his armor—Sirena Patras, the beautiful young Greek girl he seduced and deserted eight years ago. 

When Vernon discovers that Bella Bell, a prospering tattoo artist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is actually Sirena, he sets out to woo and to win her. Despite her attraction to the fabulously sexy man, Bella wants nothing to do with a hard-headed, ruthless criminal.  

But when threatening messages start arriving, and Vernon disappears, Bella must choose to abandon the man she loves or risk her life to save him. 

The man was dead.

Her brother had killed him in front of her eyes.

Or had it all been a lie?

If anyone knew what was going on it would be Vernon. She moved back into the living room and peered out the window. The sky was still dark. The street light still burned. Dare she call him? He’d think she’d capitulated. Wanted him.

She dropped the curtain and straightened her shoulders. She wanted him all right. She wanted answers. She wanted to know why dead men were calling her and threatening notes appeared in her mail.

Hands shaking, she punched in Vernon’s cell number. It rang once. Twice. She imagined him holding her, kissing her. His low, rumbling voice whispering in her ear. No, she couldn’t talk to him. Not yet. She was still addicted to the man.

She tapped the phone off and curled back up on the sofa. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, she’d send him an e-mail—a nicely worded formal request.

At that moment, the phone in her hand rang. Vernon returning her call? She hesitated. Then flicked it on.

A low pitched voice spoke through heavy static. “Does Vernon know what you did?” A frisson of fear crept down her spine and burrowed deep into her core. She tossed the cell phone onto the floor and buried herself under the silk shawls, struggling to breathe.

Forget all the reasons why Vernon was the wrong man for her. She needed him. She needed him now.


Zara West loves all things dark, scary, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zara spends winters in New York where the streets hum with life, summers in Maritimes where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.  
Swept off her feet by her own Indiana Jones, Zara has followed sheep and goats up and down mountainsides in Greece, Crete, and Italy, been stranded on the banks of the Rhine with no money and one chocolate bar, and while she has never been kidnapped, she has been abandoned on an island in the middle of t wilderness for longer than she wants to remember. 
A member of RWA, Zara is a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and have received awards from Women on Writing, Stone Thread Publishing, Tryst Literary Magazine, and Winning Writers. Her novels have placed first in the Pages from the Heart and Romance Through the Ages contests, second in the Touch of Love contest, third in the Emma Merritt, 5th in the Fab5, and long-listed for the Mslexia Award.



  1. I do like heroes who must choose between having what they've always wanted--and having the woman they love. Of course, it always turns out well in the end--it's a romance, of course :)

  2. You are exactly right, No matter what happens to characters in a romance, you know there will be a happy ending. The challenge for the author is to make that changed bad boy believable.

  3. Oh yes, those bad boys have to suffer before they can be redeemed! And the same goes for bad girls. Your book sounds very interesting. Good luck!

  4. I do love the bad boy characters. However in my next book, it is the heroine who is the bad one. Best on your book!