Write what you know, we authors are often told. This oft-cited advice may not be useful for some genres, of course. How many of us have met a vampire? Or a billionaire, for that matter? Even so, our real world lives will necessarily have a significant influence on our stories. We write about places we’ve been, jobs we’ve done, situations we’ve observed. It’s not just that this is easier (though that may sometimes be true). Our writing is likely to be more authentic and realistic when it’s based on what we’ve actually experienced.
My long bio says “Lisabet has more degrees than anyone would ever need, from prestigious educational institutions who would no doubt be deeply embarrassed by her chosen genre.” I have spent many years in universities and research institutions. Hence, it might not be surprising that some of my characters tend to be better educated than average. The heroines of my first three novels all have masters degrees. Miranda, in my second novel Incognito, is working on her doctorate, and her lover Mark is doing post-PhD research at her university when they meet. In fact, the plot of Incognito revolves at least partially around the content of Miranda’s thesis—an academic study of Victorian erotic fiction.
In my novel The Gazillionaire andthe Virgin, Rachel is a physicist turned businesswoman. Theo is a junior professor of computer science. The story more or less requires that both main characters have PhDs. There’s even a bit of technical stuff in the book, though I’ve tried to keep it simple.
I worry a bit that some readers might not identify with characters that have such lofty academic credentials. Really, Rachel and Theo are just like anyone else. They have desires, fears, and needs. They get up and go to work in the morning. They brush their teeth. They make love. Yes, they are both pretty brainy, but their intelligence reveals itself in fairly subtle ways. They’re not Mr. Spock or Doctor Who.
When I start having these doubts (and all of us authors do have these crises, when they’re sure nobody will like their books!), I remind myself that romance is, at some level fantasy. The market makes it clear that readers have no trouble imagining themselves in a relationship with a billionaire. Hopefully the same will be true for a hero with a lot of education.
Here’s a bit from the book to whet your appetite.
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She’s not what I expected. She’s soft and full, not lean and angular like most Californians. None of the gym-toned muscles everyone sports here in the land of sunshine. And she’s young, much younger than someone so filthy rich has any right to be. Her designer watch must have cost more than two months of my professor’s salary. On the other hand, I can hardly complain about her wealth, can I, since my pet project is the beneficiary of her largesse?
Hunkering down in the leather-upholstered back seat of her disgustingly opulent vehicle, I try to calm myself. I’m sweating like a pig, and my muscles are in knots. I gulp down orange juice from the bar I’d ridiculed and focus on my breathing the way Dr. Hopkins has taught me. I force myself not to count the telephone poles whizzing by. I know that will only make it worse.
When I pat my pocket, I can’t help grinning a bit. Two hundred fifty thousand! We can equip a new mobile development lab and hire two trainers for a year. Or take our outreach into junior high schools. Or even expand to some of the Rust Belt cities where the recession has hit particularly hard...
No, this wouldn’t be enough for that. But Dr. Zelinsky—Rachel—had indicated there might be more.
Rachel. Bringing up the search engine on my phone, I type in her name. I should have done this before the meeting, of course, but I was much too nervous. Up until the moment her limousine pulled up in front of my building, I still thought I might back out.
The screen fills with images and links. There’s even a Wikipedia article. I flip through the text, digesting the basics. Born in Brooklyn. An MBA from Harvard and a PhD—in physics!—from MIT. Looking Glass is her third company. She sold the first to IBM and the second to Microsoft.
A real high roller. And MirrorWorld is a huge hit—the main article on the virtual environment runs pages and pages. Since the Looking Glass IPO almost two years ago, the company stock has increased in value by an unbelievable 224%.
She can afford a quarter of a million for charity. For her, that’s petty change.
By the time we arrive back at my complex, I’m pretty much back to normal. At least what counts as normal for me. I nod at the uniformed driver who opens the door for me, trying to pretend I do this every day. The Vietnamese gardener is spreading new mulch on the flower beds in front of my building. Averting my eyes and ignoring his greeting—after all, I can barely understand his English— I hustle up the wooden steps to my second floor condo.
It’s quiet and cool inside. The soft hiss of the air conditioning soothes me. I flip on the stereo, something by Brahms, turn the volume down low, then stretch out on my bed, fully clothed.
I made it.
The money is mine, free and clear. I’ll ask my sister to deposit it tomorrow. I don’t need to see Rachel Zelinsky again.
I can’t stop thinking about her, though. I recall one of the pictures from the web article, a black and white photo of a skinny teenager with a mop of curls, standing in front of some science fair project. She didn’t have those curves yet. No, but I recognize the expression, that determined set of her mouth and those laser-sharp eyes under the dark eyebrows. She was going to win—there was no question.
Something about her makes my stomach do somersaults and my mind turn to oatmeal. I can’t concentrate. All the blood rushes to my cock....
Oh, it’s like that.
Of course it’s like that. Who wouldn’t want her? She’s clever and articulate, self-confident and successful, a “modern visionary” according to the Internet. Not to mention as lush and ripe as some forties film star. No wonder I’m granite hard inside my boxers.