Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bad Dad!

by Anna Campbell

Recently I read a wonderful Molly O'Keefe book called THE SCANDAL AND CARTER O'NEILL, the last in her 'Notorious O'Neill' trilogy (by the way, Molly is an amazing writer and if you haven't read her, rush and grab one of her fantastic stories).

In the author bio section, she has a really cute disclaimer:

Despite how it may appear in her books, Molly O'Keefe has a wonderful mother. She has no experience with bad mothers and cannot explain why many of the mothers in her books are so awful. Molly never intended for her own mother to get those dirty looks at the grocery store.

This made me giggle because I realized I should make a similar disclaimer in the front of my books, but not about mothers. About FATHERS!

My father was a wonderful man, brave, principled, smart. And not at all like the fathers who feature in Anna Campbell stories.

I was thinking about the dads in my books and ouch, they're a rotten lot!

Your Honor, I present exhibit 1, the late Duke of Kylemore in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. Drug addicted, alcoholic, cruel, psychotic, and a slave to his base passions. Nup, he's not likely to win father of the year any time soon. Mind you, his wife's not too great either but I'm talking about dads here. Verity's dad isn't nearly as mean but then he dies and leaves her completely defenseless so even he demonstrates a few shortcomings!

Exhibit 2 : in UNTOUCHED, Matthew's dad does the dying thing but otherwise is pretty OK, but the uncle left in loco parentis is another psycho killer type. Sheesh! And while Grace's dad eventually sees the error of his ways, he's pretty cold and ruthless with her when she's younger.

Exhibit 3: in TEMPT THE DEVIL, the bad dad is actually the HERO! Ose Noes!

Erith returns to London at the start of the book to make up for his numerous sins against his children and of course then he puts their future in jeopardy when he falls in love with a courtesan. Ose Noes with sugar on top!

Exhibit 4 (yeah, there's going to be six, so sue me! Oh, no I've already got a court case on my hands with the dad thing. Maybe DON'T sue me!): in CAPTIVE OF SIN, there's a bad stepfather and a bad dad. Charis's mother marries after her admittedly very nice first husband kicks the bucket and husband number two is a shocker. A drunkard and a lech and a wastrel. And then poor Gideon, who already has enough to cope with after his torture in India, had a father who thought his younger, intellectual son was a complete waste of space and set out to fix that problem with violence. Bad dad indeed!

Exhibit 5: two of the dads in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER aren't actually that bad or at least they have decent reasons for their behavior. But there's Lord Burnley - he definitely qualifies to live in infamy in this villains gallery of bad dads. I think an amoeba would be a better father than this guy!

Exhibit 6: MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION has TWO bad dads, both of whom are far more interested in their own agendas than in their children's welfare. Oh, and one more equivocally bad dad in Godfrey Demarest who is indulgent to his daughter but a bit of a rotter otherwise.

So I'd like it on record here and now:

Dad, I apologize wholeheartedly for all these wicked fathers, uncles and stepfathers who abound in my books. None of them were inspired by you, although I certainly was when I set out to follow my dreams and become a writer.

Actually I think bad dads are a staple of fiction not because as writers, we have suffered through so many bad dads, but because awful parents put our heroes and heroines against it. Fairytales use the same motif for the same reason.

Someone with a rotten parent (or even two, like Kylemore) gains reader sympathy immediately. It's a bit like making our heroes and heroines orphans. I've read blog posts and other pieces asking why so many orphans abound in romance fiction. Again, it puts the reader onside from the get-go.

And just for something different, the book I'm current writing features a very heroic dad for my lead guy and an OK dad for my heroine. Sheesh! What is the world coming to?

So do you have any favorite bad dads in your romance reading?

And if you'd like to explore the Anna Campbell school of bad dads, I'm going to give away a book today to someone who comments. Your choice from the backlist (just click on the title in the blog if you want to checkwhich book you'd prefer) mailed with a fatherly smile and an avuncular bookmark.

(Just a proviso - I'm at the Romance Writers of Australia conference right now so may be a bit slow getting back to comment but I promise I will, cross my heart and hope to die!)

83 comments:

gamistress66 said...

please don't die Anna! just have lots of fun at your convention :) I'm glad to hear (as I'm sure your folks are) that you don't use your own parents as templates for your the parents in your books -- but that is some wicked mind you got going on there :)

wonder what the GR's dad was like, hmm, if he's coming here might have to ask. sure hope he isn't a dad as I suspect he'd make at least some of your examples seem right good ;)

barb said...

well done Gamistress....I think he needs a bit of exercise to run of the tim tams he ate

I can't think of a bad father at the moment Anna.... I think the cold has froze my brain LOL I have those 3 Molly O'Keefe books on my TBR pile...will have to move them up

Have a great time at RWA and we will think of you while we are in Bowral..... a few of the romance readers from Canberra and Sydney are there for the weekend. Might be cold there but apperently the hotel has a lovely fire in the lounge ... what more do we need while we discuss romance

flchen1 said...

Oh dear! Gamistress, let us know if GR coughs up any details of his upbringing (I initially mistyped that as unbrining, which isn't quite right at all!) ;)

Hope you're having a lovely time, Anna! I do think that many book heroes/heroines have difficult upbringings/parents to reveal the strength of their own characters...

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

CONGRATS Gamistress! I'm quite sure the GR has not procreated or we would all surely know. ACK! What a thought!

Barb, have a WONDERFUL time sitting in the hotel lounge in front of the fire discussing romance novels. DARN! Wish I could join you!

Fo, I'm terribly jealous of your jaunt too. Give Mme and VA BIG HUGS from all of us here in the Lair.

I seem to write a lot of "absent" parents for my h/h. In Wild Sight, both have dead mothers, and heroine has never known her father. In Treasures of Venice, hero's an orphan, heroine never knew her father and had 'bad' mother. In Wild Irish Sea, hero is an orphan, and heroine's parents were both rather 'bad.' SHEESH! Not a well-adjusted childhood in the lot! :-P

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Fedora,
I think you've hit on something... difficult parents/childhoods bring out our h/h's strengths. Obviously been too well-adjusted makes for boring reading. LOL!

AC

Na said...

A great story to me is when I can connect and relate to the characters without having necessarily experienced what they have. It just feels that way. I have wonderful parents and yet I can still relate or connect with characters who have a bad parent(s). They feel real to me and I genuinely care about them. Don't we all just love great stories that can take us places we have never been or feel things we don't normally feel in real life? :)

Some bad dad stories I have read include:

The You I Never Knew by Susan Wiggs (The heroine and her father were estranged for many years before they reunited).

and

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Sheree said...

Lord Dalrymple in Courtney Milan's UNVEILED - I kept rooting for the heroine Margaret (the put upon and put down daughter) to smother the man. Seriously, not only did he commit bigamy so that his children are all illegitimate, and then was dying and had Margaret to be his nurse, but he was STILL telling her she was worthless because she was a female. Gah!

Jane said...

Congrats, Gamistress.

Hi Anna,
Bad dads/parents do seem to pop up often in romances. Good to know your dad wasn't an inspiration for all the wicked fathers you've created.

Daz said...

My dad is a typical uber conservative Chinese dad and when I say conservative, I'm talking Tang dynasty conservative!!! It makes for a very challenging relationship. We love each other to bits, but we can't stand to be in each other's presence for longer than 10 minutes without then coming to a disagreement of some sort where my mother has to referee. We've learned to tip toe around each other over the years as we have both aged. :-) But no, he's not a bad dad.

And oh yeah, take your time responding. We'd rather you didn't die.

Jo's Daughter said...

Can't remember any really bad father heroes that I loved...

I started reading Black Ties and Lullabies by Jane Graves & Jeremy the hero is a relentless womaniser who doesn't appear to be made out of father material. But of course nothing is as it seems at first glance.

Haven't finished the book yet, mind you. So don't know percisely how he will be with the kids but... already know he's one of my fav "bad-boy" dad's.

Helen said...

Well done gamistress66 have fun with him

Anna

I guess Kylemore's father was pretty bad (and his Mum too) I can't think of any others at the moment but I do soo love your stories and I love the disclaimer. My Dad was a real gentleman as well and we got on famously.


Have a great time in Melbourne I so wish I was there this time and give Anna a hug for me, but I will be in Bowral for the weekend with a lovely group of romance readers whoo Hoo. And Aunty Cindy I so wish you could be there with us we are going to have a great time together

I have the Molly O'Keefe stories on my e reader as well need to move them up.

Have Fun
Helen

jorobertson said...

Very enjoyable post, Anna! I hadn't realized you use so many bad dads LOL. They do make great foils, don't they?

I think what readers like is the irony of evil fathers or stepfathers (or mothers!), the contrast between what should be and what is.

Fathers are supposed to be the bedrock of families, the bastion of fairness and security. When they're the opposite, it makes for great reading!

jorobertson said...

Oh, and worst dad ever??? For me it's Roarke's father and Eve's father in JD Robb's In Death series. Seriously. Evil. Evil. Men.

jorobertson said...

Contrats on getting the golden rooster, gamistress66! I was first commenter with the Dishers today and wanted a golden dish!

MsHellion said...

I'm such a daddy's girl, I don't like bad dads. *LOL* I don't mind cruel mothers though. *LOL*

What about in Julie Garwood's The Secret, where you find out that the heroine's father is the enemy of the husband she has married. And that the father doesn't even know about her. The father seems like a bad daddy-o, but by the end, he turns out to be a rather crusty marshmallow. Very much a sucker for his daughter.

Donna MacMeans said...

Great Rooster nabbing Gamistress! (I've heard the GR's dad was a good egg - grin)

Anna - You've got me thinking back over my book's dads...one ran off without marrying the mother, one died defending the mother (who also died), one - the biological dad - couldn't admit to being one, while the "in name only" dad was vile enough to brand his son. Let's see - another orphaned hero,... Yes! One's heroine dad was a good guy (but the mother was wicked). Guess you can never win. (grin).

You're right - it's a way to earn reader's empathy from the getgo. Romance isn't the only one using that ploy, but as we're the genre that shines a spotlight on two characters instead of just one - I guess the bad parenting shows up in double as well.

Fun post - love the photos!

Antonia said...

I'm a daddy's girl, but I don't mind reading about bad dads. After all, they are fictional characters.

I remember the dad from Maya Rodale's "The Heir and the Spare." He was a piece of work. And I liked the fact that he actually played an important part in the story.

Julia Smith said...

Great post today, Anna - I suspect many women writers have, or had, dads who believed they could do anything, and supported them in their dreams.

But a solid fictional dad - unless he's the foil to a really rotten or at least frustrating mother figure - isn't such a prize in the keeping-reader-attention department.

I suppose one of the more annoying yet typical-for-the-period fictional fathers is Juliet's father in Romeo and Juliet. And although Wuthering Heights can hardly be called romance, Heathcliffe the younger is one of my favorite Gothic characters, until he turns into Heathcliffe the older, and one of the most vengeful fictional fathers around. Yikes.

BTW - also really enjoyed your art work choices for the post.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Wow, that is a lot of bad dads. Eek! I think you're right though about having a bad parent in a book being another part of the struggle for the hero and/or heroine. It provides good motivation and conflict and shapes the person into who they are as an adult.

catslady said...

Maybe she wrote the opposite of her upbringing. In fiction it would be more interesting, not so much in real life!

Beth Andrews said...

Anna, you've mentioned one of my favorite writers! I love Molly's books and she's such a delightful, warm person :-) I'm sure her mother is lovely as well *g*

I recently re-read Dance Of The Gods by Nora Roberts and Blair, the vampire hunter, had a Bad Dad.

I hope you're having a grand time at the conference!

Nancy said...

Gamistress, congrats on the rooster!

The GR's dad? One shudders to think . . .

Nancy said...

Barb, I'm not pulling up any bad dads, either. I know I've read some, just can't think of them.

A fire on a cold night sounds great in this summer humidity.

Nancy said...

Fedora, I like the idea of difficult parents forcing the h/h to be strong.

Nancy said...

Gamistress and AC, let's not even think about the GR procreating. The mind boggles!

Nancy said...

Na, I also like stories that are outside my own experience, especially if the characters are going through torturous things. That's one of the joys of reading for me. I can experience a battle in outer space without any risk to my precious hide! *g*

Nancy said...

Sheree, Lord Dalrymple sounds horrible! I hope he died before The End.

Nancy said...

Hi, Jane--

Romances are full of dastardly characters, aren't they? I love seeing them get their comeuppances.

Nancy said...

Hi, Daz. My parents and I disagreed on many fronts, too.

And yes, we would all prefer Anna not die. :-)

Nancy said...

Jo's Daughter, the bad boy with a soft spot sounds like a very appealing dad.

ClaudiaGC said...

Great post! I hate evil dads in my romance books. I don't mind the evil mom or step-mom. I can't really say why but to read about really awful dads makes me cringe every time.

Nancy said...

Helen, wasn't Kylemore's mom just truly dreadful? I was so glad when he stood up to her?

Nancy said...

Jo, how could I forget Patrick Roarke? What a ghastly man! And how very far that acorn fell from the tree.

Nancy said...

Hi, Ms. Hellion--I like the sound of the crusty marshmallow.

Nancy said...

Antonia, I agree that the character's meanness has to play some important role. Otherwise it's gratiutous.

Nancy said...

Julia, your comment reminded of Dwight Swain's maxim that conflict drives fiction. Nice characters don't generate much conflict.

Nancy said...

Catslady, awful things are much more interesting to me in fiction. In real life, they're just something I'd rather avoid.

Nancy said...

Beth, I enjoyed that series. There was a good dad in there, too, wasn't there?

Nancy said...

Claudia, evil parents bother me in general. I think they're the flip side, for me, of bad things happening to little kids.

chey said...

I know I've read books, with bad parents but I can't remember any names or titles right now.

Louisa Cornell said...

Do let us know anything you find out about the Golden One's Papa!

I hadn't really thought about it, La Campbell, but you DO have some rotters as dads in your books!

I have one of the worst dads imaginable in my second manuscript.

For bad dads you can't beat Dain's father in Lord of Scoundrels. I HATED that man and he was dead when the book started!

Have a fabulous time at the conference and take lots of pics!!

Nancy said...

Chey, I have trouble remembering, too!

Nancy said...

Hi, Louisa--I don't remember the GR's dad showing up at the family reunion.

Anna's really good at tormenting her characters in MANY ways, isn't she?

gamistress66 said...

The GR has been strangly quiet today. but after returning to my computer this evening I found some strange internet searchs & a bird trying to look look all strangely innocent (which he does not do well at all) -- chicks gone wild, maury dna tests, and secret chick romance troupes. needless to say my computer was locked up tight when I stepped away again. ;)

LilMissMolly said...

One word: Heathcliff.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Ha! My mom finally asked me if she scarred me growing up and I explained to her that one of the worst things I can think of for someone is to have a really really bad mom because mine was so great! But it does make you wonder why we harp on certain things - and it does make you look at your work (and honestly, you have done some bad dads!!)

Anna Campbell said...

OK, better late than never! Thank you so much to everyone who kept the blog bubbling away while I couldn't get here. Email access was just hopeless while I was away. On the good side, the conference was marvellous!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Gamistress, I hope the Rooster behaved himself - which is a bit like expecting the sky to turn pink, I know. Both my parents were very nice people - I'm not quite sure where the fiendish creations who populate my books come from!

Anna Campbell said...

Barb, I saw some of the ARRA girls were getting together in the Southern Highlands. Sounds like a really fun weekend! Conference was huge fun although you never get to have a proper talk to everyone you want to catch up with at those things.

Anna Campbell said...

Fedora, I actually think you're right. It's a device to create compelling fiction. But I suddenly thought how often I use the rotten parents theme!

Anna Campbell said...

Cindy, I suspect, like me, you did all those absent or awful parents instinctively. I think the bad parents thing automatically makes us cheer our heroes and heroines on to the happy ever after.

I had a lovely time seeing VA and Madame. VA is coming to stay this weekend (along with lovely Terri Garey). Can't wait!

Anna Campbell said...

Na, Susan Wiggs was the keynote speaker at my conference. It's the first time I've met her - absolutely delightful lady and she did some lovely presentations.

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Sheree, that's a bad father worthy of an Anna Campbell book! I haven't read that (I really loved Courtney's first book Proof by Seduction and her novella This Wicked Gift is wonderful).

Anna Campbell said...

Jane, I'm EXTREMELY pleased my dad wasn't the inspiration for the horrible fathers in my books! Writing about it is one thing, living through it is a completely other thing!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, man, had to giggle. I wondered why you were all mentioning me dying - and then I re-read my last paragraph! Snort! I like a bit of drama! Jen, I had to giggle at the Tang dynasty comment. Snort!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Jo's D, I love it when the bad boy discovers his inner nurturer and becomes a wonderful dad. That sounds like a great book!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I think you'll really enjoy the Molly O'Keefes. She's been a real discovery for me this year. She's coming to the NZ conference next week but didn't make ours - which made me gnash my teeth. I hope you had a wonderful time in Bowral. Such a pretty part of the world!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, that's a really perceptive thought - you're so right and it really makes sense now I think about it. It's that twist of what's SUPPOSED to happen. Brilliant!!!!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Helly, love the idea of a crusty marshmallow dad. I think we love to see the fathers redeemed too as much as we love to see heroes and heroines redeemed.

Anna Campbell said...

Donna, I had SUCH fun looking for the pics for this one. I probably could have used the book covers but the stern Victorian fathers made such great illustrations. Interesting take on the dads in yours. I think you're so right about the building empathy bit.

Anna Campbell said...

Antonia, I haven't read that book of Maya's. Looks like I have to. I was a bit of a daddy's girl too so it struck me as rather ironic that I seem to specialise in such AWFUL fathers! Although I have to say Diana's dad in Reckless is rather nice. At least he loves her!

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Jo, didn't see your bit about Roarke's dad in the J.D. Robbs. I've only read the first one of those and he doesn't appear. Sounds like I need to explore the series further.

Anna Campbell said...

Julia, so glad you enjoyed the pics! As I said to Donna, finding them was such a treat. I had a good giggle at all the banished, sinning, wicked daughters and the stern fathers laying down the law. That's an interesting comment about female writers having supportive fathers - mine really was proud of the fact that I was a bit odd and wrote and did all the other odd things I did. I think it was majorly influential in finding the guts to pursue this career. I was very lucky in my father. Unlike my poor heroes and heroines!

Anna Campbell said...

Trish, you're right - the whole awful parenting thing is SUCH a formative experience for our protagonists. It makes them strong enough to handle the horrors true love then throws at them. Well, at least in my books. Nobody gets an easy ride in an Anna Campbell!

Anna Campbell said...

Catslady, I 100% agree with you about the bad dad thing being easier to take in fiction than in real life!

Anna Campbell said...

Beth, such fun to see Anna and Christina and catch up on all their news. Wish you'd been there! Aren't Molly's books fab?

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, you're such a wonderful friend! Thank you so much for answering everyone in my absence. Big sloppy kisses to you - not from me, from Richard Armitage!

Anna Campbell said...

Claudia, that's interesting. Actually I think evil dads are so common, a lot of people take them as given. Evil mothers seem to give more people the heeby-jeebies!

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I think Kylemore's mother was one of the most evil people I've ever written. A complete narcissist.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, I don't actually think happy characters drive fiction either - and an unhappy childhood is a great way to really make someone miserable!

Anna Campbell said...

Chey, I think they're so common, sometimes they fade into the woodwork ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Louisa, what a fabulous choice. You're right - Dain's dad was just the pits! And didn't that make for some interesting character development?

Anna Campbell said...

Snort, Gamistress! I REALLY think you need to change your password now or you'll get charged from Pay Pal for all those Hot Egg Lovin' sites that he likes to visit!

Anna Campbell said...

Molly, Heathcliff had the odds really stacked against him, didn't he? But you're right - he's not a very good father!!!!

May said...

Hmm... you are right. I never realize that basically all the dads in your stories aren't that great. :( The sexy heros and heroines are too distracting for me to notice. :)

Favorite bad father? The only one that I can kind of think of is Belle's father. He's not bad per se.... Just that he caused his daugther to live with a beast... BUT let's not forget that she chosed to go to the beast on her own and everything turned out well in the end anyways. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Molly, how wonderful to see you here! As you can probably gather, I've been doing the fan girl squee again. Hope you have a wonderful time in NZ - come to the Oz one next time, I'd love to meet you.

Oh, you have no idea how I laughed when I read your preface to that book. And your poor mother. My dear father passed away in 2001 so he doesn't need to cringe at the thought that people might think he's like the 'ORRIBLE fathers in my books.

Anna Campbell said...

May, I think Belle's dad gets into the bad dad club because he was weak rather than actively evil. That's the case with the father of the heroine I'm currently writing. It's her brother-in-law who's actively evil. Mind you, he's a dad too so he can join that club!

Katie said...

I agree that a rough if not downright cruel caretaker has the reader jumping into the story to root for the main players. Right now I am reading books from boxes (no really, BOXES) of rummage sale scores and my current book is Devil's Desire by Laurie McBain who features a cruel and evil step-aunt....(A little different from actual parent but gives us a plot that features revenge put upon a niece simply for being that.)

I'm glad this is still open to sign up for as I had a busy time last week too!!

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Katie, going seriously old school there! I remember loving Laurie McBain. Have you read her book about the lady highwayman? That definitely made my teenage heart beat faster!

Janet said...

My memory can be really bad at times and most of the time once I have read a book I forget about the characters who had minor parts. Not that the parts were not necessary. I can say in the book I just finished the Step-Dad was the horrible person in the book. The dad had just been killed and he forced the mom to marry him and he was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive to the point of attempted murder of both mother and daughter. So he would be my "bad dad" at the moment.

Anna Campbell said...

Wow, Janet, I think that guy definitely sounds like he belongs in the bad dad club! In fact, I think he could probably run for president! Thanks for swinging by!

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, guys! I've really enjoyed your comments!

Eli Yanti said...

my dad has pass away when i was 5 years old so not much memory about him, but i know he always love us ^^

i just read everything and the moon by julia quinn, i think bad dad is when they do not accept their own child's deception to choice their spouse