Victor is enigmatic, cantankerous, and often unpleasant. He’s also asexual, a fact which is the subject of significant discussion in Doves. Which almost makes me a little confused about why he’s such a favorite.
Except, of course, I get it. I’ve always loved the impresario too. And there is really no other word for Victor. He’s a businessman, a creative mastermind, and the guy who keeps all the animals in the circus dancing. It’s not a nice job, but it’s an essential one, and he’s good at getting his people to seek his approval despite their own wild natures and common sense.
Loving the impresario in our real lives is hard. It’s dangerous. It can get in the way of our own creative impulses and it can make us say yes when we should say no. It can make us small, over-eager and always hungry. It is, in short, just hard.
Because Starling is a book that lacks not only an alpha hero, but arguably any hero at all in its central romance between Alex and Paul, Victor in many ways steps into that narrative roles. He tells the main character he’s beautiful, he picks him up out of unideal circumstances, and he changes his life. And he does it again and again and again and again. He does it Alex. But he once did it to Liam. And to Paul. And to Natalie. And to dozens of other characters you haven’t met yet, and in some cases may never meet.
As such, Victor is also the voice that whispers in the reader’s ear. He’s the bad boy you’re supposed to crave in romances, just in a very different form than they usually appear.
Erin and I joke often how much I am like Victor. Sometimes I sit like him. Sometimes, I’ll drawl something in the same vicious tone we use for him in Starling. Sometimes, when Erin will check in on something she’s drafted with me, I’ll say completely adequate, by which we both know I mean “Thank god you did that, now put it to bed so we can move on to something fun.”
Victor is everything in myself I am amazed other people are ever willing to suffer. He is also, so a certain extent, a figure I’ve had to force myself to become. Starling wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t.
This picture of Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman by Annie Leibovitz is one of my favorite photos. It reflects to me the necessary blankness that comes with performance, the compliment that a corrective touch always was in my upbringing as a dancer, and the degree to which so many performers are in this game to hear, “good girl” or “good boy,” no matter how much we know better than to talk about it.
Victor isn’t really based on Baz at all. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Baz a couple of times and attending a masterclass with him, and trust me, their affects could not be more different. But the type of power people like Baz can have over rooms? That’s a thing for me. I like it, I’m interested in it, and I want it — whether focused on me or in my hands. I’ve learned to say this aloud because it helps me somewhat to defuse the power of it.
When Erin & I created Victor, my experiences with people like that — directors, producers, entrepreneurs, politicians, music instructors, martial arts masters — all went into the DNA of him. Along at my shame at how such people often make me want to be a marionette. But also along with how often such people inspire me to be a master of myself and pull the strings in my world to make it as I would wish. No one can be counted on to do it for me but me.
Victor and the marionette issue is central to Doves. If you love him now, you may not when you get to the end of that book (which will be out on January 21, 2015). But you also may love him more. And I suspect and hope that either way, you’ll still hear him whispering in your ear.
He whispers in mine. And some days that’s the only way I get anything done.
If you haven’t met Victor yet, you can buy Starling through any of the links below and at many other ebook and paperback retailers. Through October 31, 2014 you can use code BOO at Torquere to get 20% off.