Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit. Awards she’s won include an Eppie Award for fantasy; three other Eppie finals; Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
What is a Hero?
By Karen McCullough
There are lots of ways to define “hero.” The TheFreeDictionary.com website offers these as its first two entries:
- In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
- A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life:
When we talk about “heroes” as authors, we’re often using their fourth definition:
- The principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation.
Be extension the term “heroine” is also the principal female character in a novel, etc.
Personally I find the second definition much more interesting than the first, the legendary “Hero,” and prefer to combine numbers two and number four in my principal characters.
The first type are basically heroes because they were born that way. They may have struggles and problems, but they’re not like the rest of us. They were born with certain advantages that most of us don’t have. I prefer the second type because they have to work at being a hero. They have to struggle, make hard decisions, take risks, and sometimes even lose everything as a result.
I like number two also because it uses the gender neutral term “person” rather than “man.” I’ve known plenty of female heroes, or heroine if you prefer, and I like to write them into my books too.
My novel A Question of Fire features a main character who is definitely a heroine in her own somewhat offbeat way.
When murder makes an abrupt entrance into her life, she refuses to be intimidated by the danger she finds herself in. The murder victim laid a burden on her with his last words, one she never wanted, and one that she knows will be risky to pursue.
But with his dying breath, the man gave her part of the key to saving another person. His younger brother has been framed for murder, but the victim knew his brother was innocent and had the evidence to prove it. When he tries but fails to tell her where to find it, Catherine Bennett realizes she can’t let his efforts be in vain, so despite the risks to herself, she pursues finding the victim’s evidence.
It’s not a mission she wanted and not one she would seek out for herself. But when she realizes that no one else truly believes that evidence exists, she takes it on herself to complete the victim’s mission to save her brother. And it proves a tremendous challenge that will demand all her intelligence, persistence, ingenuity, and courage.
When Cathy Bennett agrees to attend an important party as a favor for her boss, she knows she won’t enjoy it. But she doesn’t expect to end up holding a dying man in her arms and becoming the recipient of his last message. Bobby Stark has evidence that will prove his younger brother has been framed for arson and murder. He wants that evidence to get to his brother’s lawyer, and he tries to tell Cathy where he’s hidden it. But he dies before he can give her more than a cryptic piece of the location.
The man who killed Bobby saw him talking to her and assumes she knows where the evidence is hidden. He wants it back and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it, including following her and trying to kidnap her.
Cathy enlists the aid of attorney Peter Lowell and Danny Stark, Bobby’s prickly, difficult younger brother, as well as a handsome private detective to help her find the evidence before the killers do.