A Huge welcome to Moriah Densley, who is stopping by to talk about her hero, Wilhelm, in her Victorian Romance Song for Sophia. I had the privilege of reading Song for Sophia, and I promise, those of you who like the historical story-telling style of Diana Gabaldon (Outlander Series), will love Moriah’s books. A caution for my normally sweet readers, this book does contain some adult content.
Following My Hero Down the Rabbit Hole
When I created Wilhelm Montegue, I bit off more than I could chew. An autistic savant with a photographic memory and a talent for mathematics and music, he was exploited by the army during the Crimean War as a spy and assassin before being captured and tortured by the Russians. He has PTSD on top of the autism ― he’s a mess. It wouldn’t be difficult to have him committed to an asylum, and he has enemies.
Silly pantser me, I was having a ball with my unusual hero until I hit a wall, because A) I know squat about math, and, B) I was only portraying the upside of savant syndrome – the cool genius stuff, like composing brilliant music. Fortunately for me, music is my day job, but that’s where Easy Street ended.
When I say hit a wall, I mean everyone who read the first draft hated it. I took the hint. Shedding a tear or two, I hit “delete,” stared in denial at the blinking cursor and white expanse of blank screen… then didn’t write. Not for months. My hero was so way smarter than me. Composers, literature, and linguistics I can fake, but calculus? No dice.
I had to learn about the Quadratic Table of Residues – sounds like a kitchen sanitation issue to me – well enough to convince readers these brainy thoughts flowed naturally from the character.
Savant syndrome and synesthesia have always interested me. How can a person be off-the-charts genius yet struggle with a simple limitation? Think Rain Man. Laura Kinsale, Jennifer Ashley, and Lisa Kleypas, to name a few, wrote beautiful stories featuring heroes with some sort of mental disorder. I couldn’t get enough of this kind of tortured hero.
I was inspired by Kim Peek, an autistic megasavant known as “The Real Rain Man.” He memorized nine encyclopedia volumes at age four. A capable reader finishes two pages in about three minutes. Kim Peek read the same text in eight seconds, his left eye reading the right page while his right eye read the right page, and he recalled 98% of the text. However, the simplicity of choosing clothes to wear was beyond his comprehension, and he couldn’t fasten buttons.
Over and over I heard similar stories from savants — astounding genius paired with seemingly random disabilities. Prodigy musicians, chess champions, architects – who couldn’t tell you how to fry an egg, who don’t comprehend sarcasm. I took the most brilliant qualities and the most frustrating limitations I found in real cases, added a dazzling pair of pectorals, and the new Wilhelm emerged.
Not only is his freedom at stake, but he so badly wants to win over Sophia, and doesn’t know how. His genius brain can’t comprehend social complexities such as diplomacy. It was a bit painful as an author to make a character so earnest yet so flawed. Nothing about relationships comes easily to him, and he feels failure very keenly. While he is aware of the opposing forces in his brain, he can’t control them.
I liked him. Irreverent, moody, yet fiercely loyal and passionate. Did the new Wilhelm pass muster? For months I collected nasty rejection letters, then imagine my surprise to get a call from the Julia London, saying my historical romance was a 2012 RWA Golden Heart finalist! Then it won OKRWA’s 2012 National Reader’s Choice Award. That book is now published as SONG FOR SOPHIA, and the next in the Rougemont Series will be released Dec. 1, 2013 from esKape Press.
I’m very eager to see what readers think of the characters.
~~What makes an unconventional character work or not work? Do you have a square-peg-in-a-round-hole story too? Join the discussion!~~
He appeared thoughtful, doodling mathematics in the margin of his newspaper. Then she noticed the numerals and their odd arrangement in his formulae. When she quit trying to understand the equation and took in the whole, Sophia gasped as she saw outlined figures—two of them, male and female—engaged in the very act that had transpired last night in his bedchamber.
“Wil, what is that?”
He hummed. “Just the product of a bit of inspiration. If I can solve this equation, I may have discovered the solution to a divergence of the harmonic series paradox. Architects everywhere will petition my sainthood.”
Sophia muttered, “Yes, darling. Submit that to the Oxford department of mathematics.” The addition of a horizontal figure eight—the infinity sign–and the number 1 made it even worse when combined with a zero.
He shot her his rakish pirate smirk. “Simple calculus. The equation is completely viable.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Lovely, how she inspired him to expound on his talent. Put that in a history book: Anne-Sophronia Montegue: muse for mathematical erotica.
To win a man’s heart, a woman must have the mind of a diplomat, a general, and Cleopatra, all in one.
Desperation has led Anne-Sophia Duncombe to a life of exile. Still, she is always just one mistake away from capture and a marriage she would rather die than endure. As a last resort to remain hidden from her former life, Sophia attempts a radical scheme; a life of humility and disguise.
Rumor has it Wilhelm Montegue, the Earl of Devon, is insane. A tormented war hero haunted by scandal, he is only tolerated because of his brilliant mind and swarthy good looks. His unmentionable “condition” which keeps him confined to his country home is also the source of his talent for composing music.
When a new housemaid is hired at Rougemont, Lord Devon is perplexed to find himself fascinated by her. He knows the exquisite beauty is keeping secrets but her siren’s voice draws him ever closer, and he can’t resist the intoxicating scent of danger surrounding her.
2012 RWA Golden Heart® Finalist
2012 OKRWA National Reader’s Choice Award Winner, Historical Romance
2012 OKRWA National Reader’s Choice Award Finalist, Best First Book
“5-Crown” Review, RomCon®
Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children. Published in historical and paranormal romance, Moriah has a Master’s degree in music, is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart finalist, 2012 National Reader’s Choice Award winner in historical romance and ’12 NRCA “Best First Book” finalist.
I love connecting with readers on my blog: http://moriahdensley.com, where I post news, free chapters, and snarky articles about publishing and life as a writer, including a series called “Weird Stuff Kids Say.”
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