Ellie Darkins is a romance author who has been published by Mills and Boon, Crimson Romance and Harlequin Books. Her latest book, ‘Holiday with the Mystery Italian’, features a disabled business tycoon as the romantic lead.
In this blog, Ellie talks about where the idea of including a disabled person came from, where she did her research and what she hopes the book will achieve.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s my pleasure to bring a little romance to the Scope blog! I write romance-packed novels for Mills & Boon, and my latest hero, the gorgeous, glamorous, gold-medal-winning Mauro, also happens to use a wheelchair.
I didn’t set out to write a hero with a disability. The early ideas for this book all centred around the concept of a couple meeting on a dating show, and from there I started thinking about who might be tempted to give that sort of experience a go, and why.
I always envisioned my hero as someone who is up for any challenge and any adventure, and it was when I started digging into why he was like this, it became clear to me that he had had some sort of accident in the past that made him not want to miss out on anything in life. That’s when it occurred to me that he could still be living with the physical effects of that accident, as well as the emotional ones.
Doing something different
Once it became clear to me that my hero had a physical impairment, I had some big decisions to make. When I read some other romances with disabled characters, I found some beautiful, touching stories. But in most of them, the impairment was a key part of the character’s journey. I knew I wanted to do something different – to write a character whose disability isn’t part of the story. A good romance is packed with conflict, with plenty of barriers standing between the hero, the heroine and their “happy ever after” – but I saw no reason for Mauro’s wheelchair to be one of them.
They say “write what you know” and in this case, I’ve been able to draw from a real-life example of someone who lives with a disability without letting it define them. My brother has had chronic lung disease since birth, but (while I have no desire to know the details!) it has never been an issue in his dating life. What it does do, occasionally, is throw up practical issues, such as the time my family nearly missed a flight home from Italy while the airport security staff tried to decide whether they would allow his oxygen cylinder onto the flight. They decided they would, but took so long that everyone had to run to make it to the gate in time.
Making Mauro as real as possible
Researching the practicalities of Mauro’s disability was an important part of writing the book for me. While I didn’t want his wheelchair use to be a big part of the romance storyline, it was important to me to try and portray Mauro’s life in a way that reflected the experiences of his real-life counterparts. I was in the privileged position of being able to give Mauro a bank balance that helps overcome many challenges, but even his billionaire lifestyle can’t get rid of all obstacles or remove all ignorant people from his path.
I hope Mauro and Amber’s story has done justice to the everyday challenges of the many wheelchair users who have shared their stories on this blog and elsewhere, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.
With Scope’s own Twitter poll revealing that three out of four people would like to see more representations of disability in literature, I hope that you’ll welcome Mauro’s story, and be as open to falling in love with him as I was.
Scope have been looking into the lack of disability representation in literature during National Storytelling Week. We hope that many more publishers and authors, like Ellie, include better representation of disabled people in books.
On Saturday 11 February, we are also giving you the chance to win one of two copies of ‘Holiday with the Mystery Italian’, find out more on our Facebook page.