Having my academic background in animal behavior gives me a very clear impression on what the alpha male means. The smartest, toughest wolf, the biggest silverback gorilla, or the ram with the biggest horns. When it comes to people though, the definition can vary. Are we talking about the captain of the football team? The class president? The corporate raider or the military officer?
I’ve written several books with traditional “alpha heroes,” but even more with heroes who for one reason or other aren’t. Alpha implies a very social hierarchy. So by definition, the wounded loner isn’t an alpha. I also write a lot of geek heroes, who rely more on brains than brawn. And if you’re setting up a series with a group of men, say a SEAL team or a family of brothers, then by definition only one can be the alpha. But the others…oh, yeah, they can be heroes too.
When we talk about alpha, I think we’re really just talking about ideals. Men with strength and honor and brains and courage. Men who, as Anny said, can wield a frying pan or a hairbrush as well as a gun or sword or baseball bat if necessary. Men who are protective and willing to lay down their lives for their woman, but would rather live for her and with her. He might be a little bossy, but he’s always there for her and willing to subordinate his needs for hers.
Are the heroes in our books realistic? Sometimes. There's a little fantasy mixed in, but there's a lot of truth to a good character too. There are a lot of good men out in the world who may not always have those eight-pack abs, but still have what it takes to make a woman smile. They bring home paychecks, cook meals, and some of them even bring home roses when they know their wife had a crappy day. (Thank you, love!) And yes, they’re still flawed. Goes with being human. And sometimes those flaws are what make us love them all the more.