This post is also running concurrently on the Desert Muses group blog here!
I love to do author panels and this one was so much fun because we talked about heroines and how we view them, write them, and what we like about them. I’m excited to present (and participate in) this panel discussion which includes a diverse group of authors who are flexing the boundaries of their genres to bring different woman characters to life. Thanks to fellow Muses Jenn Windrow, Shanyn Hosier, Anne A. Wilson, Leslie Jones, and special guest, Camelia Miron Skiba. And please chime in the discussion by leaving a comment!!
Describe your heroine including her name, what she does (profession or trade) and anything else interesting about her.
Jenn: Noel Chase is a spunky and sarcastic artist who thinks that life with her boyfriend Len is perfectly fine until Cupid’s crappy aim saddles her with Grayson Adler, a couldn’t-be-more-wrong-or-her match. Once that arrow strikes, Noel finds it impossible to ignore the attraction she feels for her Cupid-appointed soul mate. In the end, Noel has to endure Psyche’s four trials to find out who is waiting for her, Len the man she loves or Grayson the man she loathes.
Shanyn: Georgia Belle Brooks is a scientist (microbiologist) working for a state environmental agency. She dreamed about inventing ways to combat pollution in the lab, but ended up working in governmental oversight. She collects environmental samples and data from watersheds (sometimes personally) and tracks down companies who pollute them, testifying in court in lawsuits against them. She views herself as a crusader.
Leslie: Hadley “Lark” Larkspur is a black hat hacker turned FBI Cybersecurity Analyst. She is a restless quester of knowledge with ADHD, is easily bored, and curses like a sailor. Though she comes from old money, she broke free from her family’s conformist expectations and forged her own path in life.
Camelia: I’m writing a series of six novellas (3 finished, 2 in the process of being written, and the 6th only came to me about a week ago, so I haven’t developed it yet). Each novella follows a couple who eventually will find their happily ever after. Since it would take forever to describe each heroine, I’ll focus on Harper McKenna who is in some ways the leader of the pack. She’s an ambitious lawyer, whose heartbreak didn’t stop her from achieving her dreams, but rather pushed her toward success. She’s fearless and willing to take responsibility for her own mistakes and suffer their consequences no matter how harsh.
Anne: Lieutenant Sara Denning is a navy helicopter pilot who is one of two women serving aboard a ship with a crew of five hundred. Her goal is to blend in, but she shuts away her femininity to do that. She also flies over the ocean for a living, but is deathly afraid of the water due to a near-drowning experience when she was a teenager.
Mimi: In my Necromancer Books, Ruby is a necromancer and a college anthropology professor. She seeks to have a normal life, because necromancers tend to go down in flames from using their power, but certain events in the supernatural community, and certain men, convince her to join the fight.
What makes her strong and sexy?
Mimi: This is my favorite question because I like heroines whose strength comes not solely from physical prowess, but from emotional maturity, independence, and empathy. I’ve read too many heroines who are so emotionally stunted, (yet they are considered badass because they can shoot a gun) I feel like I’m reading about an immature teenager instead of a strong woman. I think, from the responses, our author panel feels the same!! (And Leslie, love the messy, purple hair!) Ruby has her issues, but she’s not afraid to express her opinion, her doubts, her needs, and her desires.
Leslie: Lark, this tiny pixie with messy purple hair, has an indomitable joie de vivre and the heart of a lion. She speaks her mind, will do anything for a friend (to include put herself in danger), and isn’t afraid to try new things.
Camelia: She doesn’t know how not to be strong.
Anne: She’s knowledgeable and competent, but I doubt she’d ever think of herself as sexy . . . which makes her exactly that. She eventually realizes that she can embrace every facet of womanhood and still do her job and be respected.
Jenn: Noel’s confidence and willingness to fight for the love she wants, to defy Cupid, pay the consequences, and follow her heart are what make her strong and sexy.
Shanyn: George learned pretty early in adolescence that she didn’t fit into anyone’s
pigeonhole of who she ought to be or proper/expected behavior. She’s smart, ambitious, and idealistic. She doesn’t care if you think she’s a nerd or a slut or a bitch. She also refuses to play along with the “mousy” stereotype for intelligent women. She learned the power of her own sexuality and how to use it. George is the type of gal to make the first move.
How do you think the writing of female characters has changed in your genre?
Camelia: I love heroines that are strong, sassy, independent women who fight to pick themselves up after life threw a few lemons at them. Today’s market tends to portrait heroines that are clumsy, damsels in distress needing a man to make them happy, sometimes controlling them and totally confusing real/true love with infatuation/obsession, etc.
Leslie: The days of a helpless female wringing her hands and waiting to be rescued are long over, thank goodness. Today’s female characters reflect our society – they are strong, know what they want out of life, and aren’t afraid to go get it.
Anne: Authors are writing female characters who are smart, independent, and aren’t afraid to take the lead. Love and relationships are important, but today’s female protagonist—especially in romantic suspense—isn’t waiting for the hero to sweep her off her feet. I love that female characters are written today so they garner the same respect as their male counterparts and are seen as equals.
Jenn: I’m starting to see a lot more tough girls in the Paranormal romance genre, Woman who take their future in their own hands and fight for love. Woman who are less likely to rely on a man to get them out of a tough situation. Gone are the girls that need the mysterious man to save them from some otherworldly disaster. Instead, the girls are fighting along side their man with their own swords raised.
Shanyn: I think (hope?) that women don’t need an excuse to be independent, ambitious, driven, sexual characters. There doesn’t have to be any inciting incident—no childhood trauma, for instance—to make a woman decide to rely only upon herself for success, or to be sexually aggressive.
Mimi: Don’t know what I can say to top what the other authors have opined. Writing female characters has changed for the better. Yeah!
What was the most important thing you wanted to bring out/show about your heroine?
Shanyn: Strength doesn’t mean you never cry, or never fail at something. Ambition doesn’t mean you never experience self-doubt, or second-guess yourself, or change your mind (or even goal). Being smart doesn’t mean you don’t make questionable decisions.
Mimi: I love this Shanyn. I think my heroines are sometimes blubber fests, but seriously, are we not allowed to cry? I’m going to use Sabine Tanner from my pirate historical Devil’s Island for this question, because I wanted to write an 18th Century virgin who was not “virginal”. And I’m seeing this more and more in historical romances. Female characters who, for whatever reason, are aware of and comfortable with their own sexuality. Sabine makes a choice to be intimate with the pirate captain, Boone Wilder. She’s not afraid of the intimacy, she desires it, and it’s okay for her character and for the story. Her back story gives some insight as to why she’s familiar with the sex act while still a virgin and once again, I think it shapes and fits her character.
Jenn: I wanted Noel to figure out her love life on her own. Torn between two men, one she believes is the best thing for her and one she is undeniable attracted to, Noel had to work through her emotions, dig deep, and listen to her heart. She has to heal her past scars to allow herself a happy future without fear. After everything, I wanted Noel’s choice to be her own.
Camelia: When I began the story, Harper was so driven by ambition, I didn’t think I’d be
able to tone her down, soften her a bit. Then she made a colossal mistake where I thought it’d be impossible for her to recover. Her ability to acknowledge her fault and the need to fix the disaster she created totally took me by surprise along with her willingness to lose it all rather than live a life of deceit. Deep down, she knew that she’d caused a lot of pain and, even though she couldn’t take it back, she assumed its responsibility, taking the brunt of it.
Anne: I wanted to show that Sara could be competent and strong, while still possessing relatable vulnerabilities. Female military members have fears, questions, and weaknesses just like anyone else. They’re not superwomen.
Leslie: I wanted to show that quirky and unique characters aren’t limited to supporting roles, and that intelligence is a sexy trait in a woman. Also, I wanted to show that even heroines who don’t have a military or law enforcement background can be and are courageous and capable.
How much do you think your heroine reflects you?
Anne: There is a lot of me in Sara. While in the service, I often found myself in the extreme minority, so I did everything I could not to stand out, not to make waves. I did it at the expense of my femininity, though, so I was quite lopsided in that way.
Shanyn: In some ways, she’s an alternate-history me. George and I have very similar backstories and have lived through some very similar life events, but she made different choices than I did. I think she’s smarter than I am, certainly more ambitious. We’re equally idealistic.
Jenn: Noel’s personality and job and inner smart-ass are all me. I think all my characters reflect a bit of me in them.
Leslie: I think all the character we write contain some speck of ourselves. In this case, though, I see very little of Lark in me. Yes, I can swear with the best of them. However, I’m much more conservative, and not nearly as brave. Lark is patterned after a close friend, who recognizes herself on every page!
Mimi: I agree. I think all of us draw from different aspects of ourselves and then the character grows from there with his or her own traits and quirks. Ruby is definitely a reflection of me, in how she views the world, and her insecurities, but willing to admit them.
Camelia: A lot and a bit at the same time, if it’s possible. I’m not driven by ambition, yet I follow my dreams. I’m not as strong, yet I don’t shy from assuming responsibilities for my faults. And like Harper, I did get the man 😉
What was the most challenging part of writing this character?
Leslie: I really love Lark! She’s a bright spark in a world of convention and sameness. I’m continually walking the razor wire of showing her authentic self without turning off the reader. Women who curse can be considered unladylike, and I think it would be easy to go overboard showing her quirky nature.
Camelia: How strong she was, but underneath all of that façade being able to capture her insecurities and self-doubt.
Jenn: Making her likeable. Noel is hard edged and that made for a character that needed a “save the cat” moment early on. An act of kindness that showed it wasn’t her personality, but her situation that caused her to abrasive.
Shanyn: George is a joy to write, but that doesn’t mean she’s easy to write. I love her quirkiness, her vocabulary. She and I both wrestle with what it means to be feminist, how that concept has evolved over the last 3 decades.
Anne: For sure, what I described earlier about making Sara relatable and not superhuman was the most challenging thing. I’d get carried away because I wanted to showcase her strengths, but it would tip the scales too far to where she wasn’t believable or relatable anymore. Thank heavens for my beta readers who reminded me of that. Their input ensured I’d written Sara honestly.
Mimi: Ruby is a necromancer. She’s not physically strong like a vampire or werewolf (I mean, think Elena from Kelly Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld.). So how can a necromancer show the strength of her power besides maybe reanimating a boxer? I had to be creative and I think I found some fun, interesting, and sometimes weird ways in which Ruby used her power to get out of sticky situations!
Name a favorite female character from any medium (book, tv, movie). Why do you like this character?
Mimi: I think everyone had a hard time choosing one character! I was torn between Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv show) and Scully (X-Files), but ultimately chose Dana Scully. She was super whip-smart, independent, but wasn’t afraid to show a vulnerable side and her struggles with her own beliefs as she and Mulder’s investigations introduced them to tragedy, horror, and the fantastic. Her character and Gillian Anderson’s portrayal helped change the tv landscape’s depiction of women and relationships between men and women. Yes, her and Mulder hooked up but I didn’t see this as a failing of the show but a natural progression of their relationship, and what a joy in watching them interact, challenge each other, and support each other in a fully trusting relationship.
Leslie: Wow, that’s a tough one! From Catherine Hepburn’s portrayal of Tracy Lord in Philadelphia Story, to Diana Riggs’ Emma Peel (The Avengers), to Scarlett O’Hara and Xena and Katniss Everdean, women of strength and intelligence show courage under adversity. However, I’m going with Fa Mulan, from the Disney movie Mulan. Because the Huns have invaded China, the Emperor is conscripting men to fight. Knowing her father would not survive the war, Mulan selflessly chooses to take his place and impersonate a man. Despite her terror and fear of discovery, she succeeds as a soldier, even rescuing her commanding officer and, in the end, saving the Emperor and China. I love imperfect characters who rise above their own fears and securities to act with courage and conviction. Her motives were pure, and in the end she won the respect of those who looked down on her because she was a woman.
Camelia: It has to be Alice from “The Executioner” by Ana Calin, which is the latest book I read. Alice is a college student caught in the middle of a genetics war. She’s trying to figure out how her genius father got involved in all the while not losing her head and heart to the criminal sent to kill her father. Alice has the best sense of humor, using it as a self-defense mechanism. Her brain doesn’t seem to ever stop, finding details and the next piece of puzzle. When you think you have her figured it all out, you get another surprise.
Anne: One of my favorite female characters of all time is Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She’s feisty, independent, and quick. But most importantly, I think she’s true to herself. She’s also genuine and sweet as she wades through the growing pains of becoming a young woman. It’s almost impossible not to root for this character.
Shanyn: Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) from the TV show Parks and Recreation. I relate to her quirkiness, her idealistic ambition, her tireless work ethic, her self-doubt, her devotion & loyalty to friends, her sense of humor, her craftiness (scrapbooking), her love of breakfast… I could go on and on!
Jenn: So many characters to chose from…UGH!! Okay…the question says pick one….hmmm. I’m going to pick Charlie Davidson from Darynda Jones Grave series. Charlie is the perfect combination of kick ass and sexy. She runs into every situation ready to save and protect those that she loves, no matter what may happen to her. She’s quirky, sarcastic, and has named all her female body parts, what more can you ask for in a heroine?
You can view our author bios here and see below for links to each author’s website and Amazon page!
Jennifer Windrow website.