Tag Archives: guestbloggers

Elizabeth Bennet… and? S.B. Divya’s heroines. @divyastweets

Posted on October 5, 2016 by

img_0095S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. When she isn’t designing high speed communications systems, raising her daughter, scratching the cats, or enjoying dinner with her husband, she writes. In her past, she’s used a telescope to find Orion’s nebula, scuba dived with manta rays, and climbed to the top of a thousand year old stupa. She holds degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing, and she is currently Assistant Editor for Escape Pod. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed and Daily Science Fiction, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards.

Her debut science-fiction novella, Runtime, was released by Tor.com Publications in May, 2016. You can find more online at www.eff-words.com or on Twitter as @divyastweets.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I have two heroines for this list: Ariane Emory (from CJ Cherryh’s Cyteen) and Elizabeth Bennet (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). I fell in love with them in my early teens – later than the playground years, but I was busy running around at that earlier stage of my life and spent less time with books.

Ariane Emory isn’t someone you hear lauded very often even though Cyteen is Hugo-winning trilogy, maybe because she isn’t always the most likeable person in the room. Elizabeth Bennet, on the other hand, is practically a household name these days, but when I got to know her, she was an obscure character from a “required reading” book that most of my peers seemed to abhor.

Can you remember what it was these women did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

What drew me to both of these heroines is that they, like me, didn’t fit in with the mainstream. Ariane Emory is the clone of a genius scientist, raised with great privilege and loaded with expectations. She rises to the occasion, but in the process, she learns to embrace her individuality and use her intellect to her advantage. I certainly identified with her adolescent angst and her exclusion from general society – I was a top-of-the-class nerd, intended science major, and never quite fit in, either – and I admired her confidence and ownership of her capabilities. Those were two personality traits I didn’t possess.

Elizabeth Bennet isn’t as far removed from general society as Ariane Emory, but she’s also very intelligent, perceptive, and willing to rebel against the standard model of woman in her times. She’s more interested in the qualities of mind and heart than in fashion or status. She’s quick witted, something I desperately wanted to emulate as a pre-teen, and much like Lizzie, I had no desire to marry for money and social comfort. That may sound bland considering how popular Jane Austen is today, but at the time I read Pride and Prejudice it was my first exposure to the author, to that period and setting, and to the idea that there have always been women who resisted their expected role.

How does they compare to the female characters in your work? Are your heroines the literary ancestors of your characters? What might your creations owe them?

My main character in Runtime, Marmeg Guinto, is certainly a rebel, highly intelligent, and resourceful, so she has parallels to Ariane Emory and Elizabeth Bennet. I don’t think I’m capable of writing a female or non-binary protagonist who embraces traditional/conservative roles. I’m lucky that I came across examples of similar heroines at a formative age.

Unlike the two favorites listed here, my character, Marmeg, does not come from a place of privilege. As a kid, I found it romantic to have women in positions of power who could then exercise their will. That might also be an artifact of the 1980s, when feminism was just starting to hammer away at corporate and political glass ceilings. Today, I’m more interested in how we can empower women who aren’t traditionally seen as heroic.

I’m also more class conscious as an adult, and that informs a lot of my fiction. That’s covered much more in Jane Austen’s books than in CJ Cherryh’s. I love the way Austen uses Lizzie as a lens through which to examine society, and (now that I’m thinking about it) that is definitely something I have to credit as an influence. A couple reviews have said that Runtime is as much a work of social commentary as science fiction, and I take that as a compliment.

Another facet of both heroines, but especially Ariane Emory, is their moral grayness. Both of them are flawed, and that is something that my characters exhibit, too. I believe that our flaws and our moral choices are what make us interesting human beings, so I guess it’s no surprise that my favorites are far from perfect.

Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? When I embarked on these posts, I was specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

I don’t love gendered nouns, and I’m trying to break the habit of using them, but they can serve a purpose when you’re trying to highlight the treatment of women. For the word heroine specifically, I think it evokes a particular image – that of the Strong Female Character. Saying that a story has a woman or girl as the main character feels different than saying it has a heroine, in part because of the mythos associated with the root concept of a hero. A heroine by association must be active, in control of herself (as much as anyone is), and destined for greatness.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (mostly) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like J. Kathleen Cheney, Linda Nagata, and Kay Kenyon. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

All the things, including some new interviews!

Posted on October 3, 2016 by

Can haz interview?

Can haz interview?

As we all wind our way into what I hope is an utterly glorious autumn, I am embarking on a little fall cleaning of this site, updating this and that, and getting back into the habit of posting interviews with other authors. I will have S.B. Divya here on Wednesday, answering the Heroine Question. There will be other interview series sharing space with Heroine in the Wednesday slot as we get going, so keep your eyes peeled.

With the launch of The Nature of a Pirate starting to near, I expect to be blog touring myself. I have already written one essay, on the peculiar nature of piracy on Stormwrack, for Tor’s newsletter. I will no doubt be faced with at least a few assignments that boil down to “Write anything you think is interesting about your upcoming novel.”

And that’s where you can help! (Please please help!) I am infinitely less great at write whatever you feel like assignments than I am at hey, answer this specific question ones. And this’ll be the third Stormwrack blog tour. I’ve been talking about these books in public spaces for a long time, and I’ve mined my grey matter for most of the obvious-to-me thoughts. So if you have a question, or an angle you’d like to see explored, post a comment and let me know. I will shower you with gratitude, and also answers. And then more gratitude.

Brit McGinnis takes the Heroine into 2016

Posted on January 6, 2016 by

Brit MMaskheads - High ResolutioncGinnis is an author and freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She works in social media consulting and as the editor in chief of Fangirls Read It First. Her coverage of film and insider views of horror culture earned her the nickname of the Princess of Dread. Brit’s next nonfiction project is a memoir called “Film School Was Too Expensive.” Her next fiction project will involve ancient gods and skydiving.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I absolutely imprinted on Sorcha, the lead heroine of Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. Most of my early adolescence was spent re-reading that book! Other than that, the main heroine of my childhood was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. So many bookworm role models, so little time.
What was it Sorcha did–what qualities did she have that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

Sorcha was such a beautiful role model because she is both conflicted and committed. She is given a mission from the Queen of the Fairies and she leans into it. She knows what she has to do and is willing to do it. But she’s also emotionally conflicted about her mission and all the people that she comes across because of it.  She is very brave and very strong. But she doesn’t see her emotions as detracting from that strength.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
Sorcha’s definitely the ancestor of most of my heroines. She is defiant when it makes sense for her to be, and acknowledges her own limitations. Just like Andy (the heroine of Maskheads), she longs for the simplicity of childhood and the simplicity that comes with that. Both of these ladies are fueled by (and are also magnetic to others) because of their single-mindedness. That’s also going to show up in later works, which I can’t talk about yet.

Mika from my first book (Romancing Brimstone) is a bit more complicated, because she is emotional in a way that Andy certainly is not. I see her as a rebellion against the idea of Belle, or perhaps an honest portrayal of the frustration that maybe would have resulted from a Beauty and the Beast type of arrangement in real life. She grows from passive to passionate, unafraid to express her anger and doubt her reasons for running away from her old life.
Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?
I love the word heroine because it suggests that women can be heroic without feeling that they have to be like men to do so. When I think of heroines, I think of both Xena and Scarlett O’Hara. They can be both strong and war-like or endlessly steadfast scrappers, but they are heroic in their own unique ways. I don’t like the idea of women only being seen as heroic if they are warriors. Not that female warriors shouldn’t exist, but I think a more nuanced definition serves everyone better.

About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and Louise Marley. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

Karina Sumner-Smith gets her Heroines from a Lackey

Posted on December 2, 2015 by

Karina Sumner-Smith

Karina Sumner-Smith

Karina Sumner-Smith is the author of the Towers Trilogy from Talos Press: Radiant (Sept 2014), Defiant (May 2015), and Towers Fall (Nov 2015). She lives in rural Ontario by the shores of Lake Huron. Visit her online at karinasumnersmith.com.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

Back when I was making my first few forays into fantasy and science fiction written for adults, I borrowed a towering stack of Sword and Sorceress anthologies from an adult friend. I read through them at an alarming rate. Every one was filled with stories that I not only enjoyed (swords and magic and adventures!) but because they were about women. I’d keenly felt the lack of interesting, relevant women in many of the stories I’d been reading, and found myself nodding enthusiastically with all those characters who demanded to know why they should have to stay home working on their embroidery while their brothers went out adventuring.

After a dozen or so of the anthologies, I found myself wanting something more, something deeper—and yet I always looked forward to reading Mercedes Lackey’s Tarma and Kethry stories.

Can you remember what it was these characters did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

Well, at the time it was hard to go wrong with stories about warrior women and sorceresses—and with Tarma and Kethry I had one of each. They were friends and heart-sisters working together to right wrongs and make things better in the world around them, especially for other women.

They were competent, both of them; they were people who had adventures and took care of problems—and who had each other. But I think that it was the idea of a powerful, life-changing friendship and bond between these two women that really caught my attention and held it through so many stories.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

I think that they’re my characters’ literary ancestor not so much in terms of personality, but in their relationship. I still love to find powerful relationships between women in the fiction that I read, and that kind of connection absolutely forms the emotional heart of my Towers Trilogy books.

My characters are, perhaps, far less noble than either Tarma or Kethry—homeless girl Xhea, especially, who starts the trilogy wanting little more than enough to eat, a safe place to sleep, and to be left alone already. The ghost girl, Shai, starts the books lost and uncertain, valued by others more for what she is than who she is, though her journey is one of coming into her own strength and confidence. Yet the critical part is how they relate, and how the world around them changes because they choose to protect and save each other.

How do you feel about the word heroine? When I started talking to people about writing these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

As with so many words, I think it depends on context. I have seen “heroine” used to denigrate, to indicate that the woman to whom the word refers is somehow different than or less than the book’s male hero. Yet I’ve also seen “heroine” used to celebrate, as I feel it is here—and, given that I’m always searching for books with complex, interesting women as protagonists, it’s a word that I keep an eye out for on a book’s cover. It’s a useful word, that way.

Towers Fall Cover FINAL-small


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (mostly) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like J. Kathleen Cheney, Linda Nagata, and Kay Kenyon. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

 

J. Kathleen Cheney thinks heroines are witches

Posted on November 25, 2015 by

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist.  Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist.  Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The final book in that series, The Shores of Spain came out in July, and a new series will debut in February 2016 with Dreaming Death.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I still have two books from second grade, and one of them is The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. I don’t know how heroic one would consider Kit Tyler, the main character of the book. She doesn’t fight a battle, kill demons, or win the rich gentleman’s heart (actually, she does that last one but hands it back.) I admired her anyway.

I loved that book too! What was it Kit did–what qualities did she have that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

What Kit Tyler does is defy expectations. That’s what I admired about her. She didn’t do things simply because she’d been told to do so. Since I seem to be wired that way myself, I could relate to most of her decisions.

Some of them came from simple ignorance on her part. For example, her inability to make decent corn pudding because she’s too impatient–I understand that all too well. To this day, I lack patience in cooking.

Kit makes mistakes, and most of the time she learns from them. But a lot of her defiance is borne of a willingness to look past other peoples’ prejudices and let her conscience drive her instead. And because of that she teaches a young girl to read and makes friends with the title witch. When she’s falsely accused or witchcraft herself, she faces down her accusers in court (with the help of her friends)….even though she was given a chance to escape her jail earlier and run away. She did what she thought was right, though, while knowing it might have a terrible outcome.

Of course, because it’s a novel, things come out all right in the end.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

I would like to think that most of my heroines do the right thing, even if it’s not what they’re told to do, not the socially accepted thing, or not the most financially sound decision. In a lot of ways, they do go back to that second grade reading experience. They make mistakes. I want them to learn from them, like Kit Tyler did (although I will eschew the corn pudding experience.)

And I want them to make the hard choice, the choice that they could have worked around.

Hard choices are what make a heroine, even if she’s not killing demons.

Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

In most ways, hero and heroine are the same, the protagonist of the story. But heroine carries one added factor: the heroine usually has to defy societal norms. In most cultures, men are expected to step up while women are expected to wait. And that’s where a heroine’s actions can be much more subtle, yet still be heroic. In some places, heroism might be something as small as wearing trousers or going to school or talking to someone your family doesn’t approve of. And while men can face similar challenges, in most places, the bar is harder for women to cross. So I feel like the word heroine has that additional baggage attached.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and Louise Marley. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.