Antiheroines. You might not have heard the term, but you know who they are–the Scarlet O’Haras and Black Widows of the world. They’re the kind of women (and girls) who do and say what they want, who demand respect and will happily kick your arse.
This is a series of interviews with the authors of such girls and women, exploring what inspired them to write an antiheroine, what makes a good one and the things bad girls can teach us.
LG Surgeson is the author of the fantasy adventure series The Black River Chronicles, including the short story Clara’s Buttons.
BELINDA: Tell us about Clara, what makes her an antiheroine?
LG: Clara grew up on the dirty streets of Aberddu (pronounced Aber-thee) city. She was orphaned during the Summer of Fire, and left picking over the rubble of destroyed temple. She was found by Iona Pringle, a local adventurer, who took a certain amount of pity on the young Clara. She hosed her down, fed her and handed her over to the Guild Below–an organisation famous for its skills in thievery, among other things.
The Guild took her in and trained her in some of their trade mark skills; pick-pocketing, appraising items, forgery, and general thievery. It was in the guild that she met Min, Luce & Angel the other members of her gang and between the four of them they set about making a living by mugging rich people.
Irrepressible is the best way to describe Clara, nothing keeps her down for long. She’s had knock after knock, but she always bounces back. She doesn’t take anything or anyone seriously and she’s not afraid of breaking the law. Clara is a petty criminal who will lie and cheat to keep her head above water. She is loyal to handful of people, but she would still push them out of the way to get the last crumbs in the pie-tray.
BELINDA: What drew you to writing Clara in particular?
LG: Clara is enormous fun, she goes her own way. I’ve been writing about Clara for about five years, and I have no idea where she came from really–she just turned up and started making a nuisance of herself. She doesn’t let anything pass her by, she just sticks her nose in to see what she can make of it.
I like writing about a character so young and downtrodden and yet so full of life, her constant energy is infectious.
BELINDA: What do you think is the value of the antiheroine?
LG: I’ve always been a fan of the ‘antihero’–they are far more interesting and easier to relate to than the clean and shiny hero types. In terms of antiheroines, I think they are very important when it comes to bringing literature into line with modern values regarding women. Too many books still portray women as the ‘feminine ideal’, focusing on their physical appearance–heroines are always beautiful or at least striking–or what they can do to support the male characters. If they go beyond that, they seem to stick to the idea that women are either very very good or horrid, there are few shades between. Why should only male characters have depth and nuance? This attitude has long since been archived in society, but in literature it’s still there. The antiheroine brings us to women who are real people, with flaws and imperfections and still of valuable to the story.
BELINDA: What messages/examples do you think Clara provides readers?
LG: Clara always bounces back, she takes what ever life throws at her and turns it to her advantage. She doesn’t sulk, she doesn’t complain about things being unfair–and when it comes to the short straw Clara has had way more than her fair share of that. She might not be polished, or polite and she might be dishonest and light-fingered, but she is also incredibly strong and everything she’s got is a result of hard work and determination.
BELINDA: What traits and/or features do you think make an antiheroine great?
LG: An antiheroine needs a sense of independence and believability. You need to sympathise with them when they are doing the things that make them less than perfect. That’s down to depth of the character, it has to be clear why they behave the way they do and to some extent it has to be forgiveable or at least understandable. It’s also important that they are likeable I think.
BELINDA: Who are some of your favourite antiheroines?
LG: Perhaps my favourite antiheroine is the ultimate antiheroine of them all: Lady Macbeth.
Such a tragic character, trying to do her best for her husband but trapped in a situation where she could do very little but sit on the side lines, when she was the one with all the strength of character.
About LG Surgeson
LG Surgeson is a teacher and writer from Mid-Wales, UK. She lives in a cottage by a river with her long suffering partner and their two cats. LG started writing stories as soon as she could spell enough words to string a sentence together and hasn’t stopped since. She writes fantasy and fiction novels, short stories, and blog articles about mental health, the education system and other things than make her crazy. In order to have time to do this, she avoids housework and doesn’t sleep properly. The cats like to help. They aren’t good at it.