Tag Archives: fantasy

Greying, pudgy & menopausal: Laura E. Goodin on Strong Female Characters

Laura E. Goodin is the author of After the Bloodwood Staff, an Australian fantasy about a quest that doesn’t go quite how it’s supposed to.

BELINDA: Tell us about Sybil, one of the two main protagonists in After the Bloodwood Staff: what makes her strong?

LAURA: In a way, it’s her weaknesses and pessimism that make her strong. She chooses to express her pessimism as a relentless drive to be both competent and prepared, because the worst could happen at any moment–and I always had in the back of my mind while writing that at some point in her life it already has. Her inability to make herself vulnerable, even to the people she loves, makes her freakishly focused and almost impossible to intimidate, and it has given her a lifetime habit of self-sufficiency. Her stubbornness really annoys the people around her, but it also gives her a crystalline clarity of intention and tremendous integrity. As is the case with most people, her greatest strengths are her greatest weaknesses.

BELINDA: What drew you to writing Sybil in particular?

The cover of After the Blackwood Staff by Laura E. Goodin
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LAURA: Speaking as a greying, pudgy, menopausal woman, I can tell you that there is a regrettable dearth of greying, pudgy, menopausal woman heroes in speculative fiction. And this is, in fact, regrettable, because once a woman gets to this point in her life, she is badass. She cares less with each passing day what other people will think of her. She has experience, along with the perspective to interpret it wisely. And chances are good that, like Sybil, she has spent her life acquiring a staggering array of skills that are useful in hundreds of different tight spots and baffling dilemmas. It’s a joy to write such a character.

BELINDA: What messages/examples do you think Sybil provides readers?

LAURA: I want readers to go beyond the whole tiresome “age is only a number” thing; instead, I want them to think, “There are wonderful things about being every age. Not everyone is trying to be or stay young: there’s adventure and wonder in being not young.” Sybil, I hope, is an example for readers of someone who stares life full in the face, no games, no pretensions, no struggles to be anything other than what she gloriously is–and to be fully whatever that ends up being at each time in her life.

BELINDA: What traits and/or features do you think make for a great strong female character?

LAURA: When someone–anyone, really–is strong, it means they can keep their head and operate in any circumstances, because they have a fundamental, perhaps even unconscious, conviction that whatever happens, they will find a way to keep going. Women characters (and women in real life, as well) can sometimes have problems developing this conviction: perhaps they have been protected all their lives, perhaps they’ve been actively sabotaged whenever they’ve tried to succeed at even small things. These small successes are crucial, though, because as they accrete, they become confidence and resilience. Back 30 or 40 years ago, people were very keen on the idea that if you develop children’s self-confidence, they will succeed. This is putting the cart before the horse. You have to let children succeed so that they have the evidence that underlies any kind of workable self-confidence. A strong female character–or (and this is often more interesting) a character who becomes strong as the story progresses–has faced an escalating series of challenges, each of which lets her think that perhaps she can handle this one as well. And this one. And this one.

BELINDA: What types of strength would you like to see more of?

LAURA: In the real world? I would love to see more instances of people deliberately turning their back on personal gain or advantage so that they can do what’s right. For example, should I admit that the idea that I’m getting praised for at work is really someone else’s? I could keep my mouth shut and get the praise, and perhaps even the raise. Their mistake is not my problem. But someone who’s truly strong will choose clarity and integrity over personal advantage, and tell the truth, even if there are people telling them it’s a “mistake”. In a world where integrity consistently takes second place to “scoring” or “winning”, I would love to see more people say, “I’ll take the risk: I’ll trust that doing the right thing will not just give me a better life, but will make the world a better place for everyone. I’m not going to scheme and connive and claw scraps of flesh from the people around me. Instead, I’m going to stand tall, arms wide, head up, heart open, and say and do what’s true and just, even if I’m mocked, even if I’m despised, even if it means I don’t ‘win’'”

That’s the type of strength I’d like to see more of.

BELINDA: Who are some of your favourite strong female characters?

LAURA: I can’t go past Xena, Warrior Princess: flawed, tormented, but still constantly striving to be braver, kinder, more committed to both justice and mercy. Also, although this always raises eyebrows, I love Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew (at the slightest provocation, I will argue at length for the play being, at its heart, a feminist text; don’t get me started). Jill in Lewis’s The Silver Chair and The Last Battle was a serious role model for me as a child. I also love Jessica in Dune, Nita in Duane’s Young Wizards series, Thursday Next in Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and sequels, Luna Lovegood, Ellie from Marsden’s Tomorrow series, Mulan (of course), Karana in O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Aerin in McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, and, perhaps most formatively, Harriet in Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy. There are many others, but these are definitely some of my very favorites.

About Laura E. Goodin

Laura E. Goodin, author of After the Blackwood Staff
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American-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her debut novel After the Bloodwood Staff was released December 2016 from Odyssey Books; her next novel, Mud and Glass, will be released in mid-2017, also from Odyssey Books. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Review of Australian Fiction, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.

You can find out more about Laura on her website and connect with her via her blog and Facebook.

Feature image courtesy of Neil Moralee. Used under a Creative Commons licence.

Brave, Vulnerable & Scared: Felicity Banks on Strong Female Characters

Felicity Banks is the author of Heart of Brass a steampunk novel about a young women with a brass heart and a family obligation that’s interupted by a criminal conviction.

BELINDA: Tell us about Emmeline, what makes her strong?

FELICITY: Emmeline has been taught that her duty is to marry well, giving her family the financial security that they need—and saving her younger siblings from poverty in the process. No-one finds it easy to think outside of the box society puts us in, but Emmeline is eventually able to find another way to fulfil her duty as well as acknowledging what she really loves. . . SCIENCE!! Continue reading

Going Her Own Way: LG Surgeson on Antiheroines

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. Continue reading

Straying from the norm: Sophia Madison on antiheroines

Sophia Madison is the author of Blue Ruin, a gothic fantasy about a woman named Maura and the vampire who intends to use her to end the world (as we know it).

BELINDA: Tell us about Maura, what makes her an antiheroine?

SOPHIA: Everything. Maura does things a normal (sane) person wouldn’t do. But she makes the choices we can’t–choices that are too difficult. She wasn’t always an antiheroine. In fact, her character started off as a bratty teenager…and then mutated into this ass-kicking, whiskey drinking, cigarette smoking, bad-ass, cold-blooded, immortal killer. She was the easiest character to write, but the hardest to edit. She’d become such an antiheroine that she became hard to like and relate to. Her actions early in the novel turned readers off. I never thought I’d have to tone down a protagonist before. Continue reading

The Ugly Princess by Henderson Smith

Cover of The Ugly Princess by Henderson Smith
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Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review

3.5/5 stars

I love The Ugly Princess for its message and for having a truly ugly heroine. It’s message, that beauty is only skin deep, came through strong, right from the first page. I especially loved how happy the heroine, Olive, was to be ugly in exchange for her other gifts and how she rejoiced in every new boil and wart.

Continue reading

Altaica by Tracy M Joyce

Cover of Altaica, by Tracy M Joyce
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I’d been hanging out to read Altaica ever since I saw the cover art (yes, I know, I’m shallow) and once I had my hands on it, I devoured it (in the literary sense). The storyline was engaging, the plot kept rolling along and there was never a moment when I was bored or tempted to put the book down.

At the start, I did have a little trouble with the frequent changes in point of view – which sometimes happened three or four times within the same scene – but I quickly became used to the head jumping.

My only quibble was, because there were so many characters to keep up with, I didn’t have the chance to connect with any of them. There were a few scenes (the one with the horses and the river springs to mind – you’ll know it when you read it) that weren’t as heart-stopping as they could have been because I hadn’t REALLY connected to the characters and didn’t care enough about their plight. Maybe if one or two of the minor characters hadn’t had their own point of view, I’d have had more time to get to know the others and those moments would have been as gut wrenching as I know they could have been.

Will I buy the sequel? YES! Despite my quibble, I enjoyed Altaica and I’m looking forward to what Ms Joyce springs on us next.

Teaser Tuesday: The Towers of the Sunset

Can you see how the pieces fit together? Not just the visible ones, like the towers of the sunset, but those unseen, like the heart of a man or the soul of a wizard.

The cover of The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt Jnr.
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A good book, although the lack of a blurb is confusing.

What’s awesome about it

  • The langauge is beautiful (as you can see above)
  • The worldbuilding and the use of the word ‘masculine’.

What’s not-so-awesome

  • There’s no blurb! At least on my copy. This makes it very hard to place the book in context to the first, The Magic of Recluce
  • The last half of the book is kinda boring
  • Magera is a twit.

Would I buy the sequel? I already did, in fact, not only did get the sequel, The Magic Engineer, I splurged on its sequels as well, The Order War and The Death of Chaos. I just haven’t read them yet.  Continue reading

A world-building template for when you're on the go

World-building on my iPad
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Just whip out the iPad and get world-building, while you wait for you morning hot chocolate.

Patricia C. Wrede’s Fantasy World-building questions are great, and the World-building Leviathan is equally awesome, but there are times when they just don’t hit the spot. Like, when you’re halfway (or more) into your novel and you need to sort out what a battle mage can do that an illusionist can’t.

Sure, you can jot down a few notes and whack them into a notebook, but if, like me, you can’t stand the thought of not being organised, something a little more structured is in order.

Normally, I’d turn to Scrivener, but, until the iPad version comes out, it doesn’t work so well on-the-go. Yes, you can sync your files to an external folder and edit them on the iPad (which works great for writing), but whatever file structure you’ve created in Scrivener is lost, and when I’m world-building I need folders, and not just any folders, but nested folders and lots of them.

And so, I set out to make myself a template in which I could make random notes, while still being organised, and that I could use just as easily from my laptop as my iPad. Continue reading

10 books I'm going to read in 2013, promise

Top Ten Tuesday
Hosted by the Broke and Bookish

This year I’m participating in a few memes and the very first one is Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish (which is a great blog title!).

Aptly, the first Top Ten for the year is the Top 10 books I’m going to read this year. In this I’ve sprinkled some of the books I also have listed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (AWWC) 2013. The AWWC is about raising the profile of female authors in Australia, because always seems as if the men win all the literary prizes.

Continue reading