Tag Archives: interview

Thoughtful & sparing: Jenna O’Connell on Romance & YA Heroines

As a publicist, editor and occasional slush-pile reader, Jenna O’Connell doesn’t just know books, but the ins and outs of getting them on bookstore shelves and into readers’ hands.

BELINDA: Hot topic first. Do you think love is killing the teenage heroine and why?

JENNA: Killing is such a strong word! We’re certainly not seeing an absence of teenage heroines because of the current focus on love/romance. But is it killing originality in the YA genre? I think there’s an argument to support that. Continue reading

Risking her life: Sue Parritt on Strong Female Characters

Sue Parritt is an Australian science fiction author. Her first trilogy tells the tale of a futuristic Australia ravaged by climate change, and racial oppression.

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

SUE: Sensuous, emotional and dramatic, Sannah, 39, a descendant of Environmental Refugees from the drowned Pacific Islands, is the Storyteller for Village 10. Storytellers–one for each Brown Zone village–are trained to deliver a distorted version of history to ensure compliance and reinforce White superiority. An articulate speaker, Sannah employs both voice and body to weave a spell around her audience. She also plays the role of ‘lover’ to many White men, to gain information useful to the Women’s Line, an undercover group that assists political prisoners on the run to flee the country and find sanctuary in egalitarian Aotearoa. Intelligent and savvy, Sannah knows what it takes to survive in an oppressive apartheid society ruled by tyrannical troopers, but willingly risks her life to ensure clandestine truth-telling continues. In twenty-fourth century Australia, she is a third-class citizen, but despite her low status, she believes in the power to effect change. This, plus the determination to engage in seditious activities whatever the consequences, makes and keeps her strong. Continue reading

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.

She Will Stand Her Ground: Annie McCann on Strong Female Characters

In this interview, avid reader and blogger Annie McCann talks to me about Shazrad, the heroine of The Wrath and the Dawna modern retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights.

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

The cover of The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
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ANNIE: In The Wrath and The Dawn, Shazrad is a woman living in a man’s world under a tyrant boy king who takes a bride every night who does not live past Dawn. When her best friend is taken as a bride and does not live past Dawn,  she volunteers herself to be this boy king’s next bride in an attempt to avenge her friend’s death and bring justice to the bride’s before her. She’s quite headstrong and brave to face a tyrant the kingdom fears. Once inside the walls of the castle (I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers) she discovers a truth she never thought possible and the choices she makes is remarkable —just proves her courage, strength and loyalty.

BELINDA: Why is Shazrad one of your favourite strong female characters?

ANNIE: It’s the strength she shows in a time where women don’t have status and in a place ruled by a tyrant boy king everyone fears—she’s not scared to seek justice…almost like a David and Goliath story

BELINDA: What messages/examples do you think Shazrad provides readers

ANNIE: Strong sense of Independence—she shows women can be head strong and independent and intelligent enough to formulate their own opinions and make their own decisions. Also her strength and courage—not in a Badass wielding sword kind of way but her courage to stand up and seek justice as a minority against power— she’s demonstrating it’s ok to seek justice no matter who it is.

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

ANNIE: Courage. Loyalty. Independence. I like strong female characters who are not scared to stand up for what is right and be “outspoken”—not fearing to challenge the status quo

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

ANNIE: Rather than seeing more kick ass kind of characters I like to see strong women with intellect and courage—knowledge is a strength.

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

ANNIE: Next to Shazrad? I like Eleanor from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell as she shows a different kind of strength in the way she deals with her family and socio-economic issues throughout the story. I also like Sophie from Hate is such a strong Word by Sarah Ayoub. Sophie is growing up in Australia but trapped between 2 cultures, her family traditions and expectations of her peers, but regardless of what she has to deal with, she’s still strong enough to make her own decisions—she will stand her ground and was never scared to speak her mind and to go against the majority when she knew what they were doing was wrong. It’s the kind of code I try to live by myself 🙂

About Annie McCann

Annie McCann on a Sydney ferry,
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Annie is a blogger and the founder of Read3r’z Re-Vu network of readers based in Sydney. She loves YA and is a life-long Michael Jackson fan. When she’s not reading or blogging you can find her watching box sets of the Big Bang Theory, Grimm, Friends or The Three Stooges.

You can connect with Annie via her blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of darkday. Used with a Creative Commons license.

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

Wild, Tough and Cheeky: Carolyn Gilpin on Antiheroines

Carolyn is the author of Facing Up a story about a girl trying to pick up the pieces of her life after a car crash ruins her life.

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

CAROLYN: Carly is an antiheroine because she is cynical, prickly, quick-tempered, stubborn, impatient with her family and pretty much most of society. She is rebellious and smokes and tends to stir trouble rather than smooth things over. But she is also tough, fiercely loyal to her friends, and suffers from inner guilt about the innocent person killed in the car accident which she and her friends caused while joyriding. This is one of the main causes of her issues, and she eventually finds a way to atone for this. 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

On fighting, YA and sci-fi: An interview with Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee knows kung fu, so when she writes a fight scene you know it’s going to be awesome. Which is fortunate, since her debut novel, Zeroboxer, is all about boxing (plus you know, intrigue,  planet-spanning criminal enterprises and a smattering of romance).

Find out how you can win a copy of Zeroboxer at the bottom of the interview.

BELINDA: What is YA science fiction (sci-fi) to you?

FONDA: YA is fiction about the experiences of characters who are transitioning to adulthood. Science fiction is the genre of exploring the possible—not the world as we know it, nor a world that has never been, but the world as it could be. So to me, YA science fiction is about young characters navigating challenges in the context of a world that is different from, but a plausible extrapolation, of our own.

BELINDA: What drew you to the genre?

FONDA: I write science fiction and fantasy because it’s what I was drawn to read when I was growing up. As I kid, I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, and John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy, among so many others. In my teenage years, I loaded up on Issac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, and Piers Anthony. I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was ten years old, and have always written speculative fiction. I guess in some ways I’m lucky in that I have no desire to write anything else; I’ve enough to keep me busy!

BELINDA: Do you think there is a difference between YA sci-fi and that which is marketed at adults?

The cover of Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee.
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FONDA: I do think there’s a difference. I’ve had many adult readers tell me that they “don’t read science fiction.” Yet they’re fans of Star Trek, and Star Wars, and they read Michael Crichton and loved the movie The Martian. I think there’s often a general public perception that adult science fiction literature is for brainy physics types who want to read the hardest end of what we in the field dub “hard science fiction.” Which is not all true, though some readers do prefer this type of literature and perpetuate the impression. YA science fiction can still be “hard” (adhering strictly to science as we currently understand it) but because it contains elements typical of YA (focus on a young protagonist, coming-of-age issues, relationships with friends, parents, and romantic interests, and faster story pacing), I believe it can often be marketed as more mainstream and accessible than science fiction literature for adults.

BELINDA: What inspired the world of Zeroboxer?

FONDA: Zeroboxer was inspired by a number of things: my love of science fiction, martial arts, and action movies, combined with my background working in a sports company and seeing first hand the enormous amount of marketing, money and emotion involved in the athletics industry. It all came together in my mind as a nascent idea about a futuristic prizefighter who ends up inspiring and representing Earth. Everything else fell into place.

BELINDA: You’re a martial artist, what do most writers get wrong in fight scenes?

FONDA: I’m a big fight scene aficionado, and one of my biggest pet peeves is when writers don’t realistically depict the time required for someone to become a good fighter, and the extent of how exhausting and dangerous fights are. I roll my eyes when someone writes a character who seems to fight for hours against multiple opponents without getting injured, or who gets injured but then seems to miraculously recover after a short period of time.

BELINDA: What are a few of your favourite YA sci-fi books?

FONDA: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, Feed by MT Andersen, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, and the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld.

About Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee, author of Zeroboxer.
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Fonda Lee is the author of the novel Zeroboxer (Flux/Llewellyn, April 2015), which is an Andre Norton Award nominee, a Jr. Library Guild Selection, and an ALA Top 10 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her second YA sci-fi novel will be released by Scholastic in January 2017. A recovering corporate strategist, when she is not writing, Fonda can be found training in kung fu or searching out tasty breakfasts. Find her online at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

YA Sci-fi giveaway

Win a copy of Zeroboxer, along with six other awesome YA sci-fi books, in our giveaway running from 8 April 2016 to 10 April 2016.

Sign up to be notified about this and future giveaways.

Feature image courtesy of clement127 (via Flickr). Used with a Creative Commons licence.

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 faintest glimmer of light: Traci Loudin on antiheroines

Traci Loudin is the author of The Last of the Ageless, a post-apocalyptic adventure featuring the shapeshifting Nyr.

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

TRACI: Nyr lives in a morally gray, post-apocalyptic world. She can partially shapeshift to gain the claws, fangs, and fur of a tigress, as well as some of the big cat’s less friendly personality traits. Growing up in the Hellsworth Tribe, she learned that compassion is for the weak, and that the only way to survive in this world is to fight, take what you can, and leave nothing for others to use against you.

She’s a member of a smaller clan that scavenges for booty along the perimeter of the Hellsworth Tribe territory, until her lust for bounty lands her with a mysterious artifact that separates her from her clan before the novel begins. From there she begins her transition from more of a villainous character to more of an antihero. Continue reading