Tag Archives: strong female characters

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
image-2021
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
image-2022
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
image-2008
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,
image-2009
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

I don’t give a shit: Rebecca Lim on antiheroines

Rebecca Lim is the author of the Mercy series, a paranormal fantasy about an angel, named Mercy, who hijacks the bodies of mortal girls.

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

The cover of Mercy by Rebecca LimREBECCA: In Mercy and the other books in the series Exile, Muse, Fury and the next instalment I’m writing at the moment, Wraith, I created an amnesiac, exiled creature of spirit who calls herself Mercy.

She’s been forced to live thousands of human lives for her own protection and keeps “waking” inside a new human body with no idea of who and what she really is, and why this is being done to her – a process that I called “soul jacking”. Continue reading