Welcome to our weekly guest post on what makes a kick ass heroine in science fiction and fantasy. This week’s author Jeremy Rodden shares about the kick ass heroine featured in his upcoming book, Toonopolis: Zephyr, third in his Toonopolis Files series. I love what he says! Girl heroes can be smart and kick butt! I look forward to reading his book!
I am a guy and I love strong female characters. Maybe it is because an amazing single mother raised me. Maybe that is why I married a super-focused medical student (now an emergency physician). Regardless, I love to see strong, confident women in books, movies, cartoons, etc.
I can’t stand the romance novels (young adult or adult) that suggest a woman doesn’t have an identity until she has a man at her hip. Why on Earth would you sit around longing for the handsome millionaire to sweep you up when you are more than capable of becoming the millionaire yourself?
As a writer of young adult fantasy (albeit humorous, cartoon-world fantasy), I try to bear in mind my own feelings when creating a female character. My debut novel, Toonopolis: Gemini, follows a teenage boy, but the third book in my Toonopolis Files (Toonopolis: Zephyr, due out Spring/Summer ‘12) will have a female main character, Zephyr the Pirate Queen.
Zephyr encompasses all the strengths that I want to instill in any daughters I may have in the future (I have two boys currently). She is clever, strong, confident, and self-reliant. She had a tragic past, losing her parents at a young age, but still grew up to take over the title of Pirate Queen from her late father, Boreas the Pirate King. This is a title that must be earned and is not hereditary. Her story is a quest to uncover the identity of her mother, who disappeared shortly after Zephyr was born.
One of the trickiest parts of writing a strong, pirate woman comes in the way of an age-old double standard. A male pirate is easy to write: he lies, cheats, steals, looks out only for himself, and kisses every woman he sees. Reverse that and put “she” instead of “he” and you don’t picture Jack Sparrow–you picture a thieving harlot. Is this fair? Absolutely not. Is this how Zephyr will come across if I write her as a female Jack Sparrow? Yes.
In history, there are few examples of female pirates who still remained fully feminine. Ann Bonny and Mary Read dressed as men during their Caribbean pirate days. Grace O’Malley, famed “Pirate Queen” of Ireland, was really more of a rebel leader than a morally gray pirate. She is an amazing figure to study, but not quite the embodiment of pirates as we see them in popular culture today.
Therefore, in order to capture the elements of pirate-lifestyle without losing the core of who I want Zephyr to be, I need to look for other role models that may be similar. It is not easy to do. I pull one major influence from the world of anime.
Lina Inverse is the main character of the manga/anime Slayers and is a great example of a strong female who walks a bit of a gray line of morality at times. Lina is a powerful sorceress who defeats bandits only to steal their treasure, inflicts violence upon anyone who insults her small bust, and is just as deadly with a sword as she is with her magic. The last is important to me because often in fantasy worlds, women can be strong magic-users or healers but not strong hand-to-hand fighters. Lina is both.
All in all, I strive to create a character that a teenage girl can look to and say, “I can be like that.” Sure, Zephyr still may have her dubious qualities–she is a pirate after all–but as she grows as a person, her strong qualities will definitely overshadow her less desirable ones. I also want to create a character that teenage boys look to and say, “Why can’t I meet a girl like that?” Being both strong and feminine is a reality and a darn good one if I say so myself.
My children are growing up in a household where their mother is a doctor and their father is the homemaker. They need more examples of strong women out there in popular culture. We need more Hermione Grangers and Ginny Weasleys and fewer Bella Swans. I’m doing my part… are you?
Jeremy Rodden is a stay-at-home dad and author of the Toonopolis Files series of cartoon novels. He considers C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll his biggest influences as a writer and hopes to create a lasting, fun world that all ages can enjoy. You can follow him on Twitter (@toonopolis), Facebook (www.facebook.com/toonopolisfiles), or his cartoon review/author blog (www.toonopolis.com).
Toonopolis: Gemini buy links.