There is a good deal of wish-fulfilment in my heroines. Firstly their characters tend to be far braver, more patient, generous and caring than I am. Secondly, in their roles they often 'act out' roles I would love to try myself. My heroines are opera singers, wildlife photographers, healers, scribes, princesses, expert seamstresses, bull-leapers, and metal-smiths. Life may be tough but they are resilient and intelligent. They may doubt and self-question, but I try to make them full of life. Vitality is attractive where rampant self-pity can quickly become tiresome in a character in a story.
I throw challenges in the way of my womenfolk. In my historical romances they may struggle with their position in society - Flavia, in Flavia's Secret is a slave, Sarmatia, in Bronze Lightning is a bull-leaper who is growing old for the dangerous ritual, Sunniva in A Knight's Captive is bullied by her father and brothers and, as a woman in 1066, she has limited options.
That is something I always try to bring out in my historicals: women, even princesses, were more tied by biology than modern women are. In a pre-pill or effective contraception era, then a woman could become pregnant each time she made love. If she earns her living as a tumbler, then if she is pregnant she might starve. Society in many ages has been anti-women: the medieval age saw women as prone to evil and devilish desires.
My women are not super-women. They are normal, with the hopes and yearnings that are theirs. I hope to make them appealing and loveable so my readers with follow them on their hero journey, as they strive to achieve their goals.
One heroine of mine who is a little larger-than-life is Bride, the metal-smith and warrior from my ancient world historical romance, Bronze Lightning. She is tall, strong as a man, skilled in bronze-making and fighting. (She came into my mind many years ago, pre-Xena Warrior Princess, with whom she shares many skills!)
Alyson, my learned, clever heroine from A Knight's Vow, is always curious. Flavia has two deadly secrets, either of which could cost her her life. Lydia needs to escape an impossible situation and a loveless marriage in Escape to Love. Corinna is faced with a terrible choice in my forthcoming Silk and Steel.
Another heroine who is not to be crossed is my golden Egyptian princess from 'Blue Gold'. Here's an excerpt from Blue Gold, showing my amoral heroine - anti-heroine - in action:
Hunting bored Ahhotpe, but since Zoser—the Pyramid, as she’d nicknamed him—had been commanded to attend Sekenenre, she had been obliged to inveigle an invitation for herself. It would be entirely predictable of Zoser to try to advance his position and fix himself firmly in his father’s favor. That she was determined to prevent. She would discredit the Pyramid and his fat cow of a mother forever.
Ahhotpe glanced at the wax manikin before smoothing down the papyrus sheet with her gold burnisher and reaching for her palette. As a pastime she enjoyed writing. The hieratic script, precise and beautiful, flowed from her pen.
“Ahhotpe to her father’s mother, Tetisheri, in life, prosperity and health.” Formal greetings over, Ahhotpe indulged a little gossip. “The Pyramid’s mother is here, of course, waddling into Sekenenre’s tent with a lotus flower stuck behind one ear, like a great white duck in a reed bed. She looks quite a meal for a crocodile.”
Leaving it at that, Ahhotpe passed onto other matters, details concerning the state of her clothes in these humid marshes, and lavish praise of her father’s hunting prowess. She was fond of grandmother, and tried to show the old lady her gentlest side, the side she kept for dependents and servants.
Ahhotpe shot a second glance at the wax figure posted just inside the doorway of her tent. Noon was not the most propitious time for magic, but the midday heat ensured that her people were resting and that consequently she would be unobserved. When she saw the shaft of sun chink through the closed tent flaps and strike the figure, the young woman laid aside her letter.
She had fashioned it well, rolling and mashing the wax between her fingers, infecting it with her hatred, until a startling likeness formed. That same narrow forehead and wide jaw, the bull neck and broad chest, the wider hips and massive legs: the Pyramid in miniature, three fingers high. Ahhotpe smiled as she settled cross-legged before the model. It was, she thought, the closest she might ever come willingly to Zoser. Invoking the proper forms, she thrust the first small copper pin deep into the manikin’s heart.
I had a lot of fun writing Ahhotpe!
Best wishes, Lindsay