Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Deadlier than the male?

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


Chelle Cordero said...

"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."

Wow, what a terrific description of your heroines; but I have a feeling there is also some of YOU in each gal.

Keep writing, your work is wonderful.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Lindsay,
Thanks for inviting us over. You have definitely written a variety of heroines and I agree with Chelle. I believe a little of you has leaked into each one. How can it not when we live, eat, and breathe these characters for weeks on end? Anyway a great and varied cast of heroines you've shared with us and for that I thank you.

Francesca Prescott said...

Great blog, Lindsay. Since you know so much about your heroines and their most original skills, I bet that if faced with a bull, you'd know how to leap it! Of course, you might need a little practise to get it right, but you'd know the basics. Which would definitely give you a leg up on me!

Linda Banche said...

I love reading about heroines who do lots of different things. One thing that drew me to the romance genre was that women COUNT in a romance. In most other genres, and in most books written by men, women are an afterthought, or they're there only for sex or to clean the house.

All women do more that that, and I want to read about these women. I love your heroines.

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Lindsay, I really love how you approach your heroines from all the historical angles - not just the domestic detail, but all the social mores, the history of women's equality, the lot. I feel utterly confident with your writing,because I know you haven't missed anything, and in historical fiction and romance, that's important - to me, anyway! I wonder if your historical heroines' struggles have parallels with today's women - I bet they do. :) I especially love your remark. 'My women are not super-women. They are normal, with the hopes and yearnings that are theirs.' That's exactly why we relate, no matter the place in history.

Jane x

LK Hunsaker said...

But Lindsay, women are prone to evil and devilish desires! ;-) At least your Ahhotpe is. I love that you have an anti-heroine.

Cheryl said...

You have such a variety of heroines! That is very interesting to me. Writing western romance, I guess I feel as if my heroines are more limited because of the setting and the times. But still, there is always a little bit of me in each of them, too!

Savanna Kougar said...

Lindsay, everyone has beautifully expressed what's true about your heroines and your skillful brilliant writing.
One reason I find your heroines so appealing is because they represent their times in the sense that they overcome and live, not merely exist. And they are tough, physically and mentally, or they learn to be.
Thanks for sharing Ahhotpe. She's a wonderful anti-heroine! And she's so Egyptian. You must have lived during that time.
As women why shouldn't we write what we know... ourselves.
I have to agree with Linda. It's really tiresome when the focus of a story or a movie is solely on the man or men... which occurs all too often, imho.
Oh, big deal, who cares about fiction that constantly makes the male sex the center of the universe. Why isn't woman and man, as portrayed together, the center of their universe?

Keena Kincaid said...

Great post, Lindsay. Like you, I write historicals (mostly medievals) and my heroines are definitely tethered by gender and limited options. But the list of your heroines is amazing. Opera singer? Bull leaper? I bet you have incredibly vivid dreams.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi and thank you, Chelle, Rebecca, Francesca, Linda, Jane, LK, Cheryl, Savanna and Keena!

Thank you all for stopping by and being so kind about my heroines and me! I do love researching their different roles although how much I could do myself is a very moot point!

I'm really enjoying this week's theme and every writer's different 'take' on heroines - utterly fascinating.

Rebecca and Francesca - you are most welcome to blog sometime on the pink blog, you know.

Linda Swift said...

Lindsay, I am amazed by your variety of heroines and the amount of research you must have done because I know you would alsolutely be accurate. And what depth of character you portray. After reading all these really "deep" essays on heroines, it makes me want to withdraw my own contribution on Friday! Oh, well, at least it will offer a conrast and maybe Fridays are good days for "light" reading. Thanks for offering the opportunity to all of us to showcase our work and our thoughts. Linda

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks, Linda! Please don't feel like that about your work - your heroines are highly loveable and that is what matters. If I don't like a heroine I don't finish the story about her because I don't care. I care about all your people and I'm looking forward to your Friday blog.

LoAnna aka Cierra James said...

I think my mother was the heroine of her day. On the outside she was the green-eyed, dark haired beauty. On the inside she was sensitive, loving, deeply loyal and if needed could leep tall buildings.