Heroine Week Roundup

I hope you all had a chance to look at the amazing Heroine Week posts at Romance Around the Corner. Such a great discussion about women in romance in both the posts and the comments.

My post was on the unlikable heroine, and the discussion in the comments and Rebecca’s post on the same subject were like little light bulbs all over the place helping me realize why it is I like the “unlikable” so much,

Also fitting for heroine week was reading Mary Ann River’s novella The Story Guy, which if you’re a part of the romance community at all you’ve probably already seen the gushing reviews. And they’re all right on the money, because this novella was fantastic.

What really struck me with this novella though was the heroine. She is not unlikable in the least, and yet she entered my list of favorite heroines. A list which is populated mostly by prickly, kick ass, “unlikable” types. Carrie is kick ass in her own way, but it’s a very different way.

Carrie is nice. She loves her job. She loves her parents and friends and is relatively content. She has no terrible tragedy marring her life. She’s not hugely flawed or unbelievably perfect. She is very real. More so than perhaps any other character I’ve read in romance Carrie was someone I personally related to. I understood her because she was so much like me.

And so heroine week and reading The Story Guy kind of came together to put this bright shining point on why it is I like the “unlikable” heroine so much.

She feels real. Flaws are real. Selfishness is real. I see my flaws in giant blazing 3D, so heroines that are flawed and not always good at being around people are heroines that strike the “real” chord for me more so than uber sophisticated, sleek, successful or meek, dewy-eyed, self-sacrificing Cinderella types.

But, in Carrie, despite her general likeableness, I found pieces of myself in such clarity, she was real and 3D and all I look for in a heroine. A crap way with people is going to be the thing I relate to the most, but just being an average, doing-the-best-I-can person is also incredibly real and awesome.

I’m off to the RWA conference on Wednesday. I’ll be going to workshops, pitching to agents/editors, participating in Samhain’s book signing, going to a few parties. I’m nervous and uncertain and a million other emotions I can’t even name, but I am so excited to be a part of this community, even if only on the fringes.

Romance is awesome. Writers are awesome. Heroines are super awesome.

Happy Heroine Week!

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It’s HEROINE WEEK! The amazing Brie over at Romance Around the Corner collected a bunch of guests posts from authors and readers regarding heroines in romance novels and organized it all into one awesome week celebrating romance heroines.

If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know I love me some heroines. Especially if they’re effed up. On Wednesday, I’ll have a post at RAtC about the appeal of unlikable heroines.

There are some amazing authors and bloggers who I’m in total awe of taking part and I can guarantee if you read or write romance, you won’t want to miss a post.

Each day has a variety of posts. (Here’s the schedule)

If you’re following me on Twitter or like me on Facebook, I’ll post individual links as they occur. And hopefully by the end of the week, you’ll be just like me:

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May Reading

It’s the last Monday in May.

Wait. WHAT?

I can’t believe how fast this year is zooming by. May was a doozy of a month, so I’m looking forward to June. I’ll be working on first round edits of Risky Return, final edits of Flight Risk, my sister is getting married, and my current work in progress is making me very, very happy.

One positive to May was that I read two really phenomenal books.

Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss. This is the end of her SAS series, and it’s just amazing, phenomenal storytelling and writing. This particular book was emotional, challenging, and explored some tough issues. Bliss does military heroes like no other author out there. It takes a skilled writer to make a back-to-life story realistic, emotionally resonating, and deeply satisfying. Bliss does all three perfectly in this book.

The Rebound Girl by Tamara Morgan. In my Goodreads review I basically said I’d give this story eleventy billion stars. That’s for a lot of reasons. I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely continue to say it. For me, romance is not about escapism. Reading anything isn’t about being taken away on a fantasy (for me, everyone has different reasons for reading, and that’s great. Read because whyever!). I like to read fiction to be taken into a realistic world, and Morgan does that with her heroine. There are times I *hated* what Whitney (the heroine) did, but it was so realistic, so true to the kind of person she was, that it didn’t make me hate her or the book. Cringe, yes, but she was such a believable, three-dimensional, not-perfect heroine and I LOVED that about her.

I also really enjoyed the complexities of the hero. He’s a “beta hero” and a total goody-goody. He’s also sweet and adorable (my hero trifecta!).

In the end, I think I enjoyed this book so much because it took traditional character types and gender flipped them. Whitney was kind of an alpha-hole, and good for her. Matt was kind of a wimp at times, and good for him. We’re all flawed, and I loved that these characters were flawed, learned from mistakes, loved wholly if not perfectly, and found each other on (eventually) equal ground.

More Tough Girl Talk

Talking about tough girl heroines and trying to write a tough heroine means that the subject is on my mind most of the time. I tried to determine why it is I tend to like tough heroines, and why I am drawn to writing them.

And, I think I came to understand one piece. I like tough girls because I am so not one. I am a big wimp when it comes to most things. So, a tough girl represents for me a kind of wishful thinking. Man, I wish I had the guts to do that.

A few nights ago I went to a baseball game with my Mom. The guy behind us was yammering on and on about how a Minnesota pitcher was in the midst of pitching a no hitter. He kept saying no-no over and over again, so loud and so obnoxious that it was just one of those things that really grated on my nerves.

So, I lean over to my Mom and say, “If that guy says no-no one more time I am going to…” and then I trail off because honestly… what am I going to do?

Which my Mom points out. “You’re going to what? Sit there and say nothing.”

“Yup. If that guy says no-no one more time I am going to sit here and fume inwardly.”

Now, honestly, the guy wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just being loud and annoying. Not a crime. And saying anything probably would have only created a negative situation. Still, there’s a part of me that wishes I had more guts to say something in certain situations.

So, I tend to be drawn to or amused by those people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind (even perhaps when they shouldn’t). And I’m more forgiving of someone who is too brash, than someone who is too afraid to do anything… because that’s a trait I don’t care for in myself.

Excerpt Re: unlikable heroines

One of my favorite stories I’ve written is about a heroine who is kind of unlikable in the beginning.  It’s a favorite because the hero is an MLB baseball player and it allowed me to live a little vicariously through my characters.  (When I was a kid, I wanted to be the first female MLB player, then when I got older I just wanted to have an MLB player, yum).

To kind of give an example of what I was talking about with unlikable heroines, I’m including an excerpt.  I love Georgia, she’s one of my favorite heroines.  When I had a group (over at writing.com) take a look, one of the responses that stayed with me was that there wasn’t anything to like about Georgia in the beginning.  I’ve done some work on it since then, but she’s still not exactly your typical heroine.

Despite revisions, The Goal needs A LOT of work.  (I wrote this back in 2005).  I plan on someday going back and revising it, but for now it’s a 45,000 word mess.

Excerpt from The Goal

Georgia didn’t usually mind rain.  Though most of her teammates grumbled and complained that the field was slick and they were cold and wet, most rainy days Georgia liked the messy slide of mud under her cleats as she dribbled the ball towards the goal.

Today, however, was not one of those days.  Georgia tore off her practice gear the minute she entered the locker room.  She ignored the muddy tracks her cleats made on the cement and made a beeline for her locker.  Pushing her cleats off, ignoring the mess, Georgia swore under her breath as she pulled on her dry clothes.

“In a hurry, Kapshaw?”  A towel was flung over her head and she only grunted in response.  Georgia used the towel to wipe off her muddy hands, but had to ignore the unruly state of her dark blonde curls.  The way the rain was coming down it would be no use to try and dry her hair.

“I’m outta here, guys,” Georgia called, jogging out of the locker room without so much as a look back at the puddles and mud she’d left in front of her locker.

“Later, G.”  A couple of the girls rolled their eyes.  If they’d learned anything about Georgia Kapshaw in the past three years of playing with her, it was that she was single-minded.  And once she left the field today, her mind had gone elsewhere.

Georgia whizzed out of the building and back into the steady rain.  Jogging to her car, she hopped in with a shiver.  Without so much as a look behind her, she catapulted her Jeep into traffic.

She checked the time.  One hour to get home and get ready.  With her lips pressed firmly together, she threw traffic laws out the window and worked on getting home as quickly as possible.

Now that she was on the road, her mind could shift to what the hell she was going to wear.  She’d meant to have Julie pick something out before practice, but she’d been too busy thinking about goals and endurance to worry about something like an outfit for a party that wasn’t happening for twelve hours.

Without a qualm, Georgia cut in front of an intimidating black SUV, her mind on nothing but the party.  Though the going away get together had been Georgia’s idea, Julie had ended up doing most of the work for the party herself.  Georgia just hadn’t had the time with soccer season winding down.  She’d been swamped.

And now in two days, her best friend and roommate was moving to Europe for a year.  It bothered her just a little that she’d missed spending that month soaking up Julie’s presence, but soccer was Georgia’s passion, her career, her life.  She couldn’t regret all the time and energy she’d put into the season the past month.

Though a police officer might have pulled her over for running a red light, Georgia would have argued that the light was yellow when she entered the intersection.  Georgia was just lucky there were no police officers around at the moment.  Home in record time, she scooted the car into an empty parking space behind her apartment complex.  Rushing through the heavy downpour, Georgia got in the building completely soaked and with only fifteen minutes before the party was scheduled to begin.

Georgia viewed the jog up five flights of stairs as her post-practice exercise for the day.  Pushing her wet mass of hair off her face she took a breath and braced herself before she opened the door.  Her only hope was Julie would be so caught up with last minute preparations that she could slip by and get ready without any scolding.

“Jesus, Georgie!  You’re a mess.”

Georgia flinched, closing the door behind her.  “Sorry, Jules.  It’s pretty nasty out.”

Julie just clicked her tongue, rearranging some bowls on a card table she’d covered with a neon green tablecloth.  As always, Julie looked perfect.  Her mahogany hair was pulled back into some fancy twist Georgia would never have even begun to know how to execute.  Julie Stevenson was slender and sophisticated looking, all fluid lines in an immaculately pressed black sheath dress.  It was all a direct contrast to Georgia’s unruly curls, muscled and athletic body, and complete disregard for fashion and neatness.

“Well, you’ve got ten minutes.  I suggest you hurry,” Julie ordered, giving her friend a disgusted once over.

“Will do, Captain.”  Georgia tried to lighten the mood with a mock salute.  It didn’t work.

“Ugh!  Georgie, you’re tracking all over the place!”

“Sorry, I’ll-”

“You’ll go shower and get dressed.  I’ll mop this up.  Jesus, why do I put up with you?”

Usually Georgia would have come back with some smart-ass remark, but today all she could think was pretty soon Julie wouldn’t have to put up with her any longer.  She’d be in a whole other country.

Saddened, Georgia went back to her room, careful not to track any mud across the hallway carpet.  She rifled through her closet, not sure what would be deemed acceptable party attire in Julie’s mind.

Though Julie was her best friend in the world, in most areas of personality they were as different as night and day.  Julie the practical, anal (though Julie preferred organized) graphic designer and Georgia the disorganized, messy, single-minded soccer player.  But, it was a mismatch that had seen them through college and their first few years of adulthood.  It was a relationship that had gotten them both through the ups and downs of starting out on their own.  And while their relationship wouldn’t be over simply because Julie was moving, Georgia had her concerns.

Georgia picked out a tight black skirt that she knew accented her long, toned legs and a sparkly purple top that Julie would loathe for the sheer loudness of it.  Friendship often meant annoying the crap out of each other.

Double Standard

I like strong heroines.  I don’t mean “feisty”, I mean strong.  Heroines that can fight their own battles, heroines that maybe need a little softening around the edges, kind of like a female version of the Alpha hero but not quite so “ruthless”.

I like these types of heroines, but I have a hard time making them likable or empathetic in the first chapter when I’m writing them.  Of the two novels I’ve written where I’ve used this type of heroine, I have repeatedly gotten feedback that they aren’t likable at first.

And yet, they’re my favorite heroines I’ve written.  But, I know them and their redeeming qualities, the hurts that have made them tough, and well, I just know them.  And if people get past that first chapter of unlikableness, they usually end up liking her.  But, how many readers get past the first chapter with an unlikable heroine?

When Jane Austen was writing Emma she was quoted as saying something along the lines of she was writing a character only she would like.  Not that I’m comparing myself to Austen, but I understand the feeling.  Sometimes I feel like only I could like my heroines.  (Also, I can’t stand Emma in the book.  Emma in the movie with Gwenyth Paltrow & Jeremy Northam, on the other hand, marvelous).

So, one of my “to work ons” is to still write these strong heroines, but work on bringing their softer side out in the first chapter so people can empathize with them.

I do think this is a little bit of a double standard though.  Very few people would bat an eye at a hero with the same qualities.  They’d even like the hero for those qualities.  I understand this to an extent, but I’ll be honest when I say that Alpha heroes are low on my list of favorites.   Of course, that’s a personal preference, and I’m probably in the minority on it, and it all comes down to individual tastes.