Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Books of our youth: Spirited heroines, then and now

Last year, I asked several writers to share their tales of writing and publishing their second books. This year, I'm interested in the books we read in our youth that stick with us. I hope to feature a series of guest posts on this topic. First up is Judith Graves, author of UNDER MY SKIN and SECOND SKIN, for an interesting connection between a classic favorite and today's paranormal stories:

As a teen I read a lot of classics, as well as fantasy, sci-fi, and horror fiction, still the genres I prefer today. However, in my tweens I enjoyed the writings of one Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Perhaps it’s because I lived in Summerside, Prince Edward Island as a young girl – Anne mania has a solid hold on island residents and it left a lasting impression on me - from my enduring love of the sea, to my love of Anne of Green Gables.

I’ve re-read Anne’s story many times. While I occasionally take on the entire series (there are around ten books in total), I usually pick up my dog-eared copy of the first title to be enthralled with Anne’s adventurers once more (the slate scene – priceless!). This is a character that stands the test of time. Anne is smart, independent, imaginative, stubborn, impulsive, wild and cautious all at once. She has the perfect love interest in Gilbert Blythe, who pushes her to excel. Her best friend, Diana acts as an excellent foil – girly, popular, and yet willing to join Anne on her escapades. As with much of our current MG / YA fiction, Anne is an orphan, yet manages to forge an extended family with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, her loyal friends, and a few key teachers / adults along the way.




When I compare Anne’s story to my own SKINNED series, I see a lot of the young, fiery redhead in my main character, Eryn. Eryn’s an orphan sent to live in a small town after big city life in Vancouver (sea connection!), she’s outspoken – a real smartass – and that often gets her in trouble, she doesn’t like asking for help, and she’s fiercely loyal to those she considers “pack”. Swap cow pastures and potato fields with werewolf dens and a whole crop of paranormal creatures, and, yeah – Anne’s influence is there – it’s just wrapped up in a cloak of secrets, magic, myth and impending doom.

Now that I’ve branched into writing steampunk and have a new series in the works, I see Anne’s influence even more so in the pseudo-Victorian world I’m creating for Amelia Strangeways and the STRANGEWAYS novels. The formality, the restrictions upon women. It’s so much fun writing a character who can challenge the social norms to benefit others.

So, I thank you Maud, for providing such a brilliant example of a great female lead character – and for doing so in 1908, when women didn’t even have the right to vote.

Cheers!

A firm believer that Canadian teen fiction can be sexy, action packed and snarky as hell – Judith Graves writes paranormal stories with attitude.

8 comments:

  1. Wonderful characters really do stand the test of time and stick with us long after the book is closed. And influence us, I'm sure, in many ways when we write.

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    1. It must be an honor to write a character like that, one who takes her own place in the culture.

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  2. Some kinds of characters endure so well, in any time period or setting.

    I really need to read Anne of Green Gables sometime.

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    1. She's one of the more fun heroines of children's classics!

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  3. She really is - her love of literature, acting, writing, as well as her desire to spark change and stand up against injustice. You can't go wrong with Anne.

    Thanks for having me, Jenn!

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    1. Thanks for visiting, and for cross-hosting me!

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  4. You know, Anne is one of my all time favourite characters. All. time. No wonder I love Eryn, Judith. I feel like we are practically kindred spirits.

    Looking forward to reading more in this series you've developed, Jennifer!

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    1. Thank you, Deb! I plan to post this feature throughout the year--I have a few lined up already!

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