What is the purpose of this blog? To share my experience of writing Evangeline’s first novel. The growing pains, the joys and moments of pure “Gahhhh, what was I thinking that I could actually do this?” I want to invite you into my process and my life for a little while as Evangeline is born on the page. Thrill with me as my husband questions for the umpteenth time why I’m spending time on a blog that he is certain no one will read. Wonder with me why he thinks anyone would read my novel otherwise. Sympathy please, he is a child of the 60’s and so little understands the need for social networking in today’s world. He is a good man though – reads everything I write and believes in my prospects of publishing with an unshakable faith. Just has no concrete clue how that works these days.
So let’s talk about where this road started. I’m going to say the seeds were planted a long, long time ago in a suburban California galaxy orbiting San Francisco. The image up top is a photo of me at the start of things, already searching for the heroine of my dreams in a book. Probably not the first I’d ever opened by then. Where were all the stand alone heroines when I was growing up in the 1970’s?
In my youngest most formative years the best we had were sidekicks who were remarkable for the very traits that you would have hoped women were expected to have anyway. Inner strength, an inquisitive and intelligent mind, aptitudes for physical and technical skills. And of course I dreamed of discovering that I was one of these rare creatures when I grew up. Then there was this weird explosion of movies and books that featured impossibly large breasted protagonists who karate chopped or machine gunned their way through obviously y chromosome concocted worlds.
The first glimmer of hope for me came with The Bionic Woman and Linda Carter’s classic Wonder Woman. Both of these shows were revolutionary in that these were powerful women who openly struggled with the use of that power but found ways to use it wisely and for good. Not that I’m implying these were delicately nuanced characters. But when I put on my navy blue shorts, red tank top and galoshes, those red button clip-on earrings from Grandma, and the gold plastic tiara and bracelet set emblazoned with the iconic red stars I believed in the possibility of becoming that strong, capable, confident woman.
And then the 80’s came and strong women got complicated. Almost too complicated. It was like being a strong woman made you angry or depressed or somehow incapable of connecting with others in any meaningful way. I loved Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise. But god would I ever want to be her? Uh, a resounding no to that. She was miserable, strong yes, but absolutely the least happy woman in outer space. And not just because of the eponymous Alien.
Princess Leia, for all her leadership and bravery, had problems with “letting the walls down” emotionally – ‘natch! And anyway she wasn’t even the main character in that story although everyone brings her up when the discussion turns to heroines. How can you be a heroine if the story isn’t about you and your journey? I believe Joseph Campbell coined the term Hero’s Journey. Which is another thing I’d love to talk about, but that’s another rant.
I did find heroines in literature that resonated for me. Jane Eyre, plain but beautiful of heart and possessed of a sharp wit. Determined to always do what was right no matter what the cost. No surprise – written by a woman. Madeline L’ Engel’s Meg Murry, so smart and stubborn and capable of such furious, boundless love for her brother and father. I’m sure I’ve forgotten many. I was then and am now a voracious reader.
I wish I could say that I’m sure I’d forgotten hundreds or thousands of memorably significant heroines that meant something to me growing up but I would be lying. I brushed against hundreds that came close only to disappoint at some critical moment or characteristic. Considering how many films and books I consume – vast numbers if you ask my husband – I have no doubt watched and read the exploits of countless women who did nothing to excite or inspire me which is just … sad.
And heroines today…Well I’ve seen the future and it’s um, strangely familiar. The dystopian heroines are so conflicted and angry (Ellen Ripley anyone?). The adventure heroines have a surprising amount of cleavage and all of the men and/or sexy vampires want them sexually whether they ought to or not. And why do they all have tiny waists and pert noses and/or pale blemish free ivory skin. Do none of these women have normal bodies?
So this led me here. After years of short story writing and half started novels and even one completed novel about something else entirely, I’ve landed at this particular spot. A place where I’m hoping to build a better heroine. Someone I’d like to be when I grow up.
What do you think? Want to explore it with me?