Message From The Author
My daughter, Emily, slammed into the car after school, tossed the book she’d been reading onto the dashboard and groaned.
I imagined all sorts of horrible things that could have happened at school. Had she failed a test? Was she no longer the flyer on the cheerleading team? Had someone bullied her for being short or smart or…. My neurotic mom gear in overdrive I swallowed hard and calmed down enough to ask her, “Baby, what’s wrong?”
She smashed her seat belt into the clip. “Why is it? Why… is it, that all the girls in books are either wusses or kick-butt, but when they are kick-butt they’re mean jerks and you can’t even root for them?”
I took a deep breath. “That’s what’s upsetting you?”
She looked at me like I had the IQ of a grape and said her in eighth-grade way, “Yeah. Duh.”
I pulled the car away and didn’t know how to answer, which is probably an epic mom fail right there. But I did the best thing I could do, I started to write a book where the main character was kick-ass (or kick butt for those sensitive to the a-word) and where the main character was also nice.
That book became Need, a story about Zara, a pacifist, Amnesty International kind of girl, who moves to Maine after her step-father dies and eventually throughout the series becomes very kick-butt, and hopefully doesn’t lose her nice. By Entice, the third book, her transformation is pretty much complete.
In the Need series, I didn’t want to make a character like the ones that annoyed Emily. I wanted someone like her, a character who is strong and tough but ultimately, indescribably kind.
There are dangers in writing young adult, paranormal romance. When you look back at male/female relationships in history and in books, it’s so easy to think, “Oh man… He is oppressing her.” It’s easy to see into the lit Victorian windows into drawing rooms full of tears and subjugation. We can open up countless books and read about Peggy Sue being yanked off the railroad tracks and into hunky arms where she appropriately swoons.
It is so easy to see how wrong things used to be, but it also makes me wonder, as a writer, how our own cultural lens shapes perceptions of women in our writing.
In Entice, my heroine finally comes into her own. She is the hero. I wanted a kick-butt heroine who loves her friends and her boyfriend, who is powerful, but not perfect, who doubts herself but still has the courage to battle her inner demons and the outer ones. But I have to wonder how my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will think of her. Will they see her as oppressed the way I see characters written by authors two generations prior to me?
From our 2010 or 2011 vantage point, it’s so easy to look back and see sexism. From our modern aspect, it’s so simple to sigh and shake our heads and say, “Oh, how sad.” But we also need to listen to those that came before us and learn their lessons. Instead of condemning them, we need to ask ourselves, “What will our great grandchildren think is horrifying in what we write, in how we live?” Will their mouths gape open in horror when they read my books, when they learn about my life? Will they think, “If only she could have written characters who were more kick butt or been a bit more kick butt herself?”
Although, knowing my great grandchildren they probably won’t say "butt." They’ll say the a-word.
I know that it’s my responsibility to Emily, and to my readers, and to myself to make characters who are tough and viable and lovable, who are like real people. In the pages of books, we come to escape or to learn, to love or to fight. We gather there, hoping for truth and adventure and romance. The characters motion to us quietly, teaching us about ourselves, through their lens, making history with every word. That’s what I thought about when I wrote Entice, which is probably why it took forever to write, but it was important. We are the books we write and the books we read, reflections of all that have come before and that will come.
- Carrie Jones
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