Today we welcome Wendy K. Perriman who shares her knowledge about female warriors and the female heroic journey. Wendy is the author of Fire on Dark Water (New York: Berkley Trade, 2011) and will be joining us at Wonderland Book Club in April 2013. Enjoy!
Female warriors. As Suzanne Collins demonstrates in her highly successful trilogy The Hunger Games, you can’t go far wrong with an invincible female protagonist like Katniss Everdeen. Indeed, in recent years proactive women have moved boldly center stage, producing such memorable heroines as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, Kay Scarpetta from Patricia Cornwell’s medical thriller series, and Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It must be every editor’s dream to see the next sister-warrior emerging from the slush-pile!
Penguin Books signed my debut historical novel primarily because Fire on Dark Water features a strong female character, an English gypsy called Lola Blaise. When Lola is duped into marrying the buccaneer Captain Edward Teach she becomes thirteenth wife of the infamous Blackbeard, scarcely guessing the unconscionable deeds she will have to perform to avoid the fate of her tragic predecessors. Tales of piracy continue to capture the popular imagination and feminists have looked to Anne Bonny and Mary Reed as historic examples of tough heroines. But carried away by such romanticism many writers lose sight of the fact that most buccaneers were greedy, bloodthirsty killers with addictive or pathological natures. I sought to portray the real pirates of the Caribbean. I also wanted to create the first literary pirate novel since Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and yet still appeal to readers who wouldn’t usually buy nautical fiction. Therefore Lola’s character had to fulfill a range of criteria. History requires her to be as real, believable, and accurate as possible so she interacts with genuine people in documented situations throughout the novel. Then although Lola suffers terribly at the hands of Blackbeard and his crew, she has to survive the ordeal in order to tell her tale. And while she is a thief, liar, outlaw, and killer, she needs to remain sympathetic. For a detailed account of how I tackled this process please visit the Fire on Dark Water website (New York: Berkley Trade, 2011)
Do fictional female warriors share common traits? Most definitely yes! They are primarily cunning and smart—and whether skilled with a bow, gun, scalpel, or computer, their bravery is ultimately rewarded. These women are driven, organized, calm under pressure, often opportunistic, and while neither Salander nor Lola is particularly likable they take no prisoners and earn the reader’s respect. Heroines may face different challenges motivated by love or duty, anger or revenge, greed or necessity, and yet they all retain hope. They learn to thrive in a hostile environment, sometimes with the help of others and the benefits of training, but always with resilience and ingenuity. Yet despite the commonalities, these characters are strikingly different. Fortunately for the writers among us, bravery comes in many guises so there are endless possibilities for the development of new warriors. And perhaps it doesn’t matter who they are, or where they come from, as long as they each adhere to the sterling advice offered Katniss Everdeen , “Make sure they remember you!”
About Wendy K. Perriman
Wendy Perriman has published two scholarly books on major literary figures. The first, A Wounded Deer: The Effects of Incest on the Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2006), concludes that Dickinson’s enigmatic poetry may have originated from a personal exposure to trauma. Her second book, Willa Cather and the Dance: “A Most Satisfying Elegance”, (New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009), suggests that Cather was among the first intellectuals to train as a leading balletomane, and to utilize dance imagery to enrich and subvert the subtext of her novels. She was awarded a Ph.D. at Drew University in 2003 and here she also won theMichaelEllisPrize for the most innovative M.A. thesis, and theHelenLePage and William Hale Chamberlain Prize for the best-written doctoral dissertation. Originally from ancient English town of Kirkham, Wendy Perriman now resides with her family in the sailing community on the shores of Lake Norman nearCharlotte in North Carolina.