I am so thrilled to welcome Rebecca Coleman to JulzReads. I had just finished her novel, Heaven Should Fall, and we started having a casual chat on Goodreads. I mentioned how nice it was meeting her at BEA (though I was probably just another face in the crowd to her), and realized we had something in common. Her bio says:
After studying elementary education for several years at the University of Maryland, she graduated with a degree in English, awarded with honors.
I was all, Too funny, I decided not to be a teacher too, and she was like, Hah, funny that! We also discussed my frustration with some of the characters’ stupid decisions, and she talked about her struggles writing Jill’s character, so I asked her to elaborate on that for a guest post. So here’s Rebecca:
One of my favorite fictional heroines these days is Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” I love her courage in the face of daunting odds, her loyalty to the people she loves, and her ability to navigate a challenging situation with unflinching ethics. No matter what the Capitol throws at her, she never wavers.
But here’s the truth about being human: we don’t always get things right straight out of the gate. Sometimes we aren’t sure of ourselves in a new situation; we misstep, or trust people who aren’t worthy of our trust, or hedge our bets hoping for the better outcome, and then lose. Katniss manages to get through the entire “fight to the death” without having to kill anyone in a way that truly tests her ethics, but in real life, sometimes the game doesn’t run quite so conveniently.
While I was writing “Heaven Should Fall,” my novel that will be out in a few weeks, I wanted to capture the experience of a young woman who doesn’t have it all figured out before the challenge even begins. A good-natured college student, she falls in love with a man who seems strong and outgoing and on a path to greatness– but then falters badly when faced with a grief he doesn’t know how to handle. Like most of us, Jill is feeling around in the dark. She wants to believe the best about the person she loves. She’s willing to tell herself that the worst possibility is too crazy to be realistic. And she doesn’t want to admit weakness and ask for help, so she becomes further and further entangled into her husband’s unfolding family drama until it’s too late to escape.
It’s early yet, but already I’ve caught a bit of flak in reviews for this– comments about Jill’s passivity and her easy acceptance of her circumstances. It’s criticism I understand, but it’s frustrating, too– because I don’t agree that a heroine needs to pitch a scrappy battle against her circumstances at every turn and come out the winner without a scratch. Maybe she can be her own worst enemy, and figure that out only gradually, and then need to scramble to recover. I know I’ve been there. I’ve kicked myself and felt like an idiot and come out stronger in the end, eventually. If you ask me, that’s an experience worth writing about too.
Where “girl power” is concerned, I think the important message to take away from a story with a female main character is, “you’re stronger than you think.” I know that’s true of Jill; it’s true of Katniss, too. And that’s the great thing about fiction: many paths, many stories, all speaking to the human experience. It’s all worth capturing.