When the wonderful M.J. Schiller was looking for spots on her blog tour for the release of ABANDON ALL HOPE, I challenged her to tell us a little bit about her writing and the way she writes female characters in particular — because you know that’s kind of what this blog tends to come back to ALL THE TIME (I call it theme, but you’re allowed to call it repetitive) . And so I am super proud to hand my blog over to M.J. Schiller and her take on the character-writing process and realistic characters!
Our lovely hostess, Laila, asked me to talk today about the portrayal of women in the media, and specifically in my writing. At first I was hesitant. After all, the motto I use for my writing is “If you’ve learned something from an MJ Schiller novel, our educational system has definitely failed you!” I’m the rock star romance girl, not the deep thinker. And politics for me is a four letter word. I believe in the politics of you and me, bud. The politics of how we treat one another. The politics of interpersonal relationships. Webster-Merriam’s online dictionary defines politics as “the total complex of relations between people living in society.” But that “total complex” is made up of millions of little pieces. It’s how I interact with my kids, the neighbors, my church community, and so on. I feel like anything bigger than that is a little overwhelming. It seems out of my control. But how I think about, react to, and treat other people, that is definitely something that I can look at and strive to improve. The big picture hurts my head, so I concentrate on what I can handle. Hey. At least I know my limitations.
But the more I thought about Laila’s concept, the more I liked the challenge. My heroines are not generally the fainting, I-need-a-man-in-my-life-to-solve-all-of-my-problems types. Nor are they domineering or strong-willed to the point of being overbearing types. They are real people. Real people who sometimes have the strength to stick up for themselves, but who also sometimes cringe when faced with a tough choice. They are real people who make mistakes, who sometimes don’t act right and have to apologize. Both my men and my women. They are no different. They both make mistakes; they both are human and therefore weak. They both have unbelievable strengths, unflaggingly unique spirits; they both are human and therefore strong.
I’ve had editors accuse me of having my heroes and heroines act out of character at times, to which I counter, don’t we all act out of character sometimes? Like, when the doctor told us that we were having triplets, I’m not sure that we acted in character. No, wait… I was ecstatic; my husband’s split-second reaction was, and I quote, “Four college educations?!” It was going to take my mind a while to get there, but his went right there. Perhaps this is a bad example, as both reactions were probably what you’d expect from either one of us. Better example: when I attend Nickelback concerts, I act out of character. I have led the Christian Family Movement Group and the Children’s Liturgy at our church. That’s not the gal you see trying to sneak backstage. My point is, I later see the error of my ways, (I should have lied to the security guy when he asked me if I had a backstage pass! Darn!) Kidding! I see how foolish it is to border on illegal activity in trying to get in secure areas of a building just to meet the boys in the band. (Personally, I think they should just let me back there, but that’s a debate more for Juli Page Morgan’s blog tomorrow.) Certain circumstances have us acting differently than others would usually expect. For some it’s crises. For me, it’s rock stars.
Back to how I portray women in my books. Example one: Beth Donovan of TRAPPED UNDER ICE, mother, widow, lunch lady, romance writer. Beth shows that vulnerable, “weaker” side, if you will, when she is afraid to become involved with Chad after the loss of her husband Paul. But she shows her stronger side when dealing with her teenaged daughter’s heartache and when faced with a physical threat at the beginning, and again, near the end of the story. And ultimately, when she makes the decision to go forward with her relationship with Chad despite all the problems they have to face. She is both strong and weak; she is human.
Bashea, of TAKEN BY STORM is a woman who appears totally in charge of her life, totally in control. But underneath the surface, there is a lot brewing in her. She is afraid to trust Tahj because of being assaulted by Lord Boltar’s men and because the prince comes from a family that is superior to hers. She is extremely flawed and extremely brave at the same time. She has a strong heart and is a good woman despite sometimes being sharp-tongued and stubborn.
And finally, Hope, from my newest release, ABANDON ALL HOPE. Hope is strong in one sense because she has survived a lot of turmoil. In a second sense she does not have the inner fortitude to really ask for, and work for, what she wants in her life. By the end of the book, she matures and gains that strength of spirit to reach for her dreams, and it is more than winning back the love of the man she feels abandoned her eight years prior to the story’s beginning. The story doesn’t end when Chase and Hope get together, because, ultimately it is about Hope testing herself on an even more personal level and coming out on top.
So in closing, I try to portray my heroines, and all my characters, for that matter, as realistically as possible, which means that sometimes they are found lacking; sometimes they are downright inspiring. Thank you for listening to my take on writing and portraying women. It was a fun assignment after all.
It was one of those mornings for newspaper-writer/photographer Hope Creswell. The alarm clock didn’t go off and she cut her finger on broken glass. Not one to let such things get her down, Hope headed into her assignment meeting with excitement, only to leave it stunned. Her new assignment is to trail the sensational rock-star, Chase Hatton, for an article. Chase Hatton! No one knows the power that name holds for her. No one knows of the childhood friendship that blossomed into romance, only to abruptly die on the night of Hope’s senior prom. No one knows of the ache that still fills her heart.
What starts out for Chase Hatton as an average publicity trip to Chicago suddenly becomes complicated when his manager tells him that Hope Creswell will be interviewing him in the morning. He had spent eight years trying to forget Hope, and now she would be in his penthouse in a matter of hours?
When Chase opens the door to his penthouse and finds Hope on the opposite side, his heart begins beating a rhythm the rocker has yet to capture in any of his music. The smoldering embers of their former romance are fanned by their mere proximity. Will they both be burned again? Can Hope ever trust her heart to Chase after what he did? Can Chase bear to see her walk out on him a second time? And what about Hope’s boyfriend, Phillip? Where does he fit into the picture that Hope is developing?