My books often contain characters who might be defined as strong women. In fact, I like a balance of the sexes in my novels, so there are very few of my novels that lack that element. I was trying to work out where my influences were the other day and was struck by how few of them came from the novels I read as a child.
The first strong female character that features in my consciousness was Cathy Gale, the original television female Avenger. I remember Honour Blackman (who played the part) giving an interview where she explained that she complained to her husband that it was the usual screaming female part and he suggested she played it as if she was a man. She went on to say that once the writers got it, her storylines became much stronger. When she left the series, Emma Peel was created in the same mould and a legend was born.
In children’s books there was ‘George’ from the Famous Five and Darrell Rivers from the Mallory Towers books, both written by Enid Blyton. After those I’m damned if many others come to mind, perhaps Monica Edwards’ books about Tamsin and Rissa. There were more such characters in children’s books published after I grew up. Phillip Pullman, for example, has made a hobby of it.
There were strong female characters in comic books and adult fiction. Wonder Woman specialised in making men look stupid as opposed to looking at her breasts. Patricia Holm in the early Saint books and the incomparable Modesty Blaise come to mind in adult novels. I have a deep suspicion that Modesty Blaise was the core model for Buffy, who essentially created the mould for all future television fantasy females. Yes, Joss Whedon, it’s your fault.
The essence of a strong woman in fiction is that she must never be a man in disguise. She acts with her heart as much as her head and is emotionally intuitive. She is more into vengeance than men, but is equally more forgiving when the crime isn’t against herself.
My writing career started in verse and it was there that I created Jalia al’Dare. Adrift in a sword and sorcery world she is perfectly adapted for it. She started killing people in her early teens and never has a moments regret about it. If someone attacks her, she will kill them without a second thought, even if the one attacking her is a child. I teamed her with Daniel, a young man always willing to give someone a second chance, but brutal when he has no choice. With time, they rub off on each other and Jalia uses the mantra ‘What would Daniel do?’ to curb her instincts. Daniel becomes inured to making terrible life and death decisions because he knows he will always be more merciful than his other half.
Women, and especially girls, need to be empowered in western society. Our stories should not portray them as weak, because if that is what they are told they are, then that’s what they will become. And it is a man’s world they live in, make no mistake. Girls are emotionally vulnerable and some men love to exploit them before they get old enough to know better. Unlike boys, they do not seek to form gangs that offer them some protection from exploitation.
So I like to create strong role models in my stories. I don’t claim it’s easy to be strong and many of my female characters have been damaged or abused in childhood. That is often the motivator that makes them strong, able to be tough because they have suffered from being vulnerable.
It seems to me that this issue is ongoing. We are all responsible for changing the society we live in. Some years ago, my eldest daughter was attacked by a handbag snatcher outside a railway station. She looked pretty weak and vulnerable as she was dressed for an interview at the time. She responded by kicking him in the back of the leg, leaving him writhing in agony on the ground while she used her phone to call for the police. They arrived promptly, and when they stopped laughing, arrested the guy. But that’s one thief who will never look at a woman as a victim again.
My kind of hero.
Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds
GP Taylor is an interesting writer. I read his first book Shadowmancer and its sequel some years ago and admired his impeccable use of language, while at the same time finding the bleakness of his vision somewhat off-putting. Taylor writes meanest of spirit and darkness of soul better than any writer I know.
I might have left it at that except that I came across the first of the Mariah Mundi books in a discount bookstore a couple of months ago and enjoyed it greatly. As a writer of young adult fiction, I have trod within the same territory; Victorian steampunk adventures in which magic vies with gothic technology to take centre stage. I was captivated by the relationship Mariah (who is a boy btw) forms with the girl, Sacha, and wanted to read more.
Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds is the second story in the trilogy and is a worthy read. Taylor doesn’t disappoint in either language or storyline. This is a truly exciting adventure. You should buy and read it.
I was a little disappointed by the way Sacha is little more than a cipher in this novel. She was stronger in the first book and I love strong female characters. (I’ve been accused of creating a lot of them.) But that aside, this is an excellent read and well worth your time.
There are currently three novels in the Magic Series that cover the lives and times of the children of James and Ezekiel Howard as they struggle with their legacy of guarding the Source.
The Source is the hidden main character in all the books. I never describe it directly and its nature is both enigmatic and far from human. It provides the threats and the means to overcome them. It is the core of the universe I created for the books.
There are many things I have yet to discover about the Source, in part, that’s what makes the books interesting to write, because only by writing them will I come to know and understand its nature. This is what we have discovered so far.
Sometime around 4000 years ago, the brothers James and Ezekiel carried the Source out of Mesopotamia and over many decades brought it to the British Isles where it has remained ever since. The brothers were princes and had made the choice to serve the Source for the rest of their existence. The prize was immortality, but the penalty was that they could never sire children. They traded their humanity for a noble cause.
The Source imbues precious metal and stones that stay close enough to it with magical power. This takes a long time, decades, centuries or millennia in some cases. The magical energy fades slowly with time and use when removed from its influence.
Since the brothers took the task of guarding the Source it has required them to sell the magical things it creates. Such powerful objects command high prices and this is how the brothers were able to make a living. Over generations James and Ezekiel created a network of trustworthy people to dispose of their magical product.
In the hands of a human, the magic trinkets confer a single ability linked to that person’s heart’s desire. But the brothers had spent so much time with the Source they were no longer human and were magical in their own right. Magic objects in their hands became sources of energy or, if the object was specially designed, they could be used for one specific purpose, such as stopping time.
In 1920, James and Ezekiel moved the Source to a suburb of London in a house designed for them. James used his magic to create six ‘house protectors’. They were supposed to be simple creatures with just enough intelligence to carryout their assigned tasks. But James let the heartache inside him for children drive their creation. When the Source saw that James did not have enough power to complete the task, it gave him the power to finish the job. Thus were born the Dees, and in particular the last created Dees known as Glass. She was much more than the Dees were supposed to be and the Source became fascinated with the promise she suggested.
The Source does not tell anybody what to do and seems uninterested in the evil that its magic does in the world when it gets into some people’s hands. But it does offer choices and sometimes indicates it is pleased with the choices made.
James leaves the house to follow his desire to regain the humanity he has lost and Ezekiel becomes a virtual recluse, though both continue to sell magic objects out into the world.
It seems the Source was interested in what the children of its guardians would be like. Circumstances conspired to give them children, though Ezekiel would never know of the existence of his son. In both their cases, magical power in the hands of human women who desired children would overcome the changes the Source’s magic had wrought in them. Their children would inherit the magical gifts of their parents, though because they had never been near the Source they would need magic objects to use them.
And this is not to forget the Dees, who were in every way the children of James, created from his blood.
When the story starts in The House of Silver Magic, the Source has allowed choices to happen that result in the deaths of James and Ezekiel. The old making way for the new as enemies gather at the door.
This is the World of The Magic Series.
Book #1 House of Silver Magic – In which the children of James discover their destiny.
Book #2 Sapphire Magic: Breaking Glass – In which the most human of the Dees is given a terrible choice
Book #3 Gold Magic: Terror in Mind – In which Ezekiel’s child must save London or die trying.