Full Range

So Cormorant is out, and I can talk about something I’ve wanted to for a while.

Some readers are upset because Svin isn’t Jill or Dante. She’s more like the name-shifting narrator of She Wolf–dedicated, and all right with murder if it gets the job done. One isn’t meant to get inside Svin’s head very far, and if she was a male protagonist, she probably would be called an antihero.

Since she’s most definitely not male, she’s called cold and distant.

This is very much like the reader fury over Jill and Saul’s relationship. Much of that fury dissipated when I noted publicly that if their genders were reversed, nobody would blink. It would, in fact, slot that romance neatly into the gumshoe/classy dame noir space. Funny, right?

I laugh, until I don’t.

Even Cormorant’s editors had difficulty with Svin. She isn’t likable, or approachable. She has her own agenda, and the reader isn’t allowed to take over her body. Nobody is allowed to do that, which is not normal for female characters in our culture. There’s also deliberate craft decisions I made, like no self-talk in italics–a hallmark of my style, one could say. It forced me to write differently, especially when Svin’s interacting with Barko or Vetch.

I knew readers would be expecting Svin to be more like Jill, or Dante, or even Selene or Emma Bannon or or or. But femininity is not a one-stop “strong woman” shop. Svin is just as feminine as any of them; she is part of the full range of female expression. It irks me that if I’d written her as a man (and/or under a male nom de guerre et plume) there probably would have been an avalanche of “ooooh, smexy brooding antihero!” Or, in the latter case, cookies and head-pats.

We have a long way to go. Sometimes the way gets goddamn rocky, and I get tired. Since I’ve written (and continue to write) chicks-in-leather and romance, I’m clearly not a Serious Writer of Science Fiction, right? I should have made my female protagonist in my love letter to Soviet sci-fi more “likable”, catered to different expectations, right?

Fuck that noise. Always and ever, fuck that goddamn noise.

I like writing romance. I like writing urban fantasy. I like writing fantasy. I like writing sci-fi. I like writing steampunk alt-history. Ad infinitum. I like telling a variety of stories, and that’s not going to change. I do not write by committee, I write what the story wants, and I’m pretty sure that’s what readers keep coming around for.

There’s always the chance that I just didn’t pull off my vision clearly enough, of course. (No doubt plenty of “objective” assholes will chalk it up that way.) But I did what I set out to do, and I didn’t truckle. I’m a hack, sure, but a prideful one.

And Svin is an unabashedly female character. If she doesn’t fit someone’s idea of what a woman should be, that’s not her problem.

Or mine.

  • Cheryl Byers

    Don’t listen to the haters. I like your books because they are NOT cookie cutter characters. Each one has their own personality. And that is what real life is like. You just keep doing what you’re doing.

  • martianmooncrab

    thats why I like your books, you have different takes on characters that makes them stand out and not follow the HEA formulas in most books.

  • Jeanette Forster

    I’m currently reading Cormorant Run and it’s fun (I have no issue with any of the ‘real woman’ nonsense, just ignore that), but what is a bit disconcerting is that in the Amazon UK ebook it’s listed as Cormorant Run (Bannon and Clare) and so I was expecting a new Bannon and Clare novel (yes, it’s my fault for not keeping up with your blog or anything but I just buy new books as they appear). Definitely an unfortunate case of judging a book by its cover but I did have to take a moment to research whether or not it IS a Bannon and Clare book and adjust my expectations accordingly. Could anyone have a word with UK Amazon?

  • That was a publisher snafu. I wish I could just fix it, but I can’t. I have let the publisher know that it’s STILL not fixed, so hopefully the umpteenth time is the charm. :/

  • Jeanette Forster

    It sounds like a nightmare. It’s a really odd disconnect and speaks interestingly to expectations – I saw the cover and thought – ‘oh, they’re immortal, so it’s obviously gone present day or futuristic, that could be interesting’, then I started reading and thought ‘hmm, that’s a different tone, wonder how she’s going to reconcile that’, then (yeah, I’m about at the part where Svinga does the…eating, so it took me a while) I thought ‘ nope, this is a mistake’, and THEN I went to the book description. Then again, you know, my kids are learning about what makes a book at school, what the cover, spine, title, author and blurb signify, what they might expect from a book that looks one way, to something that looks another way, which speaks to the importance of the look of the book (says the girl reading an ebook but you get my drift) and a huge part of publishing is presentation of the finished piece so it DOES matter, doesn’t it? Anyway, jolly kind of you to reply and now you’re regretting it because I won’t shut up, but I will now, and I’ll get back to the book. And just to say that you’re one of my favourite authors while I’m here, so thanks for all the entertaining. It’s a blast.

  • Yeah, a lot of people are upset because the book isn’t a Kismet book, or isn’t a Bannon & Clare book, and they ask me directly because they don’t know about things that are under the publisher’s control instead of mine. It’s kind of maddening, because it impacts sales and that impacts whether or not the publisher will offer me more contracts.

    🙂 It’s a high compliment to be called a favorite. Thank you very much, and thank you for reading.