Author Ann Aguirre joins SciFiChick today to talk about strong female characters and to promote her latest release – Like Never and Always! And keep reading below for a chance to win a copy of the book!
You have so many strong female leads, can you tell me about writing/creating strong female characters?
I can’t imagine writing women any other way. All women are strong, even if their strength isn’t apparent to others. I’ve written multiple heroines who are physically fit and capable of fighting, but that’s not the only type of strength that matters. Clever women who outthink their enemies are fantastic, too.
Growing up, I read fiction written by authors who treated their female characters as damsels in distress or as prizes to be won. I didn’t like seeing women regarded that way, especially in fantasy and science fiction. When I was a little girl, I can remember reading The Hobbit at the hospital when one of my relatives was sick. Even then, I recall wondering, Where are all the women? In a story of such grand scope, why are there no female characters at all?
Tolkien wasn’t the only writer who erased women from his stories. Many of the epic fantasies I read followed suit, and if there was a woman mixed in, she almost always served as a reward for the hero or a love interest only. Rarely did I find female characters who had their goals, who lived with agency, and might even part ways with the hero to pursue her own ends.
I was so excited when I found Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, and Tanith Lee. They were the first female SFF writers that I fell in love with, and I’d say they’re still shaping my work to this day. Later, I read greats like Kate Elliott, Barbara Hambly, Robin McKinley, and a bit later, Sharon Shinn. Those were the books I had been missing as a pre-teen, ones that told me that women didn’t have to be an accessory—that they could have their own adventures.
Growing up, I didn’t read a lot of science fiction because I couldn’t find the sort I wanted to read. I cared more about the people than the technology, and too often, men stole the spotlight and women didn’t get enough page time for my tastes, so more often, I watched my science fiction, both on television and the big screen. Eventually, I would write the sort of science fiction that I wanted to read, though I’m taking a bit of a break from that right now.
So naturally, when I started writing for teens, I wanted to continue what I’d started in speculative fiction, giving girls fierce heroines to root for and thrilling stories they could experience vicariously. In Like Never and Always, I set up a strange scenario, and it’s definitely a departure in some ways because while there’s definitely bad guys in the story, there’s no big war to fight. It’s dark and deep story, kind of down the rabbit hole, where the farther down you go, the stranger it all gets. I’d call it a thriller with supernatural elements, but that’s also dependent on whether you believe the body switch has actually occurred. I was so thrilled when Kate Elliott blurbed this book! Her work is iconic and brilliant, so it’s amazing to me that my words could be validate by someone who lit the path for me in terms of writing strong women.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I welcome all questions and comments.