Laura Kinsale

Queen of Swords in paperback

On September 25, 2007, the paperback edition of Queen of Swords will be released. That is one month minus two days.

I never did open things up for questions about Queen of Swords. For a long time after I wrote it, I was too unsettled to have anwered them, anyway. It’s hard to do bad things to your characters, even when the story demands it. For example, I know many people were sad or even upset with me when a character died in Fire Along the Sky. I was pretty upset with me too, to tell the truth. Continue reading…

A bright light at the end of a rotten day

I’m not going to give you rotten day details. Instead I’m going to annouce that Judith Ivory has a new book coming out in October. Yes. Judith Ivory. New Book. It’s called Angel in a Red Dress.

No cover up yet on Amazon, but it is listed: “Angel in a Red Dress” (Judith Ivory)

I think the world of Judith Ivory, who can write a beautiful sentence and tell a fantastic story and get the historical details right. The three goddesses of historical romance: Loretta Chase, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale. And Auntie Beff, don’t fuss at me about the order, cause it’s alphabetical.

bitches, rebels and other heroines

On my list of female protagonists are more than a few difficult women. If you go looking, you’ll find (for example) that readers either love or hate Melanthe of Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart. The comments I have heard is that she is too hard and even abrasive, although I think some of the dislike of Melanthe has to do with the fact that this novel is not an easy read; Kinsale does a good job of approximating Middle English for a modern audience, and it takes a little work to get into it. I loved Melanthe, particularly because she seems — if you look at the surface only — to be manipulative and disdainful but is in fact struggling hard to survive in a world inimical to independent women. She has suffered some terrible losses which have made her hard, but the beauty of this novel is in the way she adapts to Ruck, and he to her.

Something that is true of all these women (as it is true of the men) is that they all stand on the social periphery. Christine noted this in a comment to an earlier post about the men:

I think there’s always something about those guys that don’t quite fit in whatever the ‘norm’ is. Perhaps that’s part of their self-possession, but those characters always seem slightly on the fringe.

For me personally, traditional female characters may be interesting and well done, but they don’t make it onto my short list. Which is why I could make a second list of female characters whose stories I liked, but are too traditional for my tastes. This list would include Minerva from Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me (an actuary working for her father’s company) and Maud Bailey of A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance (a fairly run of the mill academic). Christabel LaMotte, also from Possession, is one of the women who probably should be on my list. Please don’t misunderstand: I truly love and admire both these novels (for different reasons); I’m distinguishing here between individual characters and the work as a whole.

A look at my list shows all these women to be rebellious in one way or another.

Behaving Badly
Elizabeth Bennetttalks back to gentlemen and old ladies, flaunts expectations, refuses marriage proposals
Marie Du GardIn turn of the century France a single woman of good family evades the match her father has made for her, and pursues a career in the new industry of film making
Maddy TimmsThe most traditional of my seven, Maddy, an observant Quaker, flaunts authority to help a man who is being mistreated by the medical authorities.
MelantheA rich woman runs away from the men who control her life and does everything in her power to establish a safe haven for herself.
Aeryn SunAh, Aeryn. Pulled against her will out of her native environment, it takes a while for her to recognize the rebel in herself and the streak of independence that comes from a mother she never knew.
Hannah Trevora midwife, Hannah struggles to make a life for herself after she loses her children and a treacherous husband; she gets pregnant because she wants to be a mother again, but rejects the idea of another husband. She is in constant conflict with the men in this late 18th century Maine village, and with her own needs.
Elizabeth Middletonwants an education, the opportunity to learn without restrictions, to teach girls as boys are taught, and to pursue her life without being made to feel aberrant.

the other list

Thinking about my list of seven male characters has actually helped me quite a lot in solidifying some things about John Grant, who is the male protagonist in Tied to the Tracks. In the hope that lightning will strike twice, here’s a preliminary list of female characters who work especially well for me. Again, this is in no particular order, and I’ve put my own main character at the bottom for the purposes of comparison.

Three more things I’ll be thinking about as I try to deconstruct what makes a female protagonist work for me: (1) unlike my list of male characters, most of these women come out of traditional romance; (2) Each of these women has a male counterpart who I like a great deal, but who didn’t make it onto the other list. (3) I can think of another five female characters who probably deserve to be on this list.

Elizabeth BennettPride and PrejudiceJane Austen
Marie Du GardDanceJudy Cuevas (Judith Ivory)
Maddy TimmsFlowers from the StormLaura Kinsale
MelantheFor My Lady’s HeartLaura Kinsale
Aeryn SunFarscapeof course, of course
Hannah TrevorHearts and BonesMargaret Lawrence
Elizabeth MiddletonInto the WildernessS.D.