Welcome back to another guest post on what makes a kick ass heroine tick in fiction. This week’s author Cara Bertoia shares the qualities of what makes a kick ass heroine for her.
I recently watched a movie made about Dagenham, England. The lead character Rosie O’Grady reminded me what a kick ass heroine is. To me the fiercest heroines are the women that do what has to be done; the ordinary woman that sees a situation that is so wrong she has to try to make it right. In 1968 The Ford plant in Dagenham, England employed 40,000 men and 187 women. Although they called the women machinists, they sewed the leather for the seat cushions; they were paid at half the rate of men doing a similar job. Rosie O’Grady and the women in her department struck for equal pay. The movie is about the courage and will it took for these women to risk their livelihood in order to challenge a major corporation. It was a long and brutal strike, but in 1970 the Equal Pay Act was passed in England.
The great novel Vanity Fair by William Thackeray may have been written in 1847 but the characters still resonate today. Most readers identify with Amelia Sedley who has more heart that brains. But I like my characters a little bit naughty, so I prefer Becky Sharp, for what is a poor orphaned girl to do? Critics say that Vanity Fair is a novel without a hero but Becky will always be mine. Born in unfortunate circumstances she will do what ever it takes to survive. A realist, she takes life as it comes but underneath her brashness one can also find a compassionate heart. When Becky, working as a governess, has the opportunity to marry her employer, being hungry for money and security she jumps at it. Becky may not be nice but that is what makes her so unforgettable, unlike the heroines of that time who were passive creatures waiting for Prince Charming to find them sitting in their own parlor.
In my novel Cruise Quarters – A Novel About Casinos And Cruise Ships, Sarah Seldon works in a square concrete building that has been hastily thrown up beside a freeway, the windows hermetically sealed, not a breath of fresh air allowed in. Toiling away at her hi-tech job in Silicon Valley claustrophobia gradually sets in. When the opportunity arises to join a cruise ship and travel the world she jumps at the chance. She isn’t scared of going, her big fear is of staying – there is a German word for it — torschlusskpanik, the fear of missing the boat. In her case, literally. She never has a moment of hesitation and that is what a kick ass heroine does, she changes her life when it isn’t working for her.
Sometimes we all have to become our own kick ass heroine. Even if we aren’t rich or don’t possess great physical beauty we do have the power to change our own lives, and most of the time we will do it with almost no support only great heapings of criticism. I loved writing about Sarah. She is not a perfect person, she has insecurities and lives with her share of regrets but she isn’t afraid to fail. That is the characteristic of my heroine; she is willing to take that chance. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and she knows how to laugh at herself. It was great fun to write and although it was inspired by my own life, when I put pen to paper my imagination took over and it became Sarah’ story.
NOTE from Cara Bertoia: Updated 12/28/2011: This week to celebrate the holidays and all the new Kindles Cruise Quarters is on sale for the low price of $.99.
Growing up in a straight laced Southern family, I was always fascinated with casinos. In my twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching inNorth Carolina, I drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. I wanted to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. More at http://carabertioa.blogspot.