Today I have Madeline Ash as a guest blogger. Madeline is a pocket-sized powerhouse who writes stories that are real and have sweet sizzle. I’ve enjoyed her other books and am looking forward to reading her latest, Love & Other Lies.
Madeline’s new heroine is an interesting mix of sweet, sexy and flawed. I love a flawed character and so was really interested to hear what she has to say on the matter. Take it away Madeline.
Writing Immoral Heroines (and why I think that’s okay).
Abby, the heroine in my new release Love & Other Lies, has a history of compulsive lying. Honesty is highly valued in our society, so liars are understandably regarded as immoral, and due to that, when I was first struck by the idea for her character I worried readers wouldn’t accept her. Even I had difficulty relating to a character who had lied to people she loved for so many years.
Concerned, I researched immoral female characters and came across this blog post on The Border House, entitled Immoral Women: Why We Need More of Them. At one point, the author Katherine Cross says,
“Consider my title here: “Immoral Women.” Even now it conjures images of promiscuous, ‘loose’, or otherwise proudly sexual women, which is a testament to the suffocating and dehumanisingly limited framework with which women are saddled. I want that notion of immorality to be expanded to be something more fully human.”
Katherine raises a good point. The immorality of female characters is often related to their sexualities. And when a female character isn’t immoral, she’s often virtuous to the point of flawlessness. She’s an inaccurate representation of what it is to be a woman; what it is to be human.
Humans aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. Our experiences shift our behavior. Sometimes humans do bad things for good reasons, sometimes for not so good reasons. Imperfection is real, and this made me feel better about writing Abby’s story – it made me feel more confident about the way readers would react to her history of lying.
While romance has had its fair share of virtuous and morally pure heroines in the past, times are changing. We now have heroines that fall within, around, and outside of morality – they cheat, lie, and steal – and we still love them. They’re real, raw, and refreshing.
Loving these heroines of course relies on them being well-motivated. When I wondered how well Abby would be accepted by readers, I came to realise that it would come down to her reasons for lying in the first place. It’s like Helena in Orphan Black (anyone else watch that?). Because we understand why she acts the way she does, we can love her despite her (horrifying) flaws.
Katherine Cross also states, “Evil manifests itself in our world mainly in the form of people who are utterly convinced they are doing the right thing. Morality is rather tricky like that.”
Although I’m not talking about evil, just immorality, the above still applies. We can forgive a character when we believe they are doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Due to this, characters aren’t necessarily immoral – just morally compromised.
Personally, I think it’s okay to write about female characters who aren’t perfect – who are particularly imperfect. And I LOVE that digital and non-traditional publishing has opened up opportunities for unconventional characters and storylines within romance. I know I wouldn’t have been able to sell Abby to a traditional publisher five years ago. They wouldn’t have wanted to take the risk.
What do you think? Do you prefer writing/reading about female characters that represent the best of humanity, or are you okay reading about (well-motivated) immoral female characters in fiction?
Thank you for having me on your blog today, Leisl! X
It was an absolute pleasure, Madeline, and thanks so much for being here. And by the way I LOVE Orphan Black – fantastic show and a great example of a flawed heroine – in fact Helena isn’t the only one in that show who is immoral in some way and yet we love them (Sarah and Mrs S anyone?)
Love & Other Lies:
Small town vet Abby Benson has fled to the country to put her shameful past behind her. She’s just beginning to find her feet again when handsome stranger, Rue Thorn, arrives in town and begins to stir things up. Rue is gorgeous, kind and thoughtful and the two share an instant attraction. But convinced he’ll despise her if he learns about her history, Abby reluctantly keeps him at arms’ length.
Determined to win Abby over, Rue tries to reshape himself as the sort of guy he thinks she might be interested in. And for a while it seems his act is working. But when he finds out that Abby has been lying to him, it isn’t long before everything start to unravel …
A moving story of trust, forgiveness and the power of love from the author of Uncovered by Love and The Playboy’s Dark Secret.
Madeline has always lived in Melbourne. She is emotionally allergic to spontaneity, and yet doesn’t mind the weather that drags her into rain when she’s planned for sunshine. She likes to call this her wild side.
She’s a Virgo, vegetarian, and once had a romantic suspense-style dream in which the hero was a shredded lettuce sandwich and the villain was a cherry tomato. The tomato got away. She took the dream as a sign that she’d better stick to writing contemporary romance.
Her stories have spunky heroines, strong heroes, and as much dialogue as she can cram in. As for why she writes romance, she’s in a long-term relationship with the genre and writing such stories makes it happy.