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Yesterday, in a tribute to Women’s History Month, I sat on a panel along with other female writers at the Aberdeen Library. Our moderator, Laura Fox, associate professor of humanities at Harford Community College, asked insightful questions in order to get all of us panelists talking about the female characters we write.
Our panel consisted of published authors Karin Harrison, Jen Vido, Lynn Reynolds, Terrie McClay, Diane Wylie, and yours truly. All of us have written more than one book, and all of us write because we love it. For some, it’s a hobby; for others, it’s a vocation. Nevertheless, we all write because we feel compelled to tell a story, and our female characters keep us coming back.
There was a good crowd in attendance, most of them wanting to hear from authors about our process, what got us writing, and then, what got us to publish our writing. After the session, I talked with a woman who said she never reads fiction—all nonfiction—and I tried to explain to her what an escape reading fiction is; it allows us to go to places we might never have gone before. I hope she takes my advice and picks up a piece of fiction just for fun.
Ultimately, all on the panel expressed their drive to write characters that come from the heart. You have to write about something that interests you. This doesn’t mean that you should only write what you know; several on the panel write after conducting extensive research or because they want to understand how they would handle a certain situation (such as dealing with breast cancer or having someone try to steal your farm away). Others write to unveil how women can often be unsupportive of other women, as Jen Vido scribes in her Piper O’Donnell series.
At the forefront of all of our thinking, I believe it was apparent that we all have a common goal: to entertain with our stories. Our fiction does not have to be good vs. evil; in fact, many of us said that we do not write an “evil” antagonist, such as Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Often, it’s an inner struggle that our main female characters are tackling or a notion that has them perplexed, such as whether or not she is capable of great forgiveness. In the end, these female characters have to come to a realization or an understanding of who they are and who they can become.
In Baseball Girl, my latest release, it was a conscious choice not to make one of the men in the love triangle “evil.” That would be too easy. Instead, making them both good men who have different life experiences makes each of them unique, though perhaps not a good fit for the main female character, Francesca. Likewise, she is coping with the death of her father—a loss greater than she can imagine—and must learn to grow despite his absence.
The best part of meeting other female writers and hearing their stories is the sense of belonging it provided. To know we are not alone in our writing and publishing struggles and successes is comforting. In that room yesterday, I sensed all of us silently rooting for one another to produce the best novels we can; to entertain our readers in the best ways we can; and to never lose sight of why we write…because we know we can.
On another note…
I’m feeling very proud today. Baseball Girl has hit #82 in Hot New Releases in Contemporary Fiction and #96 in Sports Romance. Thank you for all the love and support.