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Elza Herself

A reader asks, "What's the most surprising thing in your upcoming book, The General's Mistress?"

I thought about this question all day yesterday. Is it the differences between France in this period and the setting of the familiar English Regency? Is it the battles? Is it Michel? Is it the occult stuff? And then I decided that it was Elza herself. She's the thing that's most surprising.

There is a convention that the female main character must be blameless. Awful things happen to her, but they're not her fault, or only her fault through some dreadful mistake. She is the victim who rises above horrible events. Something terrible happened that she could not have foreseen or prevented, and then her courage and good heart are demonstrated by her ability to transcend it. It's a compelling narrative. And it's not Elza's.

The things that happen to her, good and bad, are because of her choices, and she knows that. She makes mistakes and she pays for them, and she makes good choices and she reaps the benefits, but either way she is the one who wrote the script. Yes, other people may do bad things or treat her badly, and she does not control the course of wars and revolutions, but she is the one choosing to be there. She's the one choosing to be in the relationship, the one choosing to go into a dangerous situation, the one looking for a job in the theater, the one getting in over her head in an occult ritual she doesn't understand. She could leave. If she chooses to stay, if she chooses a course and it turns out badly, she never proclaims her innocence. She bears the scars of her bad choices with a shrug and a smirk, just like Han Solo or Captain Jack Sparrow, rather than with the protests of the wounded ingenue.

And that's pretty damn shocking. We aren't used to seeing female characters act that way.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
To be hones most people don't see life that way, for a fictional character it is exceptional.
Mar. 22nd, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
Very true!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )