My niche in the world appears to be kick-ass women. But that doesn’t mean they’re all like Janice Bracken in Saving Emily. Janice is a giant leap in my evolution of heroines and is the extreme of my characters. She’s doing what she does by choice, while my previous two heroines were forced into their fights by circumstances. I realize that may sound odd because both Parker and Evie Davis were in the military, but neither held jobs that would necessarily put them in a combat situation.
In Protecting Parker, Parker Cotton found herself in a combat environment, but while she carried a weapon, she didn’t shoot. She placed herself in the role of medic and stretcher-bearer. She did all she could to take care of her people while the men who’d been trained to do the job, did it. She did the same thing when she came home. She was prepared to defend herself and the people she loved, but she recognized her limitations and accepted the help at hand from those more experienced. Evie Davis in A Shared Fear was a little more proactive, but she also wasn’t planning on going out to hunt down the bad guy. She deferred to the people with experience.
As I was writing these two books, I was also writing the Blood Link series about military vampires. Samantha Elliott, the lead character in the first book, appears to be anything but kick-ass. She’s a lousy shot, can’t throw a knife, and perceives herself to be a non-combatant. But kick-ass is more than the physical. Sam has all the courage of a great warrior and the smarts to recognize what she can and can’t do. I saved all of the physical skills for her teammate Becky Taylor. Becky’s a military cop who trains and competes with her male teammates. She’s the first real kick-ass woman I wrote. It was okay in the vampire books, but I wasn’t sure how it would play in the stand alone novels.
The first standalone book in which my heroine made the choice to take an active fighter’s role was Stuck in Korea Time. Brenda Livingstone never thought of herself as anything other than the first sergeant. It’s only when bad things happen that she understands the costs of doing the right things. Her active role in the search and rescue of Alan Jamison plays well to her skill set, but she spends a fair amount of time praying that she won’t make a mistake that will hurt her friends.
Then came Janice… I wrote Saving Emily during National Novel Writing Month in 2011. It was blunt and direct, nothing fancy, just a story about a kick-ass woman who behaved a lot like one of the guys. I figured if Rene Russo could beat up on five men in Lethal Weapon 3, then Janice could too. Janice is everything that my other women aren’t. She’s single-minded when it comes to responsibility, she black-and-white when it comes to violence, and she’s not afraid to kill if the need arises. She’ll do exactly what every male hero would do – whatever it takes to get the job done.
However, there has to be some realism involved. Whether it’s physical or emotional, an author needs to give the reader something human to connect to. If you don’t find that connection, the reader will dump the book and equate the character to something out of a comic book.
I knew Janice Bracken was going to be the most physically aggressive woman that I’ve ever written. So I opened the story with Janice worrying about her future in a career where forty might be too old. I let her wonder if she could walk away and live the quiet life of an ordinary woman. I led with her fear of aging because I believe we all fear getting older and not being able to do the things we love.
I didn’t soften the edges by much with C.J. McLean in The Embassy Guards. She’s sort of a compilation of the female Marines and cops that I’ve met. Tough, no-nonsense, smart, and funny when the opportunity presents. The term: adapt, improvise, and overcome really means something to her. And like most of the Marines I’ve ever met, she’s not going to run from trouble. No matter how ugly the situation she finds herself in, she’s going to move forward and do what needs to be done. Marines are trained to be team players so I led with isolating C.J. from the unit she’s assigned to. Who hasn’t felt like the odd-man-out when starting a new job? It was just a little more extreme in this case.
My next character is no less take charge. You’ll get to meet Sergeant Jackie Johnson of the Phoenix Police Department in my next novel, No Safe Haven, coming soon. Jackie has been tasked with protecting an eye witness that a violent drug cartel wants to kill.
Yes, I know my niche. Yes, I’m comfortable with it. Yes, I like the women that I write about. I hope you do too.