I’m mostly known for my male creations — The Peregrine & Lazarus Gray, for instance — but I’ve spent a good bit of my career writing female leads. The Damned Thing, Rabbit Heart and Gravedigger all feature strong female characters. I’m proud of those books, especially since the pulp field is still so testosterone-heavy. New Pulp does have The Pulptress, Elisa Hill and Callie but those are still just a drop in the bucket.
I’ve tried to add to the diversity of characters within the field while not making too big of a deal about it. The Lazarus Gray series not only features Samantha Grace as a major part of the storyline but I also have Eun Jiwon, a member of the team who is both homosexual and Korean. In Gravedigger, we have Li Yuchun, a Chinese American, and Mitchell, a British hero of African descent. I’m not doing this to make any kind of point, really — I simply want to reflect the real world, which the original pulps didn’t always do.
But I’m proudest of my female heroes. I think they’re all very well-rounded individuals, worthy of standing toe-to-toe with the classic heroes of yore. They’re not defined by their gender, either. I treat them as people first — they just happen to be women. Guan-Yin is brave and daring, driven by a need to prove herself and to find out what happened to her missing father. Fiona Grace (Rabbit Heart) is part of a deadly game played by immortals, forced into an archetypal role that she simultaneously embraces and fights against. Violet Cambridge (The Damned Thing) is a tough-as-nails woman in a gritty noir adventure, caught up in the mystery of who’s killed both her husband and her partner. Charity Grace (Gravedigger) is given three years to redeem her soul, after a lifetime of sin. On the Claws of The Peregrine team, we have Revenant and Esper, both of whom are just as essential to the group’s success as the male members. And, of course, I could never forget Evelyn Davies, The Peregrine’s wife and frequent adventuring partner.
All of them are beautiful, yes — but this is adventure fiction. The women are beautiful and the men are handsome. I never try to objectify my female characters any more than I do the male ones — in other words, I do objectify them in the sense that they’re attractive and this is mentioned… but they’re far more than that. Pulp is escapism and part of the appeal is that our heroes (male & female) are larger-than-life. They’re gorgeous, they’re brave and they’re heroic. They’re idealized. Even in Rabbit Heart, which is highly charged with sex and violence, I don’t think I treat the women in the story any different than I do the males — some of them are very emotionally unstable, some are promiscuous and some are just downright nasty… but that’s true of both genders in the story. And Fiona Grace, though driven by powerful needs, is still an idealized heroine who rises above it all. Yes, Fiona’s outfit on the cover is risque — but if you read the story, you’ll know there’s a major reason why it’s shown that way. The story deals with archetypes and the way society views them — and Fiona is forced to play that part, to a degree.
The projects I have on tap for the next months are mostly male-dominated but I plan to return to Gravedigger very soon… and I promise to continue treating them with respect.
The image accompanying this post is of Rachel Weisz, the lovely and talented actress who’s performance as Evelyn Carnahan in The Mummy inspired my own character, Evelyn Davies.