For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up.” At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.
Thank you for being a part of my life this September.
I went to Penned Con in St. Louis this month! I met so many new authors and readers, and had a blast! For those of you who came by our Halloween table, Natasha Hanova and I were giving away Halloween candy…and sometimes, I wore a Pikachu hat. It was fun!
The paperback of Bad Bloods: November Snow released! It debuted at Penned Con, and that was way too much fun! I’m now offering signed copies of Bad Bloods, too, so feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested.
My four-year blogiversary with WordPress also happened this month! I cannot BELIEVE I started blogging way back when in September of 2012. I freakin’ love blogging, and I’m not going away anytime soon.
1. Help! My Female Character Is Flat: While writing my latest manuscript, I realized my female character was flat. How? Because I was holding her back. Why? Because I was afraid. When did I get scared and why did that happen…and how did I overcome it for her and myself? Read the article to find out.
2. Writing Quicksand: I use the term writing quicksand to describe when writing it doing more harm than good. It does happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it or acknowledge it. This is how I got out from my quicksand and started writing again.
3. My Protagonist and Illiteracy: As many of you know, my protagonist—Serena—in Bad Bloods is illiterate. This article is about my journey in writing an illiterate character and why I chose to do so.
At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you want to be one of these websites, feel free to join my newsletter or email me at email@example.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! I will also share your post on all of my websites.
Shannon, here, but only for a bit. Today, I have a wonderful guest blogger with an equally as wonderful guest post. Kendra L. Saunders is a time-and-space traveling fashionista author. Even better? She’s broadening the horizon for female characters by featuring a protagonist in her late 20’s, a very underrepresented group in fiction, and today, she’s writing about why it’s so important that we give this group a bit more attention. Welcome, Kendra!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.
Where My Girls At? by Kendra L. Saunders
Getting older is weird, isn’t it? I guess for some people it happens at a pace that feels normal, and you sense yourself progressing from a teenager to a young adult, falling in love, getting married, settling down, having a kid, or getting divorced and floating around in a mansion with only your fine champagne, pool boy, and fancy lingerie collection to keep you company.
For me, aging has been a cyclical waking dream of confusing beginnings and ends, exciting adventures, and a few too many sinus issues to keep track of.
Maybe it’s the artist lifestyle, but I never followed the well lit path from an early romance to a kid, steady job, functioning car, and 10pm bedtime. I’ve lived in Texas, New Hampshire, Idaho, Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York City. I’ve been a cool/cute music store clerk, a waitress, a skincare saleswoman at NYC’s 34th St. Macy’s, a telemarketer, a caterer to celebrity guests (yay Oprah), a marketing guru for YA books, and a retail cashier, among many other jobs. I’ve attended New York Fashion Week (twice, and counting), had a book signing at BEA in New York City, spent two amazing weeks in England all by my lonesome for research and recreation, and been front row at some of the coolest concerts ever.
I’ve also lived in a haunted apartment, dealt briefly with bedbugs (eww) and saw a gang leap out from behind a parked car and shoot someone right in front of my eyes in Brooklyn one night while I walked home.
Between all of these adventures and misadventures, I’ve picked up female friends from all over the world, from every pay grade and lifestyle choice. One thing that many of us have in common is that we are in our 20s-40s and still putting the pieces together. The women of our modern world have a new set of challenges that they haven’t before… we live in an expensive world, we work hard for what we have, and less and less of us are finding (or keeping) romantic partners, for a myriad of reasons. Many of us are finding our partners when we are older than ever before, too.
After working for a YA publisher, I saw firsthand that many readers of the increasingly popular YA genre are not actually teenagers, but ladies 20-45yrs who enjoy the fun storylines and fast pace of YA novels. At first I wondered if I had just missed out on something huge and everyone else was reliving the best years of their life. My own teenage years were a blur of anguish, loneliness, religious confusion, and abuse. Did everyone else really have all of these great adventures and romances in high school? I mean, maybe some people really did fall in love with hot vampires, go on adventures to Ibiza, sip expensive champagne, and hang out with fashion designers when they were 16. Hey, the Kardashians exist! It’s possible, sure.
But the truth is, there’s a scary gap in entertainment between sexy seventeen year old girls and the middle age stresses of traditional femininity. Bond girls seem to get younger and younger with every Bond movie. Even the chick lit category seems to be moving younger and older respectively. (Thank God for you, Sophie Kinsella. Please never stop writing!)
Women looking for exciting stories featuring female characters are flooding to the YA genre, because that’s where all the fun stories are.
I don’t see many of my friends in pop culture, and Amy Schumer can’t carry the almost-30-heroine torch alone.
With my upcoming book Dating an Alien Pop Star, I have a female protagonist who’s a lot like the women I know. Daisy didn’t have the easiest time in her teenage years… or her early 20s… or her mid 20s. Somewhere in her late 20s she decided to take a major risk and throw away the safe life that had been pushed on her, and move to New York City. Of course she’s kidnapped by aliens almost immediately, because nothing ever, ever, ever goes how you expect it to in New York.
Daisy also falls on the demi side of the sexuality spectrum, so she’s avoided hookup culture and finds herself at the crossroads of 30, single, and not sure if she feels as guilty about it as society says she should. She’d really like a partner, but until she finds one worth her time, she’s going to take care of herself and her dreams, thank you very much.
It gets discouraging for people like Daisy (and me, or you) when we see all the great, fun, exciting stories only going to beautiful CW-channel teenagers or twenty-one-year-olds who are preternaturally wealthy and well connected. Those stories are fun, sure, but they shouldn’t be all we see. We need first time love stories with a twenty-seven year old woman. With a thirty-five year old. With a forty-one year old. There are vampires, princes/princesses, and cute firemen to be met, even if you’re thirty-one. There are quests to go on, even at thirty-six. There are adventures for aromantic/asexual women who want to do something amazing and don’t care about falling in love. If guys can have movies and books about their life at every single age from 10-98, shouldn’t us ladies?
Kendra L. Saunders is a time-and-space traveling fashionista author who writes books about magical, dark-haired men, interviews famous people, and suggests way too many bands to you via whatever social media platform she can get her hands on. She writes with good humor because humor is the best weapon for a girl who can’t learn karate (or ballroom dancing). She is the author of upcoming sci-fi rom-com DATING AN ALIEN POP STAR, upcoming fantastical comedy THE UNLOVE SPELL, the magic realism novel INANIMATE OBJECTS, the dark comedy DEATH AND MR. RIGHT and the poetry collection GEMINIS AND PAST LIVES.
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I accept original posts that focus on reading and writing. Pictures, links, and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feminism is an important, vital part of my identity, but it’s also one of the scariest words in my life. Why? Well, I have a confession: I’m a bad feminist. I’m afraid to admit I’m a feminist on the Internet. I have no issues with this in RL (a.k.a. real life). In fact, I practically never stop talking about Feminism to my friends and family, but it’s not in any of my Internet bios, and despite reading Feminist conversations on Twitter (and all over the Internet), I mainly nod my head and shout at my computer…but I NEVER say anything on the Internet. I stay silent.
Because I’m scared.
I’m scared of the retaliation, of the sexual harassment many of these outspoken folks receive, and of the constant berating that happens for months afterward. In real life, I can walk away, but the Internet is forever.
Today’s the day I stop being afraid and I start being brave.
I am a Feminist.
What does that mean?
It means I want equality for both women and men. I shouldn’t have to expand any more than that, but the arguments and stigmas out there cause a lot of problems in many aspects of our culture and lives. That being said, this is a blog about writing and reading, so I want to focus on Feminism in YA, just as Dahlia did. Please check out her article. She tackles important topics, like female characters in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and sports that show how dedicated girls can be. Friendships between girls, relationships between a girl and her mother, and asexual females are also underrepresented, and one of the biggest trends is giving female characters masculine traits to make them heroes…instead of heroines.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a girl swinging a sword or kicking ass. In fact, that’s pretty awesome, too. But when that same character cries or has a romantic moment, many readers reject the character because she’s suddenly not “heroic” anymore. This idea is really damaging to female characters. It’s the idea that heroines need to be 1-Din order to be respected or believable.
As a reader, I saw this happen with Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. I LOVED this book. It centered on a female assassin, and she is a tough fighter. That being said, she has also been imprisoned for a couple years leading up to the story, and this recent past makes her a bit weaker than her usual norm. She even throws up a couple of times, and she gets involved with some light romance. Many readers found this combination unbelievable or too girly. “She liked candy! Why would an assassin like candy?”
Maybe because she likes candy? Why do female characters have to solely be one thing? Why can’t they kick ass and like candy? Men like candy too. In fact, I mainly bake cookies for my roommate and my father—both men. I’m not even a fan of chocolate. I’m more of a salty snacks sort of a person. But that’s beside the point…
As a woman, I have many aspects to my personality, both feminine traits and masculine traits. (In the traditional sense.)
I have a knife collection, yet I teared up at that viral raccoon video where he lost his cotton candy in the puddle of water.
As a teen, I got into a lot of physical fights (with girls and boys), but I also cried if someone happened to hug me at the right time. (Not proud of the fighting. Just a truth.)
I drove a stick and shot guns, but I also squealed anytime I saw anything fluffy. (I still do.) I worked in a sports bar…and as a nanny.
I own tennis shoes and heels. I played sports throughout my schooling—basketball, track, and tennis—but I also loved school dances. My favorite activity was running through the woods with my dog and practicing with my throwing knives or with my bow and arrow. (Hello, Katniss. What can I say? I grew up in the Midwest.) Afterward, my husky would be my pillow, and I’d lie down in the forest to read a cheesy romance novel.
I can wield a knife in one hand and eat candy in another.
My life doesn’t make me any less of a believable person. So why are the characters unbelievable?
It’s an important question to ask in regards to female characters.
A female character—as well as a male character—does not have to be only one way in order to be believable. People have numerous aspects that make up their personality, and they react differently to many types of situations because they are also human.
So, next time your female assassin eats candy or falls in love, maybe we shouldn’t criticize.
Maybe we should talk about how awesome that is.
Author in a Coffee Shop, Episode 3 happens this Friday at 7 p.m. (CDT) on Twitter via @AuthorSAT. What is Author in a Coffee Shop? Exactly how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop, people watch, and tweet out my writer thoughts. I also talk to you. 😉
Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM! I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. I’d love to see you! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!
Red Sands Reviewz read Seconds Before Sunrise and wrote, “You know how they say sequels aren’t as good as the first? This is not the case. It was fun to read from the start to finish.” And now you can read her review from start to finish by clicking here.
Krazy Reads reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but this review inspired my blog post today, so I will be referring to it throughout my post! Even then, here’s a small quote, “Unlike most dystopian novels, this one felt the most real to me. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all dystopian novels, but for me, this seemed the most likely to actually happen.” Check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here.
Thank you, Krazy Reads.
Why Most of my Characters are Male
I’m doing something today that I have sworn to myself I would never, EVER do. I am responding to a book review. (Oh, the taboo!) Don’t worry. I have Krazy Reads permission, and it’s more or less not a response. It’s a deeper explanation that was inspired by a single section she wrote about my latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow:
“Most of the characters are male, and while some people may say that seems unbalanced, to me, it fits perfectly. In the novel, the boys are fighting for a cause, they break laws, set bombs, and carry out rescue missions, so having most of the characters male fits, and I like how there are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”
It’s true. I’m guilty. My latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow, has more male character than female characters, and before I explain why, I would like to clarify that I’m specifically talking about Take Me Tomorrow in this post. My other novels are not like this, and there will be minor spoilers throughout this piece. That being said, I am going to have to hold back on some explanations due to the fact that the sequel will deepen many of these explanations, and I don’t want to spoil major parts of the first novel. But I’m going to do my best to explain why I have more male characters than female characters, and I want to explain this because I have received dozens of emails asking me why Take Me Tomorrow is full of boys.
The main reason is, perhaps, the most important one: it was never a conscious decision. It just sort of happened, and it happened naturally. This is the same reason I ultimately never changed it, despite the fact that I had one beta reader in particular suggest it. Don’t get me wrong. I thought about it a lot. I did. I considered each and every character and their gender, but here’s what it ultimately came down to: it was never about their gender. It was about them, and here are the two main reasons, I believe, they were boys in the first place:
Although some of the past is seen in Take Me Tomorrow, more is explained in the sequel – Take Me Yesterday (hence the title). But I am going to explain what I can. First of all, a lot of it has to do with how the society works. Even though boys and girls can see each other and go to school together, there are subtle hints the society subconsciously encourages them to be separate. For instance, the boys are more likely to be thrown in military for punishment, while the girls are generally thrown into the correctional houses – and the correctional houses that are blatantly separated by gender. The other subtle part was the dance. Sophia describes it as one of the only instances students from separate schools can meet. Socializing is definitely not encouraged, but let’s get down to physical relationships: Noah and Broden met as children, and although I cannot giveaway their full circumstances, they didn’t just become friends because their parents were friends or that they happened to be the same age. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I won’t explain Tony or the flashback of Liam too much, but those two boys were more or less a reflection of what could’ve happened to Noah if he were older. Pierson is explained in the sequel. (I’m sorry for how cryptic this is.) But I can talk about Miles. If no one noticed, the twins – Miles and Lily – don’t have a father, and again, more details will come in Take Me Yesterday, but I will say this: Miles was very attracted to Broden and Noah, the first two guys that gave him friendship. Lily, too (as explained in the book), but Miles pushed his sister away. I have an older brother. This happened to me. But that’s for my next section.
My Personal Life
After my mother died, I was practically raised by my older brother. (My dad, too, but he traveled a lot.) So I spent a lot of time with my brother and all of his friends, and – you guessed it – they were mostly guys, especially his best friends. We went hunting and off-roading and ate sandwiches by the lake when we fished. But – during some point – we didn’t hang out as much, and that just happens sometimes. I got friends of my own, but (you might have guessed again) most of my friends were guys. I was comfortable with guys. I was used to spending time with them, and there was no romance there. A girl can be, in fact, just friends with guys. So I think that leaked out with Sophia, but I think it happened because of Lily. That’s right. Because of Lily. Sophia is best friends with Lily, and Lily is the one who introduces Sophia to Miles and Broden. Sophia gets her guys friends by default, and if you read the story, you also might have noticed that Sophia is not a social butterfly like Lily is. Sophia would rather stay home with her dog and read. She was perfectly satisfied with Lily’s company, and Miles and Broden were just extra buddies she gained. And, yes, you will learn even more about all of their pasts, specifically with Broden, Lyn, and Sophia’s mother…oh, and Miles and Lily. Pretty much everyone. But now that we’re talking about the girls…
As an extra, I want to talk about the girls, and I want to start this section off by re-quoting what Krazy Reads said, “I like how they’re are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”
Sure, the guys appear to be running things, but sometimes, as an author, I struggle to understand whether certain aspects are forgotten just because gender gets focused on. For instance, Miles is so terrified in the beginning, that he runs away, and Sophia – a girl – takes his place. That’s just one instance where the girls come to the rescue, and yes, there are more rescues and reasons, but sometimes, I worry that literature has trained us readers to focus more on boys rather than girls, which is no one’s fault. I’ve been guilty of it, too. But just because there are more boys does not mean that boys are more important, and in Take Me Tomorrow, they definitely cannot survive without the girls in their lives.
In fact, even though there are more boys in the novel, the numbers should not take away from the importance of Lily, Sophia, Lyn, and later on, Rinley. I wish I could explain what these girls do throughout the novel, but those pesky spoilers prevent me. That being said, these girls – as well as more girls – are seen in the sequel. (And, yes, the boys will be there as well.) But Take Me Tomorrow isn’t about how many boys or how many girls are present. It’s about drug use, abuse, addiction, immigration, tragedy, love, and war. And everyone can go through that, no matter what their gender is.
But – just for kick’s sake – here’s a list of reasons I have more male characters than female characters: