All of your books seem like fantasies to me. But not because of the magic. Because of the characters. It's not that they don't seem like people I could know, they just don't seem like people I could BE. The only exception is Sophia, from Sinner. The thing is, I very rarely see characters like her represented anywhere (and especially rarely see them as well and lovingly handled as she is. So thank you.) But I have never ever seen a Sophia as the hero. Do you think you would ever write one?
America has a bit of an extrovert problem.
We aren’t a nation of extroverts.
But we’re asked to be. American culture prizes those who are gregarious party animals … or those who can pretend to be. We have a metric-ton of words for the people who recharge by being alone: geeks, nerds, bookworms, loners, shy, misfits, weirdos. Our cultural narrative has always been about how those who like to be alone are unusual. We have a million narratives on how to learn not to be this dreaded person who enjoys their own company better than anyone else.
Introverts are not actually unusual. Everyone just mistakes us for extroverts when we smile.
America has a bit of an asshole problem.
I tread carefully here, as I am an asshole. But I like to think I stand up for non-asshole rights. American culture praises the brash, the gregarious, the funny, the loud, the aggressive, the person with the rigid exoskeleton who hides away all hurts and uncertainty under a cocky grin and some finger guns. America loves Tony Stark.
Tony Stark is an asshole.
In SINNER, Cole St. Clair & Isabel Culpeper are also assholes. Sofia, Isabel’s younger cousin, is not. She wears her heart on her sleeve, she genuinely wants to help people, she’s uncertain and she shows it. She is a tender creature, easily crushed under the steel-toe boot of assholes much like myself.
She’s based on my younger sister, Kate. Furthermore, her relationship with Isabel is based upon our relationship when I was Isabel’s age. I was a Satanic Ice princess with fangs of diamond and Kate was a tender, giving human with a clearly visible beating heart, and I abused her terribly just by being me. And Kate looked at American culture and she looked at me and she thought: this is who I need to be. I need to be a Maggie.
Asshole is not the be-all end-goal of every personality type, unlike what American culture suggests. In SINNER, I wanted to write a different character arc for Sofia than the one our culture so often chooses for her. Sofia doesn’t get made over into a wise-cracking demon in leather; she doesn’t really want that. She just wants to be sure of herself. The logical, best personal Sofia journey is not turning into an Isabel. Learning to cover up all your hurts and learning to be less generous with your time and learning to be less sensitive and learning how to shoot your fears in the head is not what the Sofias of the world should do. Learning to love themselves is what they should do. In fact, it’s what all of us should do, including Tony Stark.
As far as Sofia-like narrators go, the narrator of my long (20,000 word) story, “Ladylike,” in The Anatomy of Curiosity is very Sofia-like. I confess that I have notes for a future Scorpio Races companion with Finn at the helm, and he is a rather Sofia-like narrator. My next YA has a quite unapologetically introverted narrator as well. And my very first novel, Lament, is about a painfully shy girl learning to accept who she is.
America has a bit of a lying problem.
Perhaps the most terrible lie that our culture says about people like Sofia is that the stories they lead are quieter, lesser stories. Here’s a charming story, says the world, involving a charming, quiet girl who likes to knit. BUT LOOK AT THIS IMPORTANT STORY ABOUT THIS JOLLY ASSHOLE DRIVING A FLASHY CAR WHOOO!
Lies. LIES. The real reason why the world actually seems to value assholes is because the world actually values self-esteem. Assholes either have it, or they can fake it — asshole becomes synonymous with self confidence. The Sofias don’t fake anything very well, so if they don’t love themselves, everyone knows it. And then they turn invisible.
LOVE YOURSELF, TENDER HUMANS!
The world will love you back.