Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author & Giveaway: Ilona Andrews on Inspirations & Influences

Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want: their new book, series or career as a whole.

Our guest of honor today is Ilona Andrews, talking Inspirations & Influences: heroine style. Ilona is the author of one of Thea’s favorite Urban Fantasy series’ – the Kate Daniels books – has recently added a spinoff book set in the same world, but starring Andrea Nash (Kate’s best friend, who also happens to be a beastkin bouda). Thea reviewed Gunmetal Magic over at Kirkus (she loved it, of course).

Please give a warm welcome to Ilona, folks!

It’s Okay to be a Girl

It’s interesting how challenging it is sometimes to write about women. In the golden age of science fiction and fantasy, when most of the writers were male, women often took two roles: they were the love interests in need of being protected or rescued or they were the kick butt warrior women clad in impractical chain mail bikinis. As Deety puts it in the first line of NUMBER OF THE BEAST by Robert Heinlein:

“He’s a Mad Scientist and I’m his Beautiful Daughter.”

The NUMBER OF THE BEAST was meant to be somewhat of a a parody, but it is telling that a man gets to be a Mad Scientist while a woman is expected to be pretty. So when a man dramatically declares, “Stand back! I’m going to do Science!”, the woman will likely wave her arms around and squee, “Oooh, pretty sparkles!”

In the modern fantasy, the pendulum sometimes swings the other way. In an effort to portray women as tough and capable, writers assign them attributes typically associated with tough male characters. I’m not talking about professional skills such as knowledge of weapons, ability to fix cars, or expertise in astrophysics. Those skills can be learned by either gender. I’m talking about personality traits.

These women are aggressive, hostile, often just because they feel like it, and sexually promiscuous. (That last one really gets me, because “promiscuous” isn’t a synonym for “sexually empowered.” Sexually empowered women tend to be selective.) The rejection of “feminine weakness” is pushed to ridiculous levels. These “tough” women never utter the word “cute”, they don’t cook, they don’t engage in any artistic pursuit, and if someone calls them girly, they will surely chew up bricks and spit out gravel just to get their hands on the offender.

The problem with this stereotype is two fold. One, feminine personality traits and traditionally female pursuits and hobbies are viewed as weak. Under this mindset, to be tough, women have to abandon who they are. Two, these characters are difficult to relate to and they aren’t very likable. (The male tough stereotype they’re based on wasn’t very likable either.) If I’m going to invest my time in following a character through her adventures, I want them to be someone I’d root for.

When we set out to write Andrea, my personal goal was to write the kind of woman who was tough, vulnerable, but still feminine. If Andrea sees a small fluffy kitten, her eyes will light up and she’ll likely say, “Aww, how cute!” And if a giant shark-toothed monster then attempts to eat said kitten, she will shoot it in the head until its brains ooze out of its ears, kick it when it crashes down, pick up the traumatized kitten, and walk away into the sunset making soothing noises and promises of canned tuna.

Andrea reads romance novels and has a closet full of guns. She spends some time trying to figure out what to wear and even more time making sure that not a single speck of trace evidence is left at the crime scene she is processing. But more importantly, she has a personal code of ethics. She has integrity and compassion and strives to do what she feels is right rather than what is easy, and in my opinion that’s what makes a character, male or female, truly tough.

Some of my other favorite feminine yet tough characters are Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse and Nalini Singh’s Elena Deveraux. Do you have your own favorite?

About the Author: “Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored two NYT and USAT bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge and working on the next volumes for both.

You can read more about Ilona on her website, and follow her on her blog and on twitter (@ilona_andrews).

Thank you, Ilona! And now for…

The Giveaway:

We have a copy of Gunmetal Magic up for grabs! The contest is open to ALL and will run until Sunday July 29 at 12:01am EST. In order to enter, leave a comment using the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • MarieC
    July 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I was so excited to see that Andrea was getting her own story; she so badass, but in a different way to Kate.

    I really enjoy Chloe Neill’s Merit and Jennifer Estep’s Gin Blanco. Both women took have a set of ideals that they live (and may die) by.

    (BTW, please don’t enter me in the contest, as I’ve already pre-ordered the book!).

  • Lisa
    July 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Love your take on female protagonists! Thank you!

  • Pam P
    July 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Happy to hear about the spinoff featuring Andrea, there’s lots more to know about her. Love Kate Daniels and Elena Devereaux. Another favorite is Patricia Briggs’ coyote Mercy Thompson, she has to be tricky dealing with all those wolves, especially her alpha whenever she finds trouble.

  • Kerry
    July 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Love ya’ll I am a HUGE Kate Daniels fan and Andrea needs her own storyline just to get her life straight 🙂

    GL and best wishes – more Alphas please 🙂

  • MD
    July 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I am excited about the new book. I love both Kate Daniels and “Edge” series, and I am always looking forward to the new books. And I think the analysis about “tough” female characters is true and insightful. I only wish this post was longer and said more about why the female characters from Harris and Singh were the favourites.

  • Lark
    July 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    A very thought-provoking post. I had a hard time coming up with examples of characters I liked who fit the tough-but-feminine description. I came up with some who are tough and competent and meet your definition of “sexually empowered” (selective, not promiscuous); they aren’t masculine or psuedo-masculine in temperament, but do they show much interest in “feminine” things like clothes or kittens. Mercedes Lackey’s Kerowyn falls in that category. I came up with others who are feminine but strong, even tough, though not necessarily in a physical way; Hermione from the Harry Potter books comes to mind.

    For my contest entry, I put down Lackey’s Elspeth, and possibly Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But I’ve only just realized that I missed the perfect tough-but-feminine heroine: Keladry (Kel) of Mindelan, from Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small Quartet. Definitely fits on all accounts, and she’s one of my favorite female characters of all time.

  • Lark
    July 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Oops! That should have read, “they aren’t masculine or psuedo-masculine in temperament, but NOR do they show much interest in “feminine” things…” Sorry about that!

  • Readsalot81
    July 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I’m very excited about this book! I absolutely cannot wait to read about Andrea. 😉

    Hmm.. well aside from Kate or Andrea.. I’d choose either Arcadia Bell from Jenn Bennett’s fabulous books.. or Jane Yellowrock from Faith Hunter’s books. Those two characters are both feminine and strong. 🙂

  • Summer
    July 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    hmm, I really enjoy Anna from Patricia Briggs’ spin-off series.

  • Christine
    July 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    So excited for this upcoming book! I love the Kate Daniels’ series and have re-read it three times now 🙂

  • draconismoi
    July 21, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Hmmm. I can’t quote process the question. Femininity means so many different things. It’s a societal package of stereotypes and standards.

    So is the question, who is my favorite tough heroine who still passes as a heteronormative cis-gendered woman?

    Or just. who is my favorite well rounded heroine who doesn’t concern herself with societal expectations – and is, just, herself?

  • Barbara, aka VampAngel
    July 21, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Ilona Andrews is my favorite writer, or should I say writers. Kate Daniels is definitely my favorite heroine ever. And Gunmetal Magic is the most anticipated release of the year for me. I have read everything Ilona has written and I’ve loved it all. I’ll continue to do so.

    I really hope I win this. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

  • elaing8
    July 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Great post.Enjoyed reading it. Favorite feminine tough ass female would be Reilly Jensen from Keri Authur’s books.

  • elaing8
    July 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    oops that should be Keri Arthur..ugh my typing. 🙂

  • Jen B.
    July 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I love tough heroines. It’s great to see multidimensional women in fiction!

  • donnas
    July 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Cant wait to read it.

  • Dovile
    July 22, 2012 at 6:34 am

    My favorites are Kate Daniels and Delilah Street.

  • Kathryn
    July 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I’ve been a fan of this lovely couple since the beginning. And I love Andrea. YEAH ANDREA!!!

  • Malin E
    July 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I love all of Ilona and Gordon’ heroines, but Kate is probably my favourite. I’m so excited about Andrea’s book, and also waiting with bated breath for Steel’s Edge.

  • Maryam
    July 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Science Fiction Shout out: Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan. Heroine of the first two books of the series: Shards of Honor & Barrayar. She is the mother of the Hero of the rest of the series [Mils Vorkosigan] and she is still fabulous and tough. By Lois McMaster Bujold. Link to the first awesome book for the interested:

  • Liz
    July 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    I love the Kate Daniels series, and I am so excited that Andrea is getting her own book! Both Kate and Andrea are fabulous. Heroines who are done right are some of my favorite characters, like Cordelia Vorkosigan, Mercy Thompson, Anna Latham, and October Daye.

  • Priscilla curtains
    July 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Kage Baker’s Company series include a major female character, Mendoza. Excellent reading.

    And Gunmetal is my next book.Counting down the days.

  • Emma
    July 23, 2012 at 3:49 am

    Oh, how I love these guys. All other short spin offs from the Kate universe have been good so far (magic dreams was just pure entertainment) and I have no doubt they will do it again with Gunmetal Magic. As for heroines in urban fantasy, I think Patricia Briggs has it down. Both Mercy and Anna are complex characters, who are strong women in their different ways.

  • Lee Lee
    July 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    One of my favorite tough but feminine characters is Mac from the Fever series. Those books aren’t my among my favorites in the urban fantasy genre but I love Mac as a character. What I really liked about it was that she didn’t start out the stereotypical tough girl. She was constantly changing and evolving in correlation to the circumstances life brought her. That’s what makes someone truly tough, in my opinion, an amazing ability to adapt. She also did all this in 6 inch heels and never apologized for who she was.

  • maered
    July 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    One of my favourite heroines is Eve Dallas in JD Robbs in death series. I think, at first, she was guilty of being tough and unfeminine but as the series has progressed we have seen another side of her.

    can’t wait to read this!!!

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