Hello, everyone! Lady Marion Hood, here, with another meeting of the Stranger-Than-True Book Club – in which a representative few of author Danielle E. Shipley’s characters come together to discuss some book-related topic or another. Before we get started, a quick reintroduction to our current membership: Princess Laraspur from The Wilderhark Tales; Uri and Lucianíel from the “Inspired” novels; Nicky from “So Super Dead”; and yours truly, from The Outlaws of Avalon.
Marion: ‘Tis a special day on which we gather, friends! The launch day of Danielle’s newest publication, “Windows and Sol: A Bard’s Beginning”.
Once upon a time, ‘wandering songster’ was no kind of career for a woman.
Now one minstrel-in-the-making is going to change Wilderhark’s tune.
From the author who introduced Wilderhark Tales’ Gant-o’-the-Lute and Outlaws of Avalon’s Allyn-a-Dale, a new voice rises into a brave ballad of its own: That of a girl with an ear for music and a heart determined to follow wherever it leads, no matter what forces of man – or of nature – stand against her.
“The Soul Shepherdess” – Young Solwen’s fateful encounter with a man o’ music and his sullen apprentice opens her eyes to the road she’s destined to take, along with the hardship that will be her traveling companion.
“In the Window” – Although Harper Rove-a-Day couldn’t feel less qualified to serve as minstrel master to his extraordinary trainee, he just may have what it takes to learn a lesson or two from her.
“The Names She Played” – To hear hidden music is not merely Solwen’s gift, but her only chance in a deadly game with one of the world’s oldest songs.
Tales of singing. Tales of striving. Most of all, tales of true love.
Laraspur (Princess of Denebdeor/Queen of Welken): Congratulations, Danielle!
Lucianíel (light elemental, muse, and fictional father figure): Seconded! A story’s flight from the nest is ever a proud occasion.
Uri (skater girl and Fire of God): So today we’re, what, sharing our individual thoughts on the new book? Like we did for “Deathsong of the Deep”?
Marion (First Lady of Sherwood’s Merry Men): Nay, dark angel. Rather, in honor of Solwen’s favored place in our author’s estimation, we will be discussing various aspects of a broader literary topic: Heroines / female characters / chicks in fic.
M: One does try. So, here’s how the conversation will work: I share a quote from “Windows and Sol”, and we discuss a correlated question it raises. To open… well, how about these lines pulled from the book’s opening?
Solwen of Teastone Glass was not a radical girl. …There being little she found more distasteful than disharmony, Solwen was quite content to accept without complaint whatever path was laid before her. She considered herself fortunate, too, that this decision was thus far made easy on her, for neither her family nor the world required aught of her yet that she considered to be much of a trial. As the young daughter of passably well-off glass-sellers, her tasks consisted mainly of doing what she could to keep herself and the shop looking presentable, and staying out of unnecessary trouble – expectations both reasonable and pleasantly met.
M: Radical girls in Deshipley canon – go! Which of her female characters go looking for trouble, or go willfully across the grain?
Lar: For a start, what of you, lady outlaw? One doesn’t join up with Robin Hood’s band without planning to make a little trouble.
M: Lol, poor Allyn did. But as for the rest of us, you’re right – we were rebels, and we reveled in the role.
N: In my book, Brenna might count. An angry ghost whose motivation is to murder her murderer is pretty much the opposite of a well-behaved good girl.
Lar: And there’s my little sister, Lily, who ran from the reasonable idea of marriage to a normal human prince when there were dangerous forces of natures out there for the courting.
U: Yeah, that one went a bit cautionary-tale-shaped, by the end.
Luc: And why shouldn’t girls use their agency to bring about cautionary tales?
M: Agency is indeed the crux of the matter, master muse. A girl given the chance to choose can make a mess of things, or set a wrong aright, or twist any point of the plot in between. For someone like Lily, too reckless to count the cost ahead of time, or for the Brennas with no f*cks to give, acting radically is easy. And me, well, at least I had the Merry Men for a support system. Our Solwen, though, would have much preferred a ‘well-behaved good girl’ lifestyle, if only her bardic calling didn’t necessitate the contrary. While there’s no one right way to rebel, Solwen’s is certainly a way that her author, as an artist, can respect.
U: ‘Cause Almighty knows most artists won’t have society at large in their corner.
Luc: Not until society is willing to recognize the making of art as a ‘real job’, no.
M: All right, new quote and question!
“Merely a shame that you weren’t born a boy, that’s all. You’d have made a fine minstrel, otherwise.”
M: How many Deshipley girl characters can we think of who actually started out as boys in her early drafts?
U: You’re looking at one.
Luc: Ah, yes – a pre-publication reader noted that all of Jean and Annabelle’s characters in “Inspired” were male, so why not consider making at least one of them female? Danielle thought the point well made, and a quick bit of revision later, our gender-swapped angel was reborn.
Lar: Did the revision result in any big changes to your character, Uri?
U: Not a one. Putting an ‘s’ in front of my pronoun didn’t otherwise feminize me in any way – partly because I would’ve refused anyway, but also partly because Danielle thought it would have been all kinds of shady to imply that someone like me isn’t enough of a girl. Hell, go far enough down that slippery slope, and Danielle might not qualify as a girl either.
N: She did the same thing with Gravity Max in my book! Not because any pre-pub readers said anything, but just ‘cause she was looking at the twins – Max and Zero, y’know – and thought, why should the brother get the super strength power and first rank in team leadership, and the second-in-command flyer be the sister? And rather than switch ‘em around, she just made them both girls.
Lar: Wasn’t Demario in Thackeray Kyle’s crew also originally male?
N: Yeah, it was a boys club. So she tried making Demario a woman to mix it up, only to further realize that Demario identified as an AMAB transwoman. Goes to show, you never know what you’re going to get when you pass on the male default.
M: So it does. And, as usual, our discussion is running long!
Luc: Another two-parter, then?
M: Naturally. ^_^ We’ll continue next time exploring questions raised by the text of “Windows and Sol” – which, again, has released just today, so never let it be said that Danielle gave the world nothing to read while they await our club meeting’s second half. ;D Until then, readers of the blog, thanks for joining us! Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments! And farewell!