When I sat down to write a coming of age story for Josephine Lutnear, the hero of my new book Gravlander, I knew that I was going to have to write a story with a variety of distinct women ready to help her on her journey. Jo lost her mom at the age of four and really hasn’t had any female parental figures in her life since. For Jo there’s a craving that comes with the early loss, a kind of hole she wants to see filled. If Jo was going to find a mentor, it wasn’t going to be a man, so a cast full of women made sense for the story I was trying to tell.
This turned out to be a challenge but not in the way I expected. It wasn’t the cast of characters that surrounded Jo that I found difficult to write, but Jo herself. Jo starts the book as a wounded and broken young woman. She’s full of unresolved anger and self-pity. I found it difficult to put a story on the page that both allowed her to be emotionally immature and allowed the audience to root for her. I need to thank three women in particular for helping me get Jo ready, Jessie Kwak, Ronda Simmons, and my editor Crystal Wantanabe. All three of them let me know where Jo needed improvement. Jo wouldn’t have become a workable character without them. I am really pleased with the result.
As for the cast surrounding Jo, I appreciated that the story demanded that I build a cast that had a large number of significant women. I am the father of three daughters, each of whom has a distinct personality and view on the world. I want them to be able to find themselves in books I write. Representation matters. I’ve read far too many books and seen too many movies in which women might be present but they serve only as tools or props around which the men in the story orbit. Even if they are given a personality, it seems to be one in which their service to, or sexual attraction to the men around them is its defining characteristic. I was grateful to write a book that allowed a leading woman to exist without being bound by male sexuality or female servitude, particularly in a context of coming of age, which is so often associated with sex.
If you’re interested in finding more, you can read a sample on this page, or you can purchase the book through the link below.