Strong female characters

One of the most frequent reactions to my first novel, Water Will Find its Way, is that it is an inherently feminist story. Although I explore the mother-daughter bond in extreme situations where the female protagonists show extraordinary courage and determination to survive despite the odds, I didn’t set out to write a feminist novel. Several of the male characters are violent or abusive, but, importantly, those chosen by the protagonists are “good” men. I might add that male readers have commented on how well drawn the French soldier, the casino owner and the general are. However, feedback on the current draft of my second novel, set in Sicily, is the same: that it is a strong feminist novel where most of the men have few redeeming characteristics. This time, though, hope for the future is epitimosed by one of the protagonists, a sixteen year old Sicilian boy. I started thinking about these comments and I think that, fundamentally, the inspiration for the two novels came from two women; one, an elderly Armenian lady who survived the genocide, the other, an elderly Sicilian lady who lived through the poverty and occupation of Sicily during WW2. Why shouldn’t I write about strong women characters? After all, I grew up with role models: my two grandmothers, one a doctor, the other a pharmacist, both of whom had many children and successful careers, and my mother, who encouraged me to read widely and travel from an early age, indirectly leading me to the source of my writing inspiration.