Friday, 11 January 2019

Whiteout blog tour – Kick-ass females in books and popular culture

I'm thrilled to join this blog tour, as Whiteout was one of my favourite books of last year. It's genuinely terrifying and one of the tensest YA horror books I've ever read. You can check out my review here (although the giveaway has now closed). 

For my stop on the blog tour, I have a post from the author Gabriel Dylan about his favourite kick-ass female characters.

Back when there was no Katniss Everdean, before Virginia Au Augustus and Hermione Granger, Buffy Summers was the gold standard of kick ass females in the world of popular culture. 

There’s been so many highlights in the faltering journey from sending my (very ropey!) original manuscript out into the world, gaining an agent, getting a publishing offer, and finally seeing my novel in print. But right up there was the comment from my amazing publishing editor, Katie Jennings, when she offered me a deal with Stripes, and told me that in regards to the central protagonist in Whiteout ‘she didn’t think she’d seen such a kick ass horror heroine since Buffy.’ 

That comment meant the world to me. That someone had not only read my novel, but liked it, engaged with it, and seen something in the characters I’d created, was a dream come true. Katie and assistant editor Mattie made Whiteout the book it is today – they gave me the suggestions to hone the characters, bring out their depth and individuality, and turn what was a flawed and uneven manuscript into the book I’m so proud of today. And the character I most wanted to get right was Hanna. 

For me, Hanna is the beating heart of the novel, an angry, resourceful, uncompromising heroine that will do anything to get the revenge she seeks. It’s her search for the terrible truth she knows lurks in the deserted Austrian Alps that drives the story forwards. Out of all the characters in the novel, she’s the one I’m most proud of, and the one that was with me right from the start. So here, in Hanna’s honour, are my top six kick ass inspirational heroines of film, book, and television. 

(Warning - controversial choices lie ahead!) 

6. Mia – The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks 

Mia is a harlequin, an assassin trained from infancy to be a living weapon, but at the start of John Twelve Hawks' The Traveller, she wants nothing more than to live a normal life, away from all that she was created for. This book had me at hello! It doesn’t take long before Mia is dragged back into the world she tried to turn her back on, trying to protect Gabriel, a magical traveller, able to move between dimensions, from the grasp of the Brethren, a controlling organisation run by politicians, businessmen, those at the top of society. Although the series lost its way a little as it went on, there’s lots of great ideas in Twelve Hawks’ first book, and I love the writer biography (all it says is Twelve Hawks lives off the grid!), but what captured me more was the character of Mia, who carries a sword everywhere she goes, is seriously bad ass, and will do anything to protect Gabriel from the twisted forces that pursue him – even though as the story unfolds her feelings start to get in the way of her mission…. 

5. Citra Terranova – Scythe by Neal Scusterman 

I only discovered this series of books recently, and found them impossible to put down. In a utopian world where death has been eliminated, a group of people known as scythes select people at random to painlessly euthanize, to prevent population explosion from becoming a reality. With their long cloaks, cool demeanour, and an arrival which promises death to those they visit, scythes are a latter day grim reaper in a world where mankind is all but immortal. When a chance encounter for teenager Citra leads her onto the path of becoming an apprentice reaper, she learns (often in very dark, humorous scenes) how to cope with such an unpleasant job. After a while, Citra finds herself a skilled death dealer, but also one who is cunning enough to be able to think her way out of the most tricky of situations, which is just as well as an order of rogue scythes start to disrupt this utopian world. I raced through this book and its sequel, loving the way Citra grew as a character whilst slowly unearthing the dark conspiracy. But that cliff hanger at the end of book two… not fair!

4. Eleven – Stranger Things

I’m going to cheat here, and delve into the world of television, but as the first season of Stranger Things was sooo good I hope I’ll be forgiven. As much as I love the group of Dungeons and Dragons playing teens at the centre of the show, for me the opening episode really came alive with the introduction of Eleven. Tortured, haunted, otherworldly, and with some crazy abilities that can see off the meanest of school bullies, Eleven is the kind of character that any high school geek needs to make friends with. As well as making her back story tragic and heartfelt, the Duffer brothers also made the end of the first series unforgettable, and left the viewer longing to know if Eleven had really given her life to defeat the demigorgon and save her friends from the terrifying beast. No spoilers from me!

3. Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I feel like I grew up with Buffy Summers. And that’s probably a feeling shared by anyone else who had a Buffy the Vampire Slayer addiction during the nineties. The great thing about Buffy Summers was that, apart from the fact that she was a slayer, she was just the girl next door – except one who was more than a little adept at dispatching vampires. I still think Joss Whedon creates the most memorable kick ass females, right through Firefly, Dollhouse, and all the memorable characters such as Willow, Faith, Anya, and Glory, that Buffy brings with her. Buffy goes on a real journey through the show’s seven series, and we see her grow up, fall in love, lose people she cares about, but most importantly we feel it all with her. She doesn’t always get it right, she doesn’t always win first time, but she tries her best, she makes us care, and she has some great one liners. My favourite? – ‘Conversation’s over, hell bitch!’.

2. Thorn – Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

I’m a big fan of Joe Abercrombie, and his grimdark fantasy worlds, and I thought his Shattered Sea trilogy was a real page turner. Whilst I really enjoyed book one, Half a King, the second book, Half the World, was where the trilogy really went stratospheric for me, mainly because of the addition of Thorn Bathu. 

Awkward, unsure of herself, riddled with bad attitude, and decidedly kick ass, we first meet Thorn on a moody shale beach, training to become a warrior, and unfairly pitted against three male combatants who aren’t going to pull their punches. When tragedy unfolds during the sparring, Thorn escapes death by agreeing to protect the trilogy’s morally ambiguous protagonist, Yarvi, on a seabound mission. During the trip, Thorn is relentlessly trained, for weeks on end, until she becomes one of the deadliest warriors amongst the Shattered Seas. Thorn is a great character, as lacking in confidence as she is full of anger and attitude, and she has some of the greatest put downs, as well as being brutally capable with the blade, even though, as usual in Joe Abercrombie’s novels, things don’t always go the way you expect them to… 

1. Lisbeth Salander – Millenium series

Fiercely unconventional, and a darkly kooky anti heroine (wikipedia’s words, not mine!) Lisbeth Salander is tough enough to take on anyone who guns for her, and can run rings around her pursuers with unrivalled hacking skills and a photographic memory.

The Millennium novels, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are NOT for young readers, nor for the fainthearted, and in many ways they are not an easy read. But the character of Lisbeth Salander, the angry, haunted black star at the centre of the series’ dark universe, tops this list for me because not only is she so different (many theorists claim she is autistic, and there is much evidence in the novel to back this up, and her relationship history is definitely complicated), but she is also endlessly resourceful. She turns the damsel in distress trope on its head by being the one who comes to the aid of the threatened male characters, and she also gives hope to all of the underdogs and outsiders out there with her uncompromising, kick ass attitude. 

Thanks so much for sharing this list Gabriel! Buffy is the winner for me, because I too grew up watching the series in my most formative years. She's always been my favourite character and I think it'd take a lot to knock her from the top spot.

What are your favourite kick-ass female characters? If you'd like to share, you can do so in the comments or find me on Twitter (@yaundermyskin).

Whiteout is out now and I highly recommend it if you want a good scare!

There have been lots of great posts for the blog tour this week and you can use the banner below to check them out:

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