What’s Wrong With Being Nice? The Likable Heroine Effect

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I’m happy to have Alesha Escobar, author of The Gray Tower Trilogy, back on my site. She is touring with the Addicted to Heroines Blog Tour (see the lovely badge in the margin) so I encourage you to take a gander and see who else is involved. This time Alesha tells us about the qualities of a likable heroine, and as usual, she’s got it spot on. Thanks Alesha for stopping by again!

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Do you remember the news story about women getting depressed using Facebook? Apparently some women would read up on others’ status updates filled with on-point hair days, perfect children, glamorous jobs, and unicorns–and log off feeling like crap.

I’m not surprised.

It’s inevitable to compare ourselves to others, and when we feel that a certain status or behavior is unattainable, it leaves us feeling something is lacking, or that we are lacking. The same goes for our fictional heroines–when we see the perfect Mary Sue, we sort of cringe and fail to relate. We’re not perfect, and when we pick up a book, we don’t want to encounter a heroine who’s going to get everything right all the time. Yet, I’m hesitant to throw in my towel and proclaim we need to start writing and reading crude, “unlikable” female heroes.

The idea of the likable heroine is one that rests on the expectation that a heroine be appropriate in her behavior, sweet, nice, or “the good girl.” She has to be likable…right? There’s no room to be depressed, selfish, a user, or a bitch.

For those who critique the “likable heroine” being placed on a pedestal, I agree with them that there’s a problem with this. Women are complex human beings, and we run the range of likable to unlikable. Why can’t our heroines reflect the same?

Still, a female version of a jerk anti-hero isn’t all too palatable either. So let’s strike some middle ground. It’s okay for our heroines to be “real,” to have flaws, and make mistakes. And it’s also okay for her to be noble, brave, and–gasp–kind.

We like heroines we can relate to, but many of us also like them to be the torchbearers of really cool qualities and personality traits. At least that’s what attracts me to a heroine. Give me the intelligent Elizabeth Bennets who find love, the Eowyns who refuse to be caged, or the fierce Britomarts who hold their heads high.

If I could be a heroine, I’d want to possess some of these traits. So what’s wrong with being nice or likable? Nothing at all. Just remember that there are deeper layers, desires, and qualities to the likable heroine, and instead of resting on simply one aspect, try exploring the whole person.

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A “Friendly” Undeserved Rating

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Shining StarLately sales have been close to nonexistent. Eh, I wish I could say otherwise but that’s the way it is. I’m still in the process of extricating myself from Xlibris but once that’s done and settled I will reevaluate whether or not I want to sign back up for Amazon’s KDP program.

Of late, my attention has been on my WIP, hence publicizing AUW has taken a far back seat in the clutter and lack of time that is my life. Despite this, and lagging sales, from time to time I check out how my title is ranking on Amazon and also to see if I have any new reviews. I also occasionally check to see if AUW has any new reviews on Goodreads.

Today I noticed something very curious. At some point in the recent past I was awarded a five star rating, sans review, from one of my Goodreads “friends”. Said “friend” will remain nameless. I found this curious because although I don’t really know this person, I am fairly certain this person has NEVER read AUW. In fact, if I was the gambling type, I’d bet everything I own that this is the case.

So, why would this person, my “friend”, give me a five star rating?

I think I know why. A couple of months ago this “friend” published a book and dove full steam into a publicity blitz that included mass friending on Goodreads, form emails offering a favor if and when the need arose (we’re talking Goodreads friends, not lifelong since we were wee pups in the cradle friends, so it seemed kind of icky weird), a free eBook download of the newly published novel, and the opportunity to win a free autographed copy, among other things. The email was, well, kind of weird, mostly because I don’t know this person, and also because who offers strangers online an anytime favor? But I saw it for what it was, an attempt to gain exposure and to sell books. I didn’t respond and I sort of forgot about it until today.

I’m of the opinion that my five star rating was one of those selfless favors meant to, at the very least, endear me to the author and at most, oblige me to reciprocate.

I can not.

I tried to read this person’s book a while back but couldn’t complete it. I just couldn’t. The writing was, well, suffice it to say, 4% was all I could take. If I can’t turn off my internal editor when I am reading a book then that’s a sure sign its chock full of writing flubs, grammar errors, inconsistencies, editing nightmares, and plain old WTHs. Despite the major issues with the writing, this book has a number of very impressive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so perhaps I’m wrong or being too harsh a critic.

In light of my undeserved five star rating from this author/”friend”, I wonder how many of this author’s five star reviews were because the author is a good writer with a compelling story as opposed to a selfless “friend” willing to do favors. Of note, the author has also rated their own book. Want to take a guess?

My personal opinion of self rating is that it should not be done. Besides tacky it is wholly unbiased.

My opinion on “friendly” ratings based on anything other than the opinion of one person who has actually read my book, is that I don’t need them nor do I want them. It lacks integrity. It makes me feel like a cheat.

I don’t need friends or ratings like that.

An Interview With Alesha Escobar About The Gray Towers Trilogy

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I am delighted to welcome Alesha Escobar back to my site, this time for an interview about  the second book in The Gray Tower series.  If you haven’t read the first book, The Tower’s Alchemist, then get on it.  You’re missing out on action packed reading.

1. The Tower’s Alchemist is a luxurious mishmash of ideas.  We have Nazis, witches and warlocks, vampires, magic, spies, and deception, not to mention lots of action.  Can you give us a little background about the basic plot of the Tower’s Alchemist?

It’s about a very different World War II, where magic exists in the world and Hitler’s obsession with the occult has led to him making a pact with warlocks. Of course the Allies won’t be outdone, and so they recruit wizards trained by the benevolent yet aloof institution known as the Gray Tower. My protagonist, Isabella George, is a Tower-trained alchemist working for British intelligence and spying in Nazi-occupied France. However we meet her at a point in her career when she wants to retire and settle down before she ends up dead–or worse, in an experimental lab.

She agrees to go on one final mission, but things end up getting complicated–both in her professional life and her private life, and she discovers that she has hidden enemies, even in the Gray Tower.

2.  The Tower’s Alchemist is an awesome mix of traditional genres and tropes in an original package.  What was the genesis for the story?

My husband came up with the idea of a female protagonist who’s a wizard spying in WWII–sort of a Hellboy meets Harry Dresden meets spy type story. I loved the concept and started fleshing everything out, and after a couple of drafts The Tower’s Alchemist was born.

3.  The second book in this series is Dark Rift.  How does this story pick up where the first one left off?  What did you hope to achieve in terms of the plot and character growth with the second book?

Dark Rift picks up a week or two after the ending of Tower’s Alchemist. Isabella visits a gypsy woman to have her mind sealed so that a mentalist wizard can’t read her thoughts or memories. Then she does one of the things she’s been desiring to do for a long time–go home to her family. Of course she finds that trouble won’t wait on her, and the plot takes not only interesting twists, but also answers several burning questions from The Tower’s Alchemist. You’ll see Isabella grow, both as a character and in magical power, and at the same time she’s going to be forced to face her demons.

4.  Both books are part of the Gray Tower Trilogy, which means there will be a third book at some point.  Do you already know the direction this last story will take or will it be a surprise to you as you write?  Have you started writing it yet and/or is there a publication date?

My husband almost fell out of his chair when I told him I (at first) wasn’t sure how it was going to end. Yes, I am one of those writers. Haha! All I have to say is thank goodness for Dramatica Pro because those outlines helped me immensely. I’ve actually started writing the third book and I know how it will all end. My projected publication date is Summer 2013, but if I can complete it earlier, you know I will!

5.  Who is your favorite character is and why?  If that character could share one thing about him or herself, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I’ve fallen in love with so many characters in the story. I’ll pick my two favorites–Isabella and Neal. Isabella, because of the heart she has, and her willingness to fight for what she believes is right. Her sarcasm doesn’t hurt, either. If she could share one thing about herself, it would be that her second career choice would’ve been teaching. Neal Warren appears at the end of Tower’s Alchemist, but plays a much larger role in Dark Rift. He’s a Philosopher, which means he’s Sherlock Holmes on crack with a bit of magical enchantment powers mixed in. He’s a bit mysterious, he’s a lot of fun, and fiercely loyal to the Gray Tower. If he could share one thing about himself, it would probably be that he only uses half the stuff he purchases from the black market.

Enter to win a free electronic copy of The Dark Rift for your Kindle.  Email me at [email protected] between 11/30/12 and 12/07/12 to enter the drawing.  Good luck!  Good reading!

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Alesha Escobar

Alesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy.

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