Welcome to our very first guest to the Rogue Women Writers’ blog: The great SHANE GERICKE. I met this talented author at the first ThrillerFest, and he kindly asked me to help him run PitchFest. Fast forward a few years, and now I’m fortunate to be the Executive Director of Thrillerfest. So thank you, Shane, for getting me involved in this great organization.
Shane writes female protagonists with authenticity and aplomb, and that’s why I felt he’d be a perfect guest. And it just happens that his alpha female character in THE FURY has the middle name of Kimberley!
Take it away, Shane….
A reader once accused me of being a traitor to my moustache. Why? Because, in his immortal words, “You wrote a cop book with a chick hero. Chicks can’t be cops. They just … can’t. Guys are cops, girls aren’t. But hey, maybe you’re gay or something . . .”
Did I mention that while I love my readers each and every one, I love some more than others?
As to his complaint, it was heartfelt, if completely Neaderthal: I wrote a cops-vs.-serial killer thriller whose protagonist was a tough, yet feminine, cop named Emily Thompson. That single book, Blown Away, turned into a trilogy—Cut to the Bone and Blown Away—since the sales of the debut were grand it became a national bestseller and won Debut Mystery of the Year honors from RT Book Reviews.
All that for a “cop book with a chick hero.”
My fourth book took me in a new direction, cause I was tired of writing serial killers. The Fury is a story about international terrorism, and stars—wait for it—a chick who’s a tough, yet feminine, cop whose assignment is to bring down a psychopathic Mexican cartel leader and save the United States from his plan to nerve-gas millions of Americans.
A book for which I got zero complaints about the hero being female. Part of that is times have changed, and readers in 2016 are far more accepting of female leads than they were a decade ago, when Blown Away made its debut.
But that’s readers. I want to talk about my reader’s original premise: Why does a man choose to write female heroes rather than male. I mean, write what you know, right?
Wrong. If I wrote only about things I know, I’d be out of words pretty quickly. So I write what I can imagine, which is far more vast and fun. And my experience AND imagination dictates that women are every bit as tough, wily, heroic, compassionate, venal, corrupt, and asshole-y as men. So why not write them that way?
I deliberately chose suburban cop Emily Thompson for the trilogy and Chicago cop Superstition “Sue” Davis for The Fury. I could have chosen men easily enough. But I didn’t for one main reason:
I can charge a female hero with a much wider range of emotions than I can a male hero.
As a society we are less sexist than we used to be. But we’re not sexism-free. I like my heroes to be tough AND tender. To kick ass, take names, AND cry. To openly mourn the loss of a friend instead of being stoic and sucking it up.
With women, I can can do that, and readers accept it. Superstition’s husband was assassinated by the cartel jefe that she would later be assigned to capture. She and Derek were childhood sweethearts and she took his death very, very hard. After his funeral she went crazy, crying and crying and crying until she couldn’t breath, then jumping onto her bed and breathing his pillow in hopes of catching his scent. Then she buried her face in his old sweat clothes, for the same reason. All this after she shot and killed three men who were robbing a tavern and began to slaughter the patrons. So, tough and tender.
Female heroes can have that wide range of emotions, and readers are fine with it. But a male hero weeping and crying and flinging himself on the bed and smelling his wife’s clothes to catch a scent of her? No way. Enlighten as we think we are, we expect male heroes to act stoically, suck it up and get back to business, maybe get drunk and smash things.
But not smell her sweat clothes.
As a writer, the gift of that tool—using every range of emotion in the human experience—lets me write my heroes to their emotional maximums, without turning off any reader. Men and women accept females kicking ass AND crying their eyes out. They do not accept it from male heroes.
And that’s why Emily and Superstition rock.
These are not romance novels, and the cops are not dewy-eyed or meek. They are very, very tough. They fight bad guys hand to hand, they shoot bad guys up close and personal, and they don’t berate themselves for it afterward.
But they also like nail polish and puppies and kittens and cooking and taking care of their men, who in turn take care of them.
It’s a perfect world for me as a writer, and that’s why I like female heroes.
Thank you, Shane! Hope you’ll come back again and visit us on the Rogue side.