First we have three copies of Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special to give away.
David mark brown
Congrats! Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.
Didn’t win? We still have books by Tim Akers, or Ren Cummins up for grabs and a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.
Today we welcome back one of my favorite people, author Leanna Renee Hieber. She’s also giving away a copy of Strangely Beautiful 1 or 2 (your choice).
Award winning, bestselling author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio inventing ghost stories. She graduated with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. She has adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays such as Favorite Lady have been produced around the country. Her novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic / Fantasy / Paranormal Romance. Her debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in her Strangely Beautiful series of ghostly, Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels, landed on Barnes & Noble’s mass market and overall Bestseller Lists. The book was named a favourite of 2009 by 14 genre book review blogs including Publishers Weekly’s Beyond Her Book and Smart Bitches/Dear Author’s book tournament, won two 2010 Prism Awards for Best Fantasy and Best First Book, the 2010 Orange County Book Buyer’s Best Award (Young Adult category) and option rights have been sold for adaptation into musical theatre production currently in development with a team that includes talent that brought Tony Award winning shows like Memphis, Wicked, Tarzan and more to the Broadway stage. In November 2011 Leanna launches Magic Most Foul, a new Gothic Paranormal Young Adult series with Sourcebooks Teen Fire.
My Non-Traditional Heroines: The Joys and Struggles of Being Different
by Leanna Renee Hieber
Firstly, thanks Suzanne, I am thrilled to return to this festival of awesome.
This topic is one of the most near-and-dear subjects to me and to the books I write, it also a subject I’ll be presenting several times this year at conventions and conferences. It’s also a topic that goes really well with the themes of Steampunk.
One of the great values of this genre: You get two fantasy worlds in one; a historical setting/world we do not live in yet have some sort of touchstone to, and yet different from what you’d see in a textbook or on the History channel. That being the punk part – and I think that’s what draws people to alternate history, taking known historical facts and asking ‘what if’ – it’s a wonderful challenge to the imagination that so many wonderful writers have risen to. Disclaimer: In regards to my work, I have to be careful saying Steampunk straight up, though I’m happily active in the Steampunk community, my books are technically Gaslight Fantasy as I’ve no tech or gadgets in my story; i.e my ghost-busting Guard uses holy fire, not contraptions. For me, what I love most about Neo-Victorianism and Gaslight Fantasy is re-envisioning it, but yet still putting my characters in a ‘realistic’ Victorian world. There were so many issues and injustices inherent in the Victorian age, and I’m not interested in writing books where those conflicts are not present, but rather how my characters must deal with them. And while we have some ‘advances’ in our society, we can’t cast stones today. There are just as many present injustices and social issues taking different sheeps’ clothing. But by presenting a fantasy world – we can present an enjoyable rather than didactic way of examining what we find troubling, interesting, or needing fixing about the past or present society. We can also challenge the normative.
The thing that draws me time and again to storytelling are tales of underdogs and outcasts struggling to find a community, working to find a place where they belong and where their particular gifts and talents are valued. The heroines of my two series, The Strangely Beautiful and forthcoming Magic Most Foul series are examples of this.
About Miss Percy Parker:
18 years old, Miss Percy is entirely without colour. She surpasses pale, she’s without colour. She looks, for all intents and purposes, exactly like a ghost. She can see and speak with ghosts, and feels often as if she belongs more with them than the mortal world. She’s lived clinging to the belief that her abilities and crippling visions mean she’s fated for something specific, and the series is about finding out that purpose,.
Speaking just about Percy, solely, as a character, I suppose every author hopes her heroine will be loved and adored, so when my awkward, timid Percy is loved, I rejoice more than anyone. But I’ve also discovered that my books are not for everyone, not everyone is ready to go on the ride that the Gothic novel style requires, nor is everyone ready for Miss Percy. Perhaps they think she should be stronger. If you were told you were a freak every day, if people shuddered and started when they looked at you, would you feel very confident? You might, like she did, think yourself the freak the world thinks you are. It’s a brave act for her to face the morning every day, and to interact with the world at all. Still, I’d never write a story where a character simply stays in the uncomfortable place they’re in, and Percy goes on quite the growth journey in the series. And it’s growth she as a character and we as readers can take joy and pride in.
Some aren’t exactly sure what to do with Percy, how to think about her. Far from typical, she looks shockingly different than your average person. I’m not sure people quite understand that on a visceral level, even though I describe her often. One reviewer who rated the book poorly mentioned that she didn’t understand how a pale girl with blue eyes would be treated poorly in Victorian England – evidently she simply did not internalize how different Percy is and what that truly, realistically would have meant for her. Still, I want her not to be criticized for her difference but accepted regardless. I’m so grateful so many readers do just that; accept her and champion her. But for those who may wonder, it’s why I have the picture of her on my website, for reference. Personally, I think she’s beautiful but in no way could someone say she’s ordinary. This is a distancing quality for some readers; we’re used to seeing ourselves as the protagonist in some ways, relating to her, rooting for her on a deeply personal and relatable level. I think her sweet nature, her awkwardness and passion is something everyone can relate to, but visually it’s hard to capture that same relational quality. And yet, I think we should challenge ourselves to relate.
She is the woman she is because she came into my mind just as she was, and I was captivated by her from the start. I felt presented with an exciting opportunity to make us all think about beauty and its limitations through the character of Percy, through the eyes of us; the beholders. The Victorians had a very strict notion of beauty, and it was limiting to women. Present day is no exception. Yet there are plenty of ways to go against the grain. I’m a Goth girl, I think a lot of things are beautiful that other people might think are strange, and I find it a freeing and envigorating way of life. It may be a bit lofty, but I’d love for the character of Percy in the Strangely Beautiful series to encourage us to redefine beauty, as the narrow definition of beauty is so limiting from past to present, it is confining and damaging to so many people in the world. Let’s find something we might once have dismissed as strange, in fact, beautiful.
Miss Natalie Stewart:
17 years old, Natalie lives in 1880New York City, lost her mother as a child, the trauma of which led her to suffer from Selective Mutism, a condition where she does not speak. She communicates through a mixture of Sign Language and note-writing. The story is told through her diary.
I’ve always been interested in giving a voice to the voice-less. So much of Victorian society muffled most women, speaking for them and speaking about them, never did the society really interact with them and their best interests. The society stifled their sexuality, their intellect, their abilities and their rights, across all classes, and far worse treatment was offered to non-white races.
I wanted to think about a girl who was still subject to the rules of this muffling society having to exist further muffled. With a sharp wit, a fiercely intelligent mind, but this frustrating condition that wasn’t one that she could simply ‘snap out of’, Natalie is additionally oppressed. Though the book does see her speaking by the end, thanks to supernatural circumstances, it isn’t an ‘easy out’ for Natalie. She has many social and physical constraints to overcome as she struggles to regain something she lost. Yet, like Percy, there is such pride in overcoming her battles, all the more fierce pride for having been written off as an ‘unfortunate’ and pigeonholed into nothingness, to then rise to heroic heights no one would have expected of her. In my world, I empower Natalie with a few awesome and open-minded helpers along the way. The reality for a girl like Natalie in that time period, though, was much less optimistic. I make Natalie aware of this so that we, the reader, may be aware of her particular advantages amidst her struggles.
I’m not interested in non-traditional heroines as novelties or plot points. I’m interested in them as people. I’m interested in all persons being able to see themselves as heroines of fiction, no matter their body type, mental type, physical type, etc.
Beauty for the freaks, a voice to the voice-less. These are my small, tiny hopes for love in a world full of difficulty and pain.
Something that I have not mentioned yet is something that must be mentioned: Multi-culturalism in our work and the work of our genre. The ‘traditional’ heroine in our Western fiction is just that, traditionally Western. I don’t personally have an example otherwise, though my upcoming Strangely Beautiful release, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, has an Egyptian hero and several Egyptian characters from several different religious backgrounds. For greater, ongoing discussion on the multi-cultural front as it is always an ongoing discussion, I’d like to turn you to two of my very favourite resources in all the world: Beyond Victoriana http://beyondvictoriana.com/ and Silver Goggles – http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/ – Please do yourselves a favor and have these sites on your radar and check them often.
I’m giving away a copy of either Strangely Beautiful book 1 or 2, winner’s choice, to a random commenter chosen by the Steamed! Staff – So tell me, What about you? Please share your favourite non-traditional heroines!
~Leanna Renee Hieber
The Strangely Beautiful series: The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess (A Strangely Beautiful prequel) arrives May 3 in trade and digital
The Magic Most Foul series: Darker Still (Magic Most Foul #1) arrives November 8 in trade and digital from Sourcebooks Fire