I always preferred Veronica to Betty. Always felt more kinship with Rizzo than with saccharin-sweet, simpering Sandra Lee, and definitely felt a bond to Scarlett O’Hara even though she was bad and most certainly not as proper as the sainted Melanie. I don’t mean to say I didn’t feel for the feminine main characters of those stories. They are all fine.
But they’re boring.
To a certain extent, they’re supposed to be. Being good all the time isn’t real. Even Sandra Lee had her moments with the delicious John Travolta. Besides, who could forget those “leather” pants she wore in the final scene of the movie? That was fun.
It’s why the anti-hero(ine) was invented. We feel great being a little bit bad, and we want the characters we read to be like that, too. Think about Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. She is prone to the occasional doughnut, and boy do I like that about her. There are scores of romance heroines that are bad girls with a doughy center. I love to write the characters who have every habit I deny myself or everything deliciously exciting I want to try but am too chicken to, like sky-diving or eating a live cricket. (Ok, I’d never actually eat a live cricket– but part of me wants to be the avant-garde, world traveler kind of person who would!)
It can be a challenge to channel my inner-bad-girl for a YA book. In my soon to be released YA novel The Curious Bookshop, the main character, Anna, is a bookish loner who, as a new kid at school, retreats into books for solace. The bitchy girls aren’t really the “mean girls” of recent pop culture fame, but we start to feel in this, the first book of the Curious Bookshop series, the effect of the mean girl on the heroine Anna, a seventh grader. They don’t get really mean until the next book- but we get a warm up by the way she deals with her stepsisters.
Part of the challenge in YA is not making the heroine too boring, as well. “Melanies” aren’t very much fun to read about because they have no fight in them. Nor, of course, do you want anything inappropriate in YA, so sassiness is definitely out. My character Anna instead learns in this book to fight back against the situation she finds herself in. She uses her brain—and she gets the boy at the end too. She learns to use her own strength to solve her problems, and comes into her own; the hero’s journey in small scale. That has been part of the delight in writing a series. Anna is able to become stronger and fight against social pressure the further you get in the books. Maybe not stereotypical “bad girl” behavior, but I felt that at its most subtle bucking the trend can make for a formidable heroine indeed, especially in the hotbed of seventh grade.
That is what truly makes the anti-heroine for me: the woman who fights for what she wants. Rizzo, Stephanie, Scarlett- they all went after it with all they had. I hope to make my characters do the same, no matter what genre. Even a YA girl can be a little bit bad.
About the Author:
Jennifer Chambers is an award-winning author who writes from a kitchen table in a full house in the Northwest. She has written horror, poetry, adult fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult novels. Chambers writes a weekly newspaper column and writes and edits for Groundwaters Magazine. Her work has been in national newspapers and magazines. She has been seen on television and radio. Recently, her passion is organic cooking, and she is currently researching her latest project combining sustainable agriculture with the food-to-table movement prevalent in the Northwest.
Available books and links:
Blurb: In Learning Life Again, Maggie McLeod, adult brain injury survivor mentors newly injured teen Sarah as they journey toward health, success, and fulfillment. Their struggle to regain physical and emotional ability after brain injury delves into universal feelings like anger, loss, and redemption. Learning Life Again explores the way we adapt to challenges and how we can learn to heal.
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When a family meets a mall Santa, they begin to wonder if this mall Santa is the real deal.
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A Zombie horror collection sure to terrify the reader. Suspense and fear run amok as zombies terrorize the living in these tales from the dead side. Four stories from the best in horror fiction.
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New York 2090 and the New Prohibition is in full swing with speakeasy joints offering their brew for the thirsty public. When people in search of the bootleg liquor go missing, it’s up to a G-man to find them and the brew they’ve been drinking.
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Coming Soon from Jennifer Chambers:
The Curious Bookshop (November, 2012)
Imagine yourself an awkward, bookish twelve-year-old girl… and then take that girl and transport her into the body of young Queen Elizabeth the First. The Curious Bookshop combines mystery, historical intrigue and a story about two kids on a quest for the truth.