To help promote the latest release for Kate J.Squires, 32 Lays Later, we thought we would have her over for a guest post. We had no involvement in her choice of subject but she has certainly addressed an issue that many of us find important, if only some days. Enjoy a little insight into the mind of Kate.
I have a confession: I’ve been a Disney Princess addict for far longer than should be acceptable for a grown woman. For my childhood and entire twenties, I’ve idolised the image of the animated heroine. They all have a similar suite of qualities: tiny waist, shining eyes, animal companion, cheery disposition, and every day as a Disney Princess is a good hair day – nay, a perfect one. Literally, Ariel’s hair looks just as good wet as dry. I don’t know about you, but when I emerge from the ocean, I look more like this:
I mean seriously… How is it dry so fast?
And the princesses don’t have character faults. Their only ‘flaws’ are like the ‘weaknesses’ you’d give in a job interview – “I’m too courageous, I’m too intelligent, I care too deeply, I work too hard, I take huge risks to protect the people I love,” etc.
As I started writing romance seriously a few years ago, I realised that some of that Princess-ness was creeping into the characters I created on the page. My heroines had great stories happen around them, sure, but they never actually made mistakes. They were as doe-eyed as Snow White innocently accepting an apple from a stranger, and then bemoaning the consequences they’d done nothing to deserve.
It wasn’t realistic, of course. In life, everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes, they’re not selfless mistakes made from best intentions, but done out of ignorance or personal motives. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good person if you goof up occasionally, but for some reason, the bulk of romance for young women never seems to show this. And it leaves us as the reader/viewer feeling as though we could never live up to the perfection of the girl on the screen or the page.
When I wrote 32 Lays Later, I created Beth. She’s flawed – deeply. She’s commitment phobic, has a bizarre habit of lapsing into ‘ghetto’ talk when she gets nervous, and volunteers to become a porn star because she’s trying to prove a ridiculous point to herself. The book opens with Beth digging poop out from under her manicured nail, because she’s a nurse, and sometimes, nurses get their hands dirty.
I love Beth’s imperfection, because that’s life. We get dirty, we mess up, we lie, we aren’t perfect. As an adult the reason I struggle with perfect heroines and perfect storylines in romance is because it’s not real. And I also believe that’s why some people feel confronted when a character does stuff up – it’s just that little bit too close to home.
In the last year, I’ve written main characters who were plus-sized, alcoholic, accident prone, baby-obsessed – even a cheating wife. They aren’t traditional, flawless heroines, but damn, they make for interesting reading.
Those who read for pure escapism will probably struggle with realism, and that’s okay too. If you want to read about the angelic teen virgin and her billionaire vampire boyfriend – cool! But as we mature, there’s something magical about discovering pieces of yourself within flawed characters, and in remembering that redemption exists, even when you think you’ve stuffed things up completely.
I’m hopeful there’s a swing coming. The popularity of movies like Trainwreck seem to suggest that women are realising you don’t have to be princess-perfect, and there’s a sense of relief in that knowledge.
And even Disney seem to acknowledge this change, if the most memorable scene from Frozen is anything to go by. You know the one I mean. The one that takes your breath away for its clear message:
Not every day has to be a good hair day.
All images supplied by Kate J. Squires.
32 Lays Later is available September 24th through Momentum.