Strong women protagonists: It is definitely by design that I feature them in my fiction. I’m not the first to write strong female characters. Fiction is full of them as it should be, since real-life women are so often truly strong. Where I hope to be unique (or at least unusual) is giving my strong female protagonists a chance to bend more than the course of their own lives or those of their family. Choosing WWII as the setting for An Owl’s Whisper and Cotton and Silk wasn’t arbitrary. By inserting my characters into such a titanic event and giving them a role at crucial points in that world-changing time, their strength and courage, bending the course of history, can come through for readers.
Of the three protagonists (the central characters; the ones whose dramatic arc is the story) in my two novels, two are female. In An Owl’s Whisper, Eva sabotages crucial elements of the Nazi plan to reverse the course of the war in the decisive Battle of the Bulge. She didn’t singlehandedly win the war, but if not for her courage and determination…imagine if the Germans had broken through and changed the war’s outcome! In Cotton and Silk, several times in the mission to spirit the secret of the Zero fighter through Siberia, the mission aimed at changing the course of the war in the Pacific, it was Eri, not Nik, who acted decisively to save the day.
Eva and Eri are both strong women who refuse to sit back and let history happen to them. But they are hardly copies of each other. Eva starts off as a girl who only wants to be normal. One who’s been relentlessly molded into compliance by Uncle Henri and her Nazi nation. Remarkably, she has the spunk and character to rebel against her indoctrination, to rise up into something much more than normal, when during the Occupation, she sees the hollowness of the vision she’s been fed. From that point on, Henri’s in trouble, thank goodness.
In Cotton and Silk, Eri is, from the beginning, her own girl. Amazing for a female growing up in pre-war Japan. Credit her father Hiroshi in part for that. He raised her to be a thinking individual, willing to stand on her own two feet, willing to go her own way. He sent her overseas to university to train for a journalism career – unheard of in 1930s Japan. But most of Eri’s moxie comes from within. This is a woman willing to take on all of society to be herself. Willing, like her father, to be an outcast. Eri’s fearlessness made both of their lives difficult. It was what ripped their love apart from 1942-1948. But her fearlessness was untimately tempered with loyalty. In the end, it was her loyalty and love that allowed Eri to save Nik, to find Franklin, and to reunite with her father. To redeem herself.