I was homeschooled until high school. For most of my primary school years, my mother was my teacher. She ensured I had an academic knowledge on all the necessary subjects, but she also taught me to think critically, to believe in equality for all people, and to respect women.
This doesn’t mean I have a perfect track record of feminism. I’ve treated some women poorly. I’ve been to my fair share of strip clubs. But even though I may misbehave, I still believe wholeheartedly in the idea that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men.
When my first novel came back from the editor, I was surprised to find a note about the poor treatment and overall lack of representation of women. One of my primary villains was a woman, and a badass one, at that. But she was also a heartless killer and, truth be told, too powerful and godlike to represent women in a realistic way.
The only other female character played a supporting role. She was clever but fell into traditional stereotypes; for example, though she saw certain challenges coming, she left the action up to the men. She served as a love interest for one of the main male characters and little more.
I thought that being aware of my tendencies to treat women in my fiction this way would help solve the problem but when I got my notes back from my editor for my second book, he had similar issues with the main female character, Desai. She was the main male character’s love interest and little more. There was even a scene where she played the role of damsel-in-distress.
The point of all this is that breaking down stereotypes and writing more realistic characters takes both awareness and effort.
My forthcoming novel, the sequel to my first, features a woman as a leading character. The next book I’ll be releasing features several. I can’t promise that they’ll read true, that I’ll overcome the tendency of male authors to depict women as men with breasts, but I can promise that I’m working on it.
Next up: writing characters across the gender spectrum.