Official site for the high/dark fantasy books of authors Barb Hendee and J. C. Hendee, including the Noble Dead Saga (a.k.a. The Noble Dead series), the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and TNDS: Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga.

Q&A: Heroines, Dark and (not so) Light

qa_1 These days, tales of the undead (mostly vampires) are all the rage and have been for a decade plus. Much as we do use the undead (not just vampires) as prominent fixtures and even main characters, that isn’t what we really write. We’ve always considered ourselves “fantasy” writers first where the Noble Dead Saga is concerned.

Regardless, we couldn’t escape that alternative classification of our work. When S1B1: Dhampir first came out, it wasn’t even placed in the Fantasy section of book stores. If a Dark/Urban Fantasy category existed in a particular store, that’s where Dhampir ended up. Fortunately it didn’t matter, as fantasy readers found it just the same. But regardless, we always get questions related to being “vampire” writers, and so...

In modern fantasy, most heroes who protect the common people from unnatural creatures are women: Magiere, Buffy, Anita Blake and so on. Why do you think such characters are so popular, and what makes females so good at monster hunting?

J.C.: Oh my, so we’re walking into the “gender” minefield again.

Barb: I would never claim that females (or males) are better suited to battling creatures of darkness. I mean really, half of our protagonists are of the so-called dark side, one way or another. But we can’t deny the female’s currently reigning popularity. Okay, so our books share the benefit of that, but that isn’t why we chose a woman as one of our primary characters. Honestly, we don’t really get the phenomenon.

J.C.: When we first formulated characters for S1B1: Dhampir, we wanted a female protagonist who was leftward from the old standards. No magic, no feminine wiles, no fated emissary of some otherworldly force of good. We wanted a blood and guts type who was still a woman, so we could work with and against varied old clichés. Does anyone remember Red Sonja?  This was more than a decade back in time now. The trend or fad we’re talking about had barely sprouted a handful of years before we first came on the scene. At the time, we knew little to nothing about it.

Barb: We were big fans of Buffy, but I don’t think Magiere fits in the same category as her. J.C. actually preferred the Angel spin off better.

J.C.: They early years mostly, and after Spike came on the scene (for a while). Go Cordelia! Real hero(ine)s aren’t ready made but are always in the making, whether they’ve got special powers or not! And then there’s Spike; I like me a good anti-hero, always!

Barb: Oh yes, William has always been one of our favs. But back to the topic. Some links might be drawn between Buffy and Magiere based on simple, archetypal, and even stereotypical attributes, such as whacking the undead. That doesn’t speak at all of who Magiere is as an individual, as an enemy of the undead, or if being female has some kind of advantage.

J.C.: Magiere is part of the so-called darkness, beyond what was introduced late in Buffy. Those who’ve read up through S1B3: Sister of the Dead or paid attention to detail revelations in S1B5: Rebel Fay know there’s something more serious to that. They do both struggle for a normal life, but Magiere actively (and really) fights for it and was rather nasty about it right from the start. 

Barb: This isn’t about being female or fulfilling a modern female archetype.

J.C. Because it isn’t an archetype; not by the true (non-populist) meaning of that term.

Barb: Any character of either gender, which faced such internal and mythic external conflicts, would face these same challenges.

J.C.: At best, the turn towards female protagonists in dark fantasy (urban or otherwise) is simply the change of times. Women are becoming viable for fulfilling any of the roles (positive and negative) once predominantly (automatically) given to men. It’s about time! But I will say there is still room for the stereotypes – in both male and female characters.

Barb: Magiere is neither hero nor villain, man nor woman, but a person first, who has been stuck with what she considers extraordinary and unfair burdens. And I think our readers could imagine what she would do if someone said to her, “Well, you’re a woman, so that’s why you’re so good at killing the undead.”

J.C.: I don’t flinch at much, but I don’t want to be in the tavern when some fool says anything close to that. It’s last call in the Sea Lion, so excuse me while I run for cover!