Diva Interview: Darynda Jones
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, Darynda Jones, knows how to write strong female protagonists. Anyone who is familiar with her work will attest to this. In her Charley Davidson series, Jones created one of the most complex yet tangible female leads I have read. Not only does Jones balance Charley’s complexity with a biting wit, but she knows how to draw in the reader’s emotion without letting her characters become doormats to their counterparts. Jones also keeps the reader wanting more. All of this in itself is a guidebook for any best-selling work that features a female protagonist.
Since I’m a fan, I wondered how Darynda’s mind ticks and how her female protagonists are born.
What is a strong female protagonist in your eyes?
In my eyes, a strong female protagonist is one who stands up for herself, for those she loves, and for those who are not able to stand up for themselves. It is not the lack of fear, but the willingness to do what is necessary in the face of it.
Do you “write what you know” in respect to creating your Charley Davidson character? Tell us a little bit about her character. What are your influences when writing her?
I do to a degree. We both have ADD, so that is something I can relate to. Our minds bounce from idea to idea at the speed of light. Other than that, not so much. As a female private investigator who was born the grim reaper, Charley has a lot on her plate. Much more than I’d ever want. I’m not sure what or who my influences were while creating her, but in hindsight, I’d say she’s a little Buffy, a little Stephanie Plum, and a whole lot Lorelei Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls.
How much is she like you? How is she different?
Besides the ADD, she’s pretty much her own girl. We do share a sense of humor which rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
What kind of weak traits or clichés of female protagonists grate on your nerves?
Ugh, there are several, but the worst is a heroine who won’t stand up for herself, who lets people walk all over her. I don’t feel sorry for these characters. Empathy is earned and they aren’t earning anything but my extreme dislike. The other one that grates to no end is a heroine who whines because her man, who is out saving the world, doesn’t spend enough time with her. That is so old and overused as a device to create conflict, it’s unreal. I refuse to read/watch anything that uses that trope.
What kind of advice can you give budding writers about writing a strong character like Charley?
First, thank you! I love Charley, love writing her. My advice would be don’t make your heroine a whiner. Make her independent and self-sufficient. That’s not to say the hero can’t save her arse every now and then, but for the most part, she has that $#!~ under control. Or at least she believes with every fiber of her being that she does. Reality may or may not concur.
Do you think a strong male protagonist or even antagonist balances out the female lead and why?
I definitely do. I think there the protagonist must have strong for strong. If the female is too much stronger than the male lead, we don’t respect him. And we certainly won’t fall in love with him. I’m not saying the male lead can’t be a beta. That’s fun sometimes and they are strong in their own ways. The same goes for the antagonist. To knock a strong protagonist off her high horse, it takes a mighty powerful adversary.
What are your favorite female protagonists in today’s fiction?
Oh, so many. I love Bella from Jacquelyn Frank’s Nightwalker series, Cat from Jeanienne Frost’s Cat and Bones series, Jane Jameson from Molly Harper’s series, Daphne Bridgerton from Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I… I could go on and on. Oh! And I just discovered Astrid from Robyn Peterman’s Fashionably Dead. A fantastic character! And book!
When you’re writing, are you conscious of the effect your characters will have on the reader in regards to influence: like helping a battered woman defend herself or a woman taking charge of their life after a tragedy, or going for what she wants out of life?
Wow, that’s a great question. For the most part, no, not really. I would always hope that anything I write is inspiring, but I don’t write things specifically toward that goal. I just try to make my females positive and strong.
Thank you again for sharing with us your insight.
Thank you so much for having me!
Darynda has kindly offered up a copy of any one of her books for our readers.
NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier. As a born storyteller, she grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike. She currently has two series with St. Martin’s Press, the Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. Darynda lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of more than 25 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys.