*disclosure: this post may seem a bit disorganized and more of a rant*
The feedback for Dark Days has been extremely positive and readers are loving Maya. In short the general consensus is that she is a strong and unique female protagonist.
Maya’s story started about a decade ago after reading a lot of YA novels in prep for a job in the school library. I found that each story was following the same pattern. Those with female leads always had romance and a male cast that at times overshadowed the lead. I started to do some digging and read dozens of articles and blog postings.
The two things that bothered me with everything I read was that YA women could not carry their own story without a strong supporting male cast and good YA needs to have romance. My biggest question was why? Is it because of the cliché that sex sells? Perhaps. Is it because a male dominated publishing is trying to say something? Perhaps. Honestly, I don’t know what the true answer is but the major publishers have specific things they are looking for and if you don’t fit what they want they you may have a hard road ahead.
One thing I was dead set on was no romance. I did not and do not want Maya viewed as a sex symbol or one that struggles with a decision between a lover and a fight. What I had envision for her was to be seen as a cross between Hermione Granger and a Terminator. I wanted her to be brilliant but wouldn’t hesitate to take someone out. I didn’t want her to serve as a symbol for anything cause or movement but be the leader.
I couldn’t have Maya as a sole character because that would be rather dull so I added Willum and Jeremias. I like these characters and they are a great addition but I don’t think they overshadow Maya. I don’t want to give anything away but yes, it is true that they come to her side. However, Maya never allowed them to fight first. She led the charge.
I wanted Maya to be different from other female leads and this difference has been met with some resistance and dislike.
When I submitted Dark Days for review one reviewer noted that Maya was not relatable. She noted that a plot hole came when Maya first met Saxon and she did not try to bond with him. She said that it wasn’t realistic that she would have just jumped on and rode off. Maya should have petted him, embraced him to create a bond. The reviewer gave other instances of Maya’s character flaws but I did and still disagree with her.
I advised the reviewers that Maya was not your typical female lead but that did not stop one from pointing out where emotions should be. I’m not saying Maya is an emotional robot and there will be displays of emotion throughout the saga but I don’t think that every turn of the page needs to expose the same feelings that take away from leads. Of course I know that not everyone is going to like the book and I need to accept all forms of criticism but that one just made me shake my head.
Now here’s a twist that you might not have expected. All of Dark Days was planned but I did try to included more of Willum and Jeremias in parts that were unplanned. Though I enjoy the characters I couldn’t find a way to include them more that wouldn’t take away from the story. Dark Days is not their story, its Mayas and it would have added pointless fluff to generate pages. I honestly didn’t enjoy trying to forcefully add them so I went with my gut and scrapped trying. I kept true to Maya’s story and I don’t regret it.
I know that sounds like I’m a hypocrite and it contradicts my intensions. Perhaps I tried because I wanted to attract an agent or a publisher but it was wrong. These thoughts should have never crossed my mind. However, these thoughts led to something bigger.
Why is having a strong female lead such a bad thing? Why do authors have to bow down to what a select few publisher are saying? Why are the small publisher following the same patterns as the bigger ones? If it was such a good plan then all publishers would have international best sellers. Instead we write books in hopes that we catch the eye of the big ones.
It took almost ten years for Dark Days to hit the shelves and it got in the top 50 on Amazon in a couple categories but was far from a best seller. Of course it would have been nice to see but I am not disappointed. I finally brought my work to life and gave readers a female protagonist they deserve to have.
This is the part where I drop the bomb. The part that only a few in my inner circle know.
In each book I have dropped Easter Eggs with some more obvious than others and the eggs will lead to a collection of side short stories. There are so many things in the saga that I love but they, just like Willum and Jeremias, take away from Maya’s journey. Because they take away from Maya doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have a story so I am outlining my Easter Eggs as I work and will one day give them their just due.
Until then you as a reader are stuck with watching Maya grow as she works to save her people.