How Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Feminism Influenced Guinevere

That may be the oddest blog title I’ve ever written.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the society and culture around us impacts the work we produce as writers. What got me on this train of thought? Well, I’m working on a non-fiction book on the evolution of the character of Guinevere in literature from the Welsh triads through my own novels. My thesis is that each version of Guinevere reflects the society in which and for which she was written.

And this is true of my own version. I started writing her in 1999. The 1990s, especially the late 90s, were a time when women were coming into their own in pop culture. It’s the time that started what we now call “Third Wave Feminism.” (Buffy has even been cited at as Third Wave Feminist Icon by The Atlantic.) Here’s the brief timeline:

  • The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer film (still my favorite) debuted in August 1992.
  • A novelization by Joss Whedon came a few months later (I read it like five times and still own it. I have the soundtrack on cassette, too. Obsessed much?)
  • The TV show ran from  1997-2003.
  • The show was continued on in graphic novels for two more seasons, but that’s really beyond the scope of this post.

Anyway, Buffy was really the first kick-ass female character in pop culture that I can remember. We had female superheros before (She-ra for example), but Buffy was the first woman to be both physically awesome without traditional superpowers (thought you could argue that The Slayer’s super-strength and quick self-healing abilities are superpowers) and by the end of the movie, have some depth and agency. No, Buffy would never be considered a genius – that’s what Willow and Giles are for – but especially by the time the TV show started, she had a bit of a brain and was realizing she could make her own choices, even though her overall fate as The Slayer wasn’t up to her. And the fact that she got more intelligent and strategy savvy as the series went on is even better.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but seeing (and personally embracing) this female icon left a lasting impression on my psyche. Maybe it helped that Buffy also coincided with my time at an all-girls high school (where we were taught be strong women), but regardless, I came to writing my Guinevere knowing I wanted her to be able to kick some ass like Buffy, something I hadn’t seen reflected in the Arthurian legend I’d read to that point. Plus, it is historically accurate for Celtic women, although possibly not as late as post-Roman Britain where/when my story is set.

In many ways, I think the physical toughness is related to a desire to no longer be repressed by or dependent on men. My Guinevere – the Guinevere of a new generation, if you will – was not going to be raised to sit around and await her husband to usher her into a new era of life. As a “self-rescuing princess,” she forged her own life away from and outside of her parents. Even later on, when she was subject to father’s legal control over her, Guinevere did what she could to live the life she, not her father, chose for her. Like Buffy, she eventually had to face the role destiny had in store for her, and like Buffy, she accepted what she couldn’t control and made the best of it with strength and determination. And if she kicked a little ass along the way (more so in the second and third books than the first), so much the better.

There is also an interesting tie between Buffy and the 1990s fascination with all things Wicca. During that decade, the movie The Craft (or, as many Wiccans call it, The Crap, for the lack of realism in its portrayal of their religion) was an introduction to the neo-pagan religion and/or goddess movement for many young people. Entire sections of Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores were dedicated to books on witchcraft, and you couldn’t swing a cat (pun intended) without hitting a New Age Store in most major towns. (I am sad that this is no longer the case. Ahem.) Buffy has obvious ties to the supernatural (not to mention more than one Wiccan character) and it’s popularity was due in part to the culture of openness regarding all things mystical and occult.

What does this have to do with Guinevere? Well, in that same period of occult fascination, I chose to break the mold and give Guinevere a role that has been heretofore reserved for Morgan: that of priestess. This is important because traditionally in literature one of the few powerful female characters was the witch (also known as the priestess). By whatever name you call her, the priestess/witch, wields power on her own – no male intermediaries here – and uses her magic to get what she wants out of life. She also often has pre-cognitive abilities or other powers that threaten those in charge of society. In addition, witches have their covens or groves, in which they join together to become more powerful and use this community to train the young and protect the weak. For these reasons (among others) she is often viewed as a force that must be stopped. In Guinevere’s case, she has the sight, learns to manipulate the elements, and lives for a time in Avalon (which functions like a coven). For a long time she has no negative repercussions, but we all know one of the iconic images of Arthurian legend is Guinevere’s rescue from the stake…

(A powerful woman who says what she wants, does what she wants, and stands up for other women – and is persecuted for it – why does that sound familiar? Oh wait, that’s me reflecting on the culture of 2016-2017.)

In the end, Buffy saved the world (a lot), but not without sacrifice. While I can’t promise Guinevere will do the same, she was molded by the same cultural forces, so no matter how her story turns out (and only I know for certain), you can bet she won’t end her days moldering away in a convent, subject to the whims of men. Not while this Buffy fan still breathes.

Where am I? Who am I? What now?

There’s always this strange feeling that comes with finishing a book. Whether it’s just after finishing the rough draft and tumbling down the mountain of the denouement, or you’ve finally conquered the many-headed monster of line edits and plot holes, or finally, finally typed those two little words: The End. But the feeling comes and it’s one of bewilderment.

You’ve been working so hard, from idea conception, to finally hitting the last period, or – if it’s a series – you got to finally write The End, when you’re done, you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself. There’s no word goal that needs to be met. No deadline looming. No emails from your editor, with an attachment that now has more Track Changes than original work. No acknowledgements to write. Nothing but trying to enjoy the idea that you get to take a break. But it’s strangely hard to take that break. I, for one, tend to feel guilty.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I take a break and I damn well enjoy it. I catch up on some reading, be it novels or beautifully drawn comics. I enjoy the slow sipping of my coffee, rather than the bleary-eyed chug only to find I’ve let the stuff get cold. I watch some guilty pleasure T.V. I stay in my pajamas by choice. Or maybe I don’t and I take a shower and do my hair and feel like a person again. I go out to dinner with my hubs to celebrate.

But after a day or two, I feel guilty. Which is so strange.

I mean, when you work for someone you’re supposed to get a vacation, right? And we’re not talking a day or two. You get some time to decompress and go do something you don’t normally do because, damnit, you’ve been working hard (maybe).

So I just published the last in a trilogy. I will say that, of all my work, I am most proud of this body of work. The Ash and Ruin Trilogy, I think, is my best work so far. But I will tell you this, it is a dark, mean story with a scorched earth and blood. There are dead-eyed monsters with rattling, plague-spreading breath and monsters that look just like you and I. And each installment took little pieces of me with them, every day writing, every day editing, they took pieces of me.

And when I came to the end of the third book, that last day, I could see the horizon – it was about ten thousands words in the distance and I knew I didn’t want to quit until I reached it. So, over the course of the day I wrote some 12,505 words and the last two were “The End.” I nearly collapsed. I almost had to crawl to get out of my office at the end. I don’t even remember the rest of the night, but I felt like I’d been in battle with my characters and I’d somehow dragged my body, beaten and bloody, out of those pages and found my way home.

And now it’s published. I finished revising the rough draft of another book just the other day, so I told myself I could take a little time to enjoy this week and this last publication. So, I read some beautiful comics, I finished a book I’d been reading, I got a fricken massage today, I gave myself a pedicure. But you know what?

I feel guilty.

But some characters are already starting to talk to me, so the tiny break was a good thing. So, take your breaks, kick that guilt monkey off your back, sip your coffee, because more words are coming. More goals. More deadlines. More edits. If you’re a writer, you’re gonna write. But you deserve that break, just like I did.

Now, if you like monsters, and heartbreak, and bloody adventures, and scorched earth apocalypses, please, help me pay bills and feed my dogs by clicking on your favorite retailer’s link and maybe buy a copy.

 

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Cover Reveal: Age of Blood

Age of Blood (Ash and Ruin #3) by Shauna Granger

Hope is a dangerous thing, but powerful. Hope keeps you going. Hope can keep you alive.

But hope can shatter your world.

Kat and Dylan have found a home, but the monsters are still out there. The pox and plague still ravage the world. They have hope of finding a vaccine, but their encampment isn’t equipped to develop it.

Dylan is still too weak from the pox to leave the encampment, so Kat must decide between staying by his side and protecting her last remaining family member as he leaves to find supplies. Separated for the first time since they came together, Kat and Dylan will have to fight their own battles to save what is left of their bloody world.

Kat will have to hold on to hope that she has anything left to save and someone to come home to.

If she can survive.

AGEOFBLOODAvailable 5/5/2015

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About the series:

World of Ash – book 1

WOA (1)

There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.

That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Time of Ruin – book 2

TORThe world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

About the author:

6FTWnj-KLike so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. She released the first installment of her Paranormal YA Series, The Elemental Series, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. In December of 2013 she released the first in her Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic trilogy (Ash And Ruin Trilogy), World of Ash. Be sure to also check out her newest series: The Matilda Kavanagh Novels about a spunky witch just trying to pay her rent in West Hollywood. Shauna is currently hard at work on one too many projects, trying to organize the many voices in her head. It’s a writer thing.

Stalkables:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

About the Cover Artist Stephanie Mooney:

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I am a 25-year-old graphic designer, artist, and aspiring author currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m a renaissance girl — a lover of all things creative and artistic. From the moment I learned to use my hands, I was writing stories about princesses and sketching ballerinas. I guess I never really stopped.

Most of my training has been informal, and many of my skills are self taught. In 2006-07, I spent a year interning at a church in Louisiana where I worked in their art and design department. In July 2007, they hired me as one of their designers. I worked there for three years, gaining experience in graphic design, advertising, set building, event planning, and product design. From there, I began my career in freelance design.

Many of my clients are indie authors looking for affordable cover designs. I love working with authors and getting excited about their stories with them. I’m still building my web portfolio, but I really enjoy designing and developing websites as well.

Stalkables:

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Shauna’s Edition

If you’ve been following me on any social media site, you know by now that my sequel to World of Ash, Time of Ruin, went live on Tuesday. We all talk about how difficult writing is, and it is, but some books are easier than others and some just kill you a little bit, steal a piece of your soul with every page. The Ash and Ruin Trilogy is the latter for me. That’s why I talk about it so much. I’m just so glad for each book to be complete and out in the world. I’m glad I wrote these books, but I will be glad when they’re over because they take so much from me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see people reading the, so in that vein, here is all the info you need!

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic adventures with monsters and just a touch of romance, please check them out!

The first book, World of Ash, can be found here:

WOA (1)

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.

That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

The second book, Time of Ruin:

TOR

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

Living Up to Expectations

Last December I released WORLD OF ASH, my NA paranormal post-apocalyptic novel. It was the first time I’d ever written a book in this genre (not paranormal, that’s ma bread and butter). The age range was familiar to me because the end of my Elemental series the characters were all 18-19 years old, but post-apocalyptic was totally new for me.

WOA (1)

The book was very challenging to write for more than one reason. First, I attempted to write this book in more of a Sci-Fi vein without magic or supernatural creatures. My readers have heard me say that, after accomplishing this, upon my read-through, I hated the book. I just didn’t enjoy it at all. I am not a Sci-Fi nerd. I enjoy watching Sci-Fi far more than reading it. And really I prefer my Sci-Fi along the lines of Doctor Who – with a mix of fantasy.

So I knew I had to revamp the whole book. After a massive overhaul, research into rare plague bearers of Norwegian myths, and changing the whole damn thing from past to present tense, I had a much better book. It’s a dark horse in my catalogue of books, but it is by far my most well-received book.

And that’s kind of terrifying.

When I was first starting out with my plucky YA paranormal series, I was wide-eyed and a bit naïve. I did my research into the biz, made sure I did things professionally and smart, but, mostly, I kept my head down and wrote and polished and published and hoped for the best. I built a readership and enjoyed my work. And, while each release brought with it a new wave of butterflies and mild panic, I had no trouble writing the next book. Not so with this new world.

WORLD OF ASH has set me up for a whole new world of feels. As I sat down to start working on the outline for book two and sat down to start putting words to screen, I realized I was kind of terrified. In my first series I had a pretty good balance of love, hate and somewhere in between with my readers (luckily there wasn’t a lot of a hate, just enough to let me know that I was comfortably in the middle of “not pleasing everyone,” which is what you expect). But so far, WOA hasn’t had any hate or even any, “Eh… it was okay.” People are excited to read the next. They have a lot of questions and feels. I’ve had writers volunteer to beta read the second book who didn’t for the first because they became fans after reading WOA.

This is a lot of pressure that I didn’t expect.

Merida, Brave, exasperated

Like I said before, WOA is my dark horse. I’m not gonna lie and tell you it’s my best seller, because it’s not, but it seems to be the best received.

So I find myself asking HOW DO I LIVE UP TO THESE EXPECTATIONS?

DeanScreamInternally

I don’t. Plain and simple. I need to go back to my old way of thinking, just put my head down and write the best book I can. Often I find myself thinking about the book and thinking I’m not doing a very good job. That I’ll send it to my betas and they’ll rip it apart and the new volunteers will cringe, wondering why they offered to read. But you know what? Every writer has those doubts. Whether it’s their first sequel, or their thirtieth.

So, how am I dealing with it? I just am because I’m a writer and I want to continue to be a writer and to do that, I have to keep writing. I will just allow myself to have my doubts and my worries, so long as I keep writing. My editor and betas are supposed to help me make the book better, so if they hate it, they can help me build it up to the level it needs to be to live up to the precedent that WOA set.

I’ll drink my coffee, add to my soundtrack, build the outline, and somehow find the end of the book and hopefully people will love it as much as the first book. Hopefully.

(Hopefully this is what my betas and my readership will say when I’m done.)

(And then there will be wine.)

Publishing a New Title

It doesn’t matter how many times we go through this, every time you see one of your books hit the big sites, released into the wild for mass consumption, you go through the same thing:

World of Ash was one of the hardest books for me to write for a myriad of reasons. One, it was a whole new genre (Post Apocalyptic), in a new age group (New Adult), and when I first wrote it, I tried to do so without any magic or paranormal elements. Let’s not even mention that I wrote the whole thing in past tense only to go through and change the whole damn thing to present tense (except for flash backs)! But I have to say, I think it is one of my strongest books ever. I’m exceedingly proud of it and I cannot wait to hear from my readers.

YA Bound is hosting my book tour, so be sure to check it out for your chances to win prizes from yours truly! I hope you all will check out the book and let me know what you think!

Now, excuse me while I go find my paper bag…

WOA (1)

Why zombies?

At a cousin’s birthday party last night, a funny little eight-year-old boy came running over.

“Can I read your book yet?” he asked while his mother looked on.

I wrinkled my nose and shook my head. “No, buddy,” I said, and his face fell. “Well, not yet anyway.”

“When?”

“Up to your parents, really, but my guess would be somewhere around sixteen.”

“But I love zombies!”

I smiled. “Me, too. This book’s just a little too grown up for you still. I’m sorry.”

He frowned and pouted a little, but then he looked back up. “Why do you write about zombies, anyway?”

And isn’t that the question of the hour??

I actually get asked that a LOT. People look at me and expect me to write YA contemporary romance, or even fantasy. They don’t expect horror, mainly because I don’t look like Anne Rice, I think. I mean, aside from a preference for black nail polish, I look more like…well…a soccer mom, I guess. So why horror? Why zombies?

Here’s my response:

In the first place, zombies are pretty generally evil. There’s no chance for redemption. So with zombies, the ultimate goal is to kill them, and since they usually attack with numbers on their side, you get to be really creative in how you kill them. My favorite method from my first book included a gas station nozzle through the eye socket….my protagonist then blew up the whole place. Sort of fabulous, right?

But then there’s the real reason, and it’s that when you totally mess up the world around a group of people…when you push them to the brink of starvation and civilization, you really get to dig into human dark sides. I ask you this: if you had guns and food during the zombie apocalypse, but just enough for your own family, what would you do if your neighbor came calling for help? Would you help him?

Or what if there was someone wreaking havoc within your little camp. What would you do? Would you set up some sort of jail system, complete with trial by jury? Or would you simply kill the rabble-rouser?

These are the questions I love to explore, love to dig into, within my zombie stories. As I like to put it, in my Undead America series, it’s not the zombies you need to fear; it’s the people.

For more information on the Undead America series, check out the books on Amazon.

Zombie Days, Campfire Nights

No Angels