The following is a guest post by the prolific and talented Russell Blake. His book The Voynich Cypher has rated Five Stars on this site.
Those familiar with my work know me as a writer of action thrillers in the vein of Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth. But I try to avoid the stereotypical protagonist common to that genre - the male ex-CIA assassin for whom this time it's personal. My latest novel, Silver Justice features a female protagonist, as does my first release, Fatal Exchange, and my new one, scheduled for a mid-Sept release, JET. They are novels that center around women in difficult situations, taking on the world on their own terms.
The female main characters of these three novels are very different, and I thought it might be fun to contrast them.
Tess Gideon, from Fatal Exchange, is a female bike messenger with a taste for the wild side who is living an aimless existence in Manhattan, when she becomes unwittingly embroiled in a rogue nation's counterfeiting scheme and they send a hit squad after her. Complicating matters is a serial killer who is targeting female bike messengers. It's sort of a combination international intrigue, whodunnit and Red Dragon, but with a main character who is reluctantly plunged into circumstances that require her to leverage her familiarity with New York's seedy underbelly in order to survive. Tess is complex, filled with contradictions, able, sexy, brave, vulnerable, and is a woman whose background in no way prepares her to go up against the deadliest adversaries I could throw at her.
Silver Cassidy of Silver Justice couldn't be more different. She's a single mom FBI agent in charge of a task force that's hunting a murderer who's killing financial industry high rollers. Struggling to persevere in a male dominated career, she has to balance the considerable demands of her profession with the responsibilities of being a parent. Throw in a Russian mob contract on her, an ex who is battling to get custody of their daughter, a romantic life that's complicated, to say the least, and co-workers out to slip a knife between her ribs at the first sign of weakness, and you have a woman under pressure that keeps mounting throughout the book. I envisioned a tough, no-nonsense leader who is struggling with internal demons, and who was three dimensional, avoiding any clichés or stereotypes.
JET is a third take on the female hero, but this time an ex-Mossad operative who faked her own death to get out of the game, but whose past is catching up with her as enemies from the life she thought she'd buried pursue her across the globe. Jet is her old codename, and she is a badass. Think equal parts Lizbeth Sanders, La Femme Nikita and a female Bourne. Here, I wanted a take-no-prisoners woman who was one of the most effective clandestine operatives in the world, who finds herself returned to an ugly world of kill-or-be-killed she thought was behind her, and who must take on insurmountable odds if she is to survive and protect those she loves the most. I wrote Jet as a non-stop rollercoaster, and I think the book is probably the most racing I've ever created. Jet is certainly my favorite female character - lethal but human, introspective, tortured and conflicted, but capable of taking on a battalion of commandoes and being the last one standing.
As you can see, three very different women with markedly different backgrounds and skill sets in dissimilar situations. And yet all of them come alive on the page, and are vividly drawn and realistic. Part of my goal in creating them was due to a fascination with the concept of the strong female protagonist battling adversity, and I find their characters much more interesting than if I'd written the characters as male. Jet especially encapsulates so many traits that aren't typical with a female protag that I think it makes the book more engaging.
In the end, the goal of any good fiction is to keep it interesting. These three ladies definitely do that, no question. I think it would be safe to say that these aren't your grandmother's heroines, and they all push the limits of the female in fiction and take the genre to a whole new level.