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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Where Do My Heroines Come From? by Teri Riggs

I’ve talked about the way I choose my heroes and who my first real life heroes were in an earlier blog. I’ve never shared how I come up with my heroines…cue dramatic music…until now. Grab a glass of wine and sit a spell.

In The Eyes Die Last, book one of my Kennedy O’Brien series, my heroine is a homicide detective. She deals in death every day and is frequently chasing after killers who lack any morals. It’s her job.  In order to do her job, I had to give Kennedy a strong and independent persona. She has no fear or least hides it well…except when she rides in an elevator.
Kennedy has to be able to take down criminals, armed or not. A cop needs to have the strength to slap a pair of hand cuffs on her perpetrator. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. It’s part of the job. A duty she does well.
She has to have a brain. I prefer for Kennedy to actually unravel the mystery through clues and not stumble across the solutions. I couldn’t have a weak woman with no apparent gift for solving puzzles become Las Vegas Metro’s most successful homicide detectives of all time. Kennedy does have her oops moments. She has flaws. She breaks down occasionally. And God forbid, she needs help sometimes. But our heroine wouldn’t be human if she didn’t have a few issues or screw up every now and then. What reader wants a perfect female character shoved down her throat for three hundred pages? And how could the hero’s love help the heroine grow into a better person if she’s already picture-perfect?
Next, I threw in a traumatic past, her Irish cop roots, and a few of her quirks, and bingo, Homicide Detective, Kennedy Marie O’Brien was born and ready to take down the criminals of Las Vegas and tangle with a certain hunky businessman.

In Resolutions, my heroine is a DEA agent working with the International Drug Enforcement Agency (IDEA). In the book, she battles drug lords and terrorists in Colombia. She’s captured, tortured, and nearly dies. No wimpy, girly-girl type woman is going to pull off surviving the awful things that happens to my heroine in this storyline.
I made DEA agent, Eve Taylor, a kick-ass operative, and computer know-it-all. In order to make her crazy desire for action and danger believable, I gave her a past that included being raised by four alpha brothers after her parents died. She hated the control they held over her life. As soon as she graduated from college she moved away, joined the DEA, and started her new life. She’s enjoys her newfound independence until she falls in love with a man who turns out to be another alpha male. Enter Resolutions operative, Mac McKenna. He gives her an ultimatum, the job or him. She takes the job, gives him the boot, and is off to prove her bad-assness. Of course she’s captured and who else would show up to rescue her, but Mr. Alpha Male Boyfriend. Eve finds she needs another type of strength now. She has to resist her desire for Mac.
I had to throw in a bit of softness and vulnerability to Eve’s personality. She can’t be all hard nails and hammers. The key was to not make her too soft. After all, even when she’s little Miss Romance, she has to stay on her game.

In real life my heroines are not just cops or DEA agents. I’d say my sister who has battled breast cancer and kicked its ass, is one of my heroines. My mother who worked full time and still managed to be a great wife and mother is another.  She too battled breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. She didn’t win either battle, but she gave them one hell of good fight. 

Other true life heroines? I see women serving in the armed forces. There really are female cops, DEA and FBI agents fighting for our freedom every day. There are single moms out there who are doing a great job raising great kids, and making it look easy. We know better. Raising children is a tough job when two parents are involved. Women who walk away from abusive relationships are another group of women I admire. What strength it must take to leave.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of strong, female role models I can base  my heroines on. I love writing a strong woman protagonist. Best of all, I love to give them a happily ever after.

     ****If you have a strong female heroine you admire in real life, tell us about her in the comments below for a chance to win an e-book copy of The Eyes Die Last or Resolutions.****

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