Guest writer Phyllis Zimbler Miller, who has written three novels in which women play the central and in several cases, unusual roles, muses at my request over her reasons for placing women central in her books.
I was intrigued to hear why she felt it right to place women in her books in roles normally given to male protagonists, well in two of her books at least, and asked her to write on this topic for my blog, as I felt that other women writers would find it of interest, and perhaps encouraging too.
So, here is what she has to say on this topic, which I hope you will find of interest.
From MRS. LIEUTENANT to LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS: The Portrayal of Women in Fiction
After all of my three novels …
MRS. LIEUTENANT deals with four very different wives of U.S. Army officers in 1970 and the expectations that they are appendages of their husbands.
CIA FALL GUY deals with an ordinary widow who pushes herself to respond to extraordinary circumstances because she is personally at risk.
LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS (written with my husband) deals with an unmarried U.S. Navy officer who strives to excel in order to prove she is as good as the best male officers.
Yet for me the portrayal of all these women is actually the same – each woman must come to grips with who she is in a world that has very specific expectations for her.
Now let me recount some personal history that has a bearing on this subject:
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest with no professional women role models except the one woman doctor who we considered a little crazy. (I have no idea why this was so.)
I went through college (MSU) in three years so that I would graduate at the same time as my husband-to-be. (He got a one-year deferment from his ROTC commitment in order to get a master’s degree.)
While I was not happy with the restrictions placed on army officers’ wives (and there were several), I do not remember fighting against these with a couple of exceptions:
As chair of the entertainment committee for the wives’ graduation luncheon when my husband was at Armor Officers Basic (AOB) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, I wrote a skit satirizing AOB instead of putting on the fashion or etiquette show as expected.
When we were stationed in Munich, my husband and I spent months pressing the U.S. government to allow me to get a lowly job as a GS-2 even though in the States I had already qualified as a GS-7.
Somehow back in Philadelphia starting in 1972 I became a feminist. Yet when I conducted a marketing campaign to get accepted for an M.B.A. at The Wharton School at the age of 30 (old at that time except for the military men), a relative told me she always thought I would be a good executive secretary. I said why not the executive?
Back to my novels:
By the end of MRS. LIEUTENANT the four women are beginning to assert themselves. They still very much support their husbands, but they are also their own people.
In CIA FALL GUY the widow learns to give up some of the fear that has blocked her for so many years.
And in LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS the protagonist can finally somewhat relax from the rigid expectations she has put upon herself.
To me all three novels offer a positive portrayal of women. Or, put differently, the three novels share a sisterhood that I hope will be viewed favorably by my readers.
A bit about Phyllis Miller:
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books, and her Amazon Author Central profile is at www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller
LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS will be free on September 3 (U.S. Labor Day) and September 4 at http://amzn.to/NUpy9o
She has an M.BA. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com
I hope this was both interesting, and perhaps also encouraging for other women who are thinking of making women the heroes of their books rather than is more normally the case, men.
Self-publishing has had a very positive and liberating effect on women writers I suspect. I know we had a load of female “heroes” before, such as Miss Marple and similar, but remarkably few action heroines as these women tended to be restricted to the role of “skilled” amateurs, not professionals, apart from war stories of course, and I am intrigued by the increase in women police detectives, secret agents and other action type roles which have always been reserved for male characters until recently.
Share with us.
If you are considering giving a woman a lead role in a book that has a story line that would more normally place a man in that role, do let us know what your reasons are for that choice. I would also be very interested in posting any thoughts you might have on this subject, so if you would like to be a guest writer on this topic, do contact me please.