Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sasha Dawn on "Smart Women: Lessons in Flawed Characters"

Hello there misfit booknerds!!! I'm excited to tell you that we are joined by the wonderful Sasha Dawn, author of Oblivion which has hit book stores since May 27 and I was lucky enough to do an ARC review for it. Today she's gonna share with us what she thinks of flawed characters and how they shape novels too.

Smart Women: Lessons in Flawed Characters

We’re sitting around my mother’s dining room table, celebrating someone’s birthday or aced spelling test or lost tooth. We like parties. We embrace any excuse to have one.

My grandmama tells me that my generation of women is smarter than hers. We allow the men to help in the kitchen, after all, and women everywhere are exhausted with cleaning up after boys. She sighs. Looks at Joshua. “Want another helping?”

“I’m all right,” he says. He’s already had seconds, and even though he loves a good lasagna, we’ve yet to serve dessert.

Grandmama snatches up his plate and hands it to me. “Go get him another piece.”

He just said he didn’t want another, but I do what she says. Always. Everyone does. She’s 105 pounds of fury. I don’t mess with Grandmama.

I return with the lasagna. She hands me his glass. “Want to get him a refill?”

I love that she pretends it’s my choice.

He rolls his eyes, gives me a smile. He’s more than capable of helping himself, but he doesn’t mess with Grandmama, either.

Naturally, I want to serve Joshua (read: sarcasm). It’s probably better that my man has an ultra-full belly. He has pretty green eyes and dimples that captivate when he smiles, and if I don’t feed him, someone else will. And like I said, it isn’t really my choice, considering it’s an order passed down from the matriarch. So I refill his glass.

“Yes,” Grandmama says. “Full belly equals happy man.” She would know. Grandpapa was one of the happiest guys I’ve ever met. “Smart women.” She puffs on her electronic cigarette. Even at the age of 86, she’s trying to conquer the nicotine. (Another reason the younger generation is smarter: we never started smoking.) “You let the men help.” Puff, puff, puff. “Now let Joshua have some dessert while we clean up in the kitchen.”

“Didn’t you just say—”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re a smart girl. We all know it. No need to prove it.”

Dichotomy. My grandmother, while insisting that a smarter woman isn’t a waitress in her own home, demands that I serve my man. But think about it: who’s in charge of even the biggest, burliest guys in the room? Grandmama. Maybe she’s onto something. She’s one of the smartest women I know. Scratch that. She’s brilliant!

It’s an invaluable lesson, really. And I carry this illustration of dichotomy to the pages of every book I write. Grandmama would be astounded to hear me say I learned a lesson in character development from her. Despite her dabbling in poetry, I doubt she’d consider herself a writer. But it’s true. She taught me a lot.

Readers have stated of Oblivion: “Every character is flawed!” Well…who among us isn’t? Do you think I can’t write a cookie cutter protagonist who deserves everything she wants in the world because she’s sunshine and smiles, who works to overcome her obstacles and always—always—wins her prize at the end? Of course I can. Doing so is certainly easier than creating a girl with real problems. But life gives us few, if any, people like that in the real world. Like my grandmother, I call ’em as I see ’em, and (I hope I’m not the first to tell you this) people aren’t perfect.

Lately, I’ve heard it all:

I’ve presented adults who fail our protagonist. Well, unfortunately, adults fail those they’re supposed to protect. They’re human, and we live in an imperfect world. Kids fall through the cracks, no matter what we do to catch them.

I’ve been told I’ve been unfair to Lindsey in writing her as the stereotypical, “slut-shaming Queen Bee.” To that, I say: a) read between the lines; Lindsey Hutch is in no way typical. And b) Queen bees exist. Girls can be mean. It’s true. On Wednesdays, they wear pink.

I’ve been shredded for Elijah’s being, as one reader put it (and I love this), a “hot flawed guy” and John’s being a “flawed hot guy.” I’ve yet to meet a man who isn’t flawed, and trust me, I’ve looked. I married and divorced an abusive alcoholic, dated a stalker, met men who insisted they weren’t married until I met their wives… (Enter Grandmama, again, with her sigh.) I’m just writing true-to-life, sweetheart.

By the way, I’m hearing that apparently Callie is a little unfocused, and her affliction is confusing and jumpy and annoying.

Ummmm…thank you. Mission: accomplished. If you feel a bit jarred in reading her attacks, haven’t I successfully brought you into her world? Did you miss the psychological in psychological thriller? Didn’t I deliver words that stirred you to the point that you ran to your keyboard to shake your finger at me the moment you closed the book? Isn’t that my job?

The way I see it, I’m doing my part to depict characters who differ from the mermaids trading their homes, their families, and their senses of self for a pair of legs. There’s certainly a place for those characters in fiction. The repeated sales prove it, right? But just as my preference to avoid writing the Disney archetype doesn’t label The Little Mermaid a bad movie (I actually LOVE it!), my tendency to write characters that crawl under your skin doesn’t make Oblivion a flawed book. And smart readers can discern the difference.

So Grandmama’s puffing on her electronic cigarette. “Smart,” she’s saying. “The best kind of smart is knowing you can’t make everyone happy, but you do what you can to reach them. You stay true to who you are.” She’s still talking about the dichotomy of our gender, about the hypercritical nature of our species—meaning human, as opposed to woman. “Your generation has it right. Let the man help.” Puff, puff. “Now, get Joshua another slice of chocolate ├ęclair cake.”

A big thank you to Miss Sasha Dawn for making this amazing guest post! A true honor! And thank you to Egmont USA for letting me read such a fantastic novel!  Anyway, Egmont USA is going to giveaway a copy of Oblivion. Leave a comment below of what you think of this post and Oblivion in general! US residents are encouraged to join but if you have a US mailing address, then please, don't hesitate! 

About The Author:

Sasha Dawn teaches college composition to America's youth at McHenry County College and the College of Lake County. She's drawn to suspense, the survival instinct in people, and has a crush on Thomas Jefferson. She lives in a suburb of Chicago.
(Author Bio from Barnes and Noble)

Look forward to more guest posts from authors soon! Have a nice time Misfit Booknerds!

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