Thursday, 7 September 2017

Guest Post by Denise Marques Leitao, author of Karina's Silver Shoes

What’s a strong female character?

So... strong female characters. As opposite to what? Female characters? As if “weak” is implied in “female”?

Well, the truth is that female characters have not had great treatment in our storytelling tradition. And then came the “strong female characters” (SFC), and things kind of changed. Kind of, because many of these SFC fit in stories that were modeled after stories with male protagonists in patriarchal societies. Sometimes these characters are written as different from other women and this differentiation makes them unique and sometimes even special and better than other women, as if being less “feminine”, whatever that means, were a plus point to a character.

So I’m confused here. What’s the point of writing strong women if the main characteristic of these characters is to be unlike other women? I mean, doesn’t that undermine all women? And I’m perfectly fine with stories of women who cannot fit-in with standards imposed on women, but what I don’t really appreciate is when these women are made to appear superior to other women.

Something else that bothers me with SFC is that they often want to belong in a world of men, and have mainly male characters as friends. Again, it seems that these female characters are written as “better” than their female counterparts for not spending time with other women.

One final problem with “strong female characters” is the idea that a love story somehow undermines these characters. This is a lot less common than the other points, but it happens. Of course, there’s the other way around too, some female characters who are awesome, only to be reduced when finding love. There needs to be a balance there. Male characters, especially in adventure and fantasy, usually “get the girl” without any judgment on the character.

So, with all that, there comes my novel, Karina’s Silver Shoes, which is aimed mainly at girls aged 12 to 15. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I did my best to write female characters that are normal girls who enjoy being girls and enjoy being friends with girls. I think it’s important for girls to read about characters that are cool being who they are. Of course, friendships are not perfect. There are challenges. But the idea was to have a large cast of female characters dominating the story, in the same way a lot of traditional fantasy have a large cast of male characters. In fact, my original plan was to have very few male characters; they wouldn’t even talk to each other, but I ended up expanding their role, because it’s silly to do to male characters what authors have done to female characters for millennia. So there are some male characters, and I hope the readers like them.

Some readers have noted that Karina’s Silver Shoes has “strong female characters”, and it’s cool, but I was really aiming at something different and unlike most of the SFC we have seen in popular culture lately. Did I succeed? Let me know! 

About the Author

Denise Marques Leitao was born and raised in Brazil. When she’s not creating worlds and characters, she’s discussing the meaning of the Universe with her son, writing unintellectual poetry, podcasting about popular culture, or teaching. She lives in Montreal, Canada, and has a Master’s in English Literature.

To learn more about Denise, get news, bonus materials and preview chapters, visit

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About the Book

When two princesses ask Karina to go to Whyland, a kingdom in a parallel dimension, to destroy her fascinating and potentially evil silver shoes, of course Karina accepts. Who would refuse a free trip to an alternate world?

Advised by a wise master and threatened by a beautiful stepmother, Karina goes on a journey with a princess to defeat a powerful witch. But Whyland is nothing like she expected. Karina finds herself stuck in a kingdom she doesn’t understand, with no clue on who to trust. Before saving anyone, she’d better save herself—if she figures out how.

From Brazilian / Canadian writer Denise Marques Leitao comes Karina’s Silver Shoes, a teen parody of fantasy and fairy-tale tropes with many female characters, friendships between girls and women, and some subtle romance.

If you like to read about strong girls and women, you’ve found your book.

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