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Friday, March 17, 2017


I love meeting new authors and learning what excites them. Next week I'm on a panel at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts with some great women who happen to be awesome story tellers. Kick back for a few minutes and meet Christine Bagley. You'll be glad you did!

My Idea of a Strong Woman
By Christine Bagley

I like a mixed bag when it comes to strong women, particularly in literature. And the women I like to read about are not the Eleanor Roosevelt’s and Mother Teresa’s of the world. I like them scandalous. I want them to break the rules, be brave, tough, shrewd, and make unconventional choices, even at enormous personal cost.

Take for example, Loving Frank, the novel by Nancy Horan based on Mama Borthwick, Frank Lloyd Wright’s lover, who left her family to live with Wright in the early 1900’s. She was a translator, intellectual, and feminist. She was relentlessly hounded and condemned in the press for leaving her husband and two children, yet would not return to a loveless marriage or, at that time, the conventional role of a wife and mother. In the end, she paid an enormous price for her choice.
Then there’s Circling The Sun, the novel by Paula McLain based on the fearless Beryl Markham. Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean – east to west, and went spear hunting in Kenya. She was a friend of Karen Blixen, pen name, Isak Dinesen, the author of Out of Africa.  Markham trained and raced horses, and had numerous love affairs, including the infamous one with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester while both were married. And she didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of her.
Who can forget the incomparable Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind? She’s naughty, sneaky, beautiful, and a survivor. Her plight to save the family home, Tara, demonstrates her strength and perseverance as well as her conniving, selfish, nature.  Would I want her as a friend? No. Did I appreciate her strength and courage? Yes.
Remember Mattie Ross? She was the fourteen-year-old heroine who embarks on a journey of revenge in the novel, True Grit by Charles Portis.  Employing the notorious Rooster Cogburn to kill the man who shot her father in cold blood, she is single-minded, independent, and unlike any other female of her time. She is mentally and physically tough, (even enduring amputation from a snake bite) but, in the end, she accomplishes her goal against all odds.
In the psychological thriller, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Rachel Ashley is the beautiful, mysterious widow of Ambrose Ashley, the older cousin of protagonist Philip Ashley, who falls in love with Rachel, assuming that she also loves him. What enhances Rachel’s enigma is that the reader, as well as Philip Ashley, never quite knows if Rachel is capable of murder or if she’s a good person wrongly judged. Either way, her character is smart and shrewd enough to fool you. The ending of this novel is superb, and one that often comes to mind when writing my own short stories. 
And then there’s Minny Jackson in The Help by Katherine Sockett. Not only did Minny have the strength to suffer despicable discrimination and humiliation because of her color, she also had the gumption to exact revenge with her special pie, containing her own feces. It was one of those “Yes!” moments in the novel, and an especially delicious payback. All of the female characters in The Help were strong, and took risks to open readers’ eyes to what happened in the 60’s to black maids.
These are the sort of women who fascinate me, with varying degrees and types of strength. I crave these characters in novels, differ with them in some cases, but am ultimately drawn to their toughness - even when it’s sometimes perverse. My own female characters are definitively more perverse than they are strong, mainly because a lot of them are murderers, i.e., The Elevator, The Madness of Ida Mae, and my current project, On a Winter’s Night.
Maybe some day I’ll write about a strong woman who is good and pure. I do have an adventurous, unconventional woman from the 1500’s in mind, although she probably killed a few people during one of her notorious escapades now that I think about it…


Christine Bagley holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and teaches writing and presentation skills to foreign national clinicians and scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  She is the former Editor of Eye Contact for the Schepens Eye Research Institute, and The Medical Services Review for the Massachusetts General Hospital. A Member of the Mystery Writers of America, she was a 2016 fiction contributor to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Learm more about Christine at                                                                                                                                                


FRIDAY FEATURES is a steady presence on Out of the Fog where I explore the concept of "strong women." Who are they? What makes them strong? How do we see them in writing and/or in business? If you're an author, what is their place in the world of thrillers of mysteries? If you're in business, how is the working environment impacted by the presence of a "strong woman" and how are they seen as leaders and team members? If you're an emerging strong woman, tell us about your journey. Have other questions you find compelling? Ask away and I'll post the answers here. 

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