A Page Turner without a Hero?
WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD is my tenth novel…and my first without a hero. Can I write an engaging story without a hero? I asked myself that question many times before I started writing Starla Claudelle’s story.
What makes a great women’s fiction book? The answer seems clear: Relatable characters and an amazing journey. I know most women love a strong leading man—and men tend to prefer reading about men—thus the popularity of the hero. But we (I’m sticking with women here, as most of my readers are, but the same applies to men/boys) have another side. We were all girls once. Some wilder than others. Some wishing they were wilder. Some happy in their good-girl roles.
Starla definitely falls into the wilder category. She’s also brave, impetuous and a defender of the underdog. She rails against things she doesn’t understand and craves one single thing: maternal love. Being raised by a paternal grandmother who resents her mere being only strengthens this need. The search for this unconditional love, this deepest human bond, takes Starla—along with Eula, an African-American woman, and a white baby—on the adventure of a lifetime. As this mixed trio travels segregated Mississippi in 1964, Starla’s eyes are opened to the world beyond her limited life. Her childlike perceptions are shattered and she discovers the world is far from what she imagined, and that love and family are sometimes defined in a most unexpected way.
As children, we all traversed the world into which we were born, discovering the good and the bad, the fair and the unbearable. We all dealt with the confusing emotions that came with venturing outside our own child-lives. Most of us managed to navigate through without having Starla Claudelle’s harrowing, funny and heartwarming tale to tell afterward.
Starla and Eula will forever be close to my heart; their journey will linger as a lesson in family and humanity I hope to never lose.
Can I write an engaging book without a hero? Yes, indeed I can.