Dear Gentle Reader,
I was recently reflecting on motherhood in my books.
It might appear, from my stuff, that I have a contentious relationship to moms and motherhood. I must state up front that this is not because of my own mum, who is awesome, but more likely because I’m not a mother myself. I mother my friends (too much, they might say) but I myself have refrained from producing offspring.
I have never wanted children even slightly. I never played with dolls. I didn’t even like children when I was a child. I’ve never wavered or changed my mind or felt even slightly inclined to procreate. I’ve lost lovers and friends because of this choice. I’m still confident that it was the right one for me.
But that does mean I seem to have a bit of a problem with motherhood in my books. And, occasionally, fatherhood. (My Dad is also pretty fantastic, so yeah…)
I will say that my favorite mother I’ve ever written is (drum roll please)…
After this book came out, people started to think she might be Dimity. I wish I had had that kind of perspicaciousness because yes, she is rather Dimity-esk. But she isn’t Dimity.
(Don’t you worry Dimity is going to have a wonderful man and charming children in her future. But this isn’t her.)
There’s Madame Lefoux and Angelique to consider as well. Lefoux is almost obsessive and overbearing in her loving, yet she unquestionably adores her adopted son. Angelique abandoned him. This representation ties into my love of found family, and it’s an allegory for queer neglect, that it is the mother who wants Quesnel but is not a blood relation who fights for him, while the blood mother abandoned him and put his life at risk. It’s a testament to Lefoux’s upbringing that Quesnel is so well balanced out the other side.
I intentionally wrote Rue and Alexia’s relationship as a bit contentious, because Alexia is good at many many things, but given her personality (which isn’t changing anytime soon) I could never imagine that she would be a very involved mom.
Loving, but probably a tad remote, authoritarian, and autocratic is more honest to her character, I think. But then Rue has a balance of two pretty awesome fathers, not to mention all the drones.
Why Shifting Attitudes?
So I guess that is where I’ve headed (over the years) is towards a more honest portrayal of motherhood. It’s my former main characters I’m now writing as side character parents. That changes things.
They can’t be as one dimensional as Mrs Loontwill (Alexia’s mother in the Parasol Protectorate) or as checked-out as Mrs Temmineck (Sophronia’s mother in the Finishing School series). Sympathetic characters, and even unsympathetic ones, appearing later in life, already have a background of complexity and familiarity to my readers. I can’t betray that. I have to seriously consider and understand whether they have children, and how they behave towards them must (from the sake of my own integrity) be honest to their growing arc in life.
Sophronia and Soap, for example, don’t have kids. They can’t physically do so (although they might adopt) but I don’t think it’s in Sophronia’s nature. She would find it limiting and confining and frustrating, and Soap, of course, will do whatever she needs.
Mothers in YA
That said, I made a very conscious choice to give Sophronia in the Finishing School series a living breathing mother and family, since that’s so uncommon in YA literature. It’s not that she is forced into becoming a heroine, it’s that Sophronia wants to be one.
Her family and still be there, in tact, in the background, and yet she makes the choice to go her own way and have her own path. It’s a model I needed to show younger readers.
It’s easy for me to imagine wanting kids, as Primrose does in Competence. And also having kids but not being sure about it, as Rue has happen.
These two are new angles to explore motherhood, that I now have access too because of my complex established universe.
Not that I couldn’t before, but you know what I mean.
Sidheag’s sense of pack responsibility is a kind of mothering. Gruff though it may be.
And Preshea’s complex relationship with parenthood can and will shift, because of Gavin’s influence. With Preshea, I’m exploring the idea of a character who, the first time we meet her, should never be a mother, but later might give it a try. Although even then, she’s likely not going to be the best at it.
So I don’t really have a purpose to these rambling thoughts. It’s just, you know, Mother’s Day so I decided to put this out there.
Mostly so you see that yes, I am thinking about these things as a writer, writing about motherhood, even thought I don’t have first hand experience.
Yours, no kidding,
You don’t have to take my word for it…
BOOK DE JOUR!
Competence: Custard Protocol Book 3
Percy is off to Japan, but will Japan survive Percy?
Bookish and proper Percival Tunstell finds himself out of his depth when floating cities, spirited plumbing, and soggy biscuits collide in this delightful conclusion the Custard Protocol series.
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Your Infusion of Cute . . .
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“Even when the chips are down, the tension runs high, and the situation is hopeless, Carriger manages to maintain that tension without sacrificing Miss Tarabotti’s wit which is no small trick.”
Quote of the Day:
Gail (reading): This is a fun book.
Author: Arbitrarily capitalizes random Nouns.
Gail: Wait what century am I in?
Author: No Oxford comma.
Gail: You’re dead to me.
~ Self on Twitter