Tag Archives: fiction

albinism disability Jo Jo Moyes

Dear Jo Jo…

I emailed Jo Jo Moyes recently. I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed reading Me Before You, but more importantly, that I loved the wonderful way she portrayed her character, Will Traynor (and by that I mean bringing a leading man with a significant physical disability into mainstream fiction).

Of course, Jo Jo is not the first writer to do this. Many authors, myself included (with Will ‘Wheels’ Travelli in my 2013 debut novel House for all Season), have included character traits that are not deemed as ‘the norm’ for their male/female romantic fiction couple. By not following the traditional/safe route when it comes to creating characters readers love, authors do take a risk. Some of you might be shaking your heads in disbelief, but I received two scathing comments about my Will being in a wheelchair (anonymous Good Reads type comments). They sure were a blow to this debut author. But I picked myself up and I’ve since written three more books, each time ensuring there is a character in the story who refuses to be defined by their physicality.

As I found out, even Jo Jo was heavily criticised by disability groups who felt the portrayal of her Will portrayed a negative view of life for those living with quadriplegia.

In my 4th novel, The Other Side of the Season, I have both a leading man who suffers incomplete paraplegia, and Pearl — a person with albinism. The idea for Pearl came to me after reading a Ramp Up interview with Dr. Shari Parker. A fierce advocate, Shari (along with others) are striving to change the way people with albinism are perceived by the broader community. (This perception often influenced by movies/TV.) With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better place to add weight than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. They can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better way to weigh in than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. Sensitively and accurately portrayed, characters can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

But . . . “Let’s get the facts straight,” as Shari Parker says in an interview. “In popular culture, people with albinism are often depicted as evil or supernatural.” [She] wants to set the record straight about the condition and remind others that widespread inaccuracies about albinism should be challenged wherever they appear.

I totally agree, but is Hollywood getting the message? According to an online source: “…from 1960 to 2006 there were 68 films released featuring an evil albino, with 24 of these appearing between 2000-2003. In comparison, there were only a handful of movies with albino characters that were sympathetic in nature, and many of these characters were used primarily for comedic value, ie: giving the characters stupid nicknames and making repeated gags about their skin condition.” And these movies were not small. They were significant in terms of box office success. (eg Including The Da Vinci Code and Cold Mountain.)

Incredibly, as recently as 2013, The Heat (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) included largely negative, inappropriate, and even a few disgusting one-liners that ridicule a character cast as an Albino. This sort of depiction only serves to reinforce misunderstandings, societal prejudice, and discrimination. And don’t think it’s only crime/cop shows. In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the main antagonist, named Rudy, is cast as the albino Baryonyx who is vicious and vindictive, unlike the other dinosaurs. Okay, so every good story needs conflict and a great antagonist and it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes.

Easy for the writer, perhaps. Hurtful for those being portrayed.

It’s not hard to write well-rounded, emotionally complex characters with disabilities who are not defined solely by those disabilities.

I like to challenge myself as an author—be it character, setting or structure—to make my stories stand out. This, along with and Shari’s interview, is why I decided to create Pearl in The Other Side of the Season. And I’ve received so many lovely messages from readers about her (and her relationship with Jake). She was intended to take on a secondary role, but like Alice in Season of Shadow and Light (also mean to be a secondary character when I wrote her in), readers have warmed to Pearl, even asking me to give her a story of her own. I don’t like using the word disability. I prefer the word extraordinary—and Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

I don’t like using the word disability and I don’t play up differences. I prefer to use the word extraordinary to describe some character traits. Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

And in case you’re going to ask . . . I found a list on Good Reads that has 395 books listed as being a romance with a disabled (substitute ‘extraordinary’) hero/heroine.

Have you enjoyed a story that has an extraordinary character? Let me know.

My choice is most definitely the  Jo Jo Moyes novel, Me Before You. I do intend seeing the movie soon, but for now, I am very happy to let Jo Jo’s beautiful characters and the imagery her words created linger a little longer in my mind.

Meet Will in House for all Seasons

Meet Alice in Season of Shadow and Light

Meet Pearl and David in The Other Side of the Season

 

Author, Maggie Christensen writes a letter to her 25 y.o self

Dear Maggie,

It’s 1970, you are twenty-five and about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime. You’ve been teaching primary school for three years, your friends are all married – you’ve already been a bridesmaid three times – and you’ve grown up on stories of the mad Australian side of the family visiting during the war. You have family in Melbourne, but being independent, you’ve decided to go to Sydney where you know no one.

You’re not sure what you’ll find there, but have read lots of Lucy Walker books and it’s only for two years, so it can’t be too bad. You’ve seen the ad with a half-naked man in gown and mortarboard inviting you to ‘Come and Teach in the Sun’. Right now, you may not be living the beach lifestyle you imagined when you stepped on the plane, but it’s waiting for you. You just need to be patient.

What you don’t know is that, initially you’ll feel you’re on permanent holiday, the sky will look like a picture postcard and you won’t be at all homesick. Don’t be too disappointed when you hate teaching in state schools, which you’ve discovered are very different from those in Scotland. Things will improve and at the end of two years, you won’t be ready to go home.

In a few years the government will declare university study free and with the encouragement of the headmistress in the private school you now teach in, you’ll complete the degree you dropped out of in Scotland. You’ll enjoy study so much you’ll continue to further study and eventually gain a PH D. but that comes later.

Your study will lead you to the achievement of your long-held goal to improve teacher education and this will take you to country New South Wales, first to Goulburn, then to Wagga Wagga. It’s there that, at the ripe old age of 37 when, after several disastrous relationships and having almost given up hope of finding your soulmate, you’ll meet the gentle giant of a man who will become your husband and you’ll become stepmother to three teenagers.

Remember to never give up on your dreams, and it’s never too late to try something new. The positive attitude you inherited from your mother will always stand you in good stead, and when you’re facing redundancy in your sixties, you’ll decide to fulfil your childhood dream of writing fiction.

Signed,

Your seventy-one year-old self.
Maggie Wallace House eventedited Madeline House Cover MEDIUM WEBABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maggie lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with her husband of over 30 years and, when not writing or reading, loves to walk along the beach in the early morning and have coffee by the Noosa River. She writes contemporary women’s fiction celebrating mature women and the heroes worthy of them. You can find out more about Maggie at:

http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

Connect with Maggie of Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor/

Madeline House is Maggie’s fifth book and the third in her Oregon Coast Series:
Buy link: myBook.to/MadelineHouse

If you’ve read this far … lucky you! Maggie is giving a copy of Madeline House away, so before you go, leave a comment. NOW CLOSED

[Tweet “What advice does @MaggieChriste33 give her 16 y.o self? #LetterToMyself https://www.jennjmcleod.com/blog/a-letter-to-myself-author-list”]

Wanting to honour the lost art of letter writing through this blog series, I also opened my fourth novel with a character writing a letter. And not just any letter. It’s a story — perhaps the most important he’ll ever tell.

The Other Side of the SeasonReady for a sea change

Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill banana plantation on the outskirts of Coffs Harbour. One stays—trapped for the next thirty years on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and . . . there’s another side to every story.

BUY now from Amazon, KoboiTunes, or

Booktopia

 

Cue the music: I’m ready to blog hop.

I’m recognising Australia Day by saying …

ozdaydonateNO to fireworks.

NO to fake, foreign-made flags, thongs, and drink holders.

(Oh, and giving away a book to one lucky reader.)

aussie helpersYep, I’m keeping it real and celebrating the 26th of January by being a REAL Aussie. You can too by donating to Aussie Helpers – helping the heart of our country (our farmers and graziers)

I’m also sending one Blog Hop reader a signed copy of their choice:

Any book.

You choose.

 

To enter the draw simply… leave a comment below and TELL ME what month my new book – The Other Side of the Season – is out. (Not sure? Look here.) AND, of course, tell me which book you’d like to win*.

Optional:

DOUBLE your chances: I’ll pop a second entry into the Akubra with your name on it if you share this post on your Facebook page (if you have one – and don’t forget to tag me.) or you can Click to Tweet:

TRIPLE your chances by donating to help our farmers. It’s the Aussie thing to do: Go to www.aussiehelpers.org.au

CLOSED *Entries into the draw close at midnight on January 27th. Winner announced within 7 days. Australian postal address only.

After leaving your comment below, check out Book’d Out for more Great Aussie Author Blog Hop participants with more giveaways.

2016australiaday-bloghop

Then…

Grab a snag, a beer, and if you can DONATE to Aussie Helpers. Then kick back feeling good and remember… slip, slop, slap, read.

And if you’re still with me and you read ebooks on iTunes, head over to this blog post I did earlier and go into an extra draw to win one of three copies of Wild Chicory by Kim Kelly (courtesy of The Author People).