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Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Kim Wilkins! She’s a five-time Aurealis Award–winning author, having received it for The Infernal (which won both Best Fantasy Novel and Best Horror Novel), The Resurrectionists, Angel of Ruin, and “The Year of Ancient Ghosts.” Several of her other works have also been finalists for this award, including Giants of the Frost and both currently published books in her Blood and Gold series. Daughters of the Storm, the first Blood and Gold novel, is an engaging, character-centric book focusing on a royal family with five sisters with very different personalities and interests at its heart—and it was just released in the United States for the first time last month!

Daughter of the Storm by Kim Wilkins Giants of the Frost by Kim Wilkins


How I loved Princess Leia.

When my brother and I played Star Wars games, the year the first movie was released, he was sometimes Han, sometimes Luke, sometimes my supervillain-nemesis Darth Vader. (The dog always had to be R2-D2, but was rarely compliant.) But I got to be Leia and that was great. Easy enough to pin my hair in buns over my ears. I asked a couple of times to be Han, but my brother was always clear on this: I was a girl. I had to be Leia.

When I was in junior high school I read Tolkien for the first time. The weird, cool new girl in class who introduced me to his books insisted I read The Hobbit first, which I did. When I said I liked it but why couldn’t at least one of those thirteen dwarves have been female, she said you just have to pretend. She handed me The Lord of the Rings and told me, “Merry and Pippin are girls.” You know what? LOTR works just fine if Merry and Pippin are female. In fact, so well that I was almost surprised to see them cast with male actors in the Peter Jackson film adaptation.

Predictably, I started writing my first epic fantasy around the time of my first encounter with Tolkien. It was a cheesy quest narrative called Trek Into Freedom, in which the lowly seamstress Kai-Ann joins with the defecting senator Tamerlan to form a group of assassins with the goal of taking out the evil queen Lavinga (jet black hair, widow’s peak, cape with a high collar, commanded an army of bats: you get the picture). Along the way, they picked up rebel leader and wayward daughter of a nobleman Hila, magician Antara, a farm-girl (whose name escapes me but was likely equally improbable) with big hands great for strangling wolves, and assorted other assassins with fantastic skills and powers: all but one of them female. My token male, Antara’s brother Akturan, existed solely to be Kai-Ann’s love interest. I was barely into my teens when I started writing this, so I was making it up as I went along. I had no idea what I was doing in terms of gender representation or class representation (I was from a poor part of town, so apart from Hila, everyone had grown up without shoes). I just knew I wanted a story about girls like me because I was a girl like me.

Sadly, after 200 typewritten pages, the Trek Into Freedom fizzled out about twenty miles from Lavinga’s castle. I was flooded with adolescent cynical hormones and put aside my epic fantasy story to take up cutting class and smoking on the jetty with my friends, but I look back now and feel proud to remember how that story allowed female characters to be defined as more than just “female”. It bucked the Smurfette trend of the 80s, where all the male smurfs were named for what they did, but Smurfette only got to be a girl.

There is a lot of talk about this idea of “strong female characters”, and too often it means characters that act in traditionally male roles. That can be awesome: we all loved seeing Wonder Woman cross no-man’s land deflecting bullets with her wrist bands. But it’s complex female characters I’m interested in. Female characters with agency who respond to that agency differently from each other. They can kick ass, sure; that’s never going to not be fun. Or they can be conflicted. Or sneaky. Or annoying. Or frightened. Or defiant. Or eccentric. Or think with their vaginas instead of their heads. Or too loyal. Or not loyal enough. Or, or, or…. You get the picture.

When my daughter was 10, I took her to see The Force Awakens. At the end of the movie I said to her, “Wasn’t it great to see a young female character in the main role, making stuff happen?” She gave me a look that said, “Well, of course.” She’s grown up on Katniss Everdeen and Hermione Granger and Tris Prior and Clary Fray, and all those books and films where there’s more than one woman (one Smurfette), and they all do cool stuff for different and complicated reasons. When she and her friends play, she has plenty of roles to choose from. It only took one generation.

I still love stories about women. It’s not that I don’t like men: I actually think they’re awesome. I like good characters across the board, but it’s women’s lives I’m most interested in. That’s why Daughters of the Storm has five female protagonists—all sisters, all different. I don’t play make-believe games anymore, but as a writer I still have to imagine what it’s like inside other people. And the best part of my job is having a cast of many complicated, conflicted, strong, weak, and in-between women to choose from.

Just like in real life.