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Today’s guest is author and illustrator Isabel Ibañez! Woven in Moonlight, her YA fantasy debut novel, involves a revolution and magical weaving in a world inspired by Bolivian history, politics, and culture. It was just released earlier this year—with a gorgeous cover that she designed and created!

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez Book Cover

When I sat down to write Woven in Moonlight, I knew, from the beginning, three things: this story would be about a revolution, and second, it would include plot points inspired by real events in the political landscape of Bolivia, and third, the main character was going to be a woman.

I’m a voracious reader of young adult fantasy and have read dozens of stories featuring incredible female characters. I loved this new trend of badass warrior girls who wielded swords and bows and arrows, who are resourceful and brave and displayed courage against seemingly insurmountable foes. These stories are incredibly important because it hasn’t been common—until recently—to read about females carrying the war on their backs and stepping in as the hero of the tale.

And yet there were moments that made me squirm. If I were a character in any of these worlds, I’d die in the first chapter. If I were in The Hunger Games, my face would appear in the sky after the first round. In these stories, many of the main characters were praised and believed in because of their literal tenacity and know-how around weapons. I still think it’s a wonderful thing—because again, readers need to see these characters as not just the damsel to be rescued or the prize to be won, but as the one capable of saving the people they care about.

But I did start to worry that we left behind other depictions of strength in storytelling. Courage and the will to survive can manifest itself in many different ways, not only in the hands of someone who can literally drop someone to the ground with a well-placed kick. It is Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, who uses her creativity and art to keep the wolves at bay. I’ve always loved that Greek myth, and I kept it close while writing Woven in Moonlight.

I am a weaver, a trait that’s celebrated and widely taught in Bolivia. While bringing Ximena to life, I wanted her to possess an artistic passion while also the knowledge on how to defend herself. I wanted her to carry both a tough and soft side. And I wanted her to win the revolution with the help of her art, and her sword, because sometimes, a girl needs both.

I’ll never tire of reading about warrior female characters, not ever, but I also do want to read about heroines who display their strength off the battlefield, those who use their art to finagle a win, or their wit to counter arguments. For a long time, authors were advised to avoid writing a “Mary Sue” character, someone who is well versed in many things. I wonder if that’s why we’ve seen so many heroines who are skilled in fighting but aren’t allowed other talents. While I understand the advice (characters can’t be perfect after all), I can’t help feeling how misguided it is—after all, people are often multitalented. You’ve met them. An athlete who plays the piano, a baker who speaks three languages, an artist who can also sing. Just because someone is good at multiple things, doesn’t mean they are perfect beings, and they can still be written about.

The world needs characters, especially female ones, who can be several things at once, and not just a fighter.

Isabel Ibañez Photo Isabel Ibañez was born in Boca Raton, Florida and is the proud daughter of two Bolivian immigrants. A true word nerd, she received her degree in creative writing and has been a Pitch Wars mentor for three years. Isabel is an avid movie goer and loves hosting family and friends around the dinner table. She currently lives in Winter Park, Florida with her husband, their adorable dog, and a serious collection of books. Say hi on social media at @IsabelWriter09.