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Today’s guest is N. E. Davenport, aka Nia Davenport! She’s the author of The Blood Gift Duology, which starts with The Blood Trials. The first book in this science fantasy series is described as a “fast-paced, action-packed debut [that] kicks off a duology of loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.” The concluding volume, The Blood Gift, was just released last week. I’m delighted the author is here today with “Why I Write Confident Heroines.”

Cover of The Blood Trials by N. E. Davenport Cover of The Blood Gift by N. E. Davenport

Why I Write Confident Heroines
by N.E. Davenport

It’s interesting that male characters and female characters are often held to different standards. A reader might approach a story that features an arrogant male protagonist and adore the character trait. The hero is praised as enthralling and charismatic simply for being audacious. When the same character traits of brazenness and extreme confidence get assigned to a protagonist who identifies as a woman or young girl, some readers immediately perceive the heroine as too arrogant and critique the character for not being humble enough. This isn’t merely a trend observed with books, it happens with TV shows, movies, and even in real life arenas where education and the workplace are concerned.

I imagine that for a portion of society, it’s a thinking rooted in antiquated ideas, stereotypes, and sexism that must be interrogated, subverted, and dismantled. I purposefully write my heroines, as well as most of my secondary female characters, to possess extreme confidence in themselves, their abilities, their value, their strengths, and their physical appearances. In fact, most of my female characters may even skew toward being a tad bit vain, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Often, young girls and women are made to feel like we need to shrink ourselves and not shine as bright, so others feel better about themselves. Young girls are too often overtly or covertly taught not to be vocal about their strengths and achievements because it’s “improper” and a reflection of “poor etiquette.” I don’t ascribe to any of this. Younger girls and women should be able to be unapologetically and unabashedly proud of their achievements and joyfully vocal about them without criticism.

This may be a constant struggle for some of us in the real world, but that’s the beauty of science-fiction/fantasy. I can make my worlds, their rules, and how they operate be entirely what I want; I can make them part escapism, even when they’re interrogating or subverting prejudices. In my SFF worlds, women are proud, confident, bold, arrogant, and very vocal about their strengths and achievements. They’re extraordinary, they are aware that they’re extraordinary, and they let the world around them know they’re extraordinary. Yes, they brag a lot. Because why not? If nobody could beat me in a fight, or if I was the ruler of a powerful realm, or the fiercest dragon rider, or an infamous pirate captain—I’d endlessly brag about those feats too!

In my debut science fantasy, THE BLOOD TRIALS, and its sequel, THE BLOOD GIFT, I created a heroine that I’m super proud of and admire the heck out of. I created a young woman, Ikenna, who has achieved at nineteen years of age what it took me a bit longer to accomplish. She knows her worth, recognizes her value, adores herself, understands her strengths, and is her own greatest champion. And she’s boastful. Without an ounce of embarrassment, shame, or misplaced guilt, Ikenna does not hesitate to proclaim to the world that she’s extraordinary—and she ensures those who’d belittle her to place themselves on a pedestal of false superiority never forget it.

I spent a good amount of my own youth yearning to be the type of person who projects an effortless confidence in themselves. That younger version of me didn’t quite know how to achieve this until my mid twenties. I’ve overcome this personal challenge in the present day. In many ways I’m a lot like the heroines I write and I’ve never experienced more joy. There’s something profoundly fulfilling in being sure of yourself and knowing you’re spectacular—even while living in a world that tries to tell you daily that you should be more humble and that you aren’t good enough. I didn’t focus much on my race or ethnicity while drafting this guest post, but I am a Black woman and existing as a Black woman within a world where anti-Blackness pervades the globe is one factor that carried my greatest challenges regarding learning to be confident and sure of myself when I was a young girl. They’ve been hard won achievements, and I celebrate them now (while lessening old stings) through writing heroines that have the fortune and joyful experience of recognizing how truly amazing they are from day one and making the world recognize it too.

Photo of N. E. Davenport Nia “N.E.” Davenport is the Science Fiction/Fantasy author of The Blood Gift duology (Harper Voyager), Out of Body (Balzer+Bray), and Love Spells Trouble (Bloomsbury). She’s also a member of the Hugo-nominated FIYAHCON team, in which she helps organize the SFF convention’s programming. She attended the University of Southern California and studied Biological Sciences and Theatre. She has an M.A. in Secondary Education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys vacationing with her family, skiing, and being a huge foodie. She’s an advocate for diverse perspectives and protagonists in literature. You can find her online at www.nedavenport.com, on Twitter @nia_davenport, or on Instagram @nia.davenport, where she talks about binge-worthy TV, fun movies, and killer books. She lives in Texas with her husband and kids.