Guest post – Laura McNeill – five heroines who forever changed fiction

With a hectic week behind me and another coming up, I’ve lent my blog to the amazingly talented, Laura McNeil. After reading her guest post, be sure to check out her newly released suspense novel, Center of Gravity. 

Five Heroines Who Forever Changed Fiction

Laura McNeill

When you think about your favorite novel heroines, what personality traits, words, and descriptions come to mind?

For me, it’s a mash-up of independence, sensitivity, and spunk. I also adore a main character who’s action-oriented, intelligent, relatable, and a bit flawed. In addition, If she can kick a little butt, more power to her!

I recently asked friends and family about the fictional women they believe changed the face of literature forever. Here’s the list they came up with, in no particular order:

Jo March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

In Little Women, Jo March is one of four sisters living in 19th century New England. She is the tomboy of the family; strong-minded, independent, and hot tempered. Always the most creative of the sisters, Jo loves reading and writing, composing plays for her sisters to perform. While her sisters swoon over potential beaus, Jo rejects the idea of marriage, believing it would separate her from the family she adores.

Children’s book expert Anita Silvey explains that Little Women is a reflection of author Alcott’s life. “She very much wrote their story as she would have liked it to have been. She really softens the hard edges of her life. She makes Jo a much more lovable, accepted character than Louisa May Alcott herself ever was. Jo always makes you think anything is possible and anything is possible for a woman.”

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series, J.K.Rowling

J.K.Rowling has often described Granger of an exaggeration of her own youth, painting her as the brightest of all of the series’ main characters. When readers first meet Hermione, she is aptly labeled an annoying know-it-all, but over the course of the books, grows into a determined and loyal friend. While Hermione’s greatest fear is academic failure, she is also prone to emotional overload, which only serves to make her more realistic.

In a Crushable article, Wendy Boswell adds this observation: “Ron’s attraction to Hermione and Harry’s liking and respect of her are not predicated on her good looks. While she scrubs up prettily for the Yule Ball, she’s generally unconcerned about her big bushy locks and makes only a small concession to vanity by fixing her slightly protuberant front teeth (but, then, her parents are Muggle dentists). It’s her academic brilliance and flashes of steel backbone that win her friends.”
Hermione Granger Quotes

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

With steely resolve and ironclad determination, Katniss Everdeen stormed onto the literary scene and stole readers’ hearts. A proficient archer, she is shown in the opening scene of the first book in the series putting her life at risk by foraging for food for her family.

Though she is fiercely independent and tends to be a loner, Katniss’ love for her sister, Prim, motivates her to volunteer as a tribute for The Hunger Games. With the eyes of the nation on her at all times, Katniss breaks the rules anyway, refusing to conform to society mores.

In a Cheat Sheet article, Valerie Tejeda has this to say about Katniss: “It’s stubbornness that proves to be one of her biggest assets throughout the series. In an arena full of trained killers, Katniss’ intelligence and quick thinking helped her prevail over her adversaries. The master chess player, Katniss is always one step ahead and her wit constantly leaves her competition guessing. She’s also an expert strategist and pits her strengths against her opponents’ weaknesses.”


Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Though she might not seem like a “heroine” in the traditional sense of the word, Lisbeth Salander collected droves of admirers when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was published in the U.S. At the time of the first movie’s release, Larsson’s trilogy had sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.

Lisbeth is a loner and outsider who makes a living as a computer hacker. Her dark demeanor, tattoos and piercings hide to passing observers that she is intelligent beyond measure. Readers are able to catch a glimpse of Lisbeth’s vulnerable, sensitive side, especially in her interactions with journalist Mikael Blomkvist during their search for a murderer in the Swedish countryside.

A.O. Scott, a New York Times reviewer, has this to say about Lisbeth’s portrayal in the movie adapted from the novel: “The story starts to fade as soon as the end credits run. But it is much harder to shake the lingering, troubling memory of an angry, elusive and curiously magnetic young woman who belongs so completely to this cynical, cybernetic and chaotic world without ever seeming to be at home in it.”

Scout Finch, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

With the release of Harper Lee’s new novel, many are eager to read the continuance of To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tackles issues of racial injustice in the Deep South.

As the child narrator of Mockingbird, often seeming wise beyond her years, Scout questions the events she witnesses, trying to make sense of the imbalance of right and wrong. As a young girl in small town 1930s Alabama, Scout is expected to stay reserved and mild-mannered, yet takes every opportunity to stray outside the lines of societal norms.

In a character profile posted on the Ol’ Curiosities Book Shoppe blog, I came across this quote: “Growing up in Maycomb with her father’s guidance, Scout was certain to recognize an imbalance in the world. It seemed that honor, truth, and bravery were reserved for a chosen few. This 6-year-old sees the world for what it is, and she recognizes the injustice that reigns in her society. “Live in their skin” her father tells her, and somehow, Scout Finch understands.”

Who are the novel heroines you believed changed the face of fiction forever? I’d love to hear your ideas!

52C copy2


Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.
Center of Gravity 2

Youth is wasted on the young

I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here:

no gray hairs to speak of!

no gray hairs to speak of!

check out my skinny legs :)

check out my skinny legs :)

not a care in the world

not a care in the world

plump, young skin...

plump, young skin…

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how's that for a view?

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