Monday, March 24, 2014

On Mash-Ups, Zombies, and Unlikeable Protagonists

It's a treat to help launch a debut author and I'm happy to introduce Lisa Alber as a guest. Lisa describes herself as "ever distractible, staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with my friends." She's interested, in no special order, in Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging (whew) and she's hard at work on the second novel in the County Clare mystery series.

Thank you for letting me take over your spot today, Susan! I’m an excitable debut author, but I’ll attempt to keep it sane … except that when I found out this week’s topic was mash-ups, my brain began sizzling like hot oil on a fry pan.

Which is to say, I love a good mash-up. I’m thinking movie mash-ups at the moment, and if a movie’s got zombies in it, all the better. Zombie romance in “Warm Bodies,” zombie 1950s domestic drama in “Fido,” zombies and Elvis Presley in “Bubba Ho-tep.” And let’s not forget zombie comedies a la “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland.”

(If you have a thing for Elvis and Bruce Campbell like I do, you gotta see “Bubba Ho-tep.”  Bruce does a perfect Elvis—heeelarious.)

Being a book geek, I can’t help but ponder what a mystery + zombie mash-up would look like. A zombie detective, perhaps, who’s hard-pressed not to gorge on his suspects? Someone’s going to come up with a zombie mystery series, you just know it. And we’ll shake our heads as that author rakes in millions.

Recently, I was asked to mash-up familiar characters to describe the protagonist in Kilmoon, my debut novel. I had a helluva time coming up with an answer because Merrit, so I’ve learned, isn’t what you’d call an instantly likeable character (for some readers at least).

Unlikeable protagonist?!?!? Nooo, tell me it isn’t so!

Here’s what riles me—and I hope you don’t mind me pulling out my soapbox: If Merrit were named Mark, the likeability question wouldn’t be an issue. Apparently, we women are supposed to care about being liked and thus to act in likeable ways. Phooey!

I find Merrit endearing in all her flaws and morally dubious complexities. She’s got baggage, and heading off to Ireland to meet her long-lost father is, she hopes, a fresh start. (All I can say is, Hah!)

I’m not into the black-and-white thing. Life occurs within the, dare I say it, shades of gray. We all experience moments of weakness and high stress that can cause us to act out in questionable ways. Why should female characters be deemed “unlikeable” because they inhabit luscious gray worlds?

So, in honor of “difficult” female protagonists, I’d love to see a mash-up between Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Elisabeth Salander. You know this Jane Salander/Elisabeth Tennison would kick some zombie ass.

A little about Kilmoon: Californian Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her long-lost father, the famous Matchmaker of Lisfenora. Little does she know that he’s a man with a dark past, and murder is about to make an unexpected appearance. Family secrets, betrayal, and vengeance from
beyond the grave … Merrit’s in for a wild ride!


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for being our guest this week, Lisa! I think your zombie mystery idea sounds great (and you should write it!).

Catriona McPherson said...

Welcome,Lisa. Congrats in Kilmoon. And you are so spot-on about the sexism of the likeability thing.

Unknown said...

Congrats on Kilmoon, Lisa! I'm excited to read it - set in Co. Clare, one of my favorite places in the world.

I got the "unlikeable" label with my character Kate for her behavior early in the book, and I had the same thought as you - how dull the world is for women (real and fictional) who focus on being liked instead of being themselves.

Susan C Shea said...

I'm sure if Dickie, my protagonist's impulsive bad boy ex-husband was the ex-wife in my series, she would be labeled a scary stalker. As it is, readers and editors love him (I guess I kind of like him too.) Go figure. Glad you could visit Criminal Minds today!

Lisa Alber said...

Meredith, hah! Maybe I could have a zombie sidekick in my series who's descended from a bad strain of Irish faery. :-)

Thanks, Catriona -- congrats again on LCC!

Clare descended from Clare! Kate is just my type of character--I was glad to get to know her. Phooey to the naysayers.

Susan, yeah, she would be called desperate and pathetic, right? Boo.

Robin Spano said...

Awesome post. Welcome to 7 Criminal Minds and YES to writing a character with genuine flaws like a genuine human.

I think you'll find your recipe will reach exactly the readers you want it to.