Friday, November 9, 2012

Melina Marchetta on the Secondary Women

You can find the entire schedule for the Quintana of Charyn blog tour here. For this guest post, we asked Melina Marchetta about the secondary female characters and how they find strength in hopeless situations.

I just wanted to start by saying a big thank you to Joy and Alexa and all those who have written such kind words about Quintana of Charyn.  I came back from being away and read all the posts and the art work this week and loved them all.

Joy and Alexa asked me to write a post and we settled on a question about the secondary characters of women.

What you do when you need characters to find the strength to keep going, even when everything seems hopeless, is you give them a role model. That’s why Quintana gets the title of the novel.  Because through watching her and understanding her past, the women of the valley begin to understand the complexity of Quintana.  Apart from Froi and Lirah, they are the only people who grow to love Quintana for herself, rather than because she’s the mother of the future King. She may not always be nice, but she earns that love by hunting for them, arming them, and being the leader her father never was.

When I was working on Froi of the Exiles, I knew that the women of the valley would be important to Quintana’s journey.  By the time I started the last novel, I had changed my mind and felt that Tesadora and Japhra and the Mont girls better assisted her journey.  And then I changed my mind again.  If I had just relied on Tesadora and the Mont girls, I think I would have gone over old ground and missed out on finding out more about the women of Charyn.  In one of the most crucial scenes in Quintana, Phaedra begs for their lives and Cora refuses to kneel at the feet of any man, and I loved them both for it.   That’s what I wanted to explore.  What would I do? Who knows, but I think I’d like to refuse to beg like Cora, yet I’d do anything to live much like Phaedra.

I loved writing those powerful prickly moments between Quintana and the women in her life because I got to discover more about her. Things I didn’t know. Her words to Florenza about the filth of memories are one of my favourite lines. It breaks my heart that I can’t remember this moment, but years ago, the real Jimmy Hailler (from Saving Francesca) told me that a defining moment for him was when we were sitting on the front steps of the school where I taught him and I told him something along the same lines. Something about not letting our past write the story of our future lives.  So I used that sentiment in this novel.  That’s how strange writing is.  You can have a conversation with a teenage boy about life, and ten years later it can end up a conversation between women in a fantasy novel.

And of course I didn’t want to forget about Tesadora.  Apart from the Queen of Lumatere, she’s one of my favourite characters and her story line and that of the generation of Charyn women who missed out on having children was the most heart breaking to write. Cora and Tesadora, and the women of Charyn who missed out on having children because of the curse, were very real to me. What I loved about Tesadora is that she didn’t give in and take a woe-is-me attitude. Nor did Cora.  Cora is the planter of the hope seeds. Japhra is a healer. I’d like to think there’s more to women than being defined by society’s expectations. I really wanted these women to be more than the sum of their experiences.

Don't you just love anything Melina Marchetta writes? It's always great reading what she thinks about her characters and this post was insightful. Thank you, Melina, for writing out this wonderful post for the tour! :D


  1. This. Is. Beautiful.
    So perfect and brilliantly conveyed that I am just left with SO MANY FEELINGS and I haven't even read Quintana yet!

  2. I think Melina is the only writer who talks about her characters like they're real people - like she's having conversations with them while she writes them. She's constantly getting to know them as the character develops.

    ...and this is why I love her books so much.

  3. They way she talks about her characters makes me want to re-read her books for the 100th time.

  4. Those are lovely thoughts! *hugs*
    I can't wait to read Quintana, I have it on my shelf but I'm very nervous at the same time. :P

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