Debut Author Subverts “Good Girl” Trope In Dark YA Fantasy Series

What if you were told from the moment you were born that you were evil? Debut author Victory Witherkeigh creates a thrilling YA story that subverts expectations and finds that your true self is more important than what you’ve been told. Breaking through the good girl, virginal heroine stereotypes and inspired by Filipino mythology and gods, ‘The Girl’, (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Dec 6, 2022) will blur the line between what is good and what is evil.

Already a finalist for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award in 2020, ‘The Girl’ follows a nameless main character only known as The Girl. She’s been told since a very young age that she was a mistake, a demon who shouldn’t have been born. Shunned by her parents, she’s shuffled between her parents’ and grandparents’ homes until her eighteenth birthday. The Girl is baffled by her ordinary life in Los Angeles. For all intents and purposes, she’s just like everyone else. That is, until the Demon comes to claim her.

Striving to bring more diversity to her story, Victory employs her Filipina/Pacific Islander heritage by combining pre-colonial myths of gods and demons and a modern setting creating the unique coming-of-age story of a first generation-born American. Victory Witherkeigh is able to connect her story with thousands of young first-generation American readers looking to see themselves in modern-day fantasy stories.

By developing a character that flits between human and demon, Victory creates an anti-heroine, a female character who isn’t your typical Mary Sue archetype. Resisting the urge to create another “golden” hero character in a fantasy story, ‘The Girl’ examines the gray areas of growing up as a young female navigating through rejection, lost friendships, hurt relationships, and choosing imperfection.

In the guest post below written for us, Victory writes about the importance of seeing more anti-heroines, and redefining what “heroism” looks like through characters and stories.

I recently spent a week babysitting my niece, who turned four years old, this past September. While playing pretend with some Lego pieces, she turned and almost whispered to me as she said, “I don’t like myself…. I don’t like myself…. I don’t like myself….”

This immediately brought me to a moment I had this past San Diego Comic-Con, when I had the immense pleasure of hearing the author of ‘The School of Good and Evil’ series, Soman Chainani, speak. As he was discussing his process for “Writing for His Younger Self,” he talked about how as a young man, he felt like most young people spend “so much of their time lying – lying to fit in with their peers, to please their parents, to be on social media….”

As I sat on the blue rubber play mat, stunned at my niece’s revelation, the first question that came stumbling out of my dry, coarse mouth was, “Oh… why do you say that? I like you….”

“I just…,” my niece said, pausing as her tiny hand shook. “I just, sometimes, I just scare myself….”

She wouldn’t make eye contact with me and continued to push forward, playing, but a wave of simmering anger and sadness lingered as I thought about how young she is, and how already she felt unease with her own feelings and emotions. It’s this type of early shame that kids can so often feel but not articulate that made me want to write and purposefully push the “unlikeable female character” and “anti-heroine” tropes I read as a girl her age.

I know it started as a term to describe a female character who went against the grain of the usual feminine writing tropes – i.e., not nice, pleasant, placatingly beautiful, etc. But these characteristics were not the adjectives I would ever have used to describe myself; apparently, it still holds true for many young girls. Even now, as I watched my niece pretend to play Spider-Gwen or Elsa, newer heroines who didn’t follow the tropes I had, she still could sense how different she was from these characters at just four years old.

My childhood and teenage years of reading fantasy had me grasping at straws, feeling like I couldn’t identify with most of the female characters in the novels. If you were the heroine, you were most likely super quick to make the best decisions, with no hesitation in doing the right thing and taking up the sword for justice. Or you were the anti-heroine, where you were so good-looking that everyone fell over themselves to justify your actions and explain how they really had a good reason. There seemed to be no grayness, no authenticity to other options – like if you mess up or panic and have to work your way back to prove yours. Or maybe you aren’t sure there is a “right” answer, or you are afraid and take longer to work up to confront those fears. 

There never seemed to be any options between these two if the female was the lead of the fantasy, dark fantasy, or even a horror novel. Most of the girl characters often were just supporting roles or love interests. Even as I struggled to coax my niece to talk or discuss her feelings, I could not think of one example where the central conflict addressed the female heroine coming to terms with her own dislike of herself – at least not one that is appropriate for kids. 

As an author, I hope ‘The Girl’ will be another layer of the stories of “coming of age as a young woman.” You can be a heroine in fiction, where your biggest concern is overcoming your feelings of pleasing or disappointing people. Or dealing with the loss of friendship or the conflict of seeing friendships simply drift away and realizing you can’t stop it. I hope my writing adds to the layers of representation for all girls and what heroism can mean – even if it’s just learning to overcome your own “unlikeability.”

Author Victory Witherkeigh | Image by Kat Goodloe

Victory Witherkeigh is a female Filipino/PI author from Los Angeles, CA, currently living in the Las Vegas area. She has printed publications in the horror anthologies Supernatural Drabbles of Dread through Macabre Ladies Publishing, Bodies Full of Burning through Sliced Up Press, and In Filth It Shall Be Found through OutCast Press. Her first novel, set to debut in December 2022 with Cinnabar Moth Publishing, has been a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2020 Claymore Award, a 2020 Cinnamon Press Literature Award Honoree, and long-listed in the 2021 Voyage YA Book Pitch Contest. Pre-order a copy of ‘The Girl’ HERE. You can follow Victory on Facebook: @victorywitherkeigh | Twitter: @witherkeigh | Instagram: @victory_witherkeigh.

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