In the past I’ve always hated writing female characters. I don’t really know why. Maybe because they somehow always came out so vanilla, so…well, boring to me. I find that this holds true when I watch movies, too; there are too few Scarlett O’Hara’s out there. When I think of some of my favorite movies, they have little emphasis on a female character or they completely lack a female character, such as “Saving Private Ryan” or “Gettysburg.” One would think that, as a woman, my main characters would be women, but it’s just never been that way.
Maria Cordero, for some reason, did not give me the fits that my previous female characters gave me. Maria provides the secondary main character in the Chronicles. Unlike Jack, she comes from a difficult childhood. She was born on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola to a Spanish father, Jorge, an honest, hard-working man with a weakness for gambling. Jorge’s wife, however, is not Maria’s mother; Maria’s birth was the result of Jorge’s dalliance with a French prostitute, an unforgivable sin that eventually causes his wife to abandon him and the girl Maria whom she had always resented.
Jorge and Maria moved to the nearby island of Tortuga, then a haven for pirates, where Jorge set up a cooperage and a tavern called La Piragua. It is in La Piragua where Jack and Maria’s paths first crossed. Later, following a second encounter–a tense, turbulent one–Jack reflects upon the young woman:
He had seen her a few times since that night, usually accidental meetings in the street. They did not exchange words, and her gaze did not linger long upon him. He grinned to himself. There was fire in her veins, perhaps from her French mother…that is, if the stories about her were true. He had sampled the wares of these island women during his search [for his mother], and he could honestly say none of them came close to stirring anything of interest in him like Maria Cordero had that night in her tavern. He wasn’t even sure what it was about her that had piqued his interest so. Maybe it was the comical sense of someone so small and fine-boned being so quick-tongued and quick-witted; he had expected her to be frail, yet she was anything but that. And her beauty—exotic to one so used to the white skin of Englishwomen—surpassed anything else he had seen among the women of this region. He thought of Stephen and of how he lingered about La Pirugua, but it was plain to Jack that the pirate had gotten nowhere beyond friendship with the girl. Jack wondered if anyone ever had.
As Jack figured out early, Maria is a strong woman. Maybe that was the flaw of my previous female characters–they lacked Maria’s determination and drive. I try to avoid the way so many writers of historical fiction in this genre marginalize the female character, creating her simply to give their male protagonist someone to lust over. Pat O’Brian is my favorite author, particularly in this genre, but even his female characters annoy me. If he had removed them completely from his books, the stories/characters would still have been a smashing success.
Hopefully, as the Chronicles continue on, Maria will still be appealing to write.