What Makes a Strong Heroine? (a conversation with Pepper Basham)

Posted July 11, 2017 by meezcarrie in Author Interview, Christian, Pepper Basham / 24 Comments

From the young girls like Hermione Granger to superheroes like Wonder Woman, strong heroines inspire us to “fight like a girl” while still listening to our hearts. But what does it mean to ‘fight like a girl’? Pepper Basham and I discuss some of our favorite strong female heroines as we attempt to come up with a working definition.

Pepper:  Which is both difficult and easy. So we’ll use our dizzying intellect to come to some conclusion, right, Carrie?

Carrie: If by that you mean, you’re the intellect and I’m the dizzy, then yes – we’ll give it our best shot 😉

Pepper: Ha! NOT what I meant! Is it my turn to raise my eyebrow at you????

Carrie: <whistles innocently>

Pepper:  With the recent release of the Wonder Woman movie, I’ve been thinking a lot about heroines. You know what I mean, Carrie? Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is pretty impressive!

Carrie: I haven’t seen it yet, but the previews alone look impressive!

Pepper: I’d consider her a strong heroine and her powerful force in the movie garners a great deal of my attention…well, when I’m not taking a mental detour to appreciate Chris Pine’s overall appeal. But Wonder Woman’s physical strength isn’t what really makes her a strong heroine, by my terms. It’s got to be something much deeper than that.  What do you think, Carrie?

Carrie: That mental detour to Chris Pine is completely understandable ? And yes, I agree. ‘Strong’ means much more than just muscles. Even more than head smarts. There is something that ties all the various shapes and sizes and personalities together as ‘strong heroines’.

Pepper:  Oh, yes! More than head smarts (though those are nice). I think it has a lot to do with ‘heart’ smarts, if you get down to the nitty gritty of it. Maybe, we should list a few characters from books and movies that we consider strong female heroines and maybe that will help us come up with some basic characteristics.

Anne Shirley, Nancy Drew, Elphaba, Lizzie Bennett. Jem & Merinda from Rachel McMillan’s Herriford and Watts series, Belle, Jane Eyre, Eowyn (definitely Eowyn!!! I love Eowyn!!!!)

Carrie: Yes!!! Great choices! I would add Hermione Granger, Jo March, and Mallory Baldwin from Christy Barritt’s Distorted.

Pepper: YES, on Hermione Granger and Jo March. I’ve not read Christy Barritt’s yet, so I’ll bow to your grand knowledge on her ?

Carrie: I would never lead you astray. Unless you are Jen Turano and you want to know if you should take the MARTA in Atlanta, but that was totally unintentional… and for another post. ? 

Pepper: HA! Do I want to know that story? 

There are lots of possibilities, so while I was considering the characteristics of great heroines, I consulted some of the smartest people I know. My kids. ? They had some pretty impressive insight into the matter of heroine characteristics.

Carrie: Speaking of ‘heart smarts’ – your kids have that in spades!!

Pepper: Oh, I hope so!! Phoebe (my youngest at 10 years old) had this list: smart, does what’s right, resists temptation to quit, tries to look on the positive side, and selfless. Do you think any of those work for our list of heroines?

Carrie: I think Hermione Granger is a top contender here, for sure. Belle, too! What about you, Pepper? Which heroines spring to mind from Phoebe’s list?

Pepper: Anne of Green Gables was definitely one of those optimistic heroines, don’t you think?

Samuel (my 12-year-old) added: Responsible and has respect for others, and here was Lydia’s top five list: (before she broke out into song from Wicked) Confidence, wit, perseverance, vision (she can see her goal), and emotional strength. Both of my girls think heroines should be smart. I like that ? Also, I love Lydia’s comment about confidence, though I don’t know that it necessarily is a make-or-break feature, because I think even the insecure heroine can learn to overcome her fears to fight. Don’t you? Any of those sorts of heroines’ come to mind?

Carrie: Yes, I think eventually strong heroines become confident – but sometimes not until they’ve fought past those fears. Certainly Lizzie Bennet fits these definitions. Jem & Merinda too.

Pepper: I think our current culture has distorted what a true ‘strong’ heroine is. She’s certainly not some robotic, terse, gun-slinging, punch-your-lights-out, automaton! No, strength is SOOOOO much more than that, as even my KIDS know!!!! “Strong”, in my book, is an inner strength that carries the character through from the beginning to the end, and it grows with her throughout the story, refining her.

Carrie: Just because you’re a mess doesn’t mean you aren’t strong too! I mean, who has it all together?

Pepper: Exactly!!! As a Christian, being ‘strong’ means identifying with your mess, your weaknesses, and finding strength from the one Source who can drive your hope to make it through the mess. My son Aaron’s list was pretty amazing: Courage to do what’s right, strong moral code, humor even when things look grim- that shows you are stronger than your fear, compassion. (I LOVE LOVE that he put ‘compassion’ in there).

Belle, from Beauty and the Beast (either version) shows a GREAT deal of strength in her compassion to help the Beast after the wolf attack. She could have escaped and left him to die, but she didn’t.

Carrie: Wait, you didn’t include my FAVORITE on his list. Long flowing hair.

Pepper: (sigh and shaking head) He says all the best heroines look fabulous, courageous, and strong on the screen with their long flowing hair blowing in the wind.

Carrie: He is clearly on to something.

Pepper: There is lots of proof to the point!! He’s contemplating growing long flowing hair just to feel heroic! ?

Carrie: Literally laughing out loud

Pepper: But Ben’s is the best because it kind of encompasses the best virtue of any hero (male or female). He said,” Overcoming your nature (courage instead of fear, love instead of self-love, etc.)” and he added “which we can only really do with Christ’s help”. WOW!

Carrie: Ben for the WIN! He is so right. And just like the characters on the pages of our favorite books are only as strong as their writer makes them, so do we become strong heroines in our own lives through God-given help. That’s the only way it works. Our own strength fizzles when life gets hard, when we’re weary, when we’re hormonal. But HIS Strength is perfect. (and now I’m singing a Steven Curtis Chapman song in my head. Don’t mind me.)

When you and I were brainstorming this post (this magic doesn’t happen by accident, folks ?), you mentioned that another characteristic of a strong heroine could be a heart for adventure – even if the adventures are everyday adventures. I love that idea! Heroines like Sarah from Sarah, Plain and Tall or Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables or even the heroine in the book you just finished writing, Pepper!

Pepper: Hee hee, oh how I love Grace! She definitely has a full heart of adventure! And, don’t you think every heroine continues to have a sense of wonder about her? It doesn’t mean she’s desperate to take off and save the world, but she still keeps a curiosity about the world and a teachability of spirit. And, yes, she’s a fighter, but she’s wise enough to know when to fight, when to wait, and when to flee. That takes wisdom.

Carrie: I love what your husband said too, Pepper. His definition of a strong heroine? YOU. Pepper Basham. Wise, beautiful inside and out, creative, problem solver, and she loves well.

Those are the sweetest words! The best compliments! I seriously love your family! They’re very smart, especially your husband ?

Pepper: That was very sweet of him! He’s on vacation right now so he’s especially complimentary, but, boy oh boy, isn’t that what all of us girls really want? To be the heroines of our own lives? And what does that mean? Fighting dragons? Curing cancer? Unearthing a long-lost treasure?

Actually, yes! At the heart, being the heroine of your own life means fighting your own dragons (even if that means consistently battling a pile of laundry every day), treating the every day wounds of people’s hearts around you, and unearthing the treasures within ourselves, others, and our Maker. It’s a constant adventure, which requires strength, creativity, a teachable heart, wonder, and a whole lot of grace (not the dancer-kind, the Savior-kind). Right, Carrie?

Carrie: The Savior-kind of grace is key. His grace is sufficient for us, because His strength is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)

My precious friend, any conversation with you is one of my favorites! Thanks for hanging out with me while you are on vacation ♥

Pepper: As ALWAYS, I love spending time with you, my dear, sweet friend!! I think you’re an AMAZING heroine because of your deep-set compassion, strength to get up everyday to fight your own dragons and do so as an awesome encourager – you’re smart, sassy, and a little snarky sometimes too. Those combine for some of the best heroines ?

Carrie: Any strength you see in me comes from His grace. The sass and snark is all mine, though. 😉 Love you, Pepper! Already looking forward to our next conversation!

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and has garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and most recently a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. Her second historical novel, The Thorn Keeper, released in Feb 2016 and her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, released in April 2016 with a 4 star review from Romantic Times. The third book in the Penned in Time series, The Thorn Healer, released in December 2017 with a 4 1/2 star review from RT and Top Pick rating.

Pepper’s first novella arrived in March as part of the Love at First Laugh novella compilation and her novel, Just the Way You Arereleased on April 6th – a funfilled Britallachian romance!

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24 responses to “What Makes a Strong Heroine? (a conversation with Pepper Basham)

  1. Pepper and Carrie, I so loved this long exchange. I had to check out your conversation because naturally I’m always dissecting my favorites for what makes them so lovable.

    I mean, I got my hands on Steven James’ The Rook (so out of my reading comfort zone) simply because he said that this one tough female character had a killer line. Something like, “I’ll teach you to fight like a girl.” BAM

  2. PamCrist

    Wow, Pepper! Your sweet kids are so insightful, strong, and beautiful. Carrie, you and Pepper are a hoot together and I loved this interview. Love and appreciate the insights that make a strong heroine, one that grows from day-to-day as she experiences life.

  3. Two of my forever favorites is one place!!!! *Swoon* Talking about Heroines….(where is my fan?)…LOVED Wonder Woman. Something else I would add, is knowing when she needs assistance, and accepting that assistance.

  4. Chanel M.

    I love this post and was very pleased to see some of my favorite heroines mentioned: Anne Shirley, Lizzie Bennet, Eowyn and Jo March. Your kids gave really impressive and concise answers, Pepper. I, especially, love the fact that one of your sons said that heroines should have long, flowing hair. Haha, that’s so cute!

  5. <3 <3 <3 this post! And <3 <3 <3 you ladies! And long, flowing hair should absolutely be on that list, so long as you keep it out of the way when you're in the thick of the action. No sense in getting blinded on the job! ?


  6. Winnie Thomas

    Fun post, Carrie and Pepper–two lovely heroines! Hugs! Can’t wait for CFRR! 😀

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