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Two Female Leads?

two lead strong female charactersI was recently asked why the lead characters in Champions are “Alex and Stephanie”. I misinterpreted the question with my first response; the person actually wanted to know why the series has two female leads. Still, my first answer stands, even if it might make me sound insane…

Lady Alex Smith and Second Lieutenant Stephanie Shylock are the final realization of two characters I’ve wanted to write since at least 2004, but for whom I could never find the right stories.

The first character was a Champion with the weight of the world on her shoulders, some special combat abilities, and a strong mind… but who didn’t necessarily look as formidable as she was. The second was a swaggering Victorian adventurer wearing khaki fatigues and a pith helmet, constantly storming through intimidating jungles (perhaps on alien worlds) as she searched for excitement.

These two leading ladies, neither with a story of their own, existed in my head for some time. Over the years I tried to plant each of them in different roles and relationships, but nothing ever seemed right, and they never crossed paths. It was like having friends from different parts of the world, who you knew would instantly hit it off if they met… but who never came together.

Fortunately, while I was struggling with what to do after His Majesty’s New World, they somehow found each other. This is the part where I sound crazy, because I don’t really know how it happened. Maybe they bumped into each other in an airport bar during a long layover, or after a missed connecting flight? Groan.

They bonded immediately, naturally complimented each other, and became best friends. Their names emerged from the storyline they landed in –– the Champion became Alex, and the adventurer became Stephanie –– but their relationship was all their own… and it was pretty special. One might compare them to the heroes in a buddy cop movie, but they remind me more of JFK and RFK: they often agree, unquestioningly trust each other, and always present a united front.

And God help anyone who tries to get between them.

With Alex and Stephanie moved into 1940, the rest of Champions came together quickly. I’d always had some idea of what events would follow His Majesty’s New World, but now there was a clear pair of viewpoints, and numerous possible storylines. Mike Strong was recruited to round out the team, giving us two formidable young women and their redoubtable Sergeant, going on adventures across two planets (and indulging in the occasional awkward best friend hug –– see above).

But with regard to the question about why they’re both female leads… I don’t know, because they were born that way?

When I’m planning to spend years with main characters, I need to have a lot of personal respect for them. It’s like picking new friends. As such, my expectations are rather lofty: they must work hard, grow, and treat themselves and others well. Whoever clears that bar –– whatever, their race, creed, or gender –– gets the gig, and then the stories grow from them.

Alex and Stephanie had been cooling their heels for far too long, and given the chance they sailed over the bar. It just happens that they’re best friends who mean to save the world together. Can’t argue with that, so Champions has two female leads.

For more recent commentary on Alex and Stephanie, click here.