When presented with the idea of discussing the Alpha-Female in any genre of book, the first character that came to mind was Jane Yellowrock of Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker series. She is, hands down, one of the toughest heroines I’ve come across in urban fantasy. There is a line from the film Tombstone that reminds me of Jane. When asked why he would risk death to help a friend, Doc Holliday says:
Doc Holliday: Because Wyatt Earp is my friend.
Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.
Doc Holliday: …I don’t.
Jane reminds me of Doc. She doesn’t have many friends, but those she does have, she’ll lay down her life, face anything, to help them. She’ll do the same to protect an innocent and to do her job. She is tough, with moments of vulnerability. She is a total kick-ass, alpha female heroine and I am, for lack of a more eloquent word, GEEKED to have Faith Hunter here on the blog to discuss Jane Yellowrock and the Alpha-Female.
Please welcome Faith Hunter!
SWR: Define Alpha-Female. In what ways, if any, is she different from the Alpha-Male?
The alphas of any gender have to be able to handle physical crises and attack, deal with long term strategy and consequences, and be tough no matter what they are up against. If they grieve, hurt, or cry, they have to do it while alone, when no one can see. But the female alpha? She has to be able to do so much more than the alpha male—you know, twice the work to be considered half as good. (rolls eyes) The alpha female has to look good while doing all her jobs, be able to use her sex as one weapon in her arsenal, and defeat the opponents. She also has to wow the bad guys, the good guys, and the readers, and she has to do all this without coming across as a snooty bitch or an unfeeling bitch. She has to be warm, gentle, and kind as well as know how and when to kickass. That’s hard to do! Go Alpha females!
I think the difference between the male and female alpha goes back to that WOW factor. Females have to have a softer side, a sexy side, they have to be vulnerable on some level, even if the only person to see that side is the reader.
My favorite alpha male is Jack Reacher of the Lee Childe novels. Reacher is tough as nails, totally self-contained, and self-reliant, but he isn’t pretty, and he doesn’t have to be. Jane Yellowrock, while not a traditional beauty, is striking and all woman. She has cool clothes, even if they are limited in number, and kickass boots.
SWR: What was your inspiration in creating the character of Jane Yellowrock?
I think that broken women make the best characters and the strongest women, even in real life. Women who have survived things that would destroy others can and will stand up and fight; they don’t run away, because they know who they are and where their strength comes from. So the first criteria for Jane was that she be broken. The second criteria was that she not know how or when she was broken. I wanted a character who had lost part of her life, part of her past, and who would unfold before me, reveal herself to me, like a new friend who tells snippets of her life. The third criteria for Jane was her Cherokee nature. I had just discovered that I was about 20% black, and over 40% mixed American Indian—Cherokee and Choctaw. I was on a road to self-discovery and Jane became part of that!
SWR: Do you consider her an alpha-female, and, if so, in what ways is she an alpha?
Jane Yellowrock is gutsy, never runs away from a fight (even when she probably should), and defends the innocent. She is soft in her love of, and protective instincts toward, children. She can kick anyone’s butt. And she is tall, dark, and striking in appearance. Also, she is evolving and growing. I think all really good alphas have to move forward in their thinking and their lives or they just get boring.
SWR: Some people would argue that the alpha female has no instinct for nurturing. This is not true in Jane’s case since she shows real nurturing instincts towards Molly’s children. Do you think “nurture” and “alpha female” are mutually exclusive?
When I first was writing Jane, I knew something was wrong with her. She was not clicking with me and I didn’t know why she was wasn’t, so I asked Kim Harrison’s hubby, Guy, to read the first 100 pages. He didn’t want to tell me, but he found her too hard, too cold, too unfeeling. So I introduced the character Molly, who is antithetical to Jane in nearly every way. Molly is an earth witch with a husband, two kids, a house in the country with a huge garden, a half dozen sisters, and is Jane’s best friend. Molly bakes bread! Molly cooks! Molly nurtures! All the things Jane can’t or won’t do, or be. And Molly’s children are Jane’s godchildren, the one way that Jane has for being soft and gentle. Once I added a softer side to Jane, I liked her. A lot!
SWR: What role does sexuality play in the alpha-female persona of Jane Yellowrock?
Jane and Beast are on two different sides when it comes to a love life. Beast is the soul of a mountain lion that Jane drew inside her by error, in an accidental act of black magic, when Jane was five years old and fighting for her life. Beast wants strong alpha males as her mate and as Jane’s mate. The biggest, baddest of them all? Beast wants. And in multiples if possible. Beast is a cat. In many ways, she just wants to play.
But Jane was raised (in this current life) in a Christian Children’s home and she is, unconsciously, looking for the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, husband, dog, and cat—which, if she really looked at that versus her nature, would and should send her running to the hills. (grins) We all want things that are not in our natures, or that would not be good for us, and we have to learn and accept who we are and what is really good for us as we grow. Jane is learning that her not being human means that her dreams have to change. And that is hard. Jane is having to merge the needs and wants of her two, very different, personalities and a past that sets her apart form others.
SWR: How does Jane’s alpha nature impact her choice of mate/lover/partner? What does an alpha female need with regards to a romantic partner – a beta or another alpha?
Frankly, I don’t think Jane knows what she needs yet. I think she is secretly afraid of sharing her space with an alpha male, and does things that jinx any relationship that might have a chance of really going somewhere. I think her needs and wants will change as she continues to be part of the New Orleans’ vampire society, with all the benefits and horrors that might bring. In the end, I think she will take a man (being?) who can see her for what she really is, one who accepts her, is tender toward her, and treats her gently even when she may not deserve it. A male who will let her stand on her own two feet, fight her own demons, and yet support her when she needs it. Passion and friendship. Hard to find in the real world. Just as hard to find in Jane’s world.
SWR: Alpha Female has almost become synonymous with “bitch.” Why do you think that’s true? And do you think this is true for Jane and how she is perceived in her world?
I think we as writers have forgotten what I forgot early on, what Kim’s Guy told me. Every character has to have something soft and caring about them to make them interesting. They have to have something (s) to grow through, and other characters to love. We writers are creating characters who rely on snark and fists, and that is both bitchy and boring. I’ve put down several books lately where characters have no inner strength or tenderness, and are just mouth and weapons. It takes more.
In her own world, Jane hides who and what she is, and protects that broken, bleeding part of her soul. So yes, a lot of her men think she is a bitch a lot of the time, but she is learning to let some of her men into her life. I’m having fun with that!
SWR: Who are some of your favorite alpha-female characters?
To name just a very few:
Joanne Walker of the Walker Papers by CE Murphy.
Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan
Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson
All of Ilona Andrews’ characters (male and female)
Kalayna Prices’ Alex Craft (a newcomer to UF field and I adore her!)
SWR: Is there anything else you would like to add about Jane and the Alpha Female?
Thanks to all the alpha fans out there! You promote my books to your friends and on FB, Twitter, and other social media. That is what keeps writers in print. You make it happen. You have the power.
The Skinwalker series is one of my favorite all time UF series. If you have not read it, save yourself and purchase the books here. You won’t be disappointed.
Faith loves her fans and she wants to hear from you. Please stop by and visit her at her favorite spots:
About the Author:
Faith Hunter writes dark urban fantasy: Skinwalker series, featuring Jane Yellowrock with Skinwalker, Blood Cross, and Mercy Blade, and Raven Cursed. Her Rogue Mage novels, a dark, urban fantasy series—Bloodring, Seraphs, and Host—feature Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage in a post-apocalyptic, alternate reality.