But, for Emma Pass, having ladies who were strong and independent was a must-have in her stories.
Pass’ most recent book, The Fearless, tells the story of Cass, a young girl who lost her parents to the Fearless – people infected by a serum that removes all emotions – and is now in charge of her young brother, Jori. When Jori is taken by the Fearless, Cass takes it upon herself to get him back, no matter what.
Having strength of character is very important to Pass.
“I hate it when a female character in a book waits around to be rescued, and I knew I didn’t want that in my stories, so having strong, independent characters was a must,” said Pass.
In our world, “strong female character” is usually shorthand for a character that can fight and exhibits few other qualities. But to be a strong female character means being a real character: fleshed out, multi-dimensional, their strength not just in their ability to throw a punch, but something that comes from many little nuances of character development – including weaknesses and personality quirks.
Pass made sure to create a marked distinction in how both Jenna, the lead in her first book Acid, and Cass show their strength.
“Jenna and Cass are quite different to one another – Jenna has been hardened by her experiences and is physically very tough, whereas Cass has greater mental toughness, a result of having to bring up her younger brother alone in a dangerous environment. I was inspired by many different books and movies, but I didn’t want to create stereotypical ‘strong female characters,’ so both Cass and Jenna have their flaws, too,” said Pass.
And she didn’t stop pushing boundaries there. Both of Pass’ books are dystopians that deal with some hard truths about relationships and human nature.
“With The Fearless in particular, I wanted to ask, ‘Who are the real monsters? The people altered by the Fearless serum, or the people who come after them?’ And in both books, I wanted to look at power and how having that power isn’t necessarily a force for good,” said Pass.
But for her, the choice of genre was about more than asking the hard questions. It’s about giving hope.
“However, I think dystopia can also be a source of hope. I first discovered the genre when I was about 8 years old, when the world was in the grip of the Cold War. The UK government had calculated that if Soviet forces launched a nuclear missile attack on Britain, we’d have about four minutes before they hit, during which time air raid sirens would sound and warnings would be broadcast on the radio and TV. I was terrified! Four minutes wasn’t enough time to do anything. What if I was at school? I’d never see my family again. Then I read a book called Brother in the Land by Robert Swindell, which is about a group of children trying to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the UK. Although it’s a very dark book, it gave me hope that people could survive such a terrible event, and after that, I became addicted to dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories – and still am!”
Despite her addiction, she’s mum on any new projects.
“I would love to write a sequel to The Fearless, but at the moment I haven’t been asked for one. Still, never say never!” said Pass. “I’m extremely superstitious about sharing my new ideas with anyone, so for now, my lips are sealed – sorry!”