Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome author Leslie Vedder, whose debut YA fantasy, The Bone Spindle, releases today from Razorbill/Penguin! Leslie’s here to talk about writing the characters of your heart, but first, a little more about the book, billed as Sleeping Beauty Meets Indiana Jones…
Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.
Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.
Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.
Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi–until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.
Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way–not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.
And now, here’s the post by Leslie Vedder!
When I was a kid, one of my absolute favorite TV shows was Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s very dated now, and not without its flaws, but it still holds a special place in my heart. Xena was the first woman character I ever saw who felt like a larger-than-life hero to me. She was a badass. She was respected. She had a dark past. Nobody messed with her, and when she swaggered into a shady tavern, bad guys shook in their boots.
But she could also be funny, and loving, and flawed in all the best ways. It was a show full of camp that knew how to be silly and not take itself too seriously.
Xena was almost everything I wanted in a female character. But when it came to her sexuality…it was kind of a letdown.
Xena had an absolute glut of male love interests, and only tongue-in-cheek references to women. The show was absolutely swimming with subtext between Xena and her longtime sidekick Gabriel. But alas, it was an old show, so it could never just go there.
Xena was full of the possibility of queerness—but that’s all it could ever be. A possibility. A character who had been so bold and loud and downright brash about everything else was suddenly reduced to a wink and a nod.
I wanted an openly queer Xena. I don’t think I ever stopped wanting that. And that desire to see a character who got to be just as brash and tough and funny as Xena, but totally queer this time, was a big part of the inspiration for Shane, one of the two main characters of my debut YA fantasy, The Bone Spindle.
The Bone Spindle stars two girl treasure hunting partners, each with their own love story. Fi is a bookish historian who is in an m/f love story, and Shane is the ax-wielding lesbian mercenary of my dreams in an f/f relationship. (Also, she’s my wife’s absolute favorite character!)
Shane grew into so much more than her inception. The moment she exploded onto the page, she had her own voice and humor and desires. She’s got a secret past she’s left behind. A rivalry with a vicious cult of Witch Hunters. A love of gambling (though she’s not that good at it). She’s also loud and brash, and definitely the type to swagger into a tavern and leave bad guys shaking in their boots!
Maybe my favorite thing about Shane is that she’s unapologetically herself at every moment, whether that’s flirting with girls or breaking noses, and definitely when she starts falling head over heels for Red, a mysterious and dangerous Witch. If Shane was born in part from my desire for a queer Xena, then Red must be inspired at least a little by the idea of a queer Catwoman-esque femme fatale. Their love story is probably one I’ve been dreaming of writing for a long time (and I can’t wait to dig into them even more, in the later books of the trilogy!).
Working toward bringing out a first book is a major roller coaster, but one of the high points has definitely been hearing some early readers say they fell in love with Shane. She’s truly the character of my heart.
Queer representation has come a long way since Xena was on the air. There are so many amazing fantasy books and shows coming out these days with queer characters that would have set my teenage heart on fire! And they still mean the world to me right now. If I had a time machine, I would empty my current bookshelf through to my younger self. But in the absence of that, I’m so proud to get to share a character like Shane with today’s readers—and I hope she’ll be exactly what somebody’s looking for.
But I still wouldn’t say no to a totally queer Xena reboot!
Leslie Vedder (she/her) is a queer ace author who loves fairytale retellings with girl adventurers and heroes! She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in creative writing and currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two spoiled house cats.
When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her watching anime and sci-fi shows, walking in the woods and pretending they’re enchanted forests, or playing old video games. She always collects all the Skulltulas in Zelda and all the Dalmation puppies in Kingdom Hearts.