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During this year’s A to Z Challenge, I am writing about my latest novel, Escape Plan by giving you all little snippets about the characters, inspiration, and lessons learned while writing my third novel.

Unlikeable characters in women’s fiction can be a touchy subject. When I first started sharing my novels with other writers, quite a few people told me that my characters had to be young, pretty, and lovable or people wouldn’t like my books. I think that is ridiculous, but not entirely untrue. Readers have been trained to expect a certain thing from female authors.

There is a strange assumption that women want to read about happy stories about happy women where everything turns out just wonderfully for the heroine. Now I love a good romance every once in a while, but defining an entire gender’s reading habits so narrowly  is just plain patronizing. Women can handle an unlikable character. We can handle characters that do terrible things for good reasons. Many of us are mothers; we can handle some messiness. I reject the idea that a heroine needs to be under thirty, or needs to be pretty, or needs to be universally loved.

In Overlook and Escape Plan, none of the characters are under forty, yet they are still a bunch of sexy women. Kitty and the gals are real people with good characteristics and very real flaws. It’s those flaws that make them unpredictable and interesting.

What are your thoughts on unlikeable characters? Do you prefer books about happy young women or do you like a bit of strangeness in your protagonists?

Escape Plan by Elizabeth Hein (100x150)To celebrate the release of Escape Plan coinciding with the A to Z Challenge, I am giving away a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card and 3 copies of Escape Plan. All you have to do is leave a comment with a way to reach you when you win.

Also, if you sign-up to receive my newsletter, I will send you a free copy of Overlook, the prequel to Escape Plan.

Why not check out some of the other blogs participating in the A to Z Challenge by clicking on the logo below.