This week Picador is publishing Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil She Knows, a “gritty and lyrical” crime novel set in the seedy underbelly of Staten Island. To celebrate we’ll be featuring the book here on the Tumblr for the rest of the week. Below, Bill lays out five characters who influenced the creation of his heroine, Maureen Coughlin.
Writers get asked a lot about their influences, a tough subject to address. I feel I often discover what influenced me in retrospect, when I re-read a book or re-watch a movie for the first time in years and I notice something in them that I see in my own work. Maureen Coughlin is a character I developed over many years. Here are five women who I think are embedded in her DNA:
5. Rowan Mayfair – The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice. Intelligent, talented, educated, powerful, sexual, fearless and dangerous Rowan Mayfair was everything I’d come to expect from a hero – except male.
4. Lt. Ellen Ripley – Aliens. She spends most of the movie surrounded by men with money and guns who think they know better, despite the fact that she knows more than them, and she ends up being nearly the last person standing, mostly because of her raw and electric will to survive. An old school “if you want it done right, do it yourself” hero.
3. Marion Ravenwood – Raiders of the Lost Ark. She’s not quite the feminist icon I thought she was when I was younger, she does spend much of the film as a damsel in distress, though a formidable one. Still, how many movie heroines debut by winning a drinking contest, sucker punching an ex-boyfriend and putting a bullet through the head of a Gestapo enforcer? To me, she was always much more beautiful tending bar in her braid than in that ridiculous dress.
2. Carrie Kelley as Robin – The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller. She’s young, small, unskilled, untrained, plain and invisible to nearly everyone around her, including her parents. She both under and over estimates her own bravery, smarts, and toughness. She doesn’t see any reason why she should take shit from anyone, or why you should either. Being female never enters into it. What’s not to love?
1. Sarah Connor – Terminator/Terminator 2. A depiction of a woman as the renegade lone wolf hero that doesn’t just portray her as a woman acting manly; she’s more than a novelty act. Watch the two films back to back. The metamorphosis of Sarah Connor from clueless girl victim to determined soldier is extraordinary. In the second film, I’ve always thought Linda Hamilton does a great job showing that confidence and terror are not mutually exclusive emotions. The asylum escape scene in T2 is classic. There’s a shot during that scene where Sarah Connor trots down the hall, eyes wary, nightstick in one hand, clad in sweats and a T-shirt, hair back in a ponytail. You can just tell her brain is running a thousand miles an hour. I re-watched the film less than a year ago and it left me thinking, “Well, that explains a lot.”
For more of a peek into Bill Loehfelm’s brain space, head over to his Tumblr.