Huntley Fitzpatrick’s Favorite Heroines

16 Feb

Today on the blog I’m happy announce that we have a wonderful guest post from Huntley Fitzpatrick, author of the forthcoming MY LIFE NEXT DOOR. I asked Huntley to tell me a little more about how female heroines shaped her life and here’s what she came up with: 

I was a shy kid.  I had a circle of friends in which I felt comfortable, a warm family, but in crowds I tended to try to disappear. My social philosophy was sort of like my dodgeball philosophy…I’d stand so far to the side that no one would notice me and throw a ball in my direction.

This is a safe way to live, but it doesn’t get you out in the world, or through a lot of the challenges that come your way.

So, by the time I was ten, I’d come up with another strategy….books…

I’d find brave, feisty heroines I loved, and when I found myself in an situation where I felt shy, I’d imagine what they would do. And then I’d do it.

This works amazingly well. You just need to suit the heroine to the situation.

For bravery and doing what needed to be done regardless of the consequences, I’d summon up a character: Caddie Woodlawn, the feisty tomboy from the unforgettable books by Carol Ryrie Brink.

Caddie was a red-headed tomboy who lived in Wisconsin in the 1860’s. She refused to be a girl, preferring instead to hang out with her brothers, endlessly topping them in their adventures. She was sassy, fearless, and forever in trouble.   She had a relish for life I found so inspiring. No matter how dire the situation, she came out ahead, triumphant, learning a bit, but still irreverent and intrepid.

Here’s a quote: “How far I’ve come! I’m the same girl and yet not the same. I wonder if it’s always like that? Folks keep growing from one person into another all their lives, and life is just a lot of everyday adventures. Well, whatever life is, I like it.”

When I ran into trouble, I’d think of Caddie, and remember whatever was happening was just another adventure.

Then, in situations where I had to just get through something extremely difficult, I’d think of Sara Crewe, the heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS.

The title sounds cute, but the story is not. Sara starts out as the Girl Who Has Everything, then loses it all, her beloved father, her fortune, her status as the Popular Girl, her closet full of beautiful clothes, and most of her friends.

She not only survives this, she triumphs, and becomes a truer princess in hard times than she was in good times.

Most kids have a year or two where they just don’t fit. My two were seventh and eighth grade. I’d moved to a new school, gotten glasses, gained weight….the other kids in my grade, all of whom were probably struggling themselves, saw a weak spot and went for it. My locker got destroyed on a daily basis, pictures torn down, school books ripped, kids made comments when I walked down the hall. Going to school was torture.

Sara Crewe saved me.  Here’s the quote I never forgot.  “Somehow, something always happens just before things get to the very worst. It is as if Magic did it. If I could only just remember that always. The worse thing never quite comes.”

If you haven’t read Frances Hodgson Burnett or Carol Ryrie Brink, go find them. My book, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR, was actually inspired by another Frances Hodgson Burnett book, THE SECRET GARDEN. If you look closely, you’ll see why…the girl in my book is pampered and protected, and then she meets a boy who can charm animals, and has to keep the whole thing secret. My whole story started with wondering what would happen when Mary and Dickon grew up.

My advice to you comes from another wonderful childhood book, Roald Dahl’s MATILDA.

“Books taught Matilda the lesson good books teach: You are not alone.”

Learn more about Huntley here, and make sure to pick up a copy of her book MY LIFE NEXT DOOR this June!

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