Characterizing a Queen
I ran across a discussion recently (sorry, could not find it again) that mentioned how royalty is often presented in books. The king or queen is often corrupt, arrogant, or haughty. This was something I picked up on when I was reading fantasy books, and I wanted to steer clear of it. I’m in Washington, DC, so it’s very easy to get exposed to a very different viewpoint on what senior leadership is like — just even by reading the daily newspaper or listening to the radio.
So when I created my character for the Queen, I wanted to do someone who didn’t fit into the traditional role of the royalty that we usually see in books. She’s not corrupt or haughty — she’s essentially a politician and a businesswoman. A type A personality who knows what time it is to the minute and dresses in a suit. She probably spends most of her days in meeting after meeting after meeting.
But, being in DC, I’ve also seen what politics do to women. There was a lot of discussion that popped up about women candidates, especially during the last election. One of the most notable things was that men got reported on what they said (or muffed up) or did; women got reported on what they wore. The women often couldn’t experiment much with clothes because if they went outside of Washington Black/Gray Suit, they would either not be viewed as one of the boys or get blasted in the press for wearing something different.
So my Queen has to have a hard edge because she’s essentially herding cats — the Chiefs, the press, the leaks. That created its own problem, which was that a hard edge might make her into unlikable. I still remember one suspense novel I read where the author tried to have a female character be “one of the boys,” and she turned into the nastiest heroines I’ve seen. My Queen is a secondary character. Since she likes the main character, those scenes with him are where I soften her up a bit. He’s one of the few people she doesn’t need to project a particular image with. But when she’s got a crisis at hand, she’s right on top of it, seeing the big picture of how it all fits together and keeping people on track. She’s also willing to seek out experts to give her advice. The main character in the story is unofficially her Magic Adviser (which just means she doesn’t want to advertise she has one, since the press would not be polite on this). If something happens that looks like it might be magic-related, she consults with him for his opinion. If there’s a magic disaster (which is, of course, the case in the story), she looks for his guidance on what she needs to do to ensure the safety of the country.