Strong Alaskan Women
by Lynn Lovegreen
I am sometimes asked why I write young adult historical romance set in Alaska. It is a small niche, or an odd subgenre, depending on your point of view. But for me, it ties all of my passions into one vocation. I love young people, romance, and Alaska history. And in my mind, there’s no better way to show the capability of the human spirit than by writing about strong Alaskan women.
Our history is full of strong women. The tough landscape provided challenges, but also opportunities to make their own way in the world. They did what needed to be done, regardless of the traditional gender roles followed in more “civilized” places. That isn’t to say they weren’t feminine, just that they defined that word for themselves. Many of my characters are based on specific Alaskan women or are a composite of women in that time and place. In my latest book Golden Days, the character Elena is based loosely on a real person named Erinia Pavaloff Cherosky Callahan. Like Elena’s, Callahan’s heritage was Russian and Native Alaskan. She also worked in trading and skin-sewing, and she was a survivor of tough times. Another character in Golden Days is Mrs. Thompson. She is not based on one real person but on many of the founding mothers of Fairbanks such as Nellie Cashman and Jessie Bloom who made improvements including the hospital and Girl Scout program that helped make Fairbanks the family-friendly town that it is today. (If you want to read more nonfiction about women in this time period, I recommend Gold Rush Women by Claire Rudolph Murphy and Jane G. Haigh, http://www.amazon.com/Gold-Women-Claire-Rudolf-Murphy/dp/096275305X.)
We continue to have strong women in Alaska, from women in the arts such as Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Dana Stabenow, and Eowyn Ivey, to culture bearers like Rita Blumenstein and Nora Dauenhauer. I'm honored to know some of these women and to be inspired by them to be the best person I can be. My hope is that sharing these stories will inspire my readers to live the best life they can. Role models are a good way for us to think, “If she could do that, then I can do what I need to do with my life.” Maybe a young reader will say to herself, “If Elizabeth can become an artist, then I can live my dream too.” I would say to her, “Yes, you can!
Lynn Lovegreen grew up in Alaska, and still lives there. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and hitting targets with a cowboy action shooting club. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in the Alaska Gold Rush, a great time for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at www.lynnlovegreen.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.
-interview by Erin Unger