Thursday, 13 December 2018

Heroine Fix: Last Holiday with Georgia Byrd

I'm addicted to strong and intriguing characters.  Heroine Fix is a monthly feature examining female characters that I admire and who influence my own writing.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

This month's Heroine Fix is actually more about me than my writing.  Last Holiday is my favourite holiday film and it's all because of Queen Latifah's portrayal of Georgia Byrd.  It's a great character film about a woman who is initially trapped in her life.  Every choice is decided by fear.  She loves to cook and dreams of opening a restaurant, but instead is sticking with her dead-end job selling cookware in a department store.  She has a crush on her co-worker, played by LL Cool J, but is scared to ask him out in case he doesn't feel the same way about her.  She cooks beautiful, delicious meals but doesn't eat them, instead taking pictures and putting them in her "Possibilities" book.  Her life is defined by waiting and hiding in the background, not living.

Then she learns that she has a fatal disease and only has weeks to live.  As expected, she makes some big changes but what I like about this film is that she doesn't immediately throw everything out overnight.  It takes her time to get used to the idea of only having a limited amount of time left and to get used to the idea of acting on what she wants instead of reacting from fear.  It becomes a beautiful unfolding of spirit and self-confidence.  When she decides to book the trip she's always wanted to take, she automatically books it coach and then only upgrades to first class partway through the flight.  The same with her hotel, at first she's booked in a standard room and then upgrades to the Presidental Suite.

I think part of what appeals is that the idea of a consequence-free life is tempting.  Telling off an obnoxious boss or spending thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation or eating a dozen different gourmet dishes in a single meal would be wonderful... if we didn't have deal with the results thereof.  Maybe it strikes a chord with me because I'm a cautious soul at heart and there have been a lot of times that I've told myself "no" on something I want because the consequences outweigh the pleasures of the moment.  But it's so tempting to forget the future and just enjoy the moment.

Some of what Georgia does is predictable.  She withdraws all of her savings, she buys a fancy new couture wardrobe, and she goes base jumping.  She enjoys fancy meals and spa treatments and blunt talk.  

But some of what she does is much more interesting.  She encourages her crappy boss's mistress to stand up to him and reclaim her own life.  She calls out a senator for ditching coming to her church and refuses to cut him any social slack, telling him that he disappointed the people who voted for him.  And she cooks with a celebrity chef, one of her idols, becoming his friend.

She's not selfishly dedicated to her own pleasure.  Even though she would have every right in the world to focus solely on herself, she shows her true heart by helping others to become better versions of themselves and break out of their own self-locked cages of fear.  The story emphasizes this with the counterpoint character, Miss Gunther, the bitter floor valet who snoops through Georgia's things in an effort to expose her.  Miss Gunther tries to make people smaller than they are while Georgia makes them more.

Another reason that I love this movie is the romantic plot.  LL Cool J's character, Sean, loves Georgia long before her transformation into her genuine self.  He's not attracted to her new bold self, he's the one who saw who she really was even when she didn't.  And I'll admit that it's pretty awesome to me to see a plus size romantic lead whose weight is never raised as an issue.  I decided to do the same for my most recent heroine, Martha, where I only mention her size a few times in the book and her hot hero finds her irresistible.

One part of the movie that always sticks with me is Georgia's speech to herself on New Year's Eve: "You have been very lucky.  Maybe we didn't get everything we want, but....  Next time, we'll do things different.  We will laugh more, we'll love more, we'll see the world.  We just won't be so afraid."  And "I wasted too much of my life being quiet."

I say it to myself when I need to remind myself that we aren't guaranteed a "next time" in life.  Refusing an opportunity to laugh and love out of fear isn't being cautious or prudent.  It's robbing ourselves of an opportunity to enjoy our lives.  

So when I'm faced with a situation where the little voice in my head is saying "But what if I look like an idiot?" then I remind myself of Georgia and that confidence is what separates the timid fools from the admired brave.  And that no one ever achieved their dreams by being quiet.  So whether it's dancing until my socks melt, or talking to a stranger or pitching my latest book, I channel my own inner Georgia and seize the day.

(Keep on reading for more information on next month's Heroine Fix and a special offer on my own books.)

Part of seizing the day is sharing my own work with you.  The first book in my paranormal romantic suspense series, Revelations, is on sale for 99 cents US (1.27 Cdn) on all platforms.

Or you can check out some other posts, like last month's Heroine Fix: Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine.  Or last week's post on how you can boost your word count.  Or visit my Hidden Diamond page to discover new authors who write paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and strong female characters.  November's feature is a sister ORWAn: Jenn Burke.

Next month, I'll be looking at a heroine who crosses the line between good and bad, playful and dangerous.  The woman who always steals the scene from her caped crusader co-stars: Selena Kyle, Catwoman.  I'll be talking about Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises, and maybe even the Halle Berry movie.  Join me on January 10th for your next Heroine Fix.

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