When I first saw The Last Lion of Karkov described as a feminist story, it took me by surprise, perhaps with a case of imposter syndrome. I did not feel qualified to be that voice nor was it my intention. My anxiety was triggered, fully expecting criticism for attempting to write the female perspective of struggling against a patriarchal regime when similar principals have no doubt benefited me in real life. Then, just like countless other times, I had to remind myself of something I decided a couple of years before: It’s not about me. This is for Jillian and Natalia.
The paradigm shift occurred after a period of time when I tried to abandon my project. I had written a manuscript that had potential, largely due to its awesome protagonists. As it was written, however, it was not polished enough to land the type of book deal that I had no business expecting. Financially, or for any other reason pertaining to me, it made no sense to continue. During the season I spent away from the manuscript, Jillian and Natalia stayed with me. It certainly wasn’t difficult to be reminded of them since my wife inspired many of Natalia’s qualities (only the favorable ones). My free thoughts—the times when I tend to think creatively—remained dedicated to imagining events of their childhood, not yet on the page, that would further define who they are. They made me more aware of life beyond my normal path. They impacted my decisions, inspiring me to take more chances. They had become—and always will be—part of my life. In many ways they are like my children, and as a parent, you give your children life. That’s what I felt I had to do.
It is interesting for me to look back at how I developed the characters of these two young women and wonder if I might have subconsciously passed on traits that I would have wanted my daughters to possess. Not having the opportunity to raise a daughter is the most bitter regret of my life, and I’m sure that raising her to be fiercely independent would have been my purpose. Perhaps I unknowingly had this objective as the author of these protagonists. Jillian is wholeheartedly independent from the get-go. She does everything to an extreme, and her independence from the male species is no exception as seen by her self-condemnation when she begins to have feelings for a young warrior—not to mention the whole taking down of a patriarchy. Natalia, on the other hand, spends her youth dreaming of attaching herself to a prince. Jillian became my instrument for expressing displeasure of Natalia’s early character. An example occurred when Jillian told her, “Think more highly of yourself; you are not just someone who’ll look pretty walking around on a king’s arm. You need to learn what you can be.”
Jillian’s persistent influence pays off when Natalia is finally betrothed to a prince. Shortly after their meeting, Natalia exuberantly expresses her desire to be educated among many other aspects of her new life that she was looking forward to. After being continually dismissed by her fiancé, it is obvious that Natalia will not allow herself to be forced into a submissive role without the freedom to be the kind of woman she wants to be.
As readers discover Jillian and Natalia, I hope they feel similarly about these characters as I do. They are what’s special about this book, and I have tried to keep everything centered on them.
DALE GRIFFIN is a historical fantasy writer releasing his debut novel "The Last Lion of Karkov" in March 2023. Griffin considers himself a traveler and a writer as a result. Married to his best friend and travel partner, the two explore Europe as frequently as possible. Inspired by those journeys, Griffin uses his experiences to influence his imagined worlds and the memorable characters who dwell in them.