By Liz, excited to welcome Debra Bokur to the blog! Debra’s new book, THE LAVA WITCH, the third in the Dark Paradise Mysteries, recently came out and she’s here to talk about a very apropos topic: What being wicked means! And, she’s got a giveaway, so make sure you leave a comment. Take it, away, Debra!
The word wicked is rife with associations. Ask a random stranger (I asked 20 for this post during an impromptu street and café survey in Boulder), and you’ll get the expected number of references to green-complexioned, warty-nosed witches scampering off on broomsticks with someone’s else’s little dog. A fair number of responses alluded to Disney movies, politicians, and scallywag celebrities (including some I’d never even heard of), but the response I found most interesting was from a gentleman who must have been around 80 years in age. He just grinned at my question and said, “That’s what we used to call bold girls like you who talked to strangers on the street.”
I’ve worked as a professional journalist for more than 30 years, so asking people questions comes naturally to me. And at first, I admit I was absolutely delighted to be called a girl, since I’m no longer without my share of gray hairs and eye crinkles. But as I started to deconstruct the man’s answer, I realized that when he was his generation’s version of hipster, too many women probably didn’t offer their opinions or perspectives unless they first watered them down to be “acceptable.”
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunts or the other female members of my family, who worked hard, loved harder, and took life’s blows in their stride—and never gave quarter to anyone who tried to silence them because they were women. If it’s wicked to be strong, my female ancestors and I are guilty. When I created the character of Detective Kali Mahoe for my Dark Paradise Mystery series, there was no question that she would be tough, smart, opinionated, unafraid of bullies, and resolute in her convictions.
I’ll add that this doesn’t mean she isn’t also kind, sensitive, and funny (because she is); what it means to me is that she doesn’t define or limit herself to stereotypes thought up by the world around her. She has an advanced degree in cultural anthropology, which helps her make connections between the crimes she investigates and the Hawaiian myths and legends she grew up with; she has an enormous dog that she loves and would protect with her own life; she’s sensitive to the struggles of the people she encounters; she’s fiercely loyal to her friends and family; and she’s familiar with grief and loss — emotions she carries with dignity. In The Lava Witch (book 3 of the series), Kali encounters a malevolent force wreaking havoc on the island of Maui, but she’s totally up to the challenge, and uncompromising in her pursuit.
When I was a pre-teen (and, okay, for a long time after that), I was often sentenced to my room for having a smart mouth, or admonished by my grandfather and uncles for not being a proper lady, which meant speaking back, questioning the status quo and giving elder male family members what they described as “sass.” In college, I was removed from my Shakespeare class for challenging an arrogant male professor in what I thought was a legitimate point of debate over a plot line in a play we were studying. I still ask questions and expect answers; I never back away for my beliefs, but am perfectly comfortable changing my mind when new evidence presents; and I always, without fail, apologize if I inadvertently cause someone else distress or hurt.
Am I a little bit wicked? Perhaps — but that doesn’t make me a bad witch (or any of the words that rhyme with it). These days, I’m having fun hanging out with Kali as she solves crimes and wraps up mysteries. I suspect that the gentleman who answered my question that morning on the street would say that Kali’s bold, too; and my grandfather would absolutely consider her to have more than her share of sass. And that’s all just fine with me.
Readers, what does “wicked” mean to you? Leave a comment below for a chance to win a gift bag of Hawaiian skincare products!
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