Why Hermione inspired me to write a flawed female lead

This essay was originally posted at Mugglenet.

I don’t consider myself a Harry Potter fan. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love the series – because I really, really do. But I started reading it when I was six; at this point Harry Potter has been in my life so long that it would be weird to call myself a ‘fan’. It would be like saying I’m a ‘fan’ of my mum and dad.

The Harry Potter series is just . . . part of me.

So when I started writing my first novel, it was understandably a big inspiration. I wanted to write something which exemplified all of the things which I love about Harry Potter (*cough Hermione Granger *cough*) – and improved on things which I don’t.

In particular, I wanted to make a character who people would love as much as my eternal love for Hermione.

Hermione is a brilliantly strong female character, who has been a role model for me from childhood. The phrase ‘strong female character’ is thrown around a lot as a selling point for books, in a “Read this novel, because it’s got an amazing strong female character!” kind of way.

However, ‘strong’ is easily misconstrued as ‘flawless’, ‘good at fighting’ and ‘unemotional’ when really it should just mean three-dimensional. Women don’t have to be strong to be valid. They just have to be realistic.

Real people aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t make them unlikeable. Harry and Ron love Hermione, not despite her flaws, but because of them. She’s annoying, bossy and condescending . . . and it’s incredible. She’s the perfect female role model, just by being herself.

When Hermione started SPEW, it was such a hugely defining moment for me. It was the first time I’d seen a female character working hard for something she strongly believed was wrong in the world, regardless of what people thought of her. It really established Hermione as one of my all time favourite female characters. The fact that she did all that as a very young teenager is even more impressive in retrospect.

I tried to make sure that my female character, Kate, is just as realistic as Hermione. She’s witty and brave, but at the same time she’s annoying, silly, exasperating and impulsive.

I love her for her imperfections more than her strengths, and I don’t think I would have realised that was possible if it hadn’t been for Hermione Granger.

I’ll always be grateful to Harry Potter – in fact, I even wrote a Harry Potter crossover fic where Hermione, Neville and Draco meet the characters of my book. But I’m never going to call myself a fan, because my Harry Potter feelings are too big to be encompassed in that tiny three letter word.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

2 thoughts on “Why Hermione inspired me to write a flawed female lead

  1. I have to agree with you completely! Hermione has always been my biggest inspiration and she’s my favourite book character. I’m looking forward to read your book The Next Together and to finally meet your Kate. 😉


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