When I began writing the first in my Hero series, I started off with a desire to marry Joseph Cambell’s theories as outlined in Hero with a Thousand Faces to genderfluid fiction. I thought it would be interesting and fun to use the theory– which has served as the basis for an array of very successful movies from Star Wars to The Matrix to Knocked Up– and apply it to the case of a man who finds himself trapped in the body of a woman.
For those who aren’t familiar, Joseph Campbell was a scholar who decided to study all the world’s myths. He was intrigued to discover that certain stories were told in every culture throughout history. The names changed, the settings, but the essence of the stories was the same.
One of the most persistent was that of The Hero’s Journey. You can find all kinds of sources out there on the particulars– here’s one— but the core of the idea is that the hero’s journey is universal because it is all about growing up. When the story starts, the hero is self-centered, selfish, dependent– like a child. But, through the course of trials and revelations that occur on their adventure, they are transformed into someone who is other centered, independent– like a parent should be. This story has universal appeal because everyone is either growing up or has grown up.
And so, I started my own story with a character, Pete O’Malley, who had been a tough guy cop, and now finds himself trapped in the body of a beautiful stripper. Not only is he a woman– and this is a problem for a lot of reasons including the fact that he was an unconscious chauvinist– but he has also lost his status as an NYPD officer. So, when the story starts, he is mired in a case of the poor mes, focused entirely on himself and his own struggles, and not worried in the least about how his actions and attitudes or even his sex-change– may be impacting other people.
I won’t say anymore about his journey here, but you can read it for yourself if you haven’t. The story was meant as a stand alone story, but I found myself interested in the character of Pete as well as the others we meet along the way, and so I eventually wrote a sequel and a kind of flash sideways that explored how Pete’s partner dealt with his own sex-change and why his response was so much different than Pete’s.
In all the books, I wanted to have my characters discover their best, heroic selves as a result of their being turned into women, and in each case I felt the character’s personality would have an impact on how they adjusted and accepted or struggled against their new lives as well as their obligations.
I feel the Hero saga is among my best work, and as I finish the third book, I am excited myself to see how all of these characters continue their heroes journeys, and how those journeys transform and remake them into different and, in most cases, better people.