Those who have read any of my novels will know that the main female character is a strong woman who can withstand fate. Maria is, and so are Marguerite (from The Medici Diamonds), Sarah (The Gold Crucifix) and Justine (The Haversham Legacy).
So you may wonder why I make my heroines this way. Well, like I told before I was mainly brought up by my grandparents. My grandmother (who lived to a very old age) was a woman who was not afraid of anything. She had survided on her wits through two world wars, for starters. Can you imagine, being the young mother of four, she saw her husband taken POW and there she was, stranded in Calais. As the bombings went on, she headed towards the German headquarters and demanded to speak to someone in command. The trains weren't running anymore, so she asked for a means of transport back home - and got a horse and cart! Later on she had to face visits of the Gestapo who came asking about my grandfather (who had escaped the prison camp). During that war, she also went from Dendermonde to Antwerp (and other places) on foot to buy food on the black market.
She always told me I should never do anything I didn't want to. Her favorite quote always was: 'If everyone jumps into the river, would you do too?" The correct answers was of course 'no'. So I grew up with a will of my own and a resilience to face whatever comes to me.
I also want my heroines to be this way. I can't stand a woman who gives in too easily, just to please another. The females in my stories are women of flesh and blood, who have good and bad characteristics. They stand behind their way of thinking and they always pull through.