lives in Bristol, England, with her partner. She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen, and gave up a sensible (boring) job in insurance to be a full time writer, to the despair of her mother. She dabbled in music journalism, and enjoys going to gigs and the cinema, and reading. Her first three novels, which made up the New Kingdom Trilogy, were published by Epress Online. Since then she has had to move house to make more room for books. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies, including
Dark Spires and
, as well as a number of magazines. A collection of short stories,
The Feline Queen, was published by Wolfsinger Publications in April 2011, and her latest novel,
The Art of Forgetting: Rider
, was published by Kristell Ink at the end of June this year. She is also one of the founders of Bristolcon, Bristol’s only Science Fiction convention. Her blog can be found at www.hierath.co.uk, and she’s always happy to hear from readers.
Over to Jo
In the light of recent discussions concerning the visibility (or lack of visibility) of women in speculative fiction, Pete has confessed that he doesn’t think he reads enough books by women. He asked me if I could come up with some recommendations.
While I’m inclined towards fantasy, I’ve put together a list of ten books by women, some old and some recent, across a variety of genres. These are all books I have loved and would recommend to anyone who wants to read more novels by women. I had trouble restricting it to ten; I would have liked to have included Mary Gentle, Juliet McKenna, Aliette de Bodard, Ursula LeGuin, Emma Newman, Andre Norton, Stephanie Burgis… the list goes on and on. And it’s made me realize more than ever what an abundance of riches we are blessed with when it comes to female writers, and how there’s really no excuse not to read just as many women as men.
So here are my randomly selected and subject-to-change top ten. I hope you seek them out and enjoy them.
Rosemary Sutcliff (Hist / YA) – Originally published in 1954, this is the first in a three-volume YA saga set in Britain on the verge of the fall of the Roman Empire. Marcus and his British slave Esca venture beyond the Wall into the wilds of untamed Scotland to retrieve the fabled Eagle, the standard of Marcus’s father’s regiment. A regiment that walked into the mist beyond the Wall and were never seen again. Rosemary Sutcliff writes evocative and timeless YA historical fiction – this was a favourite of my mum’s when she was a girl, and it’s a favourite of mine.
Pat O’Shea (Childrens) – A children’s fantasy set in an alternate, magical Ireland, drawing heavily on Irish mythology. Pidge and his sister Bridget fall into after Pidge finds a mysterious manuscript in a second-hand bookshop. They are sent on a quest to stop the evil war-goddess, the Morrigan, from finding the drop of blood that will restore her to her full strength. This was Pat O’Shea’s only novel, and it took her ten years to write; as a result it’s meticulously researched and plotted. It’s out of print at the moment and it’s hard to find a copy, which is a massive shame as it’s an overlooked gem.
Lou Morgan (Urban Fantasy) – Alice comes home from work to find two quarrelling, heavily-armed angels in her lounge, and before long she becomes, unwittingly, the angels most potent weapon in the age-old war between heaven and hell. Lou Morgan is a fresh new voice in Urban Fantasy, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes this enjoyably bloody and smart series next.
Margaret Atwood (lit) – One of Margaret Atwood’s non-SF novels, “Cat’s Eye” is an exploration into the destructive power relationships played out between little girls. The novel is told in flashback by Elaine, the victim of a power game played by her two best friends, who is still struggling to come to terms with it over forty years later. Powerful writing.
Jen Williams (Heroic Fantasy) –Definitely the newest book on this list, Jen Williams is a fresh new voice in heroic fantasy, and this novel is packed to the rafters with hired swords, mages, mad gods, pirates and lizard women. Two hired swords, Wydrin and Sebastian, are hired by tortured Lord Frith to raid a Citadel which is rumoured to conceal a great treasure. Instead they unleash an imprisoned dragon god and her army of cloned followers, and only ancient magic can save the world from a fiery demise.
Elizabeth Moon (SF) – “The Serrano Legacy” is an omnibus comprising of three novels, “Hunting Party”, “Sporting Chance” and “Winning Colours”. Captain Heris Serrano is unjustly kicked out of the Space Service for a crime she didn’t commit, and takes work on the space yacht of Lady Cecelia, an apparently eccentric and horse-mad space adventurer, elderly and independently wealthy. But Cecelia is more on the ball that she first appears, and soon she draws Heris into a web of political intrigue. I particularly enjoyed this for its portrayal of a smart, attractive, politically astute woman of advancing years, which is as rare in SF as it is on TV!
Anne Lyle (alt hist / fantasy) – “The Alchemist of Souls” is the opening volume of the Night’s Masque trilogy, a series of books set in an alternate version of Elizabethan England, where explorers have found the North American continent inhabited by Skraylings, creatures of Norse myth who have returned to Europe to trade. One of the great things about this series is how it plays around with expectations of gender and sexuality (I can’t say too much because of spoilers!); it’s reminiscent of Mary Gentle’s “1610”, which would probably also be on this list if the list was longer…
Jenny Colgan (Romantic comedy) – I don’t read a great deal of what’s often dismissively labeled as “chick-lit”, but as a child of the 80’s with a bit of a pre-teen crush on Andrew McCarthy, and as a fan of road trip books / films, I was drawn to this. It’s the story of Ellie, who, finding her life in disarray, grabs a couple of friends and heads off on a road trip to Hollywood to track down her teenage idol, hoping he can tell her how to get back on track (and who hasn’t dreamed of doing that?) It’s tremendous fun.
Flora Rheta Schreiber (non fiction) – Controversial semi-fictionalised biography of Sybil Ann Dorsett, one of the first patients to be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (then known as Multiple Personality Disorder.) Sybil went on to develop sixteen entirely separate personalities and identities, and the book, which is based on her psychiatrist’s case notes, explores each personality and the long process involved in bringing them all together and making Sybil whole again. It’s a fascinating read; I’ve bought it three times because people keep borrowing it and not giving it back!
Joanne Hall – Yes, this is mine. Pete said I should include it, even though I’m British and therefore incapable of blowing my own trumpet. “The Art of Forgetting” is a big fat heroic fantasy released in two volumes, “Rider” is out now and “Nomad” is due to hit bookstores this May. It’s the story of a boy with an eidetic memory who becomes a cavalry rider to search for his missing father, only to discover that his father isn’t quite the man he thought he was…
Many thanks to Jo for her list, I'll definitelty be tracking some of those down, and getting round to reading the ones I already have on the shelf that I've not got to yet!