Today I’m delighted to welcome Shona Kinsella, author of Ashael Rising onto my blog to discuss women in Fantasy novels with a fascinating guest post. I’ve actually read through this post 3 times because I absolutely adore it and I think Shona sums up gender stereotypes absolutely perfectly – especially in stereotypical novels. You’ll also find all the information about Shona’s book plus a little giveaway at the end of the post!
I have been reading fantasy novels for as long as I’ve been able to read and in the vast majority of those novels, the protagonist was male. This is actually a pattern that is true for all genres that I read – note that I don’t tend to read romance, which has a much higher occurrence of female protagonists.
In Ashael Rising, I did not set out to write a female protagonist because of this – the book is based on a dream and Ashael is very loosely based on the role that I played in the dream and so she is female because I am female. However, it occurred to me after I had started that I had the opportunity to do something different. With a few notable exceptions, the women I have encountered in fantasy novels tend to come in broad stereotypes – the damsel in distress and the warrior in a dress being the most common in my experience.
I knew that I wanted to write a real woman. Ashael is strong because she knows the right thing to do and does it, not because she can wield a weapon. There is romance in her life but she is complete without it and it is not her first priority. She does not wait for a man to save her but is perfectly capable of saving herself. Like so many women, she gives to the point of self-sacrifice but she does this from a place of love, not out of a lack of self-worth.
Having created these strong, rounded women, I needed to give them a society that they could thrive in, one built around respect and equality of all people, a utopia of sorts. That was more difficult than I expected. I found myself slipping into the familiar – having a man dismiss something as female intuition, defaulting to having women carry out all of the caring duties and food preparation etc. It took a conscious effort to remove these things. In doing so, I thought about the boxes that we shove men into and how restrictive traditional gender roles are for them too.
I started to think about how men are so often portrayed as stoic, unemotional, power hungry. Writing characters like that would be no fairer to men than the damsel-in-distress is to women. I started to think about how masculine stereotypes can be harmful to men and what I might be able to do to counter those stereotypes.
What began as an intention to write realistic, well-rounded female characters led to an exploration of gender, how it is shaped and expressed in our society and how it could be in a culture where people are encouraged to be the truest version of themselves regardless of their gender. I hope that in this book I have been created characters capable of standing as role models for both young women and young men.
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.
Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.
When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.
About Shona Kinsella: Shona Kinsella is a fantasy author who lives near the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, in the west of Scotland. She is a member of the British Fantasy Society where she writes reviews of indie books. Shona has a degree in Law from the University of Strathclyde where she learned a lot about narrative structure.; everyone loves a story.
Shona enjoys spending time outdoors and much of her writing is inspired by the environment that she lives in, at the edge of Scotland’s first national park. When she is not writing, she enjoys geocaching with her husband and children and reading as many books as she can get her hands on. Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram
Fancy winning yourself a £20 Amazon gift-card to spend on whatever you like plus an eCopy of Ashael Rising? It’s your lucky day because you can do just that! Click HERE to go to the Rafflecopter page where you can enter.