I’m super excited to welcome Matt Killeen, author of Orphan Monster Spy, to Pretty Books. Matt has been on an epic blog tour all about his female heroes and this is the final stop. I’m currently reading Orphan Monster Spy and loving it. It’s like The Book Thief meets Wolf By Wolf (two books I adore), with an awesome protagonist you can’t help but cheer on.
I’ve written 17 of these blogs, each a celebration of the female fictional and historical heroes who have influenced me and the characters of my debut novel. There was one exception, where I talked about the children of the modern day UK who still suffer as Sarah, the heroine of Orphan Monster Spy, suffered.
It was never meant as an exhaustive list, just those that have touched my life the most. But now I find myself with one blog left and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Of the fictional women that spring to mind, there’s the titular titian (& sometimes green) haired genius Anne (with an ‘E’) Shirley and her tragical and ultimately royally beautiful life, puffed sleeves and all. Then there are the heroines of Elizabeth Wein’s Young Flyers trilogy. I could have written about the plucky Rose Justice navigating the horrors of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, or Julie Beaufort-Stuart the SOE agent, suffering, confusing and defeating her Gestapo interrogation. I could write a book on the ways that the shadowless, shoeless September, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, is superior to the blinkered and imperialist Alice. I might even have attempted to introduce Bella Lind, the Captain of The Rockhopper from Alastair Reynolds’ Pushing Ice, who began as a glorified miner and through quiet determination became the basis for an intergalactic civilisation. Offred, Lyra, Arabel, Celie, Mildred Hubble, Anne Elliott…the list goes on.
In the real world, the list of truly worthy women was similarly endless. I wrote about personal heroine Violette Szabo, a direct inspiration for Sarah of Orphan Monster Spy, but more could have been written about the awesome Norr Inayat Khan or Nancy Wake, to name but two. Then there was Pauline Gower, who through quiet, unspectacular lobbying and hard work, created and protected the ATA, the “Spitfire Girls” who delivered new planes for the RAF during World War Two and kept combat pilots on the frontline.
I didn’t talk about the Suffragettes or those who fought for US Civil Rights, like one-woman movement Rosa Parks. Philosopher and feminist Simone de Beauvoir had a huge influence on me and her exploits might have filled many blogs. I could have waxed lyrical about Caitlin Moran, a writer of no little talent who has sought to reclaim the word feminist from the sexism apologists with her trademark honesty and humour. Then there are the other warriors in the renewed and embattled struggle against inequality, violence and sexism – the creators of the #metoo movement and the investigative journalist Madison Marriage to mention just a few of the hundreds of women involved.
These were among the first thirty-something names that I scribbled on my hand a few weeks ago. Not necessarily the most obvious or worthy of candidates, from the sublime to the less so, sometimes culturally vital but always fiercely personal. But I could go on…and on…
Oh, Rosalind Franklin…Maya Angelou…Eleanor of Aquitaine…
Check out the other stops on the tour!