To celebrate International Women’s Day (8th March) we asked five of our authors to tell us all about their favourite female writers. Read on to find out more about their literary heroines!
My all-time favourite author is Joanna Trollope. An odd choice for a crime author? Not at all. Wonderful writing transcends genre, and she inspires me by drawing characters with a fine eye to dialogue and interaction; by bringing whole scenes to life with a few telling details; by making her readers care passionately about what happens to her characters.
Joanna Trollope has shown me how essential it is to do your research meticulously, to immerse your readers in the world you’re writing about – whether it’s a cathedral close or a dairy farm, a ceramics factory or a Spanish vineyard – but never to include a single unnecessary fact that might slow the action down.
Each Joanna Trollope novel begins with a single key event that turns the lives of all her interrelated characters upside down – and what else does a murder at the beginning of a book do but that?
M. J. Logue, author of the Thomazine and Major Russell Thrillers
My busy little mind raced over all the possibilities – Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, Dorothy Dunnett, Helen Hollick … but there can be only one, for me. Aphra Behn, of course. It’s not the what or the how of her writing, but the enigma and the old-school glamour of the writing persona she created – the international woman of mystery, the myths with which she surrounded herself – that inspires me. (Three hundred and fifty years later, she’s still a mystery!)
She was the first female literary professional, she did all her own publicity, and she’s still incredible. Possibly a spy, possibly bisexual – both, I suspect, images she manipulated to the hilt – and definitely a woman who knew how to work an audience. The fact that her plays and poems still resonate with us now is remarkable. She created characters that speak to us, no matter what clothes they’re wearing.
The first Rosie Tremain novel I read was Music and Silence, set in the Danish court in the early 17th Century. Marvellously atmospheric, it shifts between different narrative styles: small vignettes that add up to a magnified version of life in Copenhagen that is so real, you feel you are there.
I’ve read all her other books since, including the more contemporary The Road Home, about an economic migrant arriving in the UK, who observes with bafflement the English obsession with status and success. I admire Tremain’s precision, and that is something I want to achieve in my own writing.
Gaynor Torrance, author of the DI Jemima Huxley Thrillers
I write in the genre I love to read, and being an avid reader of crime fiction, there are so many female authors whose work I admire. A particular favourite of mine is Sophie Hannah. I first stumbled across her books by chance, when I borrowed a copy of Little Face from my local library. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.
Since finishing that particular book, I’ve worked my way through much of the Culver Valley Crime series. I adore the originality and complexity of Sophie’s plots, which have lashings of intrigue and misdirection. The central characters, DS Charlie Zailer and DC Simon Waterhouse, are such a great pairing. They’re both so dysfunctional and vulnerable in many ways, yet somehow form a compelling and likeable team.
She may be old-fashioned, and her comments can make me wince, but take away the occasionally dubious contents of a bygone era and Enid Blyton remains a huge inspiration with the breadth of her storytelling skill. In her adventure books, her plotting is deft and sharp, while in her fantasy books her imagination is broad and tantalising.
As a child, she shaped my reading habits but my eureka moment came when I was reading In the Fifth at Malory Towers. I was already harbouring ambitions to be a writer, but it was only a dream. Then, the heroine of the series, Darrell Rivers, wrote the school pantomime. Suddenly, I thought, If Darrell can do it, then so can I! My life path was set. From reading Enid Blyton’s work, I learned that girls were stronger and more effective if they worked together, that girls could do as much as boys and usually more, and that if you were determined you could solve anything – lessons that still resonate today.