Today I’d like to welcome Isabel Cooper to Reading Reality. Isabel is the author of today’s marvelous featured review book, Night of the Highland Dragon, and also the author or the award winning genre-bending No Proper Lady.
Her post today is about one of her favorite authors, and also one of mine. Robin McKinley was writing memorable female heroine/warriors in fantasy before it was cool. Her Damar books, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, are utterly awesome.
Guest Post: Who’s your favorite non-romance author? Why?
Picking a favorite is hard: not an uncommon sentiment, I’d imagine, and one I’m glad of, since “there are a lot of good authors out there” is a pretty great problem to have. After some thought, though, I’m going to say that my favorite author currently writing is Robin McKinley.
First of all, I like her writing style. The sentences themselves are poetic and memorable while still being concrete and unpretentious. The books themselves mostly give me a good idea what’s happening at any point in the story, while still moving along at a good clip: they don’t get bogged down in the sort of detail I like to call Hey Look I Read a Book About This (yes, yes, you know what a buttress is and how a Glock operates, your mother and I are very proud) but there’s still good, vivid imagery in there. McKinley’s books are easy to read, but they also stick with you. She’s even good at that when she’s worldbuilding or explaining elements that a reader might not know, like beekeeping or baking, and that’s rare in my experience—see above.
Second, she covers a lot of genre. I mean, it’s pretty much all fantasy, which is fine by me—I read very little that doesn’t have what my college friends referred to as “mystic noonah”—but within that there’s epic fantasy with the Damar books, urban/modern fantasy with Sunshine, Dragonhaven, and Shadows, a whole bunch of retold fairy tales, and whatever Chalice is, other than maybe “domestic fantasy” (it’s an original world and story, significant things are being done, but the focus is very much on a specific locale and specific people rather than Saving the World) and also awesome. I like all of the above, and it’s nice to have an author who covers them.
Third, her characters are great, particularly her heroines. Some of them, particularly the earlier ones, physically kick ass, of which I deeply approve, but even the ones who don’t go in for magic or swordfighting are competent. They do things, they do them well, and when shit goes ill, they pull up their socks and spit on their hands and deal, to sort of paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse. That’s kind of a requirement for me—a friend of mine, referring to roleplaying games, says that there are plenty of people who don’t deal with themselves, but we don’t want to read stories about them, and I agree.
Also, all of her heroines have a certain amount of sexual agency and desire, whether that’s stated outright or just implied; none of them are shrinking back and pulling up their necklines, with which I have no patience. And she’s written at least two books where the heroine is in love with, or at least interested in, two guys at once, without portraying that as either immoral or tragic or a Vast Conflicted Love Triangle. This is a seriously refreshing change from most literature, especially most fantasy with female protagonists, and gets just mountains of extra points.
During the day, Isabel Cooper maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager in legal publishing. In her spare time, she enjoys video games, ballroom dancing, various geeky hobbies, and figuring out what wine goes best with leftover egg rolls. Cooper lives with two thriving houseplants in Boston, Massachusetts.
Isabel and Sourcebooks are giving away 5 copies of Night of the Highland Dragon to lucky winners!