A woman accused of killing her father. A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano. A single mother of four who dares to date again. A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.
All these unlikely heroines – and more – appear in a new ebook anthology from seven indie authors called OUTSIDE THE BOX: WOMEN WRITING WOMEN.
“Women characters in novels are often too good to be true. Too smart, too beautiful, too kind – or, even worse, all of these things at once. Or else they’re hapless, which is equally unrealistic,” says Carol Cooper. She’s an author, doctor and journalist; her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, is one of the seven full-length novels in this box set. “I wanted my characters to be feisty but imperfect. To me, that’s far more compelling.”
Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, and named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 most influential people in publishing) is the author of Blue Mercy, a tale of betrayal, revenge, and suspense. Her principal character Mercy stands accused of killing her tyrannical father, and now she wants her daughter to know what really happened that fateful night.
Orna says, “The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most fascinating, complex, and under-explored relationships in fiction. It was my hope, in writing the story of Mercy and her daughter Star, that it might help us all to look more closely at our own mothers and daughters.”
The mother-daughter relationship also features in Jane Davis’s An Unchoreographed Life. Prima ballerina Alison Babbage finds herself pregnant, and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter. Jane won the Daily Mail First Novel Award for Half-Truths and White Lies, and has gone on to self-publish four more acclaimed novels.
Jane says, “I wanted to address a major issue: the lengths that a mother will go to in order to provide for her daughter. I was gripped by a 2008 court case, when, in an interesting twist, it was ruled that a prostitute had been living off the immoral earnings of one of her clients. The case also challenged perceptions of who was likely to be a prostitute. She might well be the ordinary middle-aged woman with the husband and two teenage children who lives next door.”
In Crazy for Trying, the heroine Tulsa is a bookish misfit, says author Joni Rodgers. “Much as I was in my early 20s,” she adds. “I also drew on my experience as the lone female disc jockey at a rock station in western Montana.” Joni is a New York Times bestselling author who’s also an accomplished ghost-writer.
The box set OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women is the brainchild of Australian author, artist, and musician Jessica Bell. She’s also the editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the author of books on the craft of writing (the most recent is Polish Your Fiction). In her novel White Lady, Sonia, unfaithful wife of a Melbourne drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and maths teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats. Easier said than done.
The spotlight here is on unlikely heroines. As Jessica says, “Though the seven novels included may fit through the Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction slot, they are all remarkably and uniquely different in style, which I believe to be a very strong attraction. There are readers out there who don’t like to read the same kind of genre, or about the same kind of characters over and over. This box set is for them.”
Roz Morris is a ghost-writer and teacher of creative writing master classes. “But I was busting to write as myself, with my own characters, my own style and my own vision,” she says. Her novel My Memories of a Future Life is the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs. “My principal character Carol fits well with this collection of unconventional female protagonists. On one level, Carol is hardly an everywoman because her life has been unusual – she is a concert pianist. But the impulse that started her on that path, and ultimately undoes her, is certainly universal – she wants a place to belong and to feel loved.”
This reader’s smorgasbord also includes Kathleen Jones’s novel The Centauress. A Royal Literary Fund fellow, and best-selling author, Kathleen contributes a story about a bereaved writer Alex, a young woman from a conventional background, who has come to Croatia to write the biography of a celebrity sculptor. Alex brings her own problems with her, and also encounters the puzzle of the eccentric artist’s ambiguous gender and a disputed inheritance. “As we were compiling books with unusual female protagonists,” says Kathleen, “The Centauress was the obvious choice.”
Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings these uncommon heroines together in a limited edition box-set from February 20. It’s already had interest from the BBC, The Bookseller and the national press, and now it’s available for £7.99 for just 90 days across a range of ebook platforms. More info on www.womenwritewomen.com
Here are some short excerpts to give you a taste of the novels in Outside the Box:
From Blue Mercy:
We stay out until the bats start to appear and then we leave the lake and turn back the way we came down. I pick another flower, an orchid for my daughter’s hair, and we walk, with me just a shade ahead of you, through the slow-gathering darkness, back to the house where my father no longer lives.
From Crazy for Trying:
Trekking into Helena, Tulsa was somehow surprised by the full-size laundromats, buildings and Burger King. She’d half expected log cabins and free-ranging cattle and was a little disappointed to realize that, for all its legends of copper kings and Chinese muleteers, this town was still, on a mechanical level, the same as any town, including the one she’d just run away from.
From My Memories of a Future Life:
I wasn’t born gifted. It’s how I’ve cheated with the unsatisfactory clay I’m made from. When love went wrong, I turned to the intimate communion with ivory, iron, ebony and wire. Take the piano out of my life and what is left?
From The Centauress:
In every tragedy there is the accidental moment – choosing a particular seat on a train, turning down the wrong road, deciding to take a lift from the 89th floor – the arbitrary, pivotal moment that means destruction or survival.
From An Unchoreographed Life:
None of her mother’s friends ever stayed for tea or sleepovers, thank goodness – not like Emily’s mummy’s horrible bristly boyfriend, who transformed breakfast into a circus of broken eggshell and tossed pancakes, leaving washing-up piled high in the sink after he had basked in applause.
From One Night at the Jacaranda:
Superglue was a wonderful invention. They should have made some that worked on relationships.
From White Lady:
The warm soothing blood oozes from my skin and releases the pressure in my head as if I’ve injected myself with a sedative.
I drop the knife to the floor. It clangs on the tiles. I spread blood all over my arm and admire the patterns it makes on my skin.
Ibrahim. I miss you.
Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is a limited edition box-set available for £7.99/$9.99 across a range of ebook platforms. Details on www.womenwritewomen.com.