Anthea Sharp writes under a variety of names and in a variety of genres, like so many of the women who are participating in the Women in Fantasy Storybundle. Anthea got her start in traditional publishing, but she has had tremendous success indie publishing her work. Her Feyland series, which she published herself made her a USA Today bestselling author more than once. Her books have won or placed in the PRISM, the Maggie, the National Reader’s Choice Award, the Write Touch Reader’s Award, the Heart of Excellence, and the Book Buyer’s Best contests.
In addition to her novels, she writes great short fiction. You can find some of it in Fiction River: Hex in the City (also in the Storybundle). If you subscribe to her newsletter on her website, antheasharp.com, you will get a free short story. Worth it, I think.
In this guest blog, Anthea tells us not only how she became a writer, but why she ended up loving fantasy.
Planting The Seeds of Story
By Anthea Sharp
When I was eight, my mom and dad split up, and my dad hightailed it back to the wilds of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Their parenting plan included sending me and my little brother to Wyoming every summer, where my dad lived in a big cabin off the end of the county road, miles from anything. My brother and I ran around a lot in the woods, and sang loudly, and constructed extravagant ice-cream meals while my dad was at work.
But most of all, I became the bookiest of bookworms.
Once a week, we’d go into town and Dad would drop us at the wonderful, musty smelling log building that was the public library. The first week, I’d always complete the library’s summer reading challenge, which was to finish anywhere from a dozen to twenty titles. Then I’d load up on as many books as I could carry from the kid’s room and stagger to the front desk.
In about two or three summers, I’d run out of new things to read.
And then I discovered the SF/F shelves and my brain exploded with wonder. These amazing worlds! These fantastical stories! Unicorns, space ships, sublime aliens and grotesque fairy queens… everything I’d ever imagined and more. Summer went from a bit boring to a cornucopia of awesome.
As I worked my way through the stacks, I found myself gravitating to the women—not only the characters, like Podkayne of Mars or Red Sonja, but especially the women authors. It never crossed my mind that Andre Norton might be male, and I became adept at figuring out that initials were often a clue: C.J. Cherryh and C.L. Moore soon joined my lists of must-reads.
Summer after summer I could hardly wait to return to Darkover and Earthsea and Pern. Especially Pern, where music was magic and girls could ride dragons every bit as well as the guys. Though I enjoyed Tolkien, I kept waiting for the female members of the Fellowship to show up and go on adventures, too—and was rather disappointed when that never happened.
Happily for my reading habits, by the late 70s and early eighties there seemed to be more and more women publishing in SF and fantasy. I discovered the Bookstop used bookstore a few blocks from my mom’s new house, and pretty soon I had to beg for more bookshelves for my room.
It took me a couple decades to understand that I could be not just a reader, but a teller of tales. Maybe because the authors I’d imprinted on—McCaffrey and Cherryh, Joan D. Vinge and Sheri S. Tepper, McKinley and LeGuin—seemed like deities to me. Their words had transformed me and I couldn’t imagine that I could possibly do what they had.
I started writing anyway.
Poetry, and then stories that began and never ended, and finally, a novel. And another, and more short fiction. I fumbled my way forward, because once that current of story inside me was turned on, there was no off switch.
Luckily, I didn’t have to take a male pen name, or fight for recognition in the genre, blazing new paths into shadowy territory. We’re not done yet, of course—it’s been pointed out that J.K. Rowling probably wouldn’t have sold nearly as many books to boys if she’d published as Joanne Rowling—but I believe things are starting to balance out. As best they can in a culture still struggling with gender issues.
And as speculative fiction writers, both male and female, we can keep shining a light into the corners, and keep inspiring that next generation of female authors who are growing up right now, seeking to find themselves and their experiences mirrored in the books they read.
Let’s keep giving them the stories they need.