Friday, May 1, 2015

Author of the Week: Tamora Pierce

This weeks Author you should know about is one of my personal writing heroines Tamora Pierce.

Pierce was born December 13th, 1954 in South Connellsville, PA. She grew up with two sisters one of who would inspire Pierce's character Alanna. She grew up poor, self admitted on her website, but she always found things to treasure in her life. One of those things were books. While she shared books like Horton Hears a Who and The Cat in the Hat with her sisters, she personally owned copies of the Winner the Pooh books by A.A. Milne and she read those until the book covers fell off. A sentiment that I can relate to.

In 1963 her family made a two week trek across the United States to settle in California where her father had been transfered for work. Here at the suggestion of her Father young Tamora began to write her own stories. She was an avid fan of Star Trek among other science fiction and she wrote stories based off those. She also, after being introduced to The Lord of the Rings wrote stories based off the characters she loved so much there. I guess today we would call that fan fiction but during her youth this was just exercising the writing muscle for your own fun. As she read these novels and others by authors like Ray Bradbury (also a personal favorite) she realized that there was one crucial aspect missing. There were no kick ass female teenage heroines. So she started writing them herself. This is something that Pierce would also come back to later in life.

Like all great writers, in my opinion, Pierce went through a phase where she lost her ability to write stories. During that time she decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study psychology. During her time there she received an education to be sure but she was all over the board when it came to classes that her degree simply said Bachelor of Arts. Don't ask her what her major actually was. She never finished the psych degree. However, she did spend a lot of her time and even her post college life working with young woman who were, as she said, "as messed up as my sisters and I were." She even read, an abridged version, of the Alanna stories to her girls at a home that she worked at.

Eventually she wrote her first novel which was apparently terrible but it was novel length and that was all that mattered. At another point someone suggested she write about her childhood but she found that very hard to do. She sold short stories, having beaten her years long writers block, and wrote and acted for a radio broadcasting company in New York. It was here that she met the man who she would one day marry.

All of this eventually led her to write a novel called The Song of the Lioness. Only after an editor read the manuscript and suggested she break it down into a quartet did we get the young adult series we know it as today. In 1983 Alanna: The First Adventure  was published by Antheneum and Pierce's literary career began its slow climb to what it is today.

I began my love affair with Pierce's novels not with her first book series but rather with her second The Immortals which is about a heroine named Daine who can talk to animals. It was no surprise that this was how I discovered her as I was and to this day am an avid animal lover. After Immortals I backtracked and read The Song of the Lioness series but my true love was Kel. There is a previous blog post on that particular series archived here.

One of the things I love about Pierce's novels is the heroines are strong, smart, and resourceful. Alanna challenges the restrictions bestowed on women by the patriarchal society she lives in. Daine proves that compassion and empathy should be extended to all creatures. Kel shows us that you have to put in the hard work to get where you want to go. And these are just a few of Pierce's heroines.

If you are a parent or teacher with young girls I definitely recommend giving this book to them. I will warn you that there is some adult subject matter, her heroines are no strangers to sex, it is handle gracefully and devoid of graphics. But it is there. However, I believe that these heroines are important characters to share with young women. Especially in today's society. They are excellent role models and one of the major reasons I became a bookworm and writer myself.

For more info on Ms. Pierce check out her websitre http://www.tamora-pierce.com/index.htm. And you can also find a complete list of her books there or on goodreads.com.



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