The Female Hero with K. Hollan Van Zandt, author of Written in the Ashes + GIVEAWAY

Joining us on the blog today to discuss her new novel Written in the Ashes is author K. Hollan Van Zandt!  Please help me in welcoming her as she discusses women and feminism in books!  (I reviewed Written in the Ashes yesterday, so make sure you check out that post too!)

I will tell you a something not many people know about me.

I am a feminist. Gloria Steinem is one of my greatest heroes.

So for my first novel, Written in the Ashes, I wanted to write a story that would illustrate the female hero’s journey, because what we have everywhere in literature is the example of the man’s hero’s journey.

Even Harry Potter, bless him, isn’t Harriet Potter.

So what is the heroine’s journey? I think, as women, it isn’t so much about riding out to slay the dragon. We don’t really do that sort of thing very often. Most women are nurturers. We would ride out to heal the sick dragon. We would risk our lives and being scorched to be sure the dragon got its medicine and could be well enough to take care of its dragon family.

That’s what women do.

But yet, our dying world does not reflect that value. The world is being conquered to death. Her valuable resources raped to death. And we are in the eleventh hour.

So I wrote this story about ancient Egypt that is really a tale about one thing:

A woman who is silenced. A woman who must find her voice.

Why? Because all women are silenced. We are silenced by our governments first and by our families second and by ourselves third. And by history. There was a time when having a voice got you burned at the stake. So there are generations of silenced women behind many of us.

We simply do not speak up. If all women spoke in chorus, there would be no war and plenty of green energy to go around.

Now, I’m exaggerating on purpose, because as a storyteller, that’s what we do. We paint the world a certain way to invite a hero into it.

And my heroine, Hannah, is a woman who is silenced by the tragedies that happen to her. Rape. Slavery. And so her journey is to find her voice.

And it doesn’t happen to her suddenly. She has to practice speaking up. It’s uncomfortable for her, and she must learn a new language. And she is a singer. She is a woman practicing using her voice throughout the entire book.

And at pivotal points in the story, she finds her voice and uses it and the curtains part and she sees her own power. And her power grows the more she uses her voice.

This is not just one woman seeing her own power. This is the woman inside each of us seeing her own power. This is the woman inside of men and women seeing her own power. The Great Woman. The archetype of the nurturer brought back to life to save us from the brink of destruction.

You can read this novel as a romp. And it is. It’s sexy and wild and everyone says how they stay up late reading and they are late for work and miss their train stops. And that’s great for my ego, and hopefully it will help send my son to college one day. But it isn’t what’s really important to the soul of the story.

See, if you really study the intention in the book, and you meet the Hannah inside yourself, you will find a suffragist. You will find an Alice Paul. You will find a Gloria Steinem. You will meet the woman who wants to risk everything to heal the dragon.

And she’s saying, “Hey, what’s the big idea? Haven’t we slain the dragon enough? Shouldn’t we be making sure it has enough to eat so there are baby dragons in the future?”

Because every human should be asking these questions now for the dragons. For the lions. For the elephants and the whales. For the polar bears. For the most beautiful species that are all facing extinction.

I for one wouldn’t know how to explain to my son that I stood by silent while the last lion was killed by poachers. Could you?

And so this novel is really about that. It’s about freeing the voice in us that has been made a slave to the establishment. It’s about defending our bodies and the body of the Earth. It’s about defending justice even when that stance could make you an outcast or get you killed.

Women fight. My women fight. The woman inside each of us must speak up and fight for what matters to her. If all women chose just one cause, the world would change in a decade.

So when you read the novel, know that this is a book that is meant to help you ask what is worth fighting for in your life, so you will go out and risk everything for that.


One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Giveaway open to all! US residents have the option of a paperback or eBook, entrants from other countries are eligible for an eBook. Good luck!