What makes it feminist?

 

On the bus from Dumfries this week, a fellow traveller asked me what makes Ruby and the Blue Sky a ‘feminist thriller. This is the first time I’ve been asked that question, so I’m writing this to capture the one reason I told him – and the five reasons I didn’t.  (I am finding I need to self-edit what I say a LOT at present or I wouldn’t talk about anything other than the book!)

I answered my fellow traveller that Ruby and the Blue Sky is feminist because it deals with big world-stage action and issues with women leading the narrative. I find that a lot of fiction is lagging behind movies and TV in having women leading in the public sphere. Books with strong female protagonists, like recent British thriller The Girl on the train, are more commonly located in the  domestic realm. What happens at home is important – but it isn’t the only sphere in which women operate. I am inspired to write by women politicians and activists, artists and journalists and want to tell stories that bring those kind of public experiences to life.

My fellow traveller agreed this was a gap and important to fill.

Now for the things I didn’t say to him.

Ruby and the Blue Sky is also feminist because …

  1. It quietly disrupts gender stereotypes with women working in traditionally male jobs, the way they do in life more often than fiction.
  2. It includes a story line about sexual violence used as a political weapon.
  3. The female characters get their support and help predominantly from other women.
  4. It references the complex  reality of sexual preferences.
  5. One of the novel’s central themes is the conflicting world views that place humans as part of nature versus humans set in God-given dominion over nature.

In the first chapter Ruby, the protagonist writes:

For every zealot there were many, many more of us who just wanted to live and let live. But we were silent.  We had been too silent. 

We’d respected different beliefs to the point where women worshipping everywhere were hidden under scarves and hats, whether they wanted to be or not. Even non-religious, white girls from Bradford were being heckled off the streets if they walked around by themselves after dark.  I’d always felt they were connected, our loss of awe in the planet and its replacement with Big Religion. Our loss of wonder at women – how we swell and birth life into the world, again and again – and this faith in some chaste, male God.  

Everywhere we relegate the awesome abundance of lust, fertility and birth to the bottom division. Sex is unclean, periods a curse and solo mums a burden or stone-able offenders, depending on where you happen to live.  I’ve never forgotten the fuss when I was 10, anticipating my first bra, and Janet Jackson’s boob popped out at the Superbowl.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the harsher the heat waves and the fiercer the flooding and the more afraid we become, the more women are tied down.”

Ruby and the Blue Sky is near-future speculative fiction – it is set in the city of Leeds five years from now, in 2021 – but as I type, extremism of one type or another is making headlines every week.  We need strong feminist voices and peace-building, not violence. Non-violent direct action features in Ruby and the Blue Sky too, but that’s a subject for another day.

As a new author I thrive on feedback so please do post your thoughts on this in the comments box below or on the Ruby and the Blue Sky Facebook page or Twitter @KatherineDewar.

Launched? Tick!

Katherine Dewar reading from Ruby and the Blue Sky

Thank you, Leeds!  Ruby and the Blue Sky was unleashed onto the world at a launch event  in Leeds, where the thriller is set, at the Adelphi tavern on 15th July 2016.  Over 30 people attended and Meg from RadishWeb sold copies.

The Yorkshire Evening Post dedicated half a page in that day’s edition to an article by Paul Robinson about Ruby and the Blue Sky and the Yorkshire Post featured the book in its arts supplement the same day.

Here’s the full video (29 min) of my mihi (speech), reading excerpts and the Q&A with the audience and a short clip (1.5 min) of me reading at the launch.

On Monday 18th July, Nick Ahad kindly interviewed me on BBC Radio Leeds – my first ever live-from-the-studio-radio. Nick’s passion for the arts, infectious humour and interest in Ruby and the Blue Sky made it fun rather than stressful!  You can listen to the interview from the 1 hour 16 min mark here.

As part of the launch build-up we ran a spot-the-location competition on three days, and each winner will receive a signed copy of Ruby and the Blue Sky.  I was also invited to contribute a guest blog to the Big Bookend Festival website.

The support from these people as well as Armley Press, Leeds Inspired, Leeds Green Party members and many more in Leeds has made me feel incredibly welcomed back and encouraged these last few days.  The city is a great location – and launchpad!

 

Come to the launch!

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Ruby and the Blue Sky – book launch

Friday 15th July, 6pm at The Adelphi, 3 Hunslet Road, Leeds

Please join the author, friends, family, fellow book-lovers, climate defenders and tea drinkers to celebrate the launch of Ruby and the Blue Sky.

Cash bar. All welcome so do bring a mate.

If you can make it along, you can let us know on Facebook – and share the event.

Kia ora! I couldn’t think of a better place to launch Ruby and the Blue Sky than in Leeds, where it’s mostly set, at The Adelphi where my protagonist writes a song, and on my birthday! I hope you can join me on 15th.

If you can’t be in Leeds we’ll be live-streaming the launch on Periscope and on Twitter @KatherineDewar.  Follow me for updates. For my New Zealand whanau, the video will stay up for 24 hours so you can enjoy without an early start (as my darling says, I’m not an All Black!).

Katherine Dewar, author, Ruby and the Blue Sky

Find out more about Ruby and the Blue Sky or contact us.

Where to buy ‘Ruby and the Blue Sky’

Carole Beu, The Women's Bookshop reading and selling Ruby and the Blue Sky

Ruby and the Blue Sky went on sale worldwide as a paperback and eBook on July 15, 2016.

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You can get a copy from these links on AmazonKindleKobo, iBooksBook Depository or Fishpond as well as many other online bookstores worldwide.

We ❤️ indy bookshops

 

Katherine Dewar, author or Ruby and the Blue Sky, at stockists Reading Lasses
Katherine Dewar, author or Ruby and the Blue Sky, at stockists Reading Lasses

UK stockists:  RadishWeb indy booksellers supported the UK launch and are selling in the UK online. Reading Lasses womans’ indy bookshop have on their gorgeous shelves in Wigtown, Scotland.

NZ stockists: The Women’s Bookshop and UBS in Auckland and Dunedin have Ruby and the Blue Sky in stock and so does the gorgeous Paige’s book gallery in Whanganui.

You can also ask your local bookstore anywhere in the world to order Ruby and the Blue Sky for you. To order, give your bookshop or library the ISBN – for the paperback this is 978-0-473-34550-1 and for the eBook, 978-0-473-34551-8. In NZ you can share this page with them.

We ❤️ libraries too

Auckland libraries, Dunedin library and Leeds central library already have Ruby and the Blue Sky on their shelves for borrowers. Leeds has the eBook to borrow too. It’s really important our

Author Katherine Dewar with a copy of Ruby and the Blue Sky at Paige's Book Gallery Whanganui
‘Ruby and the Blue Sky’ by Katherine Dewar is on sale at Paige’s book gallery, Whanganui

libraries thrive so if you like to borrow your books, do ask your local library for a copy.

You can see some of the other global eBook distributors here and softcover distributors here.

If you have any difficulty getting your copy of Ruby and the Blue Sky please let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby and the Blue sky – the cover story!

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In December 2015, I decided to self-publish Ruby and the Blue Sky.  I then dedicated my summer break to researching the how, where, what and who. Interspersed with daily yoga classes and some beach time for sanity, of course.  I found Jane Friedman‘s articles particularly helpful.

Having mapped all the information. I decided I would publish using IngramSpark for ePub and print on demand softcover, for broad distribution, and also with Createspace for Amazon and Kindle only. When it came to production, I discovered the 25 years professional marketing experience I’ve acquired were a massive advantage; I’ve been organising digital materials for quite some time.

I enlisted friends with the right professional skills to help with copy editing and proofreading and undertook the internal formatting myself, using a low-cost Book Designer template. But the cover was a different story and no place for a DIY approach.

In the eBook age, covers have only become more important. Book covers need to not only look good on a display, when some kind bookshop decides to take a punt on promoting it, and on a reader’s coffee table, they also need to look great on a smartphone at the size of a stamp.  I know enough about the importance of design to know I needed a pro.

Keelys website
Some of Keely O’Shannessy’s other cover designs

There are numerous online cover design services for authors but, if I was going to invest, I wanted a rapport with the designer and to support our local design talent  here in Aotearoa New Zealand.  I also realised that while I know lots of talented visual artists and graphic designers, book design is a real specialism.  Google delivered a couple of local book design experts, among them Keely O’Shannessy.  I loved so many of Keely’s other covers she became my first choice, instantly.  I rang Keely, asking if she’d have me. Keely was keen, and affordable. A friend in the book trade highly recommended her and the decision was made.

I wrote a brief for Keely, telling her what I needed and my thoughts about marketing the book. Then sent it to her, along with the manuscript. This was the first time my fiction would ever be the basis for someone else’s creative process, in a different medium.  Keely turned the theme, mood, idea and protagonist of my novel into art.  She sent me half a dozen options, exploring the treatment in various ways, and we quickly agreed the one we liked best.  We made a few tweaks and Keely set about finalising the illustration, also her work, and extending the design across the spine and onto the back cover.  When it was time to upload the interior pages for publication, I added the jpeg (for eBooks) and PDF for print on demand, alongside them.

While I’m waiting for the printed proof I’ve printed a copy of the cover and wrapped it around another paperback. It gives me goosebumps whenever I go past the kitchen table.

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Ruby and the Blue Sky is the debut novel from Katherine Dewar; a tale of fame, power, sacrifice – and tea. On sale worldwide from 15 July 2016.