In Alaya Dawn Johnson’s debut novel, Racing the Dark (agatepublishing.com), women have all the power and girls call the shots. Why the matriarchal society? “I’ve always been interested in writing fantasy stories about women,” says Johnson. “But I notice that most of what I read tends to focus on themes of singular women ‘making it’ or ‘overcoming odds’ in what is incontrovertibly a man’s world. This makes sense, because most fantasy novels are set in very patriarchal societies based on those of Western Europe. Thus, if you focus on a female character, a great deal of the adversity she is faced with is necessarily coupled with her gender.
While I enjoy many novels that use these themes—The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, for example—I wanted to try something a little different. I like the idea of matriarchal societies, and though the governments in the book’s larger world aren’t as strictly matriarchal as the society on Lana’s little island, I attempted to create a world where the concept of a Western-style patriarchy had never existed. I wanted to write a story about women that wasn’t defined around men.” Sounds good to us. — Mea Chavez