My new novel, In Your Light, is about secrets, sisterhood and running away... It celebrates all types of female relationships - between siblings, friends, aunts and nieces, mothers and daughters, and even religious sisters in an all-female cult. I was keen to write a book with a positive representation of women and everything we can achieve. As an author it goes without saying that books have always been important in my life, and so of course many of my female heroes are from literature. Here are ten of my favourites:
In Your Light by Annalie Grainger is out now
Elaine Risley (Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood)
Cat's Eye is one of the books that has most influenced my writing, and I love its exploration of female friendship and familial relationships. Elaine is a complex, emotionally vulnerable and damaged character, and I like her for all those reasons. She is a victim but also a bully, and the duality of that is what is so fascinating to me. She demonstrates that we're all the product of our past, and also that we all get hurt and we all in turn hurt people, deliberately or otherwise. I think it's important that characters in books are human and flawed. Elaine's honesty about her mistakes has definitely made me feel more able to come to terms with my own.
Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery)
Anne is imaginative, loving, intelligent, hopeful, ambitious but also melodramatic and stubborn to the point of absurdity. She's also funny with a gift for friendship, and I just adored her when I was growing up. Her strengths were ones I wanted, and her weaknesses were ones I shared. She was unapologetically bookish, even at a time when education for women was not a given. A true hero.
Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman)
Lyra is brave, smart, fiercely loyal, stubborn, able to talk herself out of any situation and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in no matter what the consequences. Since having my daughter a couple of years ago, I've thought even more about how women are represented, and Lyra is exactly the kind of female character I would like my daughter to find in more books.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
Being liked is something that is often instilled into us women growing up, sometimes at the expense of our own desires and plans. Having a character like Katniss who is not afraid to be herself, even when that might not make her likeable at times, or popular, is therefore so important for young (and older!) readers.
Starr Carter (The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas)
Starr is a brilliant character - funny, smart and brave; she is also a regular teenager caught up in events that should never have happened and so forced to make decisions no one should have to make. Angie Thomas's debut novel is a phenomenal achievement, and the world needs more heroines like Starr.
Katherine Danziger (Forever by Judy Blume)
So many novels end with a happy-ever-after with that 'one true love'; I love the fact that Katherine has the confidence to make a different decision. Relationships, especially first ones, rarely last forever, and that's okay.
Sephy Hadley (Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman)
Sephy is naïve at times, but she learns so much throughout the book, and ultimately makes a near-impossible choice with strength and courage, and I admire that.
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)
There's a bit of a theme to my heroines, I've realised: bookish, shy, a bit out of keeping with societal expectations but with a deep inner belief in themselves despite it all. Jane Eyre is no different. Neglected, abused, overlooked but ultimately the ruler of her own destiny.
Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
I love her extreme sensibility, her unapologetic 'feeling' and her desire to show it even at a time when women were expected to 'behave themselves', to be meek and obedient. I love that she doesn't care what other people think of her; I wish I could be more like that sometimes! I've always felt poor old Marianne was given a raw deal by Jane Austen - she ends up married to the man she'd scorned in the opening chapters of the novel.
Unnamed narrator (Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier)
I was very awkward growing up. Clumsy with big feet, I was always the one most likely to knock something over or trip up the stairs. (Actually I'm still this person!) I really loved the depiction of Du Maurier's equally socially awkward and timid unnamed narrator. She felt like a kindred spirit!