Hi Ratha fans!
This is Clare Bell (author) announcing that a new Ratha novel, Ratha's Courage, has been
written, accepted and will appear in hardcover in Spring 2007. The publisher is Viking Penguin and the line is
Firebird Books. Firebird Editor Sharyn November encouraged me to write another Ratha, saying that a new novel of
the Clan could push the others back into print.
Firebird is also issuing the other Ratha books as paperbacks. The Firebird editions of Ratha's Creature and Clan
Ground will appear along with the new title. Ratha and Thistle-chaser plus Ratha's Challenge will follow in
Ratha, Fessran, Thakur, Thistle-chaser, Bira, Cherfan and the rest of the Named clan-cats are back, along with some
intriguing new strangers. And don't forget the treelings (and the dapplebacks, three-horned deer, and other creatures in Ratha's
My thanks to Sharyn November and Firebird for giving a dream new life.Also to the dedicated readers
who couldn't forget Ratha and the Named.
Firebird editor Sharyn November, known for her work with young adult readers
Announcement of Ratha's Courage on the Curtis agency website
|Ratha looks at the award honoring her story
|The International Reading Association's Childrens' Choice Award
RATHA'S CREATURE, Atheneum, Margaret K. McElderry, 1983. Winner (shared) 1983 IRA's Children's Choice Award.
Also on ALA Best Books for Young People, 1983. This first book in the series begins with young Ratha's discovery of "her creature"
(fire). It introduces the clan of the Named, big puma- and cheetah-like cats who have a herding society, laws and leaders. It
also depicts the UnNamed and Bone-chewer, Ratha's irreverent outlaw mate.
CLAN GROUND Atheneum, Margaret K. McElderry, 1984. ALA Best Books for Young People, 1984. Explores the effect of "Ratha's
Creature" on Ratha herself, a politically astute stranger, Orange Eyes, and the rest of the Named.
RATHA AND THISTLE-CHASER, 1990. McMillan, Margaret K. McElderry, 1990 ALA Best Books for.Young
People, 1990. Thistle-chaser is Ratha's crippled and abandoned daughter. When the two are brought together by the herding
teacher, Thakur, both have to deal with the conflicts that forced them apart and discover those that could bring them together.
RATHA'S CHALLENGE, McMillan,. MKM 1992. When Ratha and the Named discover another band of cats with equal but
differing intelligence, Ratha has to look beyond the needs of the clan in order to reach out to them. Her daughter,
Thistle-chaser, plays a critical role in the clan's decisions and actions.
RATHA'S COURAGE, (forthcoming) Viking-Penguin hardcover Firebird 2007. After successfully dealing
with the band of hunting cats and their leader, True-of-Voice introduced in "Challenge", Ratha is taken aback when the
befriended tribe apparently turns and attacks the Named. While struggling to find a reason and an answer to
the mystery, Ratha discovers that courage isn't just about being brave in battle.
|A snarly Ratha, front view. Again, this a working sketch. Click to see notes,
This is the first time I've done a complete website. Please let me know about
any corrections, additions or suggestions to this page.
|Fe-librarian, book lover and co-writer
|Dannycat selects his choice from the literature
About the Author
|Photo by Chuck Piper
Born in England in 1952, I moved to the US with my family in 1957. I worked in oceanography, electrical
engineering, test equipment design and mechanical engineering before I wrote my first book, Ratha’s Creature (Atheneum-Argo
Margaret K .McElderry 1983) , the story of a prehistoric wildcat who learns to tame fire.
Since then I have continued to write fantasy and science fiction for children and adults. I continue to be
fascinated by big cats, as showcased in Tomorrow’s Sphinx (cheetahs in Tutanhkmen's Eygypt) and Jaguar Princess
(were-jaguars in Aztec and Olmec Mexico).
My stories tend to show sociological themes as well, exploring the changes that are brought about in culture through
technology. I also enjoy creating plausible and workable alien critters ( the aronan fliers in People of the Sky).
The central theme of my fiction is evolution, having been influenced early by the works of C.S. Lewis, Olaf Stapledon
, and Arthur C. Clarke.
I have degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering, biology and chemistry and have continued working in technical
areas in addition to writing fiction. I became involved in building and designing electric vehicles and spent a year
in Norway working on a production EV.
After moving to a remote site in California’s coastal mountains, I and my partner put together our own solar
and wind systems and experimented with a power-generating waterwheel. A naturalized citizen of the US, I now live with my
partner-become-husband, Chuck Piper, in the hills west of Patterson, California.
Tomorrow’s Sphinx (MKM Atheneum-Argo 1986)
Jaguar Princess (TOR 199)
People of the
Sky (TOR 199)
On Me and Writing
If one were to describe two passions that were exact opposites, they would be science fiction/fantasy writing and
electrical/mechanical engineering. Any woman who was both would be a walking contradiction in terms, or at least a bit mad,
but somehow I’ve found my way along this strange and sometimes difficult path. What they both have in common
is the need to explore, and imagine; to ask the question “what if …” and the patience, persistence
and courage to build a possible answer. It may not be the best, or even terribly good, but for me, it must be honest.
Honesty means sticking to the premise of such an answer, exploring and evaluating its effects, even if the results lead
away from more comfortable trails onto unfamiliar or even treacherous ground. Many writers use a human level of intelligence
in their animal creations, but don’t explore what sentience really means given the limitations of animal bodies
and instincts. (That is not a reflection on the quality of their work. They just have different priorities and interests.
Which is fine, since that leaves open territory for me.)
A “what-if” on the engineering side, namely, “What if more people drove electric vehicles?”
led to a more specific, “What if I drove an electric vehicle?” led me to building an electric VW bug from a kit,
racing a converted electric 914 Porsche and working professionally in the field. It was fascinating, frustrating and
ultimately heartbreaking (the vehicles didn’t fail me but some people and companies did).
The Ratha books came from my fascination with big cats (pumas, lions, cheetahs etc.) plus the question “What
if a prehistoric big cat evolved high intelligence and consciousness, yet retained the animal form and instincts? What
kind of society would they develop?” The answer leaped into my brain at 2AM (in the late 1970’s) in the
shape of Ratha and her people, the Named, a society of sentient big cats who domesticated their former prey and now live by
Combined with a lot of encouragement by now -SF Grandmaster, Andre Norton and her publisher, the wonderful Margaret K.
MacElderry, The result was Ratha’s Creature (MKM Atheneum-Argo 1983)
Asking “How would Ratha’s instincts conflict or enhance her intelligence?” and “How would the
technology of fire affect them ?” led to the sequel Clan Ground (MKM Atheneum-Argo 1984
Not that these were pure intellectual exercises -- once the premise was set up, passion, life-experience, play, and Ratha
herself took over, galloping the story along.
Tomorrow’s Sphinx began as an attempt to look through the eyes and get inside the body of that amazing
bio-speed machine, the cheetah. Jaguar Princess was a what-if about were-jaguars and Aztec-Mayan-Olmec cultures.
Attempting honesty in developing and writing is not an immediate recipe for popularity. The Ratha books drew high
praise from reviewers, along with awards and honors, but the words “challenging” or “for very special
readers” made me wonder if I had aimed too high or gone too far off-trail for general appeal. Perhaps.
However this quality made the books endure even though they went out of print in the 1990’s despite attempts
to have them reprinted. .Circulating in used copies between dedicated readers, being passed down from mothers to their children,
appearing and being reviewed on the Internet and even inspiring some role-playing sites, they refused to disappear.
I would like to think that Ratha had some influence in bringing about the current upsurge of cat fantasy (Warriors,
The truth is that the climate and the market just weren’t right for Ratha in the early and mid 1980s. To use a
hoary old cliché, the books were ahead of their time. Even I lost faith and went on to other things. But the readers
never forgot. They kept Ratha and the Named alive. It was they who coaxed, pleaded and pushed.
As I read the Amazon.com
reader reviews, one phrase was repeated over and over, “why are these books out of print?”
It was a young reader-advisor to Viking-Penguin’s editor Sharyn November who asked the same question and tipped
the balance. Sharyn contacted me, said that a new Ratha novel could kick the others into reprints, and the ultimate result
was Ratha’s Courage, due out Spring 2007 as a Firebird hardcover and Ratha’s Creature and Clan Ground as Firebird
trade paperbacks. Ratha and Thistle-chaser and Ratha’s Challenge will appear in Fall of the same year.
Twenty-odd years is a long time to wait in the wings, but Ratha, Thakur, Thistle, Fessran, Bira, and the rest of
the Named gang will be back. My thanks goes out to all those dedicated souls who kept believing in them.
Feline co-authors, consultants and conspirators for Ratha‘s Courage
Kodo - neutered medium longhair - 12yrs plus and still going strong. Gets positively ecstatic about being brushed.
- silver-gray, rescued from the animal shelter as a tiny kitten, now nearly 2yrs. She’s a ClickerCat in training. (Clicker-training
is a new method of operant conditioning training developed by Karen Pryor)
Creek Kitty - gray and orange, semi-wild but
affectionate shorthair who came to me to have her kittens (all six of them! Scrunch, J.J., Spook, Tachyon, Danny Jr.,
Danny - Personable and elegant young medium longhaired gangly adolescent male orange tabby, who, despite
being trapped atop a garbage can lid by two cocker spaniels, has the sweetest easy-going disposition of any cat I’ve
had. Managed to father Creek Kitty’s litter before he was swept up and neutered.
|Thistle-chaser look-alike kitty. Her real name is J.J.