Exiled matriarch takes stand to restore peace in hopeful feminist fantasy

Debut author tired of male-dominated fantasy pens female-driven epic

PITTSBURGH, PA – Follow Cora as she works to restore the matriarchal society her uncle destroyed in this epic feminist fantasy by debut author and womens’ rights activist, Catherine Raphael. Tired of reading male-dominated fantasy stories, Raphael set out to create Journey to the Heart Stone (Sparkpress, Sept 27, 2022), where a young woman vows to bring together three female-led tribes in hopes of abolishing her evil uncle and restore their peaceful existence.

In the beginning, the Goddess danced the world into existence. Peace reigned for generations through matriarchal rule within the Minca, Dute, and Carroo tribes. But then one man’s lust for power destroyed this balance: Vestor assassinated his sister, Mother of the Minca tribe. His army ravaged the Dute and Carroo tribes. A once-idyllic world was thrust into war, famine, and despair.

Yet today, there is hope. Vestor’s niece, Cora, has a vision: if she can convince an emissary from each tribe to rendezvous at the Heart Stone, she can overthrow her evil uncle, take her rightful place as Mother Minca, and restore harmony.

But the Dutes have disappeared deep into their mountains. There are rumors that the Carroos are extinct. And Cora must move swiftly—lest Vestor learn that she’s pregnant with the Mincan heir. For fans of Priory of the Orange Tree, readers will root for Cora as she makes her way to the Heart Stone and hope for peace in a chaotic world.

“Journey to the Heart Stone”
Catherine Raphael | September 27th, 2022 | SparkPress | Fantasy
Paperback | 978-1-68463-167-4 | $17.95
E-Book | 978-1-68463-168-1 | $9.99

Catherine Raphael: Catherine Raphael grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts/metalsmithing. She worked as a jeweler in Pennsylvania for sixteen years, during which time she also traveled to Arizona to do construction work on Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s “City of the Future.” She is one of the founding mothers of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. She has served on the boards of the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Women Donors Network and volunteered with other progressive women’s rights organizations. In 2014, she attended a master class at Hedgebrook. The friendships she made there coalesced into the Roving Writers, her writing group. Pre-COVID, she was a regular attendee at the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik, Iceland. Her stories have won prizes in Writer Advice and the Ageless Authors competition, and her work has been short-listed in Women On Writing and long-listed in Bumble Bee. This is her first novel. You can find Catherine Raphael on her website: https://catherineraphael.com/

Follow Catherine Raphael on social media:
Twitter: @RaphaelWriter

Advanced praise for Journey to the Heart Stone

“A beautiful story reminding us that our own lives are a journey back to the heart of what truly matters in life—love. A very enjoyable read!”
—Stacey L. Tucker, author of The Equal Night Trilogy

“An epic fantasy full of warmth, insight, humor, and intrigue. Raphael takes a classic premise—a single hero who must rise up to save the world—and turns it on its head.”
—K.C. Mead-Brewer, author of The Hidden People

A stunning debut, Journey to the Heart Stone will hold you in its grip, page by compelling page.”
—Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works

“Catherine Raphael’s Journey to the Heart Stone is richly imagined from beginning to end. A wondrous and magical read.”
—Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden

In an interview, Catherine can discuss:

  • Writing a fantasy epic led by women and changing the stereotypical roles of “damsel in distress” into something more complex
  • Her history of feminist activism working with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, Ms. Foundation for Women and the Women Donors Network and volunteered with other progressive women’s rights organizations
  • How she came about creating a fantasy novel featuring a matriarchal society
  • Moving from activism towards writing
  • Creating an epic fantasy story over the last twenty years

An Interview with Catherine Raphael

Why did you decide to write a fantasy novel? Were there any existing stereotypes you wanted to avoid in this genre?

I have always loved fantasy novels. I was frustrated with the dearth of female characters in so many of them. And, if they did exist, they were not usually the protagonist. More often than not they were idealized beauties — the love interest, perhaps, or a damsel in distress — or old and ugly — the evil crone. Fortunately, this is changing. Today one can find fabulous heroines winning the day. I could go on about marginalized communities altogether in fantasies. This, too, is changing.

What are the pitfalls of creating a fantasy epic? What are the perks?

I found it exciting to imagine the three tribes in my book. It was challenging differentiating their characteristics — physical, geographic and talents/abilities. I wanted them to be distinct yet relatable.

It was also challenging to write about a physical world that was understandable yet not quite ‘our’ world.

Does your history of activism play a role in how you approach writing?

I came of age in the 60’s & 70’s — a second-wave feminist. The feminist movement led me to identify problems with the status quo, the patriarchy. I envisioned a world of equality regardless of sex, race, religion etc. This vision has been reinforced in the philanthropic work I’ve engaged with — women’s rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice. The need to push back against the patriarchy is needed now more than ever.

I started writing this book 20+ years ago as a pleasant way to offset my angst about the state of the world. I could settle into a world fighting for balance & peace and I knew it was going to work out in the end. For the most part, the book was on the back burner. I had things to do, obligations to meet. But I worked on it when I could and, finally, had a whole novel.

Cora is such a complex character. How did you go about creating her?

Cora has been sheltered her whole life. I knew her arc was to grow from a woman-child into her full self — a strong tribal matriarch. Her grief at the loss of her husband, her anger and fear of her uncle, the complication of her pregnancy and the vision for how to ‘set the world right’ gave me all the ingredients for her character’s transformation.

What was it like to write a matriarchal society?

This book gave me the opportunity to explore what I personally want society to be — trust, community, equality of the sexes, peace. Is this a matriarchal society? It sure seems different from a patriarchal society.

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