The best books with badass heroines that inspired my main character

Who am I?

I love a smart, capable, skilled, determined heroine who’ll risk it all for the people she loves and the things she believes in. History and popular culture have long overlooked, minimized, or outright ignored the contributions of women and girls, especially in times of strife or hardship. Writing the Devil’s Revolver series, I wanted women from all walks of life proactively working to change the world and their own circumstances, wherever their paths lead them. Throughout, my protagonist, Hettie Alabama, develops allyship and understanding with women who have their own ideas, opinions, dreams, and desires, and together, they shape their own destinies and the fate of the world.


I wrote...

The Devil's Revolver

By V.S. McGrath,

Book cover of The Devil's Revolver

What is my book about?

The first book in an epic, magic-clad series featuring a reimagined Wild West, The Devil’s Revolver takes off across the landscape after a brutal double murder and kidnapping — to which revenge is the only answer. Hettie Alabama, only seventeen, leads her crew of underdogs with her father’s cursed revolver, magicked to take a year off her life each time she fires it. It’s no way for a ranch girl to grow up, but grow up she does, her scars and determination to rescue her vulnerable sister deepening with every year of life she loses.

A sweeping and high-stakes saga that gilds familiar Western adventure with powerful magic and panoramic fantasy, The Devil’s Revolver is the last word and the blackest hat in the Weird West.

The books I picked & why

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True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Book cover of True Grit

Why this book?

I watched the 2010 remake of this movie starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld and just had to read the book. Farmgirl Mattie Ross teams up with a hired gun, seeking someone with “true grit” to help her avenge her father’s murder. At turns comedic and somber, Mattie was everything I wanted my main character to be—gutsy, stubborn, and pragmatic, but also vulnerable and prone to be led astray by her own naivete.

Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike

By Kelly Sue DeConnick,

Book cover of Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike

Why this book?

The first time I saw Pretty Deadly on the shelves at my local comic book store, I was fascinated and chilled by the cover art, and the story within did not disappoint. This Eisner-Award-nominated graphic novel by Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick melds Western and horror genres for a macabre tale about Death’s daughter, Deathface Ginny, riding a horse made of smoke and wind across the harsh and unrelenting landscapes of a brutal Wild West, doling out retribution. I love me some grim reaping, and the same dark, evocative imager. I love me some grim reaping, and I wanted the same dark, evocative imagery to come through on my pages and through Hettie’s own journey with the cursed gun Diablo at her side.   

The Golden Compass

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass

Why this book?

Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is one of my all-time favorite reads, period. Lyra is a stubborn, precocious girl on the cusp of adolescence, trying to rescue her kidnapped friend from a corrupt authority bent on remaking the world. This series is set in an alternate universe in which magic, religion, and science are intertwined, and takes Lyra on an interdimensional journey that puts everything on the line.

Alanna: The First Adventure

By Tamora Pierce,

Book cover of Alanna: The First Adventure

Why this book?

This first book in the Song of the Lioness series was one of my entrees into fantasy. It follows a girl who dresses up as a boy and takes her brother’s place studying to be a knight in a magical feudal world. Alanna perseveres despite many challenges, all while maintaining her secret, and over the series, she becomes the first Lady Knight.

Poison Study

By Maria V. Snyder,

Book cover of Poison Study

Why this book?

It’d been quite a few years since I’d found a heroine and a world that really spoke to me, and the opening chapter of Poison Study hooked me right away. Yelena is slated to be executed when she’s offered a choice: become the new royal poison tester or death. No fool, she chooses a chance at life in court and all the intrigue and conspiracy it offers. I loved her complicated romance and the myriad challenges she faced, all set against the looming threat of death with every day and every meal that passes. That tension was something I loved.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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