Bell, Clare (Louise) 1952-(Clare Coleman, a joint pseudonym)

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BELL, Clare (Louise) 1952-(Clare Coleman, a joint pseudonym)

PERSONAL: Born June 19, 1952, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England; immigrated to the United States, 1957; daughter of Ronald Lancelot Bell and Edna Kathleen (Wheldon) Steward; partner of M. Coleman Easton. Education: University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., 1975; postgraduate studies at University of California, Davis, c. 1978; Stanford University, M.S.M.E., 1983. Politics: Green Party. Hobbies and other interests: Electric cars, music, hiking, cycling, swimming.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—5680 Judith St., San Jose, CA 95123. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, field assistant, 1976-78; International Business Machines (IBM), San Jose, CA, test equipment engineer, 1978-89; freelance writer, c. 1983—. Current Events (newsletter of Electric Auto Association), San Jose, managing editor, c. 1995—.

MEMBER: American Civil Liberties Union, National Writers Union, Science Fiction Writers of America, Electric Vehicle Association, San Jose Peace Center.

AWARDS, HONORS: PEN Los Angeles Award and American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young People Award, both 1983, and International Reading Association's Children's Book Award, 1984, all for Ratha's Creature; ALA Best Book for Young People Award, 1984, for Clan Ground, and 1990, for Ratha and Thistle-Chaser.


Tomorrow's Sphinx (juvenile), M. K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1986.

People of the Sky, Tor (New York, NY), 1989.

(With M. Coleman Easton, under joint pseudonym Clare Coleman) Daughter of the Reef, Jove (New York, NY), 1992.

The Jaguar Princess, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.

(With M. Coleman Easton, under joint pseudonym Clare Coleman) Sister of the Sun, Jove (New York, NY), c. 1993.

(With M. Coleman Easton, under joint pseudonym Clare Coleman) Child of the Dawn, Jove (New York, NY), 1994.

(Author of text, with Al Hirschfeld) Hirschfeld's New York, H. N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.


Ratha's Creature, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.

Clan Ground, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1984.

Ratha and Thistle-Chaser, M. K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1990.

Ratha's Challenge, M. K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: A respected author of fantasy, Clare Bell came to the United States from England at age five. A master's candidate in engineering, Bell began her career as a geologist assistant and as a test engineer for International Business Machines (IBM). But she also embarked on a future creating fantasy fiction, and published her first novel, Ratha's Creature, in 1983. This book marked the beginning of a series for young readers featuring highly evolved felines who explore such sophisticated themes as mother/daughter relationships, the nature of leadership, and the need for spiritual expression. By 1989 her fiction was successful enough for her to leave engineering. In addition to three other books about Ratha and her friends, Coleman has penned fantasy novels for older audiences, including People of the Sky and The Jaguar Princess. She is also the coauthor, with M. Coleman Easton, of two novels under the joint pseudonym Clare Coleman.

As Ratha's story begins in Ratha's Creature, Ratha is a year-old cat in a clan which calls themselves the Named. The Named herd and practice agriculture; their traditional enemies, the Unnamed, do not, and often live by raiding the herds of the Named. Ratha is due to become one of the clan's herders, but her discovery of how to harness fire threatens the leader of the Named, and she is exiled. She lives for a time with the Unnamed, and breeds with one of them, but the resulting kittens are unintelligent, and she and they are exiled yet again. She eventually persuades the Named to accept her gift of fire, and becomes their queen.

A Booklist contributor hailed Ratha's Creature as a "powerful, moving, and memorable story" and predicted it "will draw readers right in." Trev Jones in School Library Journal praised it as well, noting that Bell's novel "is charged with powerful emotions" and that its characters "will come vividly alive to readers." Mary Ellen Baker in Voice of Youth Advocates called Ratha's Creature "moving," and gave the novel that periodical's highest rating for quality.

In Clan Ground Ratha's leadership is challenged by Shongshar, a male cat who turns the Named's use of fire into a strong and threatening religious cult. This sequel gained the favor of Hazel Rochman in School Library Journal, who observed that "Bell creates characters that are authentically wild and feline and also sensitive, intelligent and complicated." In Ratha and Thistle-Chaser, "the queen's long-lost daughter comes to light," according to a contributor to the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers. Ratha is reunited with the daughter that she once tried to kill in the mistaken belief that the kitten was a throwback to a more mindless race of cats. Instead, it turns out that Thistle-Chaser and others like her are the next evolutionary step in sentient cats—kittens who take longer to come to maturity. By 1995's Ratha's Challenge, the mother and daughter are still creeping toward reconciliation, but they join forces to deal with and understand another clan of sentient cats controlled by a communal song.

Jeanne Triner declared in Booklist that "readers [of Ratha's Challenge] will find enough suspense, adventure, and even romance to satisfy them." Carolyn Polese, reviewing the same novel in School Library Journal, lauded its "vivid descriptions of . . . life on the veldt," while Leslie Acevedo in Voice of Youth Advocates concluded that the novel's themes "are presented in a well-paced and thought-provoking manner."

Bell also weaves her interest in cats into Tomorrow's Sphinx, a novel for children that explores the lives of two black cheetahs, one in Egypt during the reign of the pharaoh Tutankhamen, the other in a future devastated by environmental waste. Another novel of Bell's, The Jaguar Princess, is an historical fantasy set during the time of the Aztecs. The Jaguar Princess concerns Mixcatl, a slave girl who turns out to be descended from a royal race of shape-changers. A Kirkus Review critic found The Jaguar Princess to be "thinly plotted," but a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised it as "vivid."

In People of the Sky, a fantasy novel written for all ages, Bell introduces Kesebe Temiya, a young woman of the twenty-third century. Preceding the start of the story, Kesebe's ancestors had fled a failing Earth several hundred years earlier to preserve their Puerto Rican traditions. After her airplane goes down in a storm, Kesebe is rescued by Imiya, a young boy from an interstellar colony called People of the Sky, and a descendent of the Hopi nation. When Kesebe unwittingly foments a cultural crisis by helping Imiya avoid enduring the rite of passage required by his culture, she resolved the problem. Reviewing this volume, Booklist contributor Roland Green stated that Bell "seems to be working the anthropological sf territory of [Ursula] Le Guin and [C. H.] Cherryh with a skill that promises a bright future."

Daughter of the Reef, Bell's first collaboration with M. Coleman Easton published under the joint pseudonym Clare Coleman, is set during ancient times on an island of the South Pacific. Tepua, the book's royal heroine, is washed away from the celebration of her own wedding by a tropical storm. In the place where she washes up, she must learn to fit in with a new society, and learns to dance for her new tribe. Her dancing also brings her a new love interest in Matopahu. A Publishers Weekly reviewer assessed that the novel has "a dynamism that keeps it afloat."



St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, March 15, 1983, Sally Estes, review of Ratha's Creature, pp. 956-957; October 15, 1986, S. Estes, review of Tomorrow's Sphinx, p. 344; December 15, 1989, Roland Green, review of People of the Sky, p. 815; January 1, 1995, Jeanne Triner, review of Ratha's Challenge, pp. 814-816; December 15, 1997, S. Estes, review of Ratha's Creature, p. 695.

English Journal, September, 1984, Beth Nelms, review of Ratha's Creature, p. 102; February, 1986, Beth Nelms, review of Clan Ground, p. 106.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1986, review of Tomorrow's Sphinx, p. 1372; November 1, 1989, review of People of the Sky, p. 1567; August 15, 1993, review of The Jaguar Princess, p. 1034.

Publishers Weekly, December 26, 1986, Diane Roback, review of Tomorrow's Sphinx, p. 57; October 27, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of People of the Sky, p. 60; November 9, 1992, p. 78; October 4, 1993, review of The Jaguar Princess, p. 68; November 9, 1993, review of Daughter of the Reef, p. 78.

School Library Journal, September, 1983, Trev Jones, review of Ratha's Creature, p. 130; October, 1984, review of Clan Ground, p. 164; November, 1986, Lyle Blake Smythers, review of Tomorrow's Sphinx, p. 96; June, 1990, Carolyn Polese, review of Ratha and the Thistle-Chaser, p. 136; January, 1995, Carolyn Polese, review of Ratha's Challenge, p. 134.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1983, Mary Ellen Baker, review of Ratha's Creature, p. 196; June, 1990, Catherine Moorhead, review of Ratha and the Thistle-Chaser, p. 112; June, 1995, Leslie Acevedo, review of Ratha's Challenge, p. 101.*