Gear, Kathleen O'Neal 1954- (Kathleen M. O'Neal Gear)

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Gear, Kathleen O'Neal 1954- (Kathleen M. O'Neal Gear)


Born October 29, 1954, in Tulare, CA; daughter of Harold (a farmer and writer) and Wanda Lillie (a journalist) O'Neal; married W. Michael Gear (a writer), October 1, 1982. Education: California State University, Bakersfield, B.A. (cum laude), 1976; California State University, Chico, M.A. (summa cum laude), 1979; attended University of California, Los Angeles; attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Religion: "Native American." Hobbies and other interests: "Hunting, fishing, hiking."


Home—WY. Office—Red Canyon Ranch, P.O. Box 1329, Thermopolis, WY 82443. Agent—Matthew Bialer, Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates, 55 5th Ave., New York, NY 10003.


Writer, novelist, archaeologist and rancher. Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, CA, senior museum preparator, 1979-80; City of Cheyenne, Cheyenne, WY, city historian, 1980-81; United States Department of the Interior, Cheyenne, state historian, 1981-82, Casper, WY, archaeologist, 1982-86; Wind River Archaeological Consultants, Thermopolis, WY, archaeologist and principal investigator, 1986—; TIMESCRIBES, Thermopolis, writer, 1986—; Red Canyon Buffalo Ranch, co-owner, 1992—. Member of board of directors of the University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO.


Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, American Anthropology Association, National Bison Association, Archaeological Conservancy, Nature Conservancy, Society for Historical Archaeology, Western Bison Association, Wisconsin Bison Producers Association, Western Writers of America, Center for Desert Archaeology, Wyoming Writers Incorporated.


California State Scholar, California State University, 1972-76; American Bible Study scholar, 1975-76; Special Achievement Awards, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1984 and 1985, for archaeological work; Spur Award for best novel of the West, Western Writers of America, 2005, for People of the Raven.



Sand in the Wind, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990.

This Widowed Land, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Thin Moon and Cold Mist, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.

(With husband, W. Michael Gear) Dark Inheritance, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2001.

(With W. Michael Gear) Raising Abel, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.

It Sleeps in Me, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.

It Wakes in Me, Forge (New York, NY), 2006.

It Dreams in Me, Forge (New York, NY), 2007.


An Abyss of Light, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.

Treasure of Light, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.

Redemption of Light, DAW (New York, NY), 1991.


People of the Wolf, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990.

People of the Light, DAW (New York, NY), 1991.

People of the Fire, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.

People of the Earth, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

People of the River, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

People of the Sea, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.

People of the Lakes, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.

People of the Lightning, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1995.

People of the Silence, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1996.

People of the Mist, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1997.

People of the Masks, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1998.

People of the Owl, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.

People of the Raven, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2004.

People of the Moon, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.

People of the Nightland, Forge (New York, NY), 2007.


The Visitant, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.

The Summoning God, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.

Bone Walker, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.

Author's works have been translated into seventeen languages.


Kathleen O'Neal Gear and her husband, W. Michael Gear, began their "First North Americans" series in 1990 with People of the Wolf. The saga presents an ancient people who purportedly traveled from Asia across an ice bridge to North America during the Ice Age. The plot centers upon the power struggle between two brothers, Wolf Dreamer and Raven Hunter. In the fifth novel of the series, People of the River, the Gears imagine events among the earth-mound-builder culture that lived in southern Illinois between 700 A.D. and 1500 A.D. The Mississippians, as they were known, cultivated corn, knew astronomy, and disappeared before European explorers reached the area. "Fast-paced and engrossing, the novel has the ring of authenticity as well," stated a contributor to Publishers Weekly.

A subsequent work, People of the Sea, is set among a coastal California Native American community around 10,000 B.C., as an Ice Age period is ending and rising water levels are wreaking havoc on the area's ecosystem. Large animals are disappearing, portending starvation for the populace. A religious leader, Sunchaser the Dreamer, worries about these changes that he cannot explain, but a mysterious woman comes to see him, and he runs away with her. He learns answers about the fate of his own community along the way. A Publishers Weekly critic praised the authors for "integrating a tremendous amount of natural and anthropological research into a satisfactory narrative," and called the book "a vivid and fascinating portrait."

The eighth book in the series, People of the Lightning, is set in the Windover community in prehistoric Florida, a group that is not related to other Native American groups. The Standing Hollow Horn clan is led by a tyrant, Cottonmouth, who kidnaps others from a rival clan, including a warrior woman named Musselwhite who had killed Cottonmouth's son in a previous skirmish. Musselwhite believes her husband, Diver, has been killed, and is married off in captivity to an albino, but then learns that Diver is alive and flees to find him. "A wealth of rich historical detail once again bolsters a pulsing narrative set in a turbulent time," noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

People of the Silence, the next book in the series, is set amongst the Anasazi culture in New Mexico around 1000 A.D. People of the Mist takes place inside a matrilineal society in the Chesapeake Bay region. It begins when a young woman named Red Knot is betrothed in an arranged marriage to Copper Thunder, chieftain of a neighboring clan. The match is a political alliance, negotiated in part by Red Knot's grandmother, but Red Knot is slain on her wedding day, and more than one potential culprit surfaces. "Suffused with suspense, their imaginative story offers a fascinating portrait of an ancient matrilineal culture," noted Library Journal contributor Mary Ellen Elsbernd. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly termed the story a "fluid, suspenseful mix of anthropological research and character-driven mystery" with "a solid, satisfying resolution."

The Gears' eleventh book, People of the Masks, appeared in 1998. Its story is set in long-ago New York State, where the Earth Thunderer Clan, part of the Iroquois Turtle Nation, rejoice when a dwarf is born to a family there. According to their belief system, a dwarf has the power to perform miracles, and the child, named Rumbler, is appropriately indulged and occupies a place of high honor in Paint Rock village. Neighboring villages, however, panic when they learn of his arrival, for it will give the Earth Thunderers an advantage. As a young child, Rumbler has a premonition of his own kidnapping, which indeed proves true. A fierce warrior of a neighboring clan, Jumping Badger, takes him, but the Walksalong villagers fear the child and attempt to kill him. Rumbler is saved from a snowy hilltop fall by an orphan child, Little Wren, and the two set off with Jumping Badger in pursuit. Booklist contributor Diana Tixier Herald termed People of the Masks "prehistoric epic at its finest," commending the "gripping plot, lots of action, [and] well-developed characters." A Publishers Weekly commentator offered similarly laudatory praise, finding it "fast-paced, fluid, rich with smoothly integrated background detail and softened by a touch of romanticism that deflects the violence and brutality."

Their 2003 book, People of the Owl, features fifteen-year-old Mud Puppy, a visionary juvenile warrior responsible for his entire clan. With three fierce wives and a reputation for being the village idiot, Mud Puppy has quite a lot to overcome. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the story is "propelled by the Gears' spry storytelling." Brad Hooper, writing in Booklist, commented that the Gears "provide fascinating information on the customs of past times."

People of the Moon, the thirteenth novel in the "First North Americans" series, offers readers a "lively tale of warring clans," commented a Kirkus Reviews writer. In their story, the Gears delve into the background of the Chaco Anasazi and their cultural history. The caste division of the Anasazi separates the tribe into the First People, who have always been human, and the Made People, who were once animals that were transformed into humans. The First people occupy a higher caste than the Made People, which leads to resentment among the oppressed lower castes. This gulf between the two castes leads to violent conflict when Ripple, a young Made People warrior, receives a vision that leads him and other youths from his village on a quest to seek the death of their hated rulers, the First People. They encounter rough opposition from the war band known as the Red Shirts and their war chief, Leather Hand, who commits an atrocity against one of the Made People villagers in an attempt to intimidate the other members into submission. The terrible act of retribution only makes matters worse, as the novel "ends with an epic battle that should leave readers hungry for more entries in the series," observed the Kirkus Reviews critic. Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper called the book "one of the best novels in the whole series" in which the Gears "reveal their skills to even sharper effect."

The Visitant, part of the "Anasazi Mystery" series, which Gear also wrote with her husband, switches back and forth between the past and present. Dusty Stewart, an archaeologist, and anthropologist Maureen Cole are looking for clues as to why the Chaco Anasazi Indians disappeared in northwestern New Mexico many centuries before. They find mass graves of young women whose skulls have been smashed, and flashbacks recount the story of a drought and a tuberculosis outbreak. A serial killer seems to be preying on the young Anasazi women when a war chief, Browser, discovers his wife dead. Other deaths soon follow, and Browser enlists the help of his eccentric uncle, Stone Ghost. Meanwhile, Stewart and Cole must contact the office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act because of the mass graves discovery, and a holy woman named Hail arrives to sort out the mystery. "Readers will enjoy the wide range of characters and thick suspense," predicted Susan A. Zappia in Library Journal. "Breathtaking descriptions evoke the harsh beauty of the desert in both winter and summer," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who also commended "the lucid, erudite historical perspectives" from the Gears. Herald, in Booklist, praised the book, remarking that "the vividly depicted characters and settings are satisfying and leave the reader hoping for more titles in this promising series."

The Summoning God, the second book in the "Anasazi Mystery" series, centers upon the Katsinas People in the 1200s and explains the mystery of the Anasazi extinction. An afterword from the Gears cautions that their fate may befall human civilization as well. A Publishers Weekly contributor called it a "memorable novel" and stated that while it is a book "not for the squeamish … the Gears offer unusual insight into Anasazi culture and history."

Bone Walker, the third Anasazi mystery, continues the story of Browser, Stone Ghost, and the other members of their tribe as they seek to forge alliances, eliminate enemies, and mend the violent rift that has led to distrust and destruction among the Anasazi villages. In a parallel modern-day story, archaeologist Dusty Stewart finds himself caught up in a murder mystery involving himself, his family, and his professional colleagues. "The two narratives intertwine and interconnect in ways sometimes effective and sometimes irksome," commented a Publishers Weekly critic, who nonetheless called the novel a "cleverly constructed Anasazi mystery."

The Gears have also penned contemporary works focusing on the dangers of animal genetic engineering. Dark Inheritance, which appeared in 2001, centers upon a British pharmaceutical maker, Smyth-Archer Chemicals (SAC) and their attempt to create a "smart" chimpanzee. To do so, they have placed apes with scientists and their families, and the novel centers on Jim Dutton and his daughter, Brett, whose wife left when Brett was still an infant. A bonobo ape—a type of chimpanzee—has been raised alongside Brett, and the pair are as close as sisters. Umber can communicate with Brett and Jim by sign language and a hand-held computer, and Jim discovers that she can do math as well. She even asks about a higher being, which prompts Jim to grow suspicious about her origins. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, an investigative reporter, begins looking into the experiments and believes that SAC is trying to make apes self-sufficient society members—but those that do not pass the intelligence tests may become violent. Booklist critic William Beatty called the novel a "lively, thought-provoking, and convincing story."

The Gears discussed Dark Inheritance on their Home Page. "Pharmaceutical companies have been inserting sections of human DNA into chimpanzees," they wrote. "This is done because we are so closely related, to test drug protocols, to see how disease can be cured, and to monitor side effects. If an ape goes into anaphylactic shock, a human will, too. So we put more segments of human DNA into chimpanzees to make us even closer. Chimpanzees are cheaper than taking chances experimenting on humans. The question is begged: If we are already 98.8 percent the same, how many human genes can be inserted into these animals before they cross that thin dividing line between our species?"

The Gears' novel Raising Abel presents a "provocative spin on the human cloning theme," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the book, a rash of brutal killings of genetic scientists around the world has attracted the attention of the FBI. When FBI agent Joe Hanson receives a call from Elizabeth Carter, from the Apostolic Evangelical Church of the Salvation in Atlanta, she claims to have found a list of current and future victims, and that the list belongs to her boss, renowned televangelist Billy Barnes. When Hanson realizes that some of the scientists on the list have indeed been slain, he agrees to meet with Carter. However, she is killed before the meeting can occur. Meanwhile, anthropologist Scott Ferris has successfully conducted genetic experiments that have replicated the long-lost Neanderthals, implanting Neanderthal embryos in host mothers. The Neanderthal children are intelligent and capable, and Ferris intends to use their existence to debunk the position of creationists around the world. When Ferris falls victim to the killer, his sister, Veronica, travels to a distant ski lodge searching for a hidden letter from him. There, she finds no letter, but meets Rebecca Armely and her son, Abel, one of the Neanderthal children. Soon they are joined by Ferris's friend, Bryce Johnson. The appearance of a fundamen- talist hit team send the group running for their lives, especially when they realize that Abel is the true target of the creationists. The Gears "lay credible anthropological and biochemical groundwork" for their story, stated the Publishers Weekly critic, who also concluded that "the nail-biting resolution is first-rate." The authors offer "shrewd details and effectively spun stereotypes" in a "timely thriller with enough science for verisimilitude and enough visceral charge for escapism," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

Kathleen O'Neal Gear has published a number of novels on her own, including the "Powers of Light" series. Her book This Widowed Land features Jesuit ministers who clash with Huron Indians. The book is set in seventeenth-century Quebec, where one of the Jesuits falls in love with the Huron tribe member Andiora. Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil S. Steinberg called Gear's characters "static and two-dimensional" but noted that "her use of period detail breathes life into daily events at the Huron village." Gear's novel Thin Moon and Cold Mist is set during the U.S. Civil War. The novel features Robin Walkingstick Heatherton, a female spy who masquerades as a black male soldier in order to infiltrate the Union army and thereby spy for the Confederacy. However, Robin finds herself on the run from a Union major who blames her for his brother's death. She flees to Colorado with her five-year-old son, Jeremy, and there she falls in love with another Union soldier. Again writing in Publishers Weekly, Steinberg noted that Gear "invests this story with historical detail and intriguing plot twists, delivered in lively prose."

In It Sleeps in Me, another solo effort by Kathleen O'Neal Gear, the Shadow Rock Clan of the Black Falcon Nation stands on the brink of war with other early North American clans. Sora, the leader of the Shadow Rock Clan, serves as the story's main protagonist as she considers the advantages and disadvantages of war. In the novel, Sora is approached by Skinner, a friend of her dead husband Flint, who conveys Flint's shocking last words to his wife. Meanwhile, Blue Bow, chief of the rival Loon Nation, has sought the help of Sora and her clan in attacking mutual enemies. Sora does not trust Blue Bow's motives, but her new husband Rockfish and friend Wink are willing to accept the Loon chief's proposal. Worse for Sora, her beloved Flint's shadow soul now resides within Skinner, tantalizingly out of reach. Gear "spins her magic again in a saga peppered with murder, intrigue, and erotic love scenes," commented Mary Ellen Elsbernd in Library Journal. Lynne Welch, writing in Booklist, called the novel a "tantalizing expose of Machiavellian intrigue, political alliances, and lust among the aboriginal peoples" that resided in early Florida.



American Antiquity, January, 1993, Stephanie Whittlesey, review of People of the Fire, p. 180.

Booklist, January 1, 1996, Kathleen Hughes, review of People of the Lightning, p. 786; January 1, 1997, Margaret Flanagan, review of People of the Silence, p. 818; February 1, 1998, Eric Robbins, review of People of the Mist, p. 898; October 15, 1998, Diana Tixier Herald, review of People of the Masks, p. 401; January 1, 1999, review of People of the Mist, p. 781; July, 1999, Diana Tixier Herald, review of The Visitant, p. 1893; December 1, 2000, William Beatty, review of Dark Inheritance, p. 675; May 15, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of People of the Owl, p. 1619; April 15, 2005, Lynne Welch, review of It Sleeps in Me, p. 1431; August, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of People of the Moon, p. 1952; May 15, 2006, Lynne Welch, review of It Wakes in Me, p. 23.

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), April 22, 2001, Linda DuVal, "Defining Humanity," section B, p. 6.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of Bone Walker, p. 1582; June 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 756; August 1, 2005, review of People of the Moon, p. 821; April 15, 2006, review of It Wakes in Me, p. 368.

Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Mary Ellen Elsbernd, review of People of the Mist, p. 110; November 1, 1998, Mary Ellen Eisbernd, review of People of the Masks, p. 125; August, 1999, Susan A. Zappia, review of The Visitant, p. 139; April 15, 2005, Mary Ellen Elsbernd, review of It Sleeps in Me, p. 72.

Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), January 14, 2001, Michael A. Green, review of The Summoning God, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly, June 1, 1992, review of People of the River, p. 51; January 18, 1993, Sybil S. Steinberg, review of This Widowed Land, p. 448; September 13, 1993, review of People of the Sea, p. 89; July 25, 1994, review of People of the Lakes, p. 38; June 12, 1995, Sybil S. Steinberg, review of Thin Moon and Cold Mist, p. 47; October 30, 1995, review of People of the Lightning, p. 46; June 3, 1996, review of The Morning River, p. 61; December 2, 1996, review of People of the Silence, p. 42; November 24, 1997, review of People of the Mist, p. 52; November 2, 1998, review of People of the Masks, p. 71; July 5, 1999, review of The Visitant, p. 62; June 26, 2000, review of The Summoning God, p. 53; February 5, 2001, review of Dark Inheritance, p. 65; December 3, 2001, review of Bone Walker, p. 43; July 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 55; May 26, 2003, review of People of the Owl, p. 49.

Roundup Magazine, July, 1995, review of People of the Lakes, p. 24; February, 2002, review of Bone Walker, p. 29.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 1997, Dick Richmond, "Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilization," p. T9.


W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear Home Page, (August 5, 2007).