4 Questions: Author Lee Winter on her lesbian superhero novel, Shattered

Popular Ylva author Lee Winter chats with us about her thought-provoking lesbian superhero novel Shattered as part of our Free Book Sundays campaign. Shattered won the 2018 Goldie Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy.

Shattered is about a disillusioned lesbian superhero, but do you see it as part of the sci-fi genre?

Cover of the lesbian superhero novel Shattered by Lee Winter

Not really. I mean, yes, of course, it is sci-fi because she is a superhero, and Earth’s first lesbian superhero, no less,  in my universe. She wears the outfit, has a special skill of being able to hurl huge objects, and shatter them, but that’s almost beside the point of the book.

At its core, Shattered is about two incredibly different women who disagree on almost everything, forced to sit down as a storm literally rages around them, and find common ground.

That’s a difficult thing when one of the women (the superhero Nyah/Shattergirl) just wants to hide out at the ends of the earth, and the other, Lena, a tracker, wants to drag her back to civilization.

Most of the book is a conversation. It starts as an argument: Does a superhero get to deprive us of her incredible skills given Earth saved her life? Does she have that right to walk away just because she’s mad at being outed as a lesbian superhero? That’s how Lena sees her position at least, and she’s in for an education.

From this fight emerges a connection that begins intellectually. Then emotionally. Then briefly physically, before finally they reach an understanding that is a deep, soul-connected friendship. What they come to feel and share is an exploration and realization of what it means to be human.

Why did you make your lesbian superhero a woman of color?

Two reasons. One, I feel lesbian fiction, including sci-fi, is so very white. I’d love a million more books with diversity of every stripe, but especially BIPoC. I decided to stop just talking about it and write my own. On that note, I want to give a shout out to my sensitivity reader, author KD Williamson.

Two, my group of stranded superheroes, called guardians, landed on earth in the middle of World War I, in the early 1900s. The people who had the least rights back then were women of color.

Imagine being a highly regarded scientist, the best of your kind, being demoted to the least powerful, most voiceless, the moment you stepped on a new planet called Earth.

I wanted Nyah’s anger at humanity to be believable and properly rooted in a real wrong; an ongoing wrong. That would undeniably be the case if she were black.

If racism was a big issue for your superhero when Nyah first landed, how did society react to her being a lesbian too?

Neither of these traits should have been an issue, of course. Nyah deserved to be feted as magnificent. Her superior alien knowledge alone would have been priceless, if people had been willing to listen.

Instead, even with all her intelligence, wisdom, and strength, she was rendered powerless and invisible. And that was before anyone found out she was a lesbian superhero. Her very existence as black and brilliant challenged how those in power thought things should be, so she kept her sexuality a deep secret.

Times and attitudes moved on from the early 1900s. But even when humanity evolved, Nyah went from being minimized to someone to be exploited. That was an inevitable side effect of her hero job and fame.

It also meant she was always watched and couldn’t have any privacy, so her love life suffered. Then came her public outing. From that moment on she was no longer seen as anything except the “lesbian superhero.”

So I wanted her decision to disappear, leaving humanity to its dumpster fire, to feel completely justified. That she walked instead of putting up with our crap for even a minute longer fills me with awe and admiration.

I love how strong she is. I’d go weak at the knees if I ever met her. Society might dismiss her as just “the lesbian superhero” but to me she is utterly formidable.

Are there any modern-day parallels in your book? It’s hard not to notice the guardians’ leader is a barrel-chested man who wears orange, uses media to woo the masses, and talks like a used-car salesman.

Yes, Talon Man definitely has certain qualities that might mirror a particular world leader, especially Tal’s manipulation of social media, to always paint himself as the hero. However, at the time I wrote Shattered, I had no idea how much Trump would dominate and control international news feeds the way Tal succeeded in my book.

* Shattered, Lee Winter’s lesbian superhero novel, is free to readers on November 8, 2020, at the Ylva shop.

Free Book Sundays are Ylva’s way of giving back and offering escapism in difficult times for readers.

Share this Post!

About the Author : Astrid Ohletz


  1. Geoffrey Wright November 6, 2020 at 18:52 - Reply

    This is good news! Shattered is the only book by Lee that I have yet to read. Her description of the characters and the world she has created make me realize I’ve waited far too long. I’m happy I can get it for free on Sunday, so thanks much for that. I’m also excited about Hotel Queens. I love her stories and the emotions they invoke, not to mention her subtle humor that particularly shines in her short stories.

  2. Word Saviour November 7, 2020 at 15:47 - Reply

    *opens audible – starts listening to ‘Shattered’* again…..
    I don’t have the words to describe how deeply this story makes me feel and actually that’s a good thing because when you stop thinking, rationalizing, and trying to shape it in sentences when all is left, is a bundle of nameless feelings, then the message has been received.

    Out of Lee Winter’s MCs it’s always a race between Natalya (Requiem for Immortals) and Nyah (Shattered) for who I like most.
    Okay, I just decided I don’t have to choose – I’ll go with Nyahlia from now on.

    Thank you for giving ‘Shattered’ away for free this Sunday, I really hope that a whole lot of people grab it, read it, and love it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.