Two more works of biographical historical fiction to come

March 2023. Author of THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST and THE WOMAN AT THE WHEEL (to be released on October 3, 2023), Penny Haw’s next two works of biographical fiction about trailblazing women of history, WHEN THE DUST SETTLES, about paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, set for 2025, and THE STARGAZER’S SISTER, about astronomer Caroline Herschel for 2026, have been sold to Erin McClary at Sourcebooks by Jill Marsal at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world).


The Invincible Miss Cust listed by Junior Library Guild

October 2022. News that THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST had been selected by the prestigious Junior Library Guild (JLG) was celebrated shortly before the book was published by Landmark Sourcebooks on October 4.

Founded in 1929, JLG is a book review and collection development service, which helps thousands of school and public libraries in the US acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. JLG receives more than 5,000 pre-publication submissions every year. The organisation’s expert editors select titles across about 80 categories from pre-kindergarten to adult crossover. Nearly 95% of JLG selections go on to receive awards and/or favourable reviews.

Asked about JLG’s selection process, JLG executive editor, Elizabeth Gavril said, “We’re looking for something that is memorable, something that is unusual, something that is strikingly illustrated, something that makes us laugh (or cry), something that hasn’t been done a million times before—or if it has, that there’s something remarkable about it. There are so many books published, and we are looking for the ones that truly stand out from the crowd.”

Librarians benefit from JLG services because the books have been pre-selected and vetted, which helps make their collection decisions easier. For publishers and authors—beyond the prestige—being selected by JLG means pre-publication purchases, giving books an encouraging kickstart.

Although THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is adult historical fiction, the book was adjudged by JLG editors to be ideal for grades 10 and upward. JLG editors describe it as “an engaging tale of ambition, inspiration, and love, based on the true story of a woman ahead of her time, who defied the patriarchy, society, and her family’s wishes to pursue a career in a science-based field, paving the way for other women in veterinary science.”

THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST’s selection by JLG indicates that the story of Aleen Cust’s fortitude and resourcefulness will be read by more and more young people, who will hopefully not only be entertained, but also inspired by her resolve and focus. See the listing on JLG’s website here.



The Wilderness Between Us wins 2022 STAR Award

September 24, 2022. Announced at the 2022 Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) Awards Gala & Keynote Dinner in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2022, THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US was named winner of the 2022 WFWA STAR Award in the general fiction category.

“The STAR Award recognises the best in women’s fiction and is the only contest exclusive to the women’s fiction genre,” said Jackie Kelly, WFWA President. “This award celebrates the diversity of the genre and seeks to elevate and promote women’s fiction and its authors.”

Novels were first judged by members of the WFWA. The top three books in two categories, general and debut, went on to a second round where they were judged by a panel of librarians, who chose the winners.

THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US won the 2022 WFWA STAR Award in the general category while Joani Elliott’s novel, THE AUDACITY OF SARA GRAYSON won the STAR Award in the debut category.

THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US is available internationally from Amazon here. You will also find it on Indie Bound here.

As part of a distribution agreement with Karavan Press, wholesale/trade purchases in South Africa are available from Protea Distribution on 021-699 8506 or



The Invincible Miss Cust goes to China

July 21, 2022. The Chinese translation rights for Mainland China of Penny Haw’s historical fiction, THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST have been purchased by Adagio Culture. The deal, which will see the book translated into Simplified Chinese, was announced on July 8 by Sourcebooks Associate Director of Rights and International Sales, Stephanie Beard. This follows the announcement earlier in the year that Oregon-based Blackstone Publishing, which is one of the largest independent audiobook publishers in the USA, had purchased the audio rights to THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST.

The first ever work of historical fiction about Aleen Cust, Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon, THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST will be released by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 8, 2022. The publishing date precedes the centennial celebrations of Aleen Cust finally receiving her professional certification by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in December 1922. Continue reading below for more information on the book. THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is available for pre-order and can be added to your to-be-read list on Goodreads here. It is also available on request to NetGalley members here.


Life of Aleen Cust celebrated in a first ever work historical fiction

February 18, 2022.  To be released in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Aleen Cust finally receiving her diploma from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the first ever work of historical fiction about the life of Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon will be published internationally by Sourcebooks on October 4, 2022. The passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919 compelled the RCVS to allow Miss Cust to sit her final examination. As such, she received her diploma on December 21, 1922—22 years after she had completed her veterinary course.

Written by South African journalist turned author, Penny Haw, THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is based on the facts of Miss Cust’s life as they are publicly known.

“In addition to the research required, writing the book involved imagining and describing related thoughts, conversations, emotions, and relationships, the accuracy of which only the people involved could verify,” said Ms Haw. “Creating historical fiction is like reading between the lines and filling in the gaps with speculative delight. Miss Cust’s story is so remarkable that my retelling of it did not call for large scale embellishment.”

In addition to working through available information, Ms Haw also relied on the technical expertise of her friend, Sussex-based veterinary surgeon, Richard Lyons MVB MRCVS.

“Not only is Mr Lyons a recently retired—but as passionate as ever—veterinary surgeon with more than forty years’ experience, but he is also Irish. He helped me treat dogs, hoist horses, save cows and deworm sheep, guiding me through the technical aspects and on all things Irish,” said Haw.

Sourcebooks, which is an innovative and entrepreneurial Midwest-based publisher and the largest woman-owned book publisher in America, describes THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is as follows:

“Aleen Cust has big dreams and no one―not her family, society, or the law―will stop her.

Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals, even if her family is appalled by the idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career. Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father’s death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A I Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear. At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon! Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.

THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is based on the real life of Aleen Isabel Cust, who defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon. Through Penny Haw’s meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen’s story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life. It is a story that, even today, women will recognize, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one’s dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.”

To be published on October 4, 2022, THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST is available on pre-order from Amazon here.


Wilderness shines in American literary competition

Los Angeles, August 26, 2021 – THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US, written by South African, Penny Haw and published by Köehler Books of Virginia Beach, VA was named an award-winning finalist in the highly-contested women’s fiction category of the 2021 American Fiction Awards by the American Book Fest in Los Angeles.

The competition encompasses 70 genre specific categories, with awards being presented for titles published in 2019-2021.

President and CEO of American Book Fest, Jeffrey Keen says of the awards, now in their fifth year, “The 2021 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the United States. With a full publicity and marketing campaign promoting the results of the American Fiction Awards, this year’s winners and finalists will gain additional media coverage for the upcoming holiday retail season.”

American Book Fest provides coverage for books from mainstream and independent publishers with an active media presence among more than 134,000 bibliophiles.

“Our success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing and design expertise,” says Keen.

Buy THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US from Amazon here or find it on Indie Bound here.

As part of a distribution agreement with Karavan Press, South African wholesale/trade orders of THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US (and NICKO) are available from Protea Distribution on 021-699 8506 or

It’s out in the wild

August, 2021. Described by author and book reviewer, Noelle Granger as “gripping, tense and well-wrought” and “a powerful celebration of human resiliency”, Penny Haw’s novel, THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US is now available worldwide in paperback and hard cover, and as an ebook.

Published by Virginia Beach-based Köehler Books, it’s the story of two women who are separated from the rest of their group by flooding during a hike in the Tsitsikamma region of South Africa. Faye has forgotten herself, surrendered her strength after years of being bullied and manipulated by her husband. Clare is diminished, acutely ashamed of the pain her eating disorder has caused. To survive, the women know they’ll have to overcome their fears, shame and wariness of one another. They’ll have to face the truth. What they don’t expect is what the wilderness will provide—and what it will take away.

“The story is incredible and uplifting. I recommend this to anyone who loves a feel-good story full of action and adrenaline,” wrote reviewer for My Bookish Bliss, Kimberly Grow.

Buy the book from Amazon here or find it on Indie Bound here.

As part of a distribution agreement with Karavan Press, wholesale/trade orders of THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US (and NICKO) in South Africa are available from Protea Distribution on 021-699 8506 or

Coming in 2022 and 2023

July, 2021. Penny Haw’s debut historical fiction, ALEEN will be published in 2022 as part of a two-book deal with Sourcebooks, which, located in Naperville, Illinois, is one of the 20 largest publishers in the United States.

ALEEN is based on the true story of English aristocrat, Aleen Cust who defied society, fought patriarchy and was renounced by her family—who had close ties to Queen Victoria—to train as Britain’s first woman veterinary surgeon in 1900. Worldwide rights for ALEEN and a second work of historical fiction by Haw (for publication in 2023) were acquired by Sourcebooks’ Associate Editor, Erin McClary from Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Image: Erin McClary.

The Wilderness is closer than you think

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June 8, 2021. Eight friends set off on a six-day hike, which they’ve dreamed of doing for years. The trail traverses a magnificent but remote part of South Africa, where the trees are tall, the undergrowth dense, the mountains high and the animals as intriguing as they are elusive. What could go wrong? Who will snap and who will come to the rescue?

THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US will be released on July 31, 2021. It is available from Amazon on pre-order here. Click here to add it to your ‘want to read’ list on Goodreads.

Tsitsikamma 8

“Thick with trees, bushes and ferns, the forest was a shady tousle of vegetation, impenetrable beyond the path. Several giant trees lay dead and decaying where they’d fallen years previously, creating fertile surfaces for other life. A caravan of ants, each insect hauling a tiny piece of plant, trickled past her boots and disappeared, one-by-one, beneath a chunk of bark.” – from Penny Haw’s new novel to be published in July 2021.


Wilderness is whisperer in novel set in South Africa

March 31, 2021. South African journalist and author, Penny Haw’s debut fiction, THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US will be published as part of a traditional deal with US publisher, Köehler Books on July 31, 2021.

Haw’s first book, a children’s chapter book called NICKO, was published by Penguin Random House South Africa to high acclaim in 2017, was reprinted in 2018 and is now included in middle-grade school curricula. It also heralded the writer’s transition from journalist to novelist, with her focus now on literary fiction.

In THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US, Faye and her friends’ anorexic daughter, Clare are thrown together after a flood separates them from their group during a hike in a remote, mountainous region of South Africa. When Clare is critically injured, Faye takes control, builds a shelter and nurses the younger woman. Her resilience and resourcefulness prove to Faye that she is not the fearful, helpless person her husband has long insisted she is. As they battle the elements and Clare’s failing health, the women discover they share a demon; shame. Their new friendship and growing appreciation of the wilderness take Faye and Clare on an unexpected journey of recovery and self-discovery—but not everyone survives.

THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US is a portrait of two broken women who reclaim their independence and strength as they fight for survival—and renewal. It is a vivid, moving story about family, friendship and adventure, which reveals the effects of gaslighting and anorexia, the associated shame and the healing power of nature and compassion.

In describing the work, literary acquisitions editor at Köehler Books, Greg Fields said, “Penny has created something that is, in my reading of it, immensely powerful. The themes cross several layers, including the intricacies of relationships, manipulation and control, the evolution of personal self-esteem and the inestimable power of human resiliency. All of this is carried by a narrative that is at times gripping and consistently well-structured and clear.”

Fields is the author of ARC OF THE COMET and THROUGH THE WATERS AND THE WILD, both of which have nominated for several literary awards. Most recently, THROUGH THE WATERS AND THE WILD was nominated for the international 2021 Rubery Book Award.

THE WILDERNESS BETWEEN US will be available internationally in hard cover, paperback and e-book format from July 31, 2021.


Nicko back in print

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December 2020. Good news! After being out of print for a few months, Nicko, The Tale of a Vervet Monkey is once again available in print in South Africa.

As part of a distribution agreement with Karavan Press, wholesale/trade orders of Nicko in South Africa are available from Protea Distribution on 021-699 8506 or Nicko is also available internationally in Kindle/ebook format here.