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Kathleen O'Neal Gear (1954–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights

(Kathleen M. O'Neal Gear)


Born 1954, in Tulare, CA; Education: California State University—Bakersfield, B.A. (cum laude); California State University—Chico, M.A. (summa cum laude); Attended University of California—Los Angeles; Attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Religion: "Native American." Hobbies and other interests: Hunting, fishing, hiking.


Agent—Matthew Bialer, Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates, 55 5th Ave., New York, NY 10003.


Archaeologist and writer. Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, CA, senior museum preparator, 1979–80; City of Cheyenne, Cheyenne, WY, city historian, 1980–81; U.S. Department of the Interior, Cheyenne, state historian, 1981–82, Casper, WY, archaeologist, 1982–86; Wind River Archaeological Consultants, Thermopolis, WY, archaeologist, beginning 1986; Timescribes, Thermopolis, writer, beginning 1986; Red Canyon Buffalo Ranch, co-owner, beginning 1992.


Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 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.

Honors Awards

Special Achievement Awards, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1984 and 1985, for archaeological work; Spur Award for best novel of the West (with W. Michale Gear), Western Writers of America, 2005, for People of the Raven.



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

This Widowed Land, Tor (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.


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

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

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


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

People of the Light, DAW Books (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, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2005.


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

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

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


Several of the Gears's novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including People of the Owl, Books on Tape, 2003; and It Sleeps in Me, Books on Tape, 2005.

Work in Progress

Research into exotic healing rituals among Native American tribes and on Mississippian archaeological sites in the southern United States.


Kathleen O'Neal Gear and her husband, W. Michael Gear, are the coauthors of a popular series of novels that follow the tribes of prehistoric North America. Their "First North Americans" series, which includes the novels People of the Wolf, People of the Fire, People of the Sea, and People of the Owl, have been praised for their detailed description of an ancient way of life, descriptions enhanced by Kathleen O'Neal Gear's training as an archeologist. Praising the series in Booklist, Brad Hooper wrote that the "First North Americans" novels "are, indeed, lessons in life past, and all the facts they marshal are well integrated into a smoothly flowing story line."

The Gears began their "First North Americans" novel series in 1990 with People of the Wolf. The novel centers on the power struggle between two brothers, the visionary Wolf Dreamer and the warrior Raven Hunter, as they each follow their natures and ultimately divide their tribe. People of the Fire focuses on Little Dancer, a dreamer who is befriended by an outcast named Two Smokes and trained as a visionary. In People of the River the Gears bring to life 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," People of the Fire "has the ring of authenticity as well," stated a contributor to Publishers Weekly.

People of the Sea is set in 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 gains understanding regarding the fate of his own community along the way. A Publishers Weekly contributor 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 prehistoric Florida's Windover community, a group that is not related to other Native American groups. The Standing Hollow Horn clan is led by a tyrant, Cottonmouth, who kidnaps members of a rival clan, among them a warrior woman named Musselwhite who had killed Cottonmouth's son in a previous skirmish. Musselwhite believes her husband, Diver, has been killed, and she is married off in captivity to an albino. When she learns that Diver is alive, she 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 is set amid the Anasazi culture in New Mexico around 1000 A.D., while People of the Mist takes place inside a matrilineal society in the Chesapeake Bay region and finds a young woman named Red Knot facing 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, [the Gears'] … imaginative story offers a fascinating portrait of an ancient matrilineal culture," noted Library Journal contributor Mary Ellen Elsbernd in a review of People of the Mist, while a Publishers Weekly critic termed it a "fluid, suspenseful mix of anthropological research and character-driven mystery" with "a solid, satisfying resolution."

People of the Masks is set in long-ago New York State, where the Earth Thunderer clan, part of the Iroquois' Turtle Nation, rejoices when a dwarf is born to one of its members. According to tribal beliefs, 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 kidnaping, and this proves true when a warrior from a neighboring clan abducts the boy. The Walksalong villagers fear the child and attempt to kill him, but Rumbler is ultimately saved by orphan child Little Wren, who leads the boy away from the Walksalong people. Booklist reviewer 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 also enjoyed the novel, describing it as "fast-paced, fluid, rich with smoothly integrated background detail and softened by a touch of romanticism that deflects the violence and brutality."

People of the Owl features fifteen-year-old Mud Puppy, a visionary juvenile warrior who is given the responsible for his entire clan after being christened Salamander at his initiation ceremony. With three disloyal wives and a reputation for being the village idiot, Salamander must weather assaults from hidden enemies within his tribe while also battling the warring spirits of good and evil. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that People of the Owl is "propelled by the Gears' spry storytelling," while Brad Hooper commented in Booklist that the Gears "provide fascinating information on the customs of past times."

Part of the Gears' popular series set in prehistoric North America, this 2003 novel finds a young teen forced to become leader of his people after his brother is killed. (Cover illustration by Royo.)

The Visitant, a novel in the Gears' "Anasazi Mystery" series, alternates between the past and present in telling the story of archeologist Dusty Stewart and anthropologist Maureen Cole. Looking for clues as to why the Chaco Anasazi Indians disappeared from northwestern New Mexico centuries before, the two discover several mass graves of young women whose skulls have been smashed. Meanwhile, after Anasazi war chief Browser's wife winds up dead and several other deaths of young women in the tribe follow, Browser's uncle Stone Ghost is called upon to deal with the situation. As the two situations converge, Stewart and Cole bring in the office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 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. Praising the "breathtaking descriptions [that] evoke the harsh beauty of the desert in both winter and summer," a Publishers Weekly reviewer commended the Gears' "lucid, erudite historical perspectives," and Herald wrote that "the vividly depicted characters and settings are satisfying."

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 cautions that the fate of this people may befall human civilization as well. A Publishers Weekly contributor called The Summoning God 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."

In addition to novels set in North America's past, the Gears have also penned contemporary works. Dark Inheritance centers upon the efforts of British pharmaceutical manufacturer Smyth-Archer Chemicals (SAC) to create a "smart" chimpanzee. To do so, the company has placed apes with scientists and their families, among them single father Jim Dutton and his daughter, Brett. Umber, a bonobo ape—a variety of chimpanzee—has been raised alongside Brett, and the pair are as close as human sisters. Umber communicates with Brett and Jim via 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, questions are raised regarding SAC's experiments and the fact that certain chimps who do not achieve some level of intellectual advancement may become violent. Booklist critic William Beatty called Dark Inheritance a "lively, thought-provoking, and convincing story."

In addition to collaborations with her husband, Kathleen O'Neal Gear has published a number of novels for adult readers, including her "Powers of Light" series and several standalone novels. Set in seventeenth-century Quebec, This Widowed Land features Jesuit ministers who clash with Huron Indians, until one of the Europeans falls in love with a Huron woman named Andiora. Publishers Weekly reviewer Sybil S. Steinberg Haunted by the memory of the husband who abandoned her, a high chieftess builds a new life while guiding her clan until a stranger unlocks old emotions and threatens her ability to rule during a time of war in this 2005 novel. (Cover illustration by Vince Natale.)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."

Thin Moon and Cold Mist is set during the U.S. Civil War and features Robin Walkingstick Heatherton, a female spy who masquerades as a black male soldier in order to infiltrate the Union army and spy for the Confederacy. When 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 falls in love with another Union soldier. It Sleeps in Me finds the leadership of Black Falcon high chieftess Sora threatened by duplicitous allies and haunted by the shadow soul of her dead husband while attempting to lead her people and sustain her life. Again writing in Publishers Weekly, Steinberg noted that Gear imbues Thin Moon and Cold Mist "with historical detail and intriguing plot twists, delivered in lively prose," and Library Journal reviewer Mary Ellen Elsbernd wrote that in It Sleeps in Me Gear "spins her magic … in a saga peppered with murder, intrigue, and … love scenes."

Biographical and Critical Sources


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.

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), April 22, 2001, Linda DuVal, "Defining Humanity," p. B6.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 756; August 1, 2005, review of People of the Moon, p. 821.

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; May 15, 2003, Mary Ellen Elsbernd, review of People of the Owl, p. 123; 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, May 3, 1991, review of People of the Wolf (sound recording), p. 50; 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; 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; July 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 55; May 26, 2003, review of People of the Owl, p. 49.

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 Web site, http://www.gear-gear.com (December 25, 2005).

Additional topics

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