Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Attic With Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier, most famous for Girl With a Pearl Earring, recently published her sixth novel, Remarkable Creatures, about two women who hunt for fossils on an English beach, in the States. The American author, who now lives in London, recently chatted with me via phone about her new book for an article in the Washington Post Express in advance of her speaking engagement at the US Navy Memorial tonight at 6:45. Below, an excerpt. Read the whole interview here.

What made you decide to tell the story of Mary Anning, a woman who collected fossils on an English beach?

I was interested in telling her story since I was surprised at how young she was when she made some of her discoveries. She was only 12 when she found the first complete specimen of an ichthyosaur. She was an uneducated, working-class girl who did things on instinct and had a good eye for finding things. ... Also, she was struck by lightning and survived. Accounts at the time said she had been very sickly and lethargic before and after she became lively and intelligent.

Were fossiis something you were interested in?

No, which is why it was so surprising for me that I had this idea. Fossils aren't something I would normally have gravitated toward, until I went to the dinosaur museum with my son, who was going through a dinosaur phase. Once I had a human face to put to the science, it made the science more interesting.

What do you enjoy about writing historical fiction?

I'm attracted to it because it gets me away from my contemporary life. I feel like I live it, so I don't need to write about it, and it's more interesting to write about things I don't know.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about a 19th century Quaker family who worked on the Underground Railroad in Ohio.

Previous Attic Salt interviews.


  1. Have you read this book? It sounds really good.
    Also, one of my students is writing his research report on Ichthyosaurus.

  2. I haven't read it, but it does sound good.

    This might be helpful for your student: