A nationally best-selling author will talk about her wide-ranging work today at Drake University. Mary Doria Russell’s first two novels were marketed as science fiction, though she says her professional background is in anthropology.
She did international research and wrote for peer-reviewed journals in the field, though she says editors always wrote back to say, "This was great fun to read but can you take out all the good parts?" Eventually she turned her talent for expressive writing to fiction, producing "The Sparrow" and "Children of God," which were critically acclaimed. Russell says her anthropology background also enriched her fiction.
"It’s the human species," she says, "in all of its variety and all of its horror and charm." She says the academic discipline taught her to consider people who are alive today as well as those who’ve been "dead for five-Million years." She says piecing together ancient civilizations and analyzing modern ones proved great training for writing novels. Her third book, titled "A Thread of Grace," went in another direction entirely.
It’s a "historical thriller," about the Jewish underground near Genoa during the Nazi occupation of Italy, in World War Two. She notes that in every one of her books, she’s writing about a time and a place not her own. The same is true for her fourth book which is coming out later this year, another historical work set during the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference. Russell speaks at the Drake University Sheslow Auditorium at 6:30 tonight.