Friday, August 27, 2010

Jean M. Auel

From a Q & A with Jean Auel about her 2004 novel, The Shelters of Stone:

Q: You've been known to travel to specific archeological sites around the world to conduct research for your books. Where did you do research for THE SHELTERS OF STONE and how many of the caves in the book are based on actual sites?

A: About thirty thousand years ago, during the last Ice Age, the northern lands were buried under tons of ice a couple of miles thick, but France and other countries of the same latitude were south of the glaciers, which meant people could live there, and did. I have been researching THE SHELTERS OF STONE since my first trip to France in 1982, which was part of my first research trip, during which I also visited Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Ukraine. I have returned to Europe several times for research.

SHELTERS takes place in and around the community of Les Eyzies and along the Vezere River in the Dordogne region of southwest France. I have visited most of the sites there to get a feel for the setting of the story. Some of the caves and rock shelters are relatively unchanged, but others have collapsed or have been irrevocably damaged. Even though conditions are different now, I wanted to see the painted caves and living sites, and how they related to each other and to such things as rivers and other natural formations. Then I had to work out the background details, such as the climate and the way the landscape looked back then.

It was important to get the physical details right because not only have most archaeological specialists of this period studied the French material, but many ordinary people from all over the world have visited the region. Every place mentioned in the book and noted on the end-papers map is a real location that still exists and can be visited today.

Q: While your novels focus on a civilization of the past, there is a very modern theme that runs throughout in Ayla struggling to achieve equality with her peers. When you first created this dynamic character, how much thought did you put into giving her modern sensibilities?

A: The reason there is a modern sensibility to my characters is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue