The bees play a huge role in the novel, almost serving as a character on their own. But I read that you are actually highly allergic to bees!--Marshal Zeringue
A long time ago, somebody said to me, "The things you’re most afraid of is where you need to be." I’m also terrified of heights, so the book I’m working on now has to do with dinosaur paleontology of the 1870s, which meant I ended up having to climb mountains in Montana. And I was absolutely terrified of it, but it was great. I dug up dinosaur bones, I know now how that character that I’m writing about figured out where the dinosaur bones were—which I couldn’t have from simply reading books on it.
With "Telling the Bees," I did go out and interview all sorts of beekeepers and went to hives and all of that. But what I learned is that if you move slowly, if you don’t disrupt bees, they don’t sting you. So it was actually quite lovely. I have an herb garden in my backyard and I would sit and watch the bees and I literally could see the little pollen sacks getting filled as they went for the flowers, and basil, and rosemary and what have you. Even if they landed on me, I learned not to be terrified and instead to just be gentle and be slow.
What type of research did you do?
What was kind of sweet was I was working for a community newspaper when I first started writing the novel. And my editor knew I was working on this book so when the prize honey for the Orange County fair was going on, he said, "Do you want to go do that story?" And he would send me off. He sent me off on all these little stories about bees and beekeepers, so I would go and visit them.
I always remember this one—he was an investment banker who was this really high-powered guy. When I met him...[read on]