Sunday, May 7, 2017

Claire Cameron

Claire Cameron's latest novel is The Last Neanderthal.

From her Reading Group Choices Q&A:

RGC: How did you decide what to include that was based on research vs. what was based on creativity and imagination? Now that you are done writing, can you tell the difference – where you see the research-driven portions and where you added imaginative information? It’s interesting to read it and not know what might be based on truth and what might not, and more often than not we just accepted it all as truth and then had to remind ourselves that it’s fiction so it might not be.

CC: I did about five years of research and I know every little crack that shows between creativity and imagination, but I love to hear that it’s disguised for you. That was what I tried to do.

I used the research like a set of creative constraints to write the story within. So when I found compelling evidence, it became a rule. One example: Neanderthals had hyoid bones. This is a small U-shaped bone in our neck that anchors the tongue and allows for our nuanced speech. They also had the FOXP2 gene, which in modern humans helps to enable communication and speech. Those are things we know.

Then I moved on to informed speculation by experts. Another example: A vocal expert speculated that the Neanderthal larynx, or voice box, might have been shorter and squatter than ours, which might make their voice come at a higher pitch. She also speculated that they probably had to force out words, so their sounds were probably loud, louder, and loudest.

Taking all this kind of research together, I came up with my theories about how Neanderthals talked and their cultural attitudes towards conversation. But, when I build them into the story my theories become firmly in the realm of the imagination, as they should be.

The sound of a voice doesn’t fossilize. Scientists can’t hear a word that was spoken 40,000 years ago. A novelist is...[read on]
Visit Claire Cameron's website and Facebook page.

See Cameron's five notable stories about unlikely survivors.

My Book, The Movie: The Line Painter.

Writers Read: Claire Cameron (February 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue