Kerrytown BookFest Vice President Sharon Gambin recently caught up with Mary Doria Russell to ask about her background, her influences, and what’s next for her.
We would love to know what inspired you to begin writing novels.
Unemployment! I was teaching anatomy at the Case Western University School of Dentistry, but before long, the entire Basic Sciences Department was eliminated and all the courses were folded into the med school. So I didn’t actually lose my job. I know right where it is. It’s in the med school and someone else is doing it now.
I left academe at that point. I worked as a freelance technical writer for five years, but my contracts dried up during the big recession at the end of the Bush Administration (Bush I, not Bush II). By then my kid was in school full time and I had an idea for what I thought might be a short story. Kind of got away from me… That short story turned into The Sparrow (1996) and Children of God (1998).
Please tell us something about the challenges and pleasures of your research and writing process?
Well, I do enjoy research. Each of the novels has been the equivalent of a Ph.D. thesis — but with dialog. The challenge is, I can do a lot of research only to find out that I can’t make a story out of it.