Book Talk: Tracy Chevalier finds inspiration in museum

Wed Jan 6, 2010 5:31pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The idea for Tracy Chevalier's latest novel "Remarkable Creatures" came to her in a dinosaur museum in Dorset, England.

Chevalier's novel tells the story of Mary Anning, a fossil-collecting woman in the 19th century, whose discoveries challenged the predominant thinking of her era.

The acclaimed historical novelist, best-known for "Girl with a Pearl Earring," said it wasn't the first time that inspiration had struck in a museum.

Once she has stumbled on a topic she wants to explore, the key is lots of historical research, she said.

Chevalier told Reuters that she is sometimes envious of contemporary novelists who write based on their own experience -- but added that the amount of historical research needed for even small details stops her writing from becoming "sloppy."

Q: How do you come up with the ideas for your novels?

A: "I don't ever go looking for an idea. It just seems to spring up on me when I least expect it and it has happened a few times when I'm at a museum.

"This time it was at a dinosaur museum in Dorset. There was a display about Mary Anning and she just struck me as an unusual person. The fact she was working class and didn't start out as a scientist but she was collecting fossils to sell them to make a living and fell into this scientific discovery.   Continued...

<p>The cover of Tracy Chevalier's 'Remarkable Creatures' is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Penguin USA/Handout</p>