Looking back, which experiences, jobs and personality traits do you think have really helped you? I studied journalism in college and went on to become a newspaper reporter. I’ve written for newspapers for decades, usually as a foreign correspondent.
What inspired you to start writing? I have always known I wanted to be a writer, from the time I was about 5 years old. I started writing short stories, the first of which was “What If I Spent A Day As A Light Bulb … What Would That Be Like?”
Which was the first book you wrote? Mary Anning was my second book. When I was a foreign correspondent in my mid-20s in Central America, I wrote a book about how to retire south of the border.
Were you interested in archaeology or dinosaurs before you wrote ‘The Fossil Hunter’? When I was covering Europe, based in London, I traveled to a town with my son called Lyme Regis, England. It was on the shore and had a lovely little Lyme Regis Museum. I went inside and that is where I first learned about Mary Anning. I read that she was an uneducated but consummate fossil hunter who lived in the 1700s. I had never heard of her and didn’t really think much about it until I went to the Natural History Museum in London a few weeks later and came upon her fossils and a large portrait of her.
What inspired you to write this book? I began looking into Mary Anning’s story and realized no one had written very much about her — and she was a very important lady. So I emailed some material to my agent… and soon Palgrave Macmillan in New York City agreed to publish the book. I was not a “science” person but my son, who was about 11 at the time, was.
What was the best thing about writing this book? It was fun to write this book and to have it launch at the Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. I took my son with me and it was a lovely experience. I continue to be fascinated by women who made their mark in a “man’s world” such as Mary Anning.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? After Mary Anning, Palgrave Macmillan asked me to write a biography of Madame Curie, which I did. That book was published a few years ago and has done quite well. I was able to travel to Paris to meet Curie’s 80-something granddaughter. I loved delving into the life of Curie and her two daughters, who were also both wildly successful.
Do you collect anything? My son does indeed collect fossils. I collect interesting plates from around the world.
What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? In addition to writing books, I’m also a Senior Editor At The Huffington Post in New York City. Probably my favorite thing to do in the world is travel.
What are you working on next? Currently, I’m working on a new biography, about the life of St. Catherine of Siena, who is one of Italy’s two patron saints (the other being St. Francis of Assisi) and one of the superstars of the Catholic Church. I hope to complete the book by July.
Read my review of ‘The Fossil Hunter’ here.