Read The Shelters of Stone Online

Authors: Jean M. Auel

Tags: #Historical fiction

The Shelters of Stone (137 page)

How much in your books is based on fact, and how much is fiction? That is, do you fill in the gaps left by history?

My books are entirely fiction, based on as much factual information as I could find on their subjects. They take place 30,000 years ago, and the only things left from that time are hard objects—things made of stone and bone, such as stone tools, carved items, animal and human skeletal remains—and, as it turns out, microscopic residues. Pollen has been found in Neanderthal graves. Hair from various animals and DNA traces of animal blood from stones and knives add information. Inference fills in a certain amount. For example, if the skeleton of an old Neanderthal man shows that from a young age he had been blind in one eye, had had an arm amputated, and walked with a limp, it is fair to surmise that he was not hunting woolly mammoths, which raises interesting questions: Who amputated his arm? Who stopped the bleeding? Who treated the shock? How did he live to be an old man? Obviously someone took care of him; the question is why? Could it have been because they loved him? Or that his culture took care of their weak and wounded? Perhaps “red in tooth and claw” is not an appropriate way to describe those enigmatic human cousins.

The Earth’s Children
series is an epic adventure spanning many years. Have you always known where the story is going, or has each book been planned separately?

When I started, my question was “I wonder if I could write a short story?” Then I got into the research and got all fired up, and I realized I was writing a book. At the time, I was calling it
Earth’s Children®
, and as it grew, I thought it would be one big saga that fell easily into six parts. I wrote about 450,000 words, and thought I would cut when I rewrote it. But when I started to reread it, I realized that I didn’t know how to write fiction, so I read books about how to write a novel. When I went back and began rewriting the book, instead of editing and cutting down, I found that putting in the dialogue and the scenes to make a story made it grow. It was with some surprise and trepidation that I came to realize that each of the separate parts was a complete story, and that I had a six-book series. I have been working from that original rough draft as an outline for the series, so I have always known, more or less, where the story is going.

Your own books have a great heroine in Ayla. Who is your favorite literary heroine?

I don’t really have one. It may once have been the princess in the fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” which my favorite sixth-grade teacher read to the class. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I think the reason is that in this fairy tale, the man is captured and the princess has to perform feats of skill to save him. That was the trouble with so many of the books I read when I was young. The ones I liked were full of action and adventure, but it was always the men who were acting and adventuring. I never identified with the heroine that was sitting around waiting to be rescued. I was with the hero,
with the sword, or whatever. I still identify with the one actively making the story happen, and I enjoy both male and female protagonists. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but when I started writing, I wanted to write about a woman who did interesting things. I guess that’s why she is a heroine.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

You learn to write by writing, and by reading and thinking about how writers have created their characters and invented their stories. If you are not a reader, don’t even think about being a writer. If you want to write, don’t say you want to do it someday, don’t wait until the spirit moves you: Sit down and do it every day, or at least on some kind of regular basis. But I would warn those who aspire to it that writing fiction is the hardest work I have ever done. Sometimes words don’t want to come. For me, the way to get past writer’s block, or whatever those periods are called, is to sit and put down one word after another. I may not even keep that work, though often I do. It doesn’t matter. I need to get something written. Inspiration happens when you are working at it. At other times I can be so completely immersed in the story that I don’t know where the time has gone, but when I get up, I’m drained. I have poured everything I have into the work—and sometimes I find myself finding ways to stall before I sit down to work the next time. But for all the effort, it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Coming Spring 2011

The highly anticipated sixth book of
Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children
The Land of Painted Caves
is the
culmination fans have been waiting for!

Continuing the story of Ayla and Jondalar, Auel combines her brilliant narrative skills and appealing characters with a remarkable re-creation of the way life was lived more than 25,000 years ago.
The Land of Painted Caves
is an exquisite achievement by one of the world’s most beloved authors.

The Land of Painted Caves
A Novel
$30.00 hardcover (Canada: $35.00)

Available wherever books are sold

Also available as an eBook and a Large Print edition


JEAN M. AUEL is an international phenomenon. Her books have sold 34 million copies worldwide. Her extensive research has earned her the respect of archaeologists and anthropologists around the world. She lives with her husband, Ray, in Oregon, where she is at work on the final book in the Earth’s Children

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