Barbara Kingsolver, who brilliantly blends fact and fiction in her novels, has selected American naturalist Mary Treat and Charles Darwin characters for her next cli-fi novel.
So, for those who want to know what I was talking about above.........Barbara Kingsolver, author of the 'cli-fi' classic
is working on new 'cli-fi' novel
about Mary Treat
who lived in 1800s and
was friend of Charles Darwin.
Kingsolver and her husband, Steven Hopp, recently spent 2 days in late September 2015 at the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society in Vineland, New Jersey reviewing Treat’s personal papers and research notes to gain a better understanding of the naturalist’s life.
Mrs. Treat moved to Vineland in 1868 with her husband, Dr. Joseph Treat, and began a lifetime of research that she shared with noted scientists of the era. Among them was Charles Darwin, the scientist whose controversial theories on evolution shook the world.
For a time, Treat and Darwin exchanged letters, discussing different theories about plant and animal life. She also corresponded regularly with other scientists, including Dr. Asa Gray of Harvard University and Charles Riley, the state entomologist for Missouri.
Treat supported herself by writing and lecturing on plants and insects and her work was well-received by the community and scientific magazines of the time. She eventually purchased her own home on Park Avenue in Vineland.
Kingsolver, who currently resides with her family in Virginia, is the author of ''FLIGHT BEHAVIOR.''
Kingsolver, whose 2012 book “Flight Behavior” was chosen for the local county library’s One Book, One Cape May read in September, shared some “secrets” about her characters and her craft recently at the Sea Isle library – but the disclosure welcomed most eagerly by people in Vineland was the news that her next novel is to be set in South Jersey.
More than 100 people came out to hear Kingsolver give a talk, which by her admission is an infrequent occurrence. The rural Kentucky native, who lives on a farm in southern Appalachia where she raises organic vegetables and Icelandic sheep and writes best-selling novels, said she rarely accepts speaking engagements.
“If I did, I wouldn’t be a writer. I’d be a woman who does shows,” she said.
Kingsolver, who spoke conversationally and warmed up listeners by asking them a few questions about life in South Jersey, said she accepted the library’s invitation because it ties in with a book she is working on, giving her the chance to come to the area and do some research.
Mary Treat, a naturalist and researcher who lived in Vineland in the late 1800s and corresponded regularly with the likes of Charles Darwin and other scientists of the day, figures to be a central character in the book. Kingsolver and her husband, Steven L. Hopp, a biologist and college environmental studies teacher, spent two days at the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society reviewing Treat’s personal papers and research notes.
Kingsolver said writing, like creating any art, is 94 and a half percent plain hard work. The other 5 and half percent is magic: the “bing!” moment.
The “bing” in “Flight Behavior” occurred when she hit on the idea of using the monarch butterfly as a device to illustrate the effects of climate change, a concern that is “incredibly important” to her.
“It is the most worrisome thing on Earth,” the author said.
The story revolves around millions of monarchs that are displaced from their wintering location in Mexico as a result of global warming, and their fight to survive on a rural Tennessee mountaintop.
The topic of climate change has created a huge rift among people, she said.
“People don’t want to talk about it; they don’t want to hear about it. Why is it so hard to believe in?” Kingsolver said.
She sees her writing as a way to continue the conversation about climate change, to warm unbelievers to the science behind it, and to get people to talk across the “great divide” of their beliefs.
“We take information from sources we trust,” Kingsolver pointed out. “We decide who is on our team, then we accept information from them. To talk across divides, we have to be trusted.”
Kingsolver said the book’s characters and subplots explore the ways culture and education influence those divides.
“Everything is there because it moves the theme forward and where I want it to go,” she said.
“I also want you to learn something.”