Saturday, December 20, 2014

Are you part Neanderthal?

I'm enjoying a virtual cup of coffee with author Harper Swan today. Her novella, Raven's Choice, blends science fiction, prehistory, and archeology into an enticing tale of genetics, Neanderthals, and mystery. I'm certainly looking forward to reading it, probably when the Christmas rush is done. After all, I love Jean Auel's books, and Kathleen Flanagan's Misfits and Heroes series. But I've never been tempted (yet) to write prehistory. So I had to ask Harper, when she agreed to visit here, what led to her writing this book. And here's her answer... Over to you, Harper




Although I was interested in history even as a child, I first became fascinated with very ancient prehishoric times during eighth grade study hall one day in my middle school library.              
 
While browsing the science section, I ran across a book about early hominids. I was flabbergasted to discover that many other hominid species had lived on this Earth but were no longer here. The Neanderthals especially caught at my imagination when I  studied photos showing their skeletons and artist illustrations of how they might have looked. I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice my class had lined up to leave the library. My teacher called my name to get my attention and told me go check out the book.
 
That sounds fun. I got hooked on mythology at about the same age. Our school rules dictated that each child should take one fiction and one non-fiction book home to read. When I learned that Greek myths were shelved under non-fiction I started reading every myth and legend I could lay hand to. But what books have you particularly enjoyed, and which ones do you think influenced your writing?
 
I loved Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series when it was released, especially The Clan of the Cave Bear. So when I decided to try my hand at writing, the first thing that came to mind was to do a tale about Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans. I talked myself out of it, thinking how prehistoric fiction was such a limited genre, and I went on to write something else. But when I finished with that story, I found myself again wanting to write prehistoric fiction.
 
I gave into that impulse and wrote the first book of The Replacement Chronicles, Raven’s Choice, and I have never regretted it. But really, over the last five years, prehistoric fiction has blossomed from just a few titles into quite a list when you look on Goodreads and Amazon. On Amazon, if you do a search for prehistoric fiction, a long list will pop up.
 
Good idea. I shall go and do that search. But you've been looking into real research too, haven't you, not just books lists on Amazon? Did you learn anything interesting about Neanderthals?
 
After I found that geneticists had sequenced Neanderthal genomes and now say that many people living today carry Neanderthal genes, I had my genome sequenced by a genetics company. According to their analysis, I am 2.8% Neanderthal! 
 
Wow! Really...
 
How might this have happened?
 
Indeed!
 
And when Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals encountered each other while hunting, say, how did they react to the others presence. Those questions, in a nutshell, are what my novella, Raven’s Choice, is all about.
 
It sounds fascinating. But it sounds like writing it must have been really hard work. What else did you learn?
 
I’ve done a ton of research for this story, and I’ve woven many details into the story line that are based on recent findings. After learning that Neanderthals have a hyoid bone essential for speech such as we do, although angled in their throats a little differently, I was even able to slip my love of languages and linguistics into the story. (I used to teach both Spanish and English, by the way.) 
 
Very cool, and more for me to look out for and enjoy when I read it.
 
Raven, my spunky main character, learns the word for eat, and I based the structure of that word and how she says it on my research.
 
Hmm. May I offer you a virtual cookie to eat while you drink your e-coffee? What else are you working on?
 
I am presently writing the second story in the Replacement Chronicles. Raven’s Choice is a cliffhanger, but not a cliffhanger, to quote a review I received. The story stands on its own, but I’ve left a lot of room to write more.

(This photo shows me in the National Prehistoric museum in Les Eyzies, France. I spent many fascinated hours there looking at artifacts made by Homo Erectus, Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals.) 

Wow. Thank you Harper. I think I'm hooked! And I wonder what percentage Neanderthal I am.

With linguistics, science, fascinating questions of prehistory and relationships, Raven's Choice really sounds just my thing. If only I could download a little more time and start reading straight away, but I'll hope to post a review in the New Year. Meanwhile, dear readers, you could do better still; buy the book and review it yourself!

Thank you for visiting my blog, Harper, and for sharing those new discoveries.

And here's where readers can find Raven's Choice:

And where they can find...

About the Book:

What possible link could Mark Hayek, an introverted twenty-first century research scientist, have to Raven, a young woman who lived during the late Pleistocene? It has everything to do with an encounter between a band of Early Modern Humans and a group of Neanderthals intent on hunting bison.

As meticulously researched as Jean Auel's Earth Children series but with the benefit of recent discoveries, this novella is an updated story revealing how contact between Neanderthals and Early Humans had surprising results.

After an injured Neanderthal hunter is taken captive, Raven, as a healer, feels she has no option but to become his advocate. Her own survival soon becomes doubtful when the band's leader threatens to cast her out onto the steppe for what he sees as dangerous willfulness.

Raven feels an unexpected empathy for the mysterious Neanderthal. But while trying to preserve his life and health, will she go so far as to commit what could be the worst error of her own life? Mark Hayek will never find out that Raven faced a frightening dilemma. But if he did know, he would understand that the present reality exists because of choices made in the past.





No comments: