Saturday, 21 January 2017

Before my research for THE OTHER EINSTEIN, I had no idea that Albert and Mileva had a child before their marriage ...

Interview with Marie Benedict
by Agnes A. Rose

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms. She is a graduate of Boston College and the Boston University School of Law. While Marie was practicing as a lawyer, she was dreamed about a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. Finally she found it when she tried her hand at writing. She embarked on a new, narratively connected series of historical novels with THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein’s first wife who was a physicist, too. Mileva Marić might have played the role in his theories. Marie Benedict writes also as Heather Terrell. So far she has published the historical novels such as THE CHRYSALIS, THE MAP THIEF, and BRIGID OF KILDARE. She is also the author of FALLEN ANGEL SERIES and BOOKS OF EVA SERIES. In Poland her book THE OTHER EINSTEIN was released on January 11, 2017

Agnes A. Rose: Marie, thank you very much that you agreed to accept my invitation to take part in this interview. I am so happy that I can talk to you about your books. Let’s start our conversation with the fact that you are a lawyer. What happened that you decided to create fiction? Did you want to forget about your work and focus on something that gave you more pleasure?

Published by
USA, October 2016
Marie Benedict: While I enjoyed practicing as a commercial litigator in New York City, I had always — since a very young age — been captivated by the untold stories lurking in the past, particularly those stories of women. One night, while working late at night at my law firm, a friend asked me a question that gave me an idea for a novel. From that point forward, I have been writing stories, and I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to focus on writing exclusively.

AAR: As I mentioned above you dreamed about a job that would allow you to unearth the hidden historical stories of women. I think that this fact could make you to become interested in Mileva Marić’s life. How did you come across her story? What motivated you to write about this woman?

MB: One evening, I was reading a children’s biography by Scholastic about Albert Einstein with one of my sons, and the book mentioned that his first wife was also a physicist with whom he had attended university. I began to wonder who this woman was and what role she might have played in the great scientist’s theories. Once I began researching, the story of Mileva Marić became even more intriguing and important.

AAR: Some of historians say that Albert Einstein’s first wife contributed to his early works, but we don’t know how important her role and participation were. What do you think about it?

MB: While I think we will never know the full extent of her participation in his theories, we do know that Mileva was well-educated and extremely bright and that she and Albert had long been research and study partners. Given Mileva’s background and the nature of her relationship with Albert, shouldn’t the onus be on others to prove that she played no role in his scientific breakthroughs?

AAR: What is the most interesting or maybe surprising fact you came across in your research for THE OTHER EINSTEIN?

MB: Before my research for THE OTHER EINSTEIN, I had no idea that Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić had a child before their marriage — a little girl named Lieserl — and I had no comprehension of how that child impacted Mileva’s life. This fact was astonishing, particularly with respect to the pivotal role it played for Mileva.

AAR: What was the most difficult while writing THE OTHER EINSTEIN?

MB: Albert Einstein is such an iconic figure, arguably the world’s most famous scientist and one of the more well-known individuals, that I found writing a story that necessarily included him quite daunting, especially because his depiction in THE OTHER EINSTEIN is not entirely in keeping with the image most people have of the great scientist.

AAR: THE OTHER EINSTEIN was released in America a few months ago. Could you tell us how your American readers reacted to it?

MB: I have been extremely fortunate in the wonderful reception I’ve gotten from readers. It has received tremendous praise and recognition, and the story of Mileva Marić seems to strike a different chord in different people — whether it is amazement that her tale has never been told, anger that her possible contribution to Albert Einstein’s work has been forgotten or suppressed, disappointment that her emotional and care-taking support of Einstein during a critical period in his career has been marginalized, or sadness at the terrible losses Mileva suffered. I could go on and on!

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) with his first wife Mileva Marić (1875-1948)
This photo was taken in 1912 by an unknown author. 

AAR: You also write as Heather Terrell. Is it your literary pseudonym? Why do you write using the two names?

MB: My earlier novels, the ones I wrote under the name Heather Terrell, all contained at their core a mystery, typically one that focused on an unanswered historical question or myth. While those novels differed in genre, they shared that similarity. My new novels, of which THE OTHER EINSTEIN is the first, will be works of historical fiction, centering on the untold stories of historical women that have important resonance in our modern lives.

AAR: You are also the author of paranormal YA series. Could you tell us something more about these books?

MB: That series — entitled FALLEN ANGEL — explores similar themes, namely unanswered historical mysteries, although that exploration takes a different genre format and a broader reach. In that series, I delved into the origins of the vampire myth and how it emerged simultaneously across different cultures.

AAR: Some Polish reviewers try to compare BOOKS OF EVA SERIES with THE HUNGER GAMES TRYLOGY by Suzanne Collins. Do you agree with it? Were you inspired by these books? Or maybe is it only a marketing trick used by publishers and repeated by readers?

MB: THE HUNGER GAMES series was a tremendous series, and I am very complimented by such a comparison. Whatever similarities exist between the two series, however, they are not purposeful.

This is the Polish cover of
Published by ZNAK HORYZONT
Kraków 2017
Translated by Natalia Mętrak-Ruda
AAR: Now let’s return to history. Why are you interested in the hidden historical stories of women? Wouldn’t you like to write about women whose lives are commonly known? I think that it is easier because of researching.

MB: Delving into the lives of women who played a significant historical role — but who are little known — gives us a fresh and fuller perspective on our history and ourselves. That is why I write about women whose tales are largely undiscovered rather than commonly known women.

AAR: Do you have your favourite historical woman you admire? If so, who is it and why? 

MB: This list of historical women I admire is incredibly long, and I could not possibly single out just one.

AAR: If you could go back in time and meet Mileva Marić what would you like to talk to her about?

MB: I would adore meeting Mileva! Having spent so much time with her letters, I feel like I know her, although of course we cannot really ever know someone from the past. I would hope that Mileva and I could converse about her earliest aspirations, how she made the astonishing climb to a Swiss university at a time when very few women had higher educations, what her relationship with Albert was really like, the nature of her role in his “miracle year” theories, and most of all, what happened to her dear Lieserl. 

AAR: Have you found another hidden historical woman you would like to write about? If so, could you tell us about her?

MB: As I mentioned, I have a very long list of forgotten historical women that I adore and would like to bring to light. It is actually incredibly hard to select just one woman to focus on at a time. That said, I did pick one for my next book, entitled CARNEGIE’S MAID. It shares the story of the woman behind the transformation of the famous American industrialist Andrew Carnegie from ruthless businessman to the world’s first philanthropist.

AAR: Marie, thank you once again for this conversation. I wish you further success in your writing. Is there anything you would like to tell your Polish readers who are going to read THE OTHER EINSTEIN?

MB: Thank you so much for your support and interest in THE OTHER EINSTEIN! 

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here