An interview with
the creator of
By Pennie Clark Ianiciello
MORE THAN THREE decades ago, Jean M.
Auel had an idea for a short story about a
woman who looked completely different
from everyone else around her. In trying to
figure out who and where the woman was,
Auel soon had an outline for a six-novel series
that started with The Clan of the Cave Bear
and ended with the recently published The
Land of Painted Caves. More than 45 million
copies of her books have sold worldwide.
The series begins 30,000 years ago when
5-year-old Ayla is separated from her family.
She’s taken in by a group of Neanderthals who
refer to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl as
one of “the others.” In the latest (and last!)
installment, the Ice Age heroine, now 27, realizes it’s time to strike a balance between being
a mother to her daughter and a loving mate
to Jondalar, while pursuing the knowledge
and power of Jondalar’s people.
In early February 2011, I had the extreme
pleasure of talking with Auel and her husband, Ray. It was a mere two weeks before
Auel’s 75th birthday and a 10-day trip to
London, where she was to meet with foreign
reporters to discuss the new book.
I admit this may not be your standard
Q&A, but Auel isn’t your average writer—or
woman, for that matter.
Pennie Clark Ianiciello: Were you ready
for how your life changed after the success
of The Clan of the Cave Bear?
Jean M. Auel: I was 40; I knew what life
was. I wasn’t going to be like some rock stars
who believe their own hype.
PCI: Have you ever gone back and
reread your novels?
JMA: Not after publication, but when I’m
working I write and rewrite and then reread it.
Then I edit it and have to reread it. Then it’s
The Costco Connection
The Land of Painted Caves and earlier titles
in the Earth’s Children series are available
in most Costco warehouses.
copyedited and I reread it. I check everything.
It’s my work and I have to stay on top of it.
PCI: Do you consider yourself an expert
JMA: I’m a novelist who does good
PCI: What have been the pleasant sur-
prises along the way? I’ve heard that you’ve
become friends with several archaeologists.
JMA: I’ve been on digs where it’s just the
archaeologists and me. I’ve been to a very
many caves, including the three prominent
ones: Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamera. If I
think about Lascaux too hard it still brings
tears to my eyes. Archaeologist Jean Clottes
was asked about my books and he said, “It
could have happened.”
PCI: That’s a great compliment. You’re
obviously steeped in research. How has
what you’ve learned shown up in the books?
JMA: In the first book Ayla has an amulet
with several things in it. I read about a discovery where several objects that didn’t seem to
belong together were found together. There
was a mammoth ivory disc stained with red
ochre and black manganese dioxide, both coloring agents. I don’t know what they were
used for, but I included that in the story.
PCI: Listening to your stories, I can’t
help but think about all of the famous peo-
ple you must know.
Costco book buyer
Pennie Clark Ianiciello
(left) talks with
author Jean M. Auel.
RED BOX PICTURES
JMA: Just because I met James Earl Jones
doesn’t mean I know him. I did meet Tom
Selleck, and he’s still a hunk.
Ray Auel: Bruce Willis kissed her on the
mouth. We were at the bottom of the Hoover
Dam and Jean was late. When she was introduced as the woman who wrote The Clan of
the Cave Bear, he kissed her.
JMA: [Willis] was just a little overwhelmed, and I think that was the only way
he could think to express it.
PCI: Maybe it’s a sore subject, but I want
to ask about the film version of The Clan of
the Cave Bear that came out in the ’80s.
JMA: [Blows a raspberry and makes the
PCI: A lot of movies are remade these
JMA: We’ll sign the rights over to our children. They can do with them what they want.
PCI: It’s still more than a month before
the [new] book comes out, but the buzz is
JMA: I got a starred review in Kirkus
Review. My agent called and read it to me. I’m
always surprised that people like [my books].
PCI: Is there anything else you’d like
people to know about the new book or the
journey you’ve been on?
JMA: One of these days I’m going to wake
up and realize I’ve reached the end. [Ayla] is
like a friend I won’t see anymore.
PCI: Now that this series has come to an
end, do you have more stories in you?
JMA: I think that as long as I’m alive and
able, I’ll continue to write. C