I had the great pleasure to read an ARC of The Other Einstein, for which I wrote a review, and then interview the author -Marie Benedict. I truly enjoyed reading this story and, even though it might be controversial, I thought it was a fascinating take on it. Since I read the novel, I had a ton of questions about the writing process. Historical fiction is definitely a tough genre! So, I really want to thank the author, Sourcebooks, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read such an interesting tale and get to know how it was achieved. Without further ado, here’s the interview. I hope you enjoy!
How would you describe The Other Einstein for those who are considering to pick it up?
THE OTHER EINSTEIN is the story of Mileva Marić, Albert Einstein’s first wife and a physicist herself. It explores not only Mileva’s meteoric rise from the remote reaches of the Austro-Hungarian empire where it was illegal for girls to attend high school to her admission to a physics program at a European university, but it also delves into the role Mileva might have played in her famous husband’s theories when her own scientific ambitions were derailed through personal tragedy and societal forces.
Why did you decide to write about Mileva Marić?
I have always been interested in the hidden voices in history, so when I started reading the Scholastic biography for children Who Was Albert Einstein with one of my sons in preparation for his book report, I became intrigued when the book mentioned that Albert Einstein met his first wife at university where they were both physics students, and that they were married during his most prolific period. The notion of this woman, who was a university student when very few women even received high school educations and who was married to one of the world’s most renown scientists during his “miracle year” of 1905 when he published four of his most important theories, was very intriguing to me. I dug into the research and THE OTHER EINSTEIN was born.
How was the research process?
The research process for THE OTHER EINSTEIN was surprisingly challenging, given that Mileva Maric was married to one of the world’s most famous men and countless books and articles have been written about him. She does not figure prominently in many of them, so I really relied on the letters to and from her to get a sense of her voice and her internal life.
Not everything about Mileva and Albert Einstein’s life is known so you had to fill in the blanks. How did you decide how much artistic license to take?
I used the research materials and the facts as anchors along the way, and I filled in the gaps in our knowledge with a mixture of logic, research, and fiction. Always, I tried to stay as true as possible.
While writing, what were your sources of inspiration? Did you draw inspiration from research, articles, music or even documentaries?
Among other sources, I drew inspiration for Mileva’s voice from her wonderful letters to Albert, her friends and family. In her own words, I could hear her curious intellect and brilliance as well as her emotional naiveté, and this allowed me to fashion her fictional voice. I also found the few remaining photographs of Mileva — showing an earnest, serious, and quietly attractive, petite young woman — extremely moving.
Have you come to know more women’s stories in history that are not that known after writing The Other Einstein?
As I mentioned, unearthing important, yet largely unknown, women’s narratives from the past has long been a fascination for me and a driving force in my life. As a result, many of these wide-ranging tales have inhabited my consciousness — such as that of explorer Gertrude Bell, female pilot and Amelia Earhart contemporary Ruth Nichols, Revolutionary War spy Agent 355, and female Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, to name a few — but other stories of forgotten women of science have become known to me — such as that of Ada Lovelace, Lise Meitner, Nettie Stevens, and Rosalind Franklin, among many, many others.
Would you like to write another historical fiction novel in the future? What are you working on at the moment?
Absolutely! In my upcoming novels, I plan to write about untold stories of historical women, whose lives contain issues that women currently face. I have just finished an initial draft of CARNEGIE’S MAID, which shares the story of the lady’s maid of Andrew Carnegie’s mother and the part she played in transforming the ruthless businessman into the world’s first philanthropist, a role that impacts our lives broadly today. This novel also explores issues around immigration and identification that are quite current as well.
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. While practicing as a lawyer, Marie dreamed of a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women — and finally 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, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.