Q: What prompted you to write this book?
Two things: First, I’m fascinated by the balance between faith and reason. I grew up in a fundamentalist religion, and learned that Genesis was the only explanation for how the universe was created. We didn’t question it. Later, when I heard about evolution, I had to reconcile my religious beliefs with the plain facts in front of my face. I’m a true believer in the separation of church and state. I think children should be free to learn in an environment where they’re not made to feel uncomfortable for their religious beliefs--or lack thereof.
Q: How did your experience with your own church influence the story?
One of the things I appreciate about my religious upbringing is that it inspired me to read the Bible every day. I love to find ways to incorporate Bible stories into my novels, as I did in this one. But the downside of my early church experiences is that I saw how some people use religion as an excuse for their own prejudices and hate. You'll see some of that in the novel as well. And like Mena, I was banished from my church when I was a teenager, though my crime was far more ridiculous and less noble than hers.
Q: Why do you think this topic is of such interest to so many Americans right now?
I think the issue of evolution versus creationism has always been out there—it was in Darwin’s time, and it still continues. Maybe it’s because in some ways, the Bible makes it so easy for us: read this, believe it, case closed. Science is messy. Science is always in your face, making you question the things you thought you already knew. But that’s what makes it so necessary— we can always find out more. For me, believing in both God and science makes sense. Science is a way of honoring the creation of our universe by discovering as much as we possibly can about it. Evolution is part of that explanation.
Q: Like Ms. Shepherd, do you need your daily fix of Starbucks before you can start writing?
Ha! I absolutely must have my Starbucks fix every morning.
Q: While growing up did you raise puppies like the Connor family?
I wish! I had to wait until I was an adult. Last summer my good and faithful Labrador retriever died, and I had to get a new puppy right away before my heart broke to smithereens.
From the Hardcover edition.