Paula McLain was born in Fresno, CA in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could and wanted to write. She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family (Little Brown, 2003), and the novels, A Ticket to Ride, The Paris Wife and Circling The Sun.
She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996 and has received fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Cleveland with her family.
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A conversation with Paula McLain about her 2015 novel Circling The Sun about Beryl Markham, a woman before her time
In Circling The Sun you return to the 1920s, a period you recreated so brilliantly in The Paris Wife, with a cast of characters who are just as fascinating. This time we're in colonial British Kenya, learning about Beryl Markham, a heroine both brave and fiercely self-reliant, but somewhat forgotten in history. What inspired you to write about Beryl?
Beryl was a totally wonderful accident as a subject. After The Paris Wife, I began working on another historical novel, but it just wouldn't come together. For whatever reason, I couldn't find the voice of the book, and was completely stuck. During that timethis would have been spring of 2013, I went on vacation to Orlando with my sister and soon-to-be-brother-in-law. He's a doctor and a pilot, and as we were poolside that weekend, he kept looking up from the book he was reading, Beryl Markham's West With the Night, and saying, "You have got to read about this woman. She's amazing." I was far too busy being miserable with the other project to listen, but took the book home and stashed it on a shelf in my dining room, where it gathered dust for ...
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