Welcome to Paper Lantern Writers! How are you holding up nearly two years into the pandemic?
I’ve survived the pandemic with mental health intact—so far—thanks to family. We share a goofy sense of humor…laughter is great medicine. Writing is a solitary business, so I’m also grateful for my writing community when we meet via technology. We’re supportive and help each other thread narrow needles.
Tell us about the books you’ve written.
My first eight books focus on natural and cultural history. One glorious year I wore out two pairs of hiking boots for research. The research I do for historical fiction—the biblical Judging Noa and my upcoming Late Renaissance mystery trilogy—is almost as engrossing as the writing.
Did you choose historical fiction or did it choose you?
Historical fiction chose me. Helping a friend with conference content, I discovered Noa’s and her sisters’ pursuit of inheritance rights (Numbers 27:1-8). Women’s rights 3500 years ago!? I had to tell their story. After that, the flowering of Late Renaissance art and technology grabbed me.
What three books would we find on your night table?
Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red: a delicious reread of a great histfic mystery and essential if you’re writing about sixteenth-century Istanbul.
Katharine Hayhoe’s Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.
Jane Cleland’s Jane Austen’s Lost Letters: I love a good mystery. And…Jane Austen!
Who is your favorite author?
Louise Erdrich is my favorite author. Her characters, even the quirky ones, are fully realized as is the world they inhabit. She explores deep issues in a lived-in way, always with “naturally occurring” humor. She owns and operates Birchbark Books and Native Arts, another plus.
Do you have another artistic outlet?
Gardening rounds out my creativity. I worked in a nursery, and I love playing with texture, color, and height. Our front garden is all California natives. Now I’m imagining the back: a meditation garden, an herb garden, no water-guzzling grass.
Have you always written fiction?
A cousin died when I was 12 and I felt guilty for not liking her. So I wrote a poem to her. Poems led to short stories in high school, to book reviews in journalism jobs, then to articles and books on natural and cultural history. Now here I am in fiction land.
Michal Strutin’s debut novel is JUDGING NOA: A FIGHT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN THE TURMOIL OF THE EXODUS She is currently completing the first book in a historical mystery trilogy set in the Late Renaissance. She loves that historical fiction mirrors our times: nefarious politics, new technologies, the range of emotions and problems within families and communities. Michal’s nonfiction focuses on natural and cultural history and travel. Her eight nonfiction books include Chicago Book Clinic award-winner PLACES OF GRACE: THE NATURAL LANDSCAPES OF THE AMERICAN MIDWEST with photographer Gary Irving. In DISCOVERING NATURAL ISRAEL, Michal encounters great biodiversity and people from everywhere.
Other books: award-winning HISTORY HIKES OF THE SMOKIES, award-winning GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY PLAINS INDIANS, FLORIDA STATE PARKS: A COMPLETE RECREATION GUIDE, two volumes of SMITHSONIAN GUIDES TO NATURAL AMERICA GREAT LAKES AND SOUTHEAST.
Michal’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Outside, and many others. She worked as an editor at National Parks, Outside, and the Washington Post, and copy editor at Rolling Stone. Michal is also a research librarian, most recently serving as science and environment librarian at Santa Clara University. She is a member of the Authors Guild, Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime.
Michal and her husband live in San Jose, near kids and grandkids, the main reason she’s a climate activist. She is always up for outdoor activities. A native-plants gardener, Michal enjoys pulling weeds when stumped on writing.
Kathryn Pritchett writes about strong women forged in the American West. To interact with her and the other Paper Lantern Writers, join us in our Facebook group SHINE, on Instagram, and Twitter.