I have always been fascinated by the untold tales of history, and Mileva’s story had long been hidden from view. Initially, I was drawn to her story because I was interested in viewing this critical period of Albert’s life—when most of his revolutionary theories were formed—from a different perspective, one never before explored. But once I learned about Mileva’s astounding rise from the relative hinterland of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the forward-thinking physics classrooms of fin de siècle Switzerland, I felt honor-bound to write about her own compelling life. As for point of view, the idea of drafting the story from Albert’s perspective never really occurred to me; my interest is in unearthing the unknown, and Albert’s past has been examined exhaustively. I felt like it was time for a new voice.
While The Other Einstein is about a relationship, it is not a love story in the traditional sense. You do a fantastic job of capturing the idealism one feels at the dawn of a relationship, and the sometimes painful truth of what that relationship actually is. Was that what you were after when you began the novel, to write the evolution of a relationship?
At the outset, I did have a certain amount of interest in tracking the course of the relationship between Albert and Mileva. Theirs was a passionate affair and magnificent meeting of the minds that devolved rather dramatically over time. But I was also interested in exploring the process of scientific creativity that happened between them—that very moment of insight—and the attribution that happened afterward.
Which character, if any, from the book did you relate to the most?
More than any other character in the book, I probably connect with Mileva, particularly in two areas. First, as I mentioned before, I really relate to Mileva’s experiences as a young woman navigating a man’s world. Second, like Mileva, I have struggled with balancing the all-consuming aspects of life as a mother with the demands of life as a professional person. In The Other Einstein, Mileva feels torn between these two realms, and I know that there are many women like me who wrestle with this same issue today. In that way, Mileva’s story is a very relevant, modern one.
Have you always enjoyed science yourself, or was writing about physics and theory a whole new world for you?
The irony about writing The Other Einstein is that I haven’t always been a lover of science. In fact, I almost didn’t write it because I found the science overwhelming. That said, once I dug into exciting scientific developments of this historical time period, I developed a new appreciation for mathematics and science—physics in particular. Viewed through Mileva’s eyes, math and science become a way of discovering divine, universal patterns in our world, a notion I found very intriguing.
Who are some of your favorite authors, and why?
That is a tremendously hard question because I adore so many authors, particularly writers of fiction. Certainly, I have perennial favorites like Jane Austen, A. S. Byatt, and Agatha Christie. But I admit to having some new favorites as well. I’ve really been enjoying recent releases by David Mitchell, Lily King, Ann Patchett, and Lev Grossman. New or old, I am drawn to authors who attempt to unravel the larger mysteries of time.
Many people were instrumental in helping me bring Mileva Mari? out from the shadows of her famous husband, Albert Einstein, and into the light in The Other Einstein. My indefatigable agent, Laura Dail, led the charge, and my tremendous Sourcebooks editor, Shana Drehs, took up the torch. The entire Sourcebooks team—Dominique Raccah in the lead, along with the fantastic Valerie Pierce, Heidi Weiland, Heather Moore, Lathea Williams, Stephanie Graham, Heather Hall, Adrienne Krogh, Will Riley, Danielle McNaughton, Travis Hasenour, and so many others—ran with the book from there, becoming unbelievably enthusiastic proponents of The Other Einstein.
My wonderful family and friends have been indispensable in their support, including, but definitely not limited to: my Sewickley crew, my Lucky Eight writing ladies, Illana Raia, Kelly Close, and Ponny Conomos Jahn. But, without my boys Jim, Jack, and Ben championing this project, The Other Einstein would never have come to light. They have my endless gratitude.
About the Author
Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie Benedict is also the author of The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare. Terrell is a graduate of Boston College and of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.