About the Author
THE LAST NEANDERTHAL was published in April 2017 by Little Brown in the US, Doubleday in Canada, and in Italian by Società Editrice Milanese (SEM). It is a bestseller in Canada, was featured in The New York Times, called, “one of the most realistic novels about the twilight of the Neanderthals thus far written,” by archaeologist and paleoanthropologist John Shea, and a finalist for the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The novel has sold in ten territories.
Claire Cameron’s second novel, THE BEAR, is published in nine territories. It was long listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and is a number 1 bestseller in Canada. It won the Northern Lit Award from the Ontario Library Service, which her first novel, THE LINE PAINTER, also won.
When I was young I read The Clan of the Cave Bear and watched “Quest for Fire,” but Neanderthals felt as distant as dinosaurs. In school I was taught Neanderthals were an evolutionary step between the apes and us—hairy, primitive knuckle-draggers.
In 2010, a team sequenced a first draft of the Neanderthal genome and made an extraordinary discovery. Modern humans of European and Asian descent have inherited between 1-4% of their DNA from Neanderthals. Most scientists agree this is evidence of interbreeding between the two groups. Rather than a more evolved version of Neanderthals, we are close cousins.
But we think of ourselves as the ones who drove the Neanderthals to extinction, rather than having sex with them. So how did modern humans and Neanderthals make contact? We can’t know the answer, but a novelist should take on the risk involved in imagining one.
I worked with experts and used the new science of Neanderthals like a set of rules, or creative constraints, to build the story. My experience living and working in the outdoors gave me some insight into how surviving in the wild might have felt more than 40,000 years ago.
My novel is about Neanderthals, but it’s also a story that questions what it means to be human.
Neanderthals: They’re Just like Us in The New York Times
10 Women to Watch in 2017 from BookPage
Starred review from Publishers Weekly
Interview on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers
The Millions – Life-Long Obsessions: The Millions Interviews Claire Cameron
The Globe and Mail – I’d want to try eating mammoth
Interview on CTV’s Your Morning.