Mary Roach on Writing and Science

Mary Roach’s wry, self-effacing approach to her creative nonfiction has brought her great success. He memorably-titled books include: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (on digestion), and her most recent, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. Although she is classified as a science writer, she has admitted it was never her intention. She has no formal science background; just an undergrad degree in psychology.  But she told, “To be honest, it turned out that science stories were always, consistently, the most interesting stories I was assigned to cover.”

What about her research and her accessible, often funny, writing technique? Does it come easily, is it difficult? As Roach told LitHub recently, “I’m not, in any way, being comprehensive in covering the most important elements of…science. I’m really very focused on, what will be the most interesting reads for people. There’s a lot of initial flailing—calling people up, going places, then realizing it doesn’t really fit. It might be six months in before I really have a strong sense of how this book will progress, what’s going to be in it, and what general order those chapters will be.

“I don’t recommend it as a way to write a book, but it seems to be how I do it.”

Mary Roach, in curlers, at her keyboard.