Jean M. Auel

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Jean Marie Auel (born February 18, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American writer. She is best known for her Earth's Children books, a cycle of novels set in prehistoric Europe which explores interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals. Her books have sold 34 million copies world-wide in many translations.

Auel was the second of five children. Her parents were Neil Solomon Untinen, a housepainter, and Martha Wirtanen. On March 19, 1954, at the age of 18, Jean married Ray B. Auel. They had five children by the time she was 25: RaeAnn, Karen, Lenore, Kendall and Marshall.

Auel attended Portland State University and the University of Portland. She has also received honorary degrees from the University of Maine and Mt. Vernon College. She got her MBA in 1976 at the age of 40. She also worked as a clerk (1965-1966), a circuit board designer (1966-1973), technical writer (1973-1974), and a credit manager at Tektronix (1974-1976).

Jean began researching The Clan of the Cave Bear in 1977. In addition to spending many hours in the library studying the Ice Age, she joined a survival class to learn how to construct an ice cave and how it feels to live in one. She learned how to make arrowheads from a man in La Grande, Oregon. After the financial success of her first book, she was able to afford trips to see the prehistoric sites she wrote about, and to meet, not just correspond with, the experts. Her research has taken her across the continent from France to Ukraine, including most of what Marija Gimbutas called Old Europe.

The first book in the Earth's Children series was The Clan of the Cave Bear. Since then, she has written The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters, The Plains of Passage, and The Shelters of Stone. Each of these titles was created as a sequel to the previous one; however, although the action follows on immediately from one book to the next, the publication has suffered gaps as long as ten years betwen volumes. The sixth book in the Earth's Children series is expected eventually.

Her books have been commended for their anthropological authenticity and their ethnobotanical accuracy. Reviewers have described as "a minor miracle" her work in describing a detailed Ice Age society including general interactions, trading, religious rituals, and relationships. Her books also remind us not to take things for granted, such as the bountiful but limited resources of the earth.

However, the series has been criticised for poor characterisation. The central character, Ayla, excels in the many endeavours she applies herself to (with the exception of singing), and has few discernable character flaws; several critics have described her as a canonical Mary Sue.

Auel is pronounced like "Owl" the bird. Auel has been a member of Mensa International since 1964.

Auel lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Ray and is now working on the sixth book of the Earth's Children series. At one point she shared a secretary with another anthropologically-inclined writer of speculative fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin.

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