Liz Heinecke: Radiant—The Dancer, The Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light




Liz Heinecke
Grand Central Publishing, February 16, 2021
Hardcover; $28, ebook, $14.99
ISBN-10: 1538717360; ISBN-13: 978-1538717363
EBOOK: ISBN-13: 9781538717370

Heinecke reports:

RADIANT, my first book for adults, came into existence unexpectedly. With three kids’ science books under my belt, I finally found literary representation in 2017 after attending a pitch conference at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. In addition to negotiating contracts, middle grade/YA agents Peter Knapp and Blair Wilson asked me to come up with ideas for a scientist biography.

Around that time, my son Charlie mentioned that each woman represented on the Periodic Table had either discovered a radioactive element or had one named after her. A biologist, I had worked extensively with radioactivity, but knew little of its history and wanted to learn more.

Liz Heinecke, photo by Amber Procaccini

Liz Heinecke, photo by Amber Procaccini

While reading Eve Curie’s biography of her mother Marie, I stumbled across the name of Loie Fuller, a dancer who asked the Curies for radium to illuminate her costume and befriended Marie. Fuller had a fascinating circle of friends that included Camille Flammarion and August Rodin. A pioneer of modern dance and stage lighting, she engineered colorful electric lights to illuminate robes fitted with wing like extensions that she manipulated to create waves, butterflies, and blossoms. The idea for a parallel narrative about the two women took shape. Rhea Lyons at HG Literary agreed to be my agent for RADIANT, which had evolved into a book for adults.

The Loie Fuller collection at NYPL turned out to be a treasure-trove of primary documents. After I read everything I could get my hands on and wrote a few chapters, Rhea helped me put together a book proposal. In April of 2019, Maddie Caldwell at Grand Central Publishing acquired RADIANT. That September, I used some of the advance to spend a week in Paris.

Although I had hoped to visit a few libraries and museums on the West Coast too, with three teenagers, those trips proved impossible. I turned the manuscript in a few weeks before the pandemic hit and spent March and April of 2020 revising the book at my tiny desk by the window, while my husband worked from home and my kids did school online. It was an adventure from start to finish.

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Feb. 10, 2021

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

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