In penning a tale of scientific discovery, ambition and love, Great Neck resident Andrea Rothman had a lot to draw from.
She was a research scientist on four different continents studying the sense of smell, after all, before pursuing her other calling: writing.
“I realized that people don’t really know a lot about how a research lab works, how science works, the people who are involved in it, their inner lives,” Rothman said of her inspiration in a Friday afternoon interview. “People have this stereotypical view of scientists and it’s not like that at all.”
The result of that is The DNA of You and Me, her inaugural novel set to release on March 12. It’s published by William Morrow HarperCollins.
The three part retrospective story follows Emily, a driven scientist who becomes unsettled by her competitor and colleague Aeden. The two end up in a relationship – with different ideas of where it should go – that is pitted against ambition.
“Thematically, it’s about choice: choices we make and how we live either to regret them or not,” Rothman said.
Rothman said the novel is particularly relevant as the general public becomes more connected to science through things like 23 and Me DNA testing. It also comes amidst a social movement in 2017, she said, that is trying to get women into more science, technology and mathematics fields.
“There are very few women in high positions in science research,” Rothman said, noting that there are “many reasons” for this. “I like the fact that I had a strong female character that’s a scientist in the novel.”
In writing the book, Rothman said she painted a picture of how scientific research unfolds – going to the point of creating a believable experiment. It also involved translating the “very complicated” issue of smell into something understandable, she said.
“We can smell thousands of odors,” Rothman said. “Imagine the complexities in our brain that allow us to do that.”
In reading the book, Rothman said she hopes readers come away with a “new sense of place” and an understanding of the characters.
While the story has heightened relevance today, Rothman said the spark for the book came more than a decade ago. She began writing it 10 years ago, “not knowing where I was going yet,” until dedicating herself more fully to it five years ago. She even went back to college, getting an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
“I realized that this was the novel I wanted to write 15 years ago,” Rothman said.
“It’s like seeing a peak up in the mountains,” Rothman then said of the journey between where she was and what she wanted.
Rothman said that in working as a scientist, it was difficult to balance her career and motherhood. Now she believes balancing her career and being a mom can work – and she’s already forging a second novel.
“It’s something totally different,” Rothman said, noting herself as a “romantic at heart.”
The DNA of You and Me is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the HarperCollins website.