If the pandemic and the current unease in the world has you down, then give yourself permission to escape for a while. Even though traveling to your favorite vacation spot might not be possible, and even going out for a local outing with friends and family can be restricted, you can still find release in the pages of a trusted friend—a book.
Sara Winokur is an author and world traveler who understands how frustrating it can be to feel trapped inside. She has traveled extensively. Her trips to Iceland even serve as the inspiration and backdrop to her writing. Her book, Double Blind: The Icelandic Manuscript Murders, is set there, and her extensive research helps set the stage for the book.
Winokur is also PhD molecular geneticist at the University of California, as well as being an award-winning author. With dozens of articles published in scientific journals, including Human Molecular Genetics, Nature Genetics, and Cell Stem Cell she is very respected in the community. Sara was even part of the team that discovered the gene that causes Dwarfism and Huntington’s Disease. Since her book is an ideal escape book, I spoke to her about reading and escaping into books during this time of Covid and social distancing.
Q: More and more people are reading lately. Why do you think it is good to escape into books?
A: Books have always provided a means to transport people into another world. This brings an enrichment to our own lives insofar as seeing things from a new perspective or appreciating another way of thinking, feeling, living, and loving. Of course, now we have the added dimension of needing a means of pure escapism from the dark cloud this pandemic has enveloped us in. But this too shall pass, and, in the meantime, reading can bring much joy.
Q: What books beside your own do you recommend for Fall 2020 reading?
A: I’m currently reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. A beautifully written novel about why we sometimes choose to lead a different life than the one expected of us. I’m also reading Synchronicities on the Avenue of the Saints by Deborah Gaal which delves into the importance of connections and bringing good into the world.
Q: What makes your book a great escape?
A: Double Blind: The Icelandic Manuscript Murders is pure escapism. Readers will immerse themselves in all thing Iceland (put on your sweater and mittens!). It’s fast-paced mystery-thriller about a forensic geneticist, Brynja Pálsdóttir, who uses Iceland’s national DNA database to solve crimes. Twenty years after her young brother vanishes from a fjord, a mysterious poem containing clues to his whereabouts drawn from a medieval manuscript lands on her desk hinting he may be alive. Soon, more poems arrive, but now each one is followed by deadly consequences. The stakes are raised until Brynja herself becomes the target and time is short before she must confront the dark secret buried in her family’s past.
Q: Tell us about writing your book, what was that journey like?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have had two rewarding careers: a research career in human genetics and now one as an author of fiction. In my research, I helped isolate the genes associated with Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy. After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer ten years ago—I’m fine now—I took a step back and decided to reinvent myself. as an author of mystery-thrillers. Scientists don’t always do a good job explaining what they do to general public and I thought this would be a good opportunity to being in genetics in a fun and engaging way. I loved the challenge of learning something new, of stretching my brain to embrace a new craft.
Q: What advice do you have for those who are writing during these times?
A: Well, let’s face it – we don’t have a lot of distractions these days! It’s easy to focus on your story (that is, if you can focus with all that’s going on. . .) The down side is that we can’t gather to discuss our writing with others. In the past, I’ve found critique groups were helpful and I relished the feedback. For first time writers, there are many online opportunities to get started such as Masterclass and The Novelry. I also highly recommend the books Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
Q: Tell us what is on the horizon for you. Tell us what is next.
A: My second book involves an incident that took place in the Westman Islands nearly 400 years ago when 400 Icelanders were captured and taken as slaves to North Africa. It is the second in a series involving forensic DNA scientist Brynja Pálsdóttir. Titled Ivory Bones, it delves into an historical mystery from 1600’s and spans locations from Iceland to Morocco to New Amsterdam.
Q: Where can people buy your book and learn more?
A: Readers can find my book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many independent bookstores.
I have a website: www.sarawinokur.com where I post blogs, news and information about genetics, Iceland, and writing. I also have a Facebook page: Sara Winokur, Author and Instagram account: sara_winokur.