NEW YORK — Jean M. Auel may not be done with "Earth's Children," after all.
"The Land of Painted Caves," the sixth and supposedly final book of her multimillion-selling series, comes out in March. But Auel says she has not stopped thinking about her heroine Ayla and her adventures in prehistoric times.
"To be honest, I don't feel like I'm through," the author, 74, told The Associated Press during a recent telephone interview. "I still have some material and I'm going to keep on writing. It's what I do."
Fascinated by life from thousands of years ago, to the point where she learned how to make an ice cave and tan leather, Auel started the series in her early 40s and debuted in 1980 with "The Clan of the Cave Bear," which later became a film of the same name starring Daryl Hannah as Ayla, the orphaned Cro-Magnon raised by Neanderthals.
The first three novels of the series were completed by the mid-1980s but then Auel slowed down. The fourth book, "The Plains of Passage," took five years to write. The fifth, "The Shelters of Stone," took more than a decade. Auel needed eight years for "The Land of Painted Caves."
"I was raising a family, having grandchildren. Life gets in the way," says Auel, who at her current pace would be in her 80s by the time a seventh volume came out. "All the books have been difficult to write. On the first one, I was really spending all my time on that book, 24-7 as they say now. I worked on it from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, every single day. At that time, I just had to write that story. I still have to write that story but it's different. You lose a little drive."
Auel wouldn't give details on "Painted Caves," but says the ending should be "a little surprising." One twist, perhaps, for Auel fans: She has allowed her work to be downloaded as e-books.
"My agent said, `I think it's time,' and we wondered about it and we talked about it. I think we were both just wondering at first how it would work, how you would collect the money and how you would get your intellect property paid for," she says, adding that she works on a computer. "But I do not use the Internet, because I know myself too well. Once I got on the Internet I would get so distracted, I'd be basically giving one of my books to the Internet because I wouldn't be writing. I'd be playing on that machine."