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Facts inspire author’s fiction: Campus event Thursday

By Karly Rivera, courtesy of  The Globe:

Jennifer Steil, the wife of a British Ambassador, found she was living in a new “weird world” and that inspired her to write a fictional novel.

She will be speaking about the experience in Point Park University’s JVH Auditorium at 3 p.m. on Aug. 27 (register to attend:

Jennifer Steil has been traveling the United States to promote her latest book, The Ambassador's Wife. She arrives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Aug. 27.
Jennifer Steil has been traveling the United States to promote her latest book, The Ambassador’s Wife. She arrives in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Aug. 27.

“I was living in this really strange world where we couldn’t leave the house without bodyguards,” Steil said in a phone interview. “We traveled in armored cars and we had hostage negotiators, Scotland Yard and British ministers in our guest rooms.”

Point Park News Service will be hosting Steil on campus to talk about her fiction novel, “The Ambassador’s Wife.”

Steil previously wrote a nonfiction book, “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky,” which was a memoir about her time as a journalist running a newspaper in Yemen.

“I painstakingly fact-checked everything,” Steil said. “So by the time I was done with that book I was really tired of telling the truth. I found myself thinking that writing fiction would be very freeing.”

The book follows the story of characters Miranda and her husband, Finn, the British Ambassador for a fictitious Arab country.  After Miranda is kidnapped and held hostage, the two have to make difficult decisions that are best for both themselves and their daughter.

9780385539029“Nothing in the book is black and white, including the ending,” Steil said. “It’s all very kind of gray, very complicated. These are complex characters. I want people to feel empathy for Finn and Miranda.”

Michael Goldsmith, who works with Steil as her publicist at Doubleday Publicity, noted how the book relates to Steil personally.

“This particular project draws very heavily on Jennifer’s own real life experiences as a spouse of an ambassador,” Goldsmith said in a phone interview.

However, Steil said, the story and plot were not autobiographical.

“I’m very different from Miranda,” she said. “We have things in common like our passion for our work and like our passion for our daughters. … Clearly I knew the world in which it takes place and some of the details of that world come from my life, but the story itself is fiction.”

Andrew Conte, director of the Point Park News Service and a School of Communication adjunct professor, helped coordinate the event on campus.

“When I found out [Steil] was doing this book and knowing her backstory and everything she has done as a journalist,” Conte said in a phone interview, “I thought it be would a great opportunity for the students at Point Park.”

Steil said there are plans for the book to be turned into a mini-TV series, starring Anne Hathaway. Steil’s story should be an inspiration to students, Conte said.

“It’s a chance to meet someone who is actually out there doing it,” Conte said.  “This is somebody like a lot of our students: She was sitting where they are sitting now. … And I just wanted to come right out of the box and say, ‘Look, from day one start thinking about this stuff.’”

Steil sees the book as a way to help people view cultural differences differently, and to be more wary of those differences.

“I feel like the book is incredibly relevant, particularly at this moment,” Steil said. “I hope the book is provocative. I want it to inspire people to think about the effect they have when they travel to cultures who are very different from their own.”

The event will be in JVH Auditorium in Thayer Hall at 3 p.m. on Aug. 27.  Students can pre-register for this event at


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