Thursday, December 6, 2018

Blog Tour Q&A with Carrie Callaghan, Author of A Light of Her Own

Please join me in welcoming Carrie Callaghan to Let Them Read Books! Carrie is a fellow member of the Historical Novel Society Chesapeake Bay Area Chapter, and she is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, A Light of Her Own. I recently had the chance to ask her a few questions about her protagonist, Dutch artist Judith Leyster, and the rewards and challenges of bringing Judith's story to life. Read on and enter to win a signed hardcover copy of A Light of Her Own!

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.


Hi Carrie! Thank you so much for stopping by today! How did you first discover Judith Leyster, and what inspired you to write a novel about her?

In 2009 I was wandering the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC when I came upon an exhibit of gorgeous oil paintings – by a woman. I love Dutch Golden Age painting, but I had never heard that a woman had painted then, much less succeeded at it. I wanted to know who this woman was and how she had managed to make her way during the time of Rembrandt.

Judith's talent did not come to wider public notice until the late 19th century, when it was discovered that her works had been erroneously attributed to another artist. Based on your research, do you think this was really an error or do you think she was purposely obscured?

I would guess that none (or few) of the dealers intentionally erased Judith’s authorship. However, sexism allowed owners to forget that their paintings were made by a woman, and sexism prompted later dealers to assume these beautiful works were painted by a man. I don’t think it was purposeful per se, but sexism is an effort by society to deny women power, and obscuring women’s work is part of the effect.

What was the most challenging aspect of bringing Judith's story to life?

There are so many small details about 17th century Dutch life that differ from our own, and sometimes figuring out how things worked was a tremendous challenge. How did they light lanterns? How late could people be out? Were Haarlem’s gates locked at night? What painting techniques did Judith use and where did she get her supplies? In addition to those technical details, there is very little we know about Judith’s life, so I had to take a few imaginative leaps.

What was your favorite scene to write in A Light of Her Own?

There’s a scene where Lachine, who is a local criminal, has planned to meet Judith to buy a painting from her, but they both get embroiled in a fight with some sailors and street urchin boys. I had so much fun writing that scene because, for once, Judith wasn’t surrounded by people she knew and whom she wanted to impress. Free of her social fetters, she could step up and improvise. It was exciting to watch her do so.

Did you get to do any traveling as part of your research?

I traveled to the Netherlands a few years before I started writing the book, so I had those memories to draw upon. But unfortunately, the budget didn’t allow for a return trip, so I relied upon Google Street View and historical maps.

Which authors and/or books have had the most influence on your writing?

There are so many! Hilary Mantel was the first to show me that historical fiction could be about relationships that weren’t romantic (and of course there are many, many books out there in that same vein), and I loved that. I also adore James McBride’s sensitive portrayal of complicated characters who might do either evil or good things but whose motivations are far more complex.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Put it in a scene. Kseniya Melnik taught a class at George Washington University – the only formal class I’ve taken – and she kept urging us to take those paragraphs that gloss over events and slow down and show. Of course, not everything needs to be shown, but putting an interaction in an embodied scene helps make clear if it’s viable for the story.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the first draft of another novel about a bold woman who lived before her time – this time, a newspaperwoman covering foreign wars in the early 20th century. You haven’t heard of her (though she’s real), but soon I hope you will!

About the Author:

Carrie Callaghan is a writer living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has a Master’s of Arts in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For more information, please visit Carrie Callaghan’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Goodreads.

A Light of Her Own is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed hardcovers of A Light of Her Own! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
A Light of Her Own

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting Carrie's blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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