Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HFVBT Interview: Carrie Callaghan, Author of "A Light of Her Own"

I am thrilled to welcome Carrie Callaghan, author of "A Light of Her Own" here to A Bookish Affair!

What inspired you to write "A Light of Her Own?"

Judith’s self-portrait. My writing is just an excuse for me to research the heck out of something, and when I first saw her paintings in 2009, on the occasion of her 400th birthday, I was smitten. I needed to learn about this woman who painted with such passion, and how she succeeded at a time I thought of as being hostile to women. I learned, in the course of my research, that gender roles were a lot more complicated than I had assumed.

What was your favorite scene in the book to write?

I love the moment when Judith applies for membership in the Guild. Crowd scenes are a major challenge – figuring out how to help the reader keep track of a bunch of new faces is hard. But I also love the swirl of political ambition, hostility, and support that surrounds Judith as she’s putting herself out there for this most terrifying moment. And of course, I love the painting that she selects as her application piece. (When I wrote that scene, I had to guess which painting she used. Later, I spoke to a leading scholar who told me that recent scholarship indicated that she had indeed used the painting I had guessed!)

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I love Judith for her dedication and her spirit, but I am probably most like Maria, with her deep emotions and propensity toward self-doubt. I’m going to cheat a little here and say my favorite character is their friendship – the complicated love, anger, and support that arise between them.

What was the strangest/ most interesting thing you found in your research?

The small details of daily life four hundred years before our times are, of course, drastically different from our own electrified, internet-bound, modern lives. Even though I knew that their lives would have a different rhythm than ours, I was still surprised by some of the small things I learned in my research. How going out after dark was virtually impossible, and anyone out after a certain time was required to have a lantern. And that lantern didn’t have glass panes, like we might imagine, but tin walls with punctures to let the light shine through. Or how door decorations advertised both new births and stillbirths.

If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

If I were a braver person than I am, I’d swipe three modern-day villains away from their current
misdeeds and drop them onto my island, where their evil could be constrained. But more likely, in
the selfish hopes of some good conversation and an eventual rescue, I’d bring the poet Sappho
(assuming I can understand her ancient Greek) to tell me what life was life two thousand years ago,
Langston Hughes to compare poetry with Sappho, and Falkor (the dragon from The Neverending
Story) to fly us away. What do you mean Falkor’s not a person? Oh, fine. Svanhild from Linnea
Hartsuyker’s The Sea Queen, to help us build a ship, sail away, and fight any pirates who get in our

(Note from Meg: Falkor TOTALLY counts!!!)


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