Today, enjoy my interview with Gwendolyn Womack, author of The Memory Painter….we discuss creating characters, reincarnation, travel, and how the Pyramids came to feature in her novel…..
Hi Gwendolyn, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of Book! Happy to have you here to talk about your debut novel, The Memory Painter, which came out last year, but has just released in paperback! Has the book and/or the process been successful for you?
Gwendolyn: Hello Erin! Thanks for having me. The process has been really wonderful. I’ve been so fortunate to team up with an amazing editor, Elizabeth Bruce, at Picador and my team there has been incredibly supportive.
Erin: That’s wonderful to hear! Come in and have a seat with me in my library and I’ll pull out the raspberry lemonade. I’ve made some fresh and it’s been chilling so I hope it suits you. I’ve also baked up some macaroons special for your visit. Shall I pour and bring in the tray?
Gwendolyn: Oh yes, please. I love lemonade and macaroons. And I can see those are chocolate-dipped with some serious dark chocolate. How did you know?
Erin: I’m like a bakery psychic. 🙂 I enjoyed your book for numerous reasons, one because I love any form of time travel, but especially about intricacies of dreams and the mind; two, because I’m a Egyptology fanatic. I also like art, museums, history, etc. Congrats on debuting with such a fantastically well-written work.
Where and how did the different layers of the plot form in your head?
Gwendolyn: Thank you. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the story. The idea for The Memory Painter first came as a spark of an idea: what if neuroscientists created a wonder drug that would allow us to remember all our past lives? And with those memories we can speak every language we knew in the past, as well as possess abilities we had in previous lifetimes. Then the idea that immediately followed was what if this wonder drug had already been created 30 years ago, but something happened to the scientists and no one knows it was created? Then the image of Bryan painting in the middle of the night while speaking ancient Greek came to me and I knew he was the center of the story. I wrote that first scene with Bryan that day.
Erin: I loved your various characters too. Did they speak to you, formulate from people you knew, or in other words, how did you create them so fully dimensionally? You could truly connect to their personalities early on.
Gwendolyn: Thank you. I didn’t formulate anyone from people I knew. But I do people watch and infuse characters with various quirks or characteristics I have filed away in my mind. Then it’s just a process of getting to know the characters more intimately as I write them over time. Out of any character, Bryan came to me quite quickly and easily, as well as Michael.
Erin: You also present reincarnation as a theme within your novel. You sent your characters on a mission back in time to uncover past lives. Do you believe in this yourself or how did decide to create your plot around this possibility?
Gwendolyn: You know, it’s funny. I wrote a reincarnation book and yet I have the hardest time answering that question. I do believe life continues after death and I also believe there are so many things we have yet to understand about the mysteries of life, without getting too metaphysical. In my mind it’s just not a simple, yes I do believe in reincarnation. But I definitely wanted to explore the idea of reincarnation, because it has always fascinated me. And I thought it’d be interesting to come from the angle of science and get it out of the mystical realm, but then end up there again in the end. It was Einstein who said religion and science are branches on the same tree, and I really agree with that. It’s all connected.
Erin: Time travel and reincarnation both seems to be successful themes within historical romance, fantasy, thrillers, etc. Why do you think this is? What intrigues readers?
Gwendolyn: I think those themes are popular across so many genres because so many people are intrigued with the tantalizing“what if it was true?” and fiction explores the possibilities in a fun way. Time completely fascinates me and my next novel explores it even more and my third one will too, but also in a different way.
Erin: Why bring the Egyptian element into your story? I was thrilled, but do you also have an interest in ancient civilizations or did it just fit the narrative?
Gwendolyn: Really both. I knew the story needed a big answer and I just felt it had to be ancient Egypt and centered on the Great Pyramid. I’ve always been fascinated with it and knew that was where the story compass was going to point and we would end up there. Ultimately that lifetime formed out of a mixture of Egyptian mythology and research of alternate theories surrounding the Great Pyramid.
ErIn: I read you wrote plays in college and have a degree in directing cinema and video. Do you utilize these talents? Why or why not? Did it assist you in writing your book being able to use some of the skills you learned in directing for film (i.e. seeing scenes in your head)?
Gwendolyn: Yes, most definitely. My experience writing plays and also directing has helped so much in my novel writing. I do visualize everything in my mind and try to translate that to the page. I think I took a roundabout way in becoming a novelist but writing a novel has been the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done, as a writer and a director, because really when you’re writing a novel, you are doing both.
Erin: Do you hope that The Memory Painter could be optioned for a movie? Why do you think it would be a great film and who would you cast in it?
Gwendolyn: I actually originally conceived The Memory Painter as a screenplay fifteen years go. At the time I only had written Bryan and Linz, the 1980s story, and the lifetime in ancient Rome. The screenplay almost sold to a studio but ultimately didn’t, and I had to put it away and work on something else. So I told myself one day when I was ready I would write it as a novel. When I did, years later, I discovered all the other missing pieces, all the lifetimes and ancient Egypt, and the story became more fully formed.
So now, if it were ever optioned, I think it may do better as a mini-series instead of a two-hour film. It would be challenging to fit the journey into a short timeframe. But whatever the format, I would be tickled to see it adapted and would gladly buy the popcorn. As far as casting, that’s a tough question! Here would be my suggestions though I’m sure I could come up with several more wonderful actors, there are so many talented people working today… For Bryan: Ryan Gosling or James McAvoy. Linz: Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence. Michael: Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale. Diana: Reese Witherspoon or Amy Adams. Conrad: Anthony Hopkins or Jeremy Irons. Finn: Viggo Mortensen
Erin: This is only your debut novel and already you are widely successful, with up to four different covers between the hardback, paperback, and the foreign editions. So what is up your sleeve to write next and how long do we have to wait?
Gwendolyn:It really has been a dream working with Picador and having foreign publishers get behind the book. I’m going to be announcing my next novel very soon, hopefully before the end of this summer. It’s going to be published by Picador again and expected publication will be sometime next year. The story is also a thriller and love story that travels a lot of history but in an entirely different way. And it explores the far-reaching power of intuition. I’ll be announcing it on my website and Facebook and Twitter when it’s time. I am so excited for the next book. It’s been several years in the making.
Erin: What is on your bucket list as a writer? What is on your bucket list just in general in living life?
Gwendolyn: A lot of travel. I have so many places I want to go, and not just for a week or two, but several months and rent a house to seep in the culture.
Erin: Thanks so much for being here today Gwendolyn. I really appreciated learning more about your book and yourself. Feel free to come back again and I look forward to more of your work.
Gwendolyn: Erin, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure. The macaroons were delicious and you have an enchanting library. I would love to come back for my next book.
The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation
by Gwendolyn Womack
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Paperback; 336 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Travel/Mystery/Romance
Finalist for the 2016 RWA Prism Awards for Best First Book & Best Time Travel/ Steampunk category.
Two lovers who have travelled across time.
A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research.
A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.
At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack’s luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Life After Life and Winter’s Tale.
Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.
Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.
The Memory Painter is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.
Praise for The Memory Painter
“Gwendolyn Womack’s tale dazzles.” ―US Weekly (Standout Spring Novels)
“…hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” ~ Library Journal, starred review
“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic. . . . ” ~ M.J. Rose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows
“Layers of past and present form a rich pastry of a narrative, poignant and thoughtful, rich and suspenseful, filled with intrigue and dripping with meaning… ” ~ Charlie Lovett, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Bookman’s Tale and First Impressions
Author Gwendolyn Womack, Biography
Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.
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