1. Ms. Womack, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. A THE MEMORY PAINTER, your debut novel, came out on April 28. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Ethan, thanks for having me visit your blog. THE MEMORY PAINTER is about an internationally famous and reclusive artist, Bryan Pierce, whose secret is that he paints memories of people who have lived in the past. He’s suffered his whole life from these recalls. To keep his sanity he paints the dreams and hides from the world—until at an art opening, Linz Jacobs sees one of his paintings that is identical to a recurring nightmare she’s suffered her whole life. When they meet, Bryan begins to remember the life of a neuroscientist who died in an accident along with his wife in 1980 right as he was on the brink of curing Alzheimer’s. Solving the mystery of their deaths will lead Bryan and Linz to a legacy buried deep in the past. It’s both a thriller and love story and travels a lot of history.
2. Who is Bryan Pierce, and how did you come up with his character?
Bryan Pierce is the artist and central character and we follow the story primarily through his eyes. His character came to me right away when I first conceived the story. I could picture his studio in my mind so clearly that I wrote the first studio scene before I had everything sketched out.
3. How did you go from an idea to the complete book? What was the journey like?
The journey for the novel was a bit unorthodox. I came up with the idea fifteen years ago and originally wrote it as a feature screenplay. But the script then was only a fraction of what the story is now. It was circulated to the studios but wasn’t picked up, and I had to move on to writing something else. I told myself I would try to write it as a novel one day because I loved the story and didn’t want to give it up. Ten years later I was finally ready to try. When I began working on it, the plot expanded far beyond its original scope. There was a momentum in the writing and I realized the story really was meant to be a novel. I just hadn’t been ready to write it yet.
4. How is THE MEMORY PAINTER different from other time travel stories?
It’s different in that the characters don’t travel through time with the same bodies and ego. You could say it’s really a soul time travel story. We get to experience all their lives as our characters remember them. So it is time travel and it isn’t.
5. How do you write? Plot or not?
Plot or I’ve found I’ll be wandering around aimlessly for pages and waste a lot of time. What I usually do is write the most detailed outline I possibly can and then I don’t look it again once I start. I enjoy all the discovery and surprises along the way.
6. What’s the most interesting thing you learned while writing THE MEMORY PAINTER?
If I had to pick one thing, I’d say reading Christopher Dunn’s book, THE GIZA POWER PLANT, was the most interesting thing in my research. When I read his theories surrounding the Great Pyramid, they became the springboard for me to write the ancient Egypt chapters.
7. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing?
Self-publishing is a hot topic at writing conferences I’ve been to. There are self-published authors who have found success and then writers who are disappointed that only their family and friends have bought their books. I think it takes an incredible amount of business and marketing savvy for authors to make a mark with self-publishing. Book production is an intricate process that involves a lot of people behind the scenes and traditional publishing is a massive global industry. Many times when a self-published author is successful you hear they’ve partnered with a traditional publisher. So I think in general, self-publishing is continuing to establish its place in the industry and relationship with publishers.
8. What is your greatest satisfaction as a writer? What is your greatest disappointment?
Greatest satisfaction is having the novel out in the world, knowing that it’s being read and translated into other languages. Greatest disappointment—I don’t have a greatest, just a lot of industrial standard-sized disappointments along the way. And it’s hard to focus on those now with all this excitement. But I was a struggling writer for years, hoping to quit my day job and launch my career, waiting by the phone for good news, waiting for my life to change. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going, get back at the keyboard.
9. What are your favorite pastimes?
Family fun stuff with my son and husband, curling up with a book, watching stand-up comedy, travel, wine tasting, cooking when I’m in the mood, and going to the movies and the theater.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
Right now I’m working on another supernatural historical thriller about an ancient seer and the long-reaching power of intuition. I’m very excited with the story.