September 17, 2015

Bloggerversary Book Review, Mini Q and A + Giveaway w/ Gwendolyn Womack

at 9/17/2015 12:00:00 AM
Hello folks! It's that time of year again! Yup, it's bloggerversary time! This year we'll do things a little differently. For the next 7 days, I will be featuring an author and a giveaway. Each giveaway will last for about 2 weeks, so be sure to check out my blog everyday to see who's next! Today, we want to introduce you to Gwendolyn Womack! *applause*
Two lovers who have traveled across time. A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research. A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there's a secret to his success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections, if he is re-experiencing other people's lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding the genes that help the brain make memories, until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan's shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and 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 Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists' deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, 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.

A taut thriller and a timeless love story spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history, The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack is a riveting debut novel unlike any you've ever read.

My Review
This book was first introduced to me when I attended a Book'd in Burbank readers social. I had all of the elements that I liked about it. Some romance, a little sci-fi, a dash of mystery and history, and a whole lot of storytelling. The premise starts off with a painter who is haunted by visions of past selves. He goes into a fugue state and paints out scenes from the past with such vividness that he is hailed as a master of his craft. One morning, he comes out of a fugue and heads to the museum to see an exhibit. There, he meets Linz and the connection is immediate. Linz visits the museum to feel a sense of closeness to her mother, who died when Linz was a baby. The immediate connection was something I appreciated (I'm a cynical romantic). The connection stems from the interactions of their past selves. The modern day version (Bryan and Linz) are the compilations of various personality traits that their previous selves had, but have no memory of. It sounds like something out of the Twilight Zone, but Gwendolyn does a great job of telling their story. As the story goes on, Bryan and Linz's characters are expanded and details help fill in the entire picture that makes these two characters the way they are. Much like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, The Memory Painter fits into so many genres, it's hard to classify it without excluding it from other genres. BTW, for those of you who like to read quickly, this book goes at a pretty quick pace. Not super fast that you miss stuff; more of a quick jog. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who's a fan of Diana Gabaldon.

Mini Q & A
1) How did you come up with the premise for The Memory Painter?

The story came to me a little over fifteen years ago. The idea literally fell from the sky and bonked me on the head while I was walking down the hallway in my apartment and it stopped me in my tracks: What if neuroscientists created a wonder drug to unlocked the mind’s ability to remember past lives? Within the hour I realized the neuroscientists were from the 1980s and the medical breakthrough had already happened. But the scientists had been killed and their research buried. So no one ever knew this incredible discovery had occurred. Then the image of an artist in his studio painting memories of his past lives in the middle of the night while speaking ancient Greek came to me so vividly that I wrote the scene. I knew he was the neuroscientist reincarnated and now he would have to figure out what happened to him in his previous life and who killed him. The story grew from there.

2) Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t know I always wanted to be a writer but looking back I always was a writer. At age nine I began writing poetry and also collecting quotes that I thought were poignant. So growing up, I was always enamored with words. In college I started writing theater plays on a whim and once I experienced actors speaking my lines and bringing those characters to life, I became hooked. Ever since then it’s been a journey to becoming a storyteller.

3) What was your experience with getting published like? Was there waiting by the phone?

Not waiting by the phone, but definitely waiting. There’s a funny story about the phone call telling me I had an offer. My agent had gone out with the manuscript and checked in with me that there was some interest and we might hear something the following week. Monday, my son was out of preschool (he was 4 at the time) and I had promised to take him to Chuck E. Cheese in the morning to play games. Within minutes of arriving, we start winning all these tickets from the machines – like a 150 at a time. Nothing like that had ever happened. Then I saw I had a missed call from New York and my head started spinning. My agent had left a voicemail to call her back right away. I could barely hear over all the arcade noise but I had a preempt deal from Picador on the table to accept that day. Needless to say, I accepted the offer, now completely euphoric and desperate to go home so I could process this incredible news. My son had a whole cup of tokens to play, so I started searching for games that would eat his coins the fastest so we could leave. Needless to say it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

4) There is some romance and sci-fi in The Memory Painter. Which did you feel was easier to incorporate into the story?

I’d say neither. Nothing is easy for me! Both of those aspects were challenging in different ways. For the romance I was trying to write two characters that had lived and loved each other for thousands of years without landing them in a vat of sentimental quicksand. And for the sci-fi aspect, the challenge was making the story still feel very grounded in present-day reality while exploring theories revolving around the mysteries of ancient Egypt and the Great Pyramid.

5) Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

It’s the advice I still give myself… Understand the incredible amount of rewriting a story will take before what’s on the page begins to come to life. Don’t rush the process. Take a week or two off between major rewrites so you can have fresh eyes. Keep trying to go deeper with your characters. Know their journey and the heart of the story. And right now, my current favorite writing quote is, “Your intuition already knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way.” That was Ray Bradbury’s advice. 
About Gwendolyn Womack
Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college while freezing in the tundra at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. During that time she lived in St. Petersburg, Russia on an independent study working with theater companies. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing theater and film where she was encouraged to write her own material. After graduating she focused on writing feature screenplays and was a semi-finalist in the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship. In 2009 she moved to Japan and began THE MEMORY PAINTER the following year. 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.
To find out more about the book please visit
Follow her on Twitter @Gwen_Womack & add her on Facebook!

Prize: SIGNED copy of The Memory Painter & a $20 Amazon gift card.

Rules: Two winners possible (one for each prize). You have to be a resident of the USA. No international entries. This giveaway starts on 9/17/15 and ends on 10/1/15. The winner will be announced on 9/30. The winner will have 5 days to respond to my email or forfeits the prize. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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Huong on September 27, 2015 at 4:11 PM said...

Sounds really interesting!


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