Interview & Giveaway: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan {HFVBT Blog Tours}

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to be hosting an interview with Carrie Callaghan, author of A Light of Her Own! I also have a giveaway for a signed hardcover copy, so don't forget to enter!

Hello Carrie and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about A Light of Her Own!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Thank you for hosting me, Amy! I’m so thrilled to be here virtually. In real life, I live in Maryland, just miles from where I was born. I have a supportive spouse, two sword-fighting children, two eccentric cats, and a busy day job. It’s hard to find the time to write, but I have sharp elbows! There is nothing like losing myself in the past as I try to re-imagine it, either in writing or reading.

What inspired you to write A Light of Her Own?

Judith’s paintings caught my heart and didn’t let go. When I first saw her work at a 2009 retrospective exhibit, I was astonished that a woman had painted during the time of Rembrandt. It was the Dutch Golden Age of painting, and yet I had never heard of a female master artist from that time. Judith Leyster had established herself and succeeded, and I wanted to think my way into that story – how did she do it? What sacrifices did she need to make, and at what cost?

What other research did you undertake when A Light of Her Own?

I read the exhibit catalog, which is an excellent compilation of the scholarly research done on Judith. Next, I read other books about painting techniques of the time, 17th century Dutch life, the Thirty Years War, musical instruments in 17th century art, craft guilds, and philosophy of the era. Lastly, I read scholarly articles, talked to experts, and looked at paintings by Judith and her contemporaries. The research is half the fun, and I’m so glad I got to learn all that I did about the 17th century. The time period came to life in my mind, and I hope I was able to help conjure that historical moment for readers.

Did you come across anything in your research that surprised or fascinated you?

The thrill of encountering both the known and the unknown makes the research delightful. I was surprised at how relatively tolerant Dutch society was toward women, who could run businesses and act with an economic independence that women in other countries of the time often didn’t have. It’s important for us to realize how women have always strived for empowerment, and in many moments of history, they have made gains. Those gains might get erased, but they were real. Then there were also the smaller surprises – how people lived their lives. One account of a kermis festival noted that the trash strewn in the streets was so deep that people were wading through it up to their calves. That seemed too extreme to me, so I had to tone it down in the book!

What would you like readers to take away from reading A Light of Her Own?

I would be delighted if readers took a moment to think about friendship and how much work it is, but how worthwhile that work is.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I loved writing the final climax scene, which I won’t describe here, but will say that it involves Judith doing something daring in front of everyone who’s important to her. I love those kinds of scenes, and was thrilled to get to write one myself.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

The scenes where characters were ill or dying were hard, both because I loved the characters and hated to see them suffering, and because I had to do some stomach-turning online research about gruesome topics. The scene with Maria (Judith’s friend) and the children in the leper house was particularly hard, largely because she had hope for them that I couldn’t have, knowing what a modern reader knows about the treatment of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) over the centuries.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I loved writing stories since I had the ability to do so (my first reading was to my third-grade class, the poor kids), but I didn’t think I could be a writer. Publishing a book was something that only famous people could do, or so I thought for years. But writing became a way of life, a way of processing the world. I loved writing, and eventually thought I’d like to share my work with others.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

When I sit down to write, particularly the first draft, there’s a nasty little smoke-curl of a voice that snakes into my ear and hisses about how terrible I am. When I was first starting to write seriously, this voice was overpowering, and it was hard to silence the criticism. Now, I know how to box the voice up and set it aside. First drafts are supposed to be rough; it doesn’t matter if the writing is not perfect. What matters is that I’m doing it. Then, magically, once I silence that voice, I fall into the scene and lose all sense of time. That is the miracle of first drafts, that fugue state, and I can usually find it.

Who are your writing inspirations?

I adore women who write about serious, philosophical historical questions. Hilary Mantel was the first one to show me it could be done (with her glorious A Place of Greater Safety), and I also admire Jessica Shattuck and Emma Donoghue, among many, many others.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager was the first quasi-historical novel that I remember, and certainly the first book I obsessed over.

What is the last historical novel you read?

Can I mention two? The Bowl with the Gold Seams by Ellen Prentiss Campbell, and When I Leave You by Crystal Hana Kim. Both beautiful and haunting in their own ways.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I’m a vegetarian, I speak fluent Spanish, and I am a cat person who also loves dogs.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

Humans are infinitely unique and shockingly similar, and historical fiction conveys both of those truths. When we learn about the past, we learn yet another example of how people act in difficult circumstances – how 17th century families who grieved stillborns by placing a black rectangle on their city door were similar to families who grieve the loss of a child today, or how kings considering how to placate their retainers and advisors are similar to presidents hoping they can maintain the loyalty of their political party leaders. That knowledge is fascinating and useful. The “fiction” part of our genre means that history is related in the form of an intimate narrative that is designed to entertain. So, we learn about humans while entertaining ourselves with a narrative. What could be better?

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I bounce around a lot, but if I had to pick I’d say I’m more fond of things from the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries. That’s not very narrow, is it?

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

My friends and I have been playing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for nearly nine years now, and I love the group storytelling that we do with that. Generally, I’m thrilled anytime when I can get together with friends (and ideally a nice glass of wine or a gin cocktail) and talk about stories and books.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

Another brave woman whose story has been lost to history. This one is an early 20th century journalist. She’s bold and sassy and a little bit sad – I adore her.

Ooohhh, I'm intrigued! Can't wait to hear more about it! Thanks so much for spending time with us today! Have a great rest of your blog tour!

A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Amberjack Publishing
Hardcover; 320 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Biographical

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.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

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.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 12
Feature at Naomi Finley's Blog
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, November 13
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, November 14
Interview at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 15
Review at Broken Teepee

Friday, November 16
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Sunday, November 18
Review at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, November 19
Review at Just One More Chapter
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 20
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, November 21
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, November 23
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Monday, November 26
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Tuesday, November 27
Review at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Pass Me That Book

Thursday, November 29
Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, November 30
Review at Donna's Book Blog

Monday, December 3
Review & Interview at Reading the Past

Tuesday, December 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, December 5
Review at I'm Shelf-ish

Thursday, December 6
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Friday, December 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie


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. The Dutch painters are among my most favorite (Vermeer!) so knowing there was a woman among them is so cool! Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. This is so exciting a woman ahead of her times.


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