Have you ever wondered where the idea for a book comes from? Barbara Linn Probst has an answer.
Where did you get the idea for your book?
I’ve been asked that question many times about Queen of the Owls, my debut novel, and I’ve responded in various ways. Mostly, I say it was a combination of things. Some had been simmering below the surface for a long time, others were new, and they all came together in one of those magical convergences.
The memory of a painful adolescent moment, when my heartthrob Bill Kingery dismissed me with the words, “Barbara? Oh, she’s a brain.” An event in the news about a teacher who’d been fired because a topless selfie went viral. A discarded scene from an old manuscript.
An intriguing what if ….
Looking back, the connection among those elements seems pretty obvious, since they all became part of Queen of the Owls. Yet I didn’t consciously sift through memories and news stories and imaginative riffs, and then pluck the ones that could work together to shape a novel. The process was much more subconscious—a kind of inner relaxation, the intelligent working of the intuitive mind. Trying really, really hard to come up with an idea for a novel just doesn’t seem to work—not for me, anyway. I’ve never responded to writing prompts, suggestions from others, or techniques designed to ignite that spark.
But here’s the amazing discovery I made about the true source of Queen of the Owls. It happened after the book was written, revised, printed, and waiting in the warehouse for distribution.
I was getting ready for a Facebook author interview in advance of the book’s release, when it struck me that it would be fun to sit with my Georgia O’Keeffe poster on the wall, as background for the interview. It’s a poster I’ve had for years, her glorious 1927 Red Poppy.
I spoke about many things during the hour, including that seventh-grade crush who dismissed me as a “brain.” Later in the Q & A, as often happens, someone asked about the seed of the novel. Where did Queen of the Owls come from?
And suddenly, like that cliché bolt of lightning, I knew.
When my ex-husband and I split up, I let him have the giant flat-screen that he’d mounted over the fireplace. I never watched TV; besides, it reminded me too much of him—an adult version of Bill Kingery, although it took me a long time to understand that. I wanted to fill the empty spot over the fireplace with something that represented who I wanted to be now. So the very first thing I did after he left was to go to an art store and buy a huge print of Red Poppy. It was a declaration, a flag, my way to fill the new void.
When I bought Red Poppy and hung it on the wall, I was a doctoral student in clinical social work, a therapist, and adjunct instructor. Not a fiction writer. I didn’t write Queen of the Owls for another decade. And I didn’t put it all together until that afternoon, two weeks before the book’s publication, when I was being interviewed on Facebook.
Maybe that’s the way it happens. It’s only by giving your novel to the world that you can really understand its source.
Where did I get the idea for Queen of the Owls?
It might be truer to say that the idea got me.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Book Title: Queen of the Owls by Barbara Linn Probst
Category: Adult Fiction (18 +), 307 pages
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release date: April 2020
Tour dates: Sep 9 to Sep 25, 2020
Content Rating: PG-13: Includes situations and discussions of adult subject matter.
“A stunner” — Caroline Leavitt, best-selling author
“A must-read” — Barbara Claypole White, best-selling author
“Nuanced and insightful” — Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times
A chance meeting with a charismatic photographer will forever change Elizabeth’s life. Until she met Richard, Elizabeth’s relationship with Georgia O’Keeffe and her little-known Hawaii paintings was purely academic. Now it’s personal. Richard tells Elizabeth that the only way she can truly understand O’Keeffe isn’t with her mind―it’s by getting into O’Keeffe’s skin and reenacting her famous nude photos. In the intimacy of Richard’s studio, Elizabeth experiences a new, intoxicating abandon and fullness. It never occurs to her that the photographs might be made public, especially without her consent. Desperate to avoid exposure―she’s a rising star in the academic world and the mother of young children―Elizabeth demands that Richard dismantle the exhibit. But he refuses. The pictures are his art. His property, not hers. As word of the photos spreads, Elizabeth unwittingly becomes a feminist heroine to her students, who misunderstand her motives in posing. To the university, however, her actions are a public scandal. To her husband, they’re a public humiliation. Yet Richard has reawakened an awareness that’s haunted Elizabeth since she was a child―the truth that cerebral knowledge will never be enough. Now she must face the question: How much is she willing to risk to be truly seen and known?
Meet the Author:
BARBARA LINN PROBST is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, living on an historic dirt road in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her debut novel QUEEN OF THE OWLS (April 2020) is the powerful story of a woman’s search for wholeness, framed around the art and life of iconic American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Endorsed by best-selling authors including Christina Baker Kline and Caroline Leavitt, QUEEN OF THE OWLS was selected as one of the twenty most anticipated books of 2020 by Working Mother, a debut novel “too good to ignore” by Bustle, and “one of the best new novels to read during the quarantine” by Parade Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. It won the bronze medal for popular fiction from the Independent Publishers Association, placed first runner-up in general fiction for the Eric Hoffer Award, and was short-listed for the $2500 Grand Prize. Barbara has a PhD in clinical social work and blogs for several award-winning sites for writers.