Carolyn Meyer is the author of Girl with Brush and Canvas, a new novel for older kids. It focuses on the life of artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Meyer's many other books include the novel Girl with a Camera, about photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Meyer lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Q: Why did you choose artist Georgia O'Keeffe as the subject of your new novel?
A: After writing so many historical novels about European royalty, my interest refocused on Americans: Margaret Bourke-White; and the Harvey Girls with their New Mexico roots. Georgia O’Keeffe, of course, is the iconic New Mexican artist, and she seemed such an obvious choice that I wonder why I didn’t think of her sooner.
Q: Your most recent previous novel focused on photographer Margaret Bourke-White. What similarities and differences do you see between the two?
A: They were both strong, independent women at a time when being strong and independent was not a feminine virtue. Thank goodness that has changed! Margaret struck me as being an extrovert, putting herself Out There, while Georgia is much more introverted. I doubt that either of them was easy to get along with, although they’d have been great to have at a dinner table.
Q: How did you research this book, and did you learn anything especially surprising?
A: I read biographies, looked at art books, and of course visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, an hour from where I live in Albuquerque. I’m familiar with many of the areas that she visited and painted. It’s always fun to discover something quirky, like Georgia’s decision to learn to drive an automobile and how THAT turned out!
Q: What do you see as O'Keeffe's legacy today?
A: Her artistic vision was unique. Her paintings are instantly recognizable and always exciting.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: This is going to surprise you, but I’ve made a quantum leap in terms of a career. A couple of years ago I signed up for an improv comedy class - completely outside my comfort zone, and of course I was decades older than the other “kids” in the class.
I loved it, even though it scared me half to death, and from there I went on to performing standup comedy and making use of my storytelling skills. In February my one-woman show opened here in Albuquerque, and after 10 sold-out shows I’m getting ready to take it on the road.
I’ve been invited to perform “Don’t Call Me Young Lady!” at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York in October. It’s a new world and a whole new life. Of course there’s probably a book in there somewhere, but I’m not ready to write it yet.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Carolyn Meyer.