It’s Women’s History Month, and I’ve been chatting with my friend and fellow novelist Carrie Callaghan, about fascinating women in history that we’ve read and written about. I’ve also been thinking about trailblazing women, both past and present, whom nobody would consider “nice,” and I wonder if that refusal to play the part of the socially-acceptable woman is partly why they achieved as much as they did.
Carrie has written two novels about fascinating real-life women in history: Judith Leyster in A Light of Her Own (see our first interview here) and Milly Bennett in Salt the Snow (see our second interview here). She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a couple of questions about her work.
Clarissa: Even though Judith and Milly lived in different countries and eras, is there anything they had in common?
Carrie: Both Judith and Milly were women who pushed their way into male spaces — in Judith’s case, the painters guild in 17th century Haarlem, and in Milly’s case, the early 20th century world of international correspondents. But both of them also knew and deeply appreciated the value of female friendship, which is so important to me too. In both of their cases, I wanted to learn how they accomplished what they did, and how they felt about it. The pleasure of researching and writing their lives was such an honor, and I’ve delighted in sharing their stories with readers.
Clarissa: If you could put Judith and Milly in a room together, what would happen?
Carrie: Oh, goodness! Milly was brassy and fearless, while Judith was an iron hand in a silk glove. I suspect that at first, their differing personalities might make them wary of one another. But let’s say that room is a train compartment, and they have a long journey together with plenty of time to talk. Then, I’m confident they would start swapping stories about the barriers they had overcome, the men who broke their hearts, and the fun experiences they had in their lives. I suspect that by the end of the journey, Milly would have Judith laughing, and Judith might hold Milly’s hand while she shed some stopped-up tears.
Clarissa: Milly’s fearlessness reminds me of my own protagonist Lilia in Impossible Saints (Lilia was not a real historical person, but she is based on several real-life women). Although I probably would struggle with the abrasiveness of both women if they were my friends, I can’t help but admire their courage and persistence!
In honour of Women’s History Month, Carrie’s Salt the Snow (e-book version) is only $2.99 USD/$3.04 CAD until March 31! Be sure to get yourself a copy from one of the retailers below.