Author Barbara Linn Probst
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 painter Georgia O’Keeffe. QUEEN OF THE OWLS has been selected as one of the 20 most anticipated books of 2020 by Working Mother and will be the May 2020 selection for the Pulpwood Queens, a network of nearly 800 book clubs across the U.S. Her second novel, THE SOUND BETWEEN THE NOTES, will be published in April 2021. In her spare time, Barbara blogs for several award-winning sites for writers and is a serious amateur pianist. To learn more, please see www.BarbaraLinnProbst.com
QUEEN OF THE OWLS
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?
In a sentence or two, what is your book about?
QUEEN OF THE OWLS is the powerful story of a woman’s quest to claim her neglected sensuality and find her true self hidden behind the roles of wife, mother, sister, and colleague. Framed around the art and life of iconic painter Georgia O’Keeffe, it asks a question that every woman can relate to: what would you risk to be truly seen and known?
Why did you write it?
I wanted to explore what it means to be a whole and authentic woman—a whole person, really—in a fresh and engaging way.
What was the spark for the story?
As those of you who were at the January 2020 Girlfriends Weekend already know, I was very open about the experiences in my own life that led me to write this story and to create Elizabeth, its protagonist. QUEEN OF THE OWLS is fiction, not autobiography, but its life and heart come from my own lived experiences—the pain, struggle, healing, and renewal.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I hope readers will close the book with a sense of hope and possibility. The book’s message is that the path to wholeness, fulfillment, and a true sense of self is by embracing the parts of yourself that you’ve neglected or denied. There’s something like that for each of us—and we can embrace it, without taking away from all the other things that we are too.
Can you share something interesting that happened while you were writing the book—an unexpected encounter, something you learned about the subject or about yourself?
Since the book is framed around the art and life of Georgia O’Keeffe, I had to learn about O’Keeffe—not just by reading books, but by traveling to view her paintings, visiting the places where she lived and worked, seeing the actual objects she depicted in her paintings. Among the many amazing experiences I had was the opportunity to stand barely an inch away from her masterpiece “Jimson Weed/White Flower,” valued at over $44 million (the highest price ever paid for a painting by a woman). I couldn’t believe they let me do that! You can see a photo on the Gallery page of my website 🙂
Do you have any suggestions for our book clubs—a link to a reader’s guide, or a question or two that might open a lively discussion at a book club meeting?
There is a Reader’s Guide of Twelve discussion questions at the very back of the book. I did that to spark conversation—and I would absolutely LOVE to talk about any or all of those questions with the book clubs at a FaceTime meeting! Send me an email and we’ll make a date!
Is there anything else you would like the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs to know about you or your book?
I’d be thrilled to interact with the book clubs in any way that work for you! After all, that’s why I wrote the book—to reach people and, I hope, offer a gift that might even change someone’s life.
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