2K18 Member Spotlight: Joy McCullough
BOOK TITLE: Blood Water Paint
PUBLISHER: Dutton Young Readers
RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2018
About BLOOD WATER PAINT
A stunning debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi.
Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.
She chose paint.
By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.
He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.
Joy McCullough's bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia's heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia's most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman's timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.
I will show you
what a woman can do.
Joy writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, two kids, her sweet dog, and the cat-who-must-not-be-named. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spend her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK?
My book is based on the real historical figure, Artemisia Gentileschi, and when I first discovered her, I was inspired to write a play. Many years later, I gave my agent a list of pitch ideas, including the idea to adapt my play into a YA verse novel, and he told me to go for it! So my book was inspired by Artemisia’s real life story, and by my agent’s encouragement.
Below are photos from the theater production.
BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Find your writing community, and keep writing. My path was long. It would have been easy to give up at many points along the way. After my third, or my seventh, or my ninth book. I didn’t write because of my critique partners—you really can’t write for anyone but yourself—but my amazing critique partners were always there with encouragement, and their successes inspired me, and their belief in my stories fueled me. So it can be tough to find your publishing people, but it’s worth the anxiety of putting yourself out there. Great critique partners have been way more important to my journey than any conference or writing software or craft book.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FURRY WRITING SIDEKICK.
My furry writing sidekick is an Australian shepherd named Athena. She is at my side as I type this and she is pretty much always at my side, writing or not. I am a huge dog person. She is not officially a service dog, but she is a huge piece of managing my anxiety. There is also a feline in my house, but he shall not be named.
WHAT DOES FEARLESS MEAN TO YOU?
I think courage and fearlessness are two different things. I think our theme of Fearless Fiction is fun, but I actually don’t think fearlessness is a good thing. Courage is. Fear is a good thing; it can be useful and important for self-preservation. Courage, however, is being afraid and doing something anyway. That’s what I strive for in writing and publishing.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A TEEN?
As a teen, I was extremely driven to get the best grades in the best classes to get into the best colleges. I'd been doing theater since I was seven, and I started acting professionally as a freshman in high school. I was NOT into football, as my sweatshirt might suggest—my mom worked for the NFL. I did, however, do a lot of baking. Even that was goal-oriented, though. I sold the cookies I made, saving up for an expensive summer theater program.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Snakes, deep water, boats, anything physically dangerous/adventurous, something happening to my kids or husband, the big earthquake that’s going to demolish the Pacific Northwest any day now, answering the front door, telephone calls. (But I like spiders!)
HOW DO YOU APPROACH FEAR IN THE WRITING PROCESS?
Oh, I love fear in the writing process. As both a playwright and a novelist, fear has always produced my best work. I don’t mean fear about people reading what I write or reviews or failure, whatever that means. But fear of going into the darkest places. Or fear that my skills do not match my ambitions for a project. After all, if a writing project isn’t scary in some way, it’s pretty boring. As for how I approach it, I guess in the same way I approach first drafting—reminding myself that it’s just getting the words out on paper. They don’t have to be right. No one has to read them how they come out. I can fix them—or toss them—later. But when I really dive into the scariest places, that’s usually where I find the best stuff.