What if there was a drug that could help you remember past lives?
What if the lives you remembered could lead you to your one true love?
What if you learned that, for thousands of years, a deadly enemy had conspired to keep the two of you apart?
Internationally-famous artist Bryan Pierce has a secret: His paintings depict vivid dreams—dreams of past lives. When neurogeneticist Linz Jacobs recognizes her own nightmare in one of Bryan’s paintings, the two find themselves thrown into the clutches of a 10,000-year-old mystery. From scientists developing a cure for Alzheimer’s in the 1980s to ancient Egyptians protecting the secrets of the pyramids, Bryan and Linz’s lives converge while a relentless enemy pursues them across time.
Paste already predicted that The Memory Painter’s story of love and revenge would be one of 2015’s literary hits, so we caught up with Womack to discuss her inspiration for the book, the possibility of reincarnation and Ancient Egypt. Check out the interview below!
Paste: What sparked your imagination to write The Memory Painter?
Gwendolyn Womack: The original idea came to me quite suddenly years ago as I was walking down the hallway of my apartment, and it literally stopped me in my tracks. I stood there for several minutes feeling jolted and excited. The spark of the idea was that neuroscientists had created a wonder drug that would allow us to access all our past lives—and with that drug we could remember how to speak all the languages we had known in the past and remember every previous talent and ability we had ever possessed. By the end of the day, I had the present day lifetime with Bryan sketched out along with the 1980’s neuroscientists storyline, and then the rest of the story grew from there.
Paste: Your novel spans 10,000 years of history; which time period was the most challenging to write?
Womack: Looking back, I’d have to say ancient Egypt for several reasons…primarily because it is the answer to the story, the climax and where the journey for Bryan and Linz began. I wasn’t working with any known historical figures to use as a framework when I wrote those chapters. Also, I was trying to weave in alternate theories about the Great Pyramid and Ancient Astronauts while at the same time not let the story feel like it had suddenly completely left reality and spun into pure fantasy. So there were a lot of elements involved.
Paste: Reincarnation plays a crucial role in The Memory Painter. To what extent do your own beliefs on the topic align with its presence in your novel?
The Memory Painter is a “what if” story—not what if reincarnation is real, but reincarnation is real and what if we remembered it all. But I actually don’t have a firm belief in reincarnation (although I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of it). Still, I wanted to write the story from that stance, just skip trying to prove it and get to the result. I’ve also always been fascinated with the idea of the untapped potential in our brains that we always hear about—how we only use 5%. The story plays with the idea that a big part of the other 95% is made up of memories that our minds can’t normally access until now. And that’s the fun within the book, following these characters who in essence become reincarnation superheroes as they relive history first-hand.
Paste: If you could remember a past life from any point in history, what life would you choose?
Womack: I know this answer will change with whatever story I’m working on. I’d love to go back to ancient Egypt, not as far back as The Memory Painter goes, just a few thousand years would be fine! I’d like to roam around the Library of Alexandria during the height of its glory.
Paste: Can you divulge any details on your next writing project?
Womack: Right now I’m working on a new novel, also a supernatural historical thriller and a love story, about an ancient Oracle and the far-reaching power of intuition.
Thanks for having me. I hope readers enjoy the book!