Brewster author Sally Gunning’s latest novel is ‘Painting the Light’
A writer paints with words and in “Painting the Light”, Brewster author Sally Cabot Gunning paints the painting process as it was a century ago on Martha’s Vineyard.
Last month, the author painted her signature on copies of her latest novel at the Brewster Book Store. In addition to hardcover and paperback, the novel is available in electronic and audio editions.
“This is my sixth historical novel. I wrote 10 mysteries before that,” Gunning said. “I ended up forcing a lot of history into the mysteries and said, ‘Let’s just write historical novels. “”
Gunning wrote “The Rebellion of Jane Clarke”, “Bound”, “The Widow’s War”, “Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard”, “Monticello: A Daughter and Her Father” and now “Painting the Light”, which takes place on Martha’s Vineyard .
“Painting the Light” has just been published in paperback, which has resulted in a book signing at Brewster Bookstore. Gunning was pleased to note that “Painting the Light” is the best-selling hardcover in the bookstore’s history.
“It’s about an artist (Ida Russell) at the turn of the last century (circa 1900). Women were becoming artists in Boston,” Gunning said. “She just lost her whole family at sea. She sinks into grief and enters an impulsive marriage that doesn’t work out and ends up on Martha’s Vineyard running a farm of sheep.
As its title suggests, the book is about painting, not picking wool.
“So in a new place, she’s figuring out how to resuscitate her career that was going really well in Boston, she was part of the new school,” Gunning said.
The “Boston School” of art flourished just after 1900 and had many women in its ranks such as Lillian Westcott Hale, Gretchen Woodman Rogers and Lilla Cabot Perry.
“The band in general has been inspirational,” Gunning said. “The Museum of Fine Arts published ‘A Studio of Her Own: Women artists in Boston 1870-1940’. So there was a strong creative effort in Boston. A woman from Martha’s Vineyard, Amelia Watson, taught at the Vineyard Summer Institute (from 1878 to 1902) and traveled the island painting all these sheep.
As she always does, Gunning researched the actual locations in her novel.
“I spent quite a bit of time there,” she says. “I am also an amateur painter. You come to the corner of the vineyard and the light hits you and takes on another quality.
The path of historical novels
Gunning drifted into historical novels through his interest in the past.
“I fell into it because a cousin asked me to work on a family genealogy,” she recalls. “I came across things that I didn’t understand and it ended up being a whole historical book, ‘The Widow’s War’.”
This involved the rules of inheritance at that time, when most of an estate went to the nearest male relative.
Gunning is now looking for what could be his next novel. His first three historical novels are set in Cape Cod and Boston. The next two took her to Philadelphia and Virginia. “Painting the Light” brought her home.
“After that, I needed New England,” she said. “I’m very happy that it got wonderful reviews.”