Katherine Govier Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Katherine Govier
Photo: Michael Mahovolich

Katherine Govier

Katherine Govier: GOH-vee-ay

An interview with Katherine Govier

Katherine Govier answers "10 Questions" about The Printmaker's Daughter

What was your starting point for the novel?
It began when I read that Hokusai had a daughter who helped him in his studio, who was a fine artist "in her own right" and who disappeared after his death.

How long did it take you to write it?
Nearly five years. I had to really work to familiarize myself with the world of Edo. And I traveled a lot to meet experts and to find the bits and pieces of Oei's art that remain.

Is Rebecca really you, the author?
She is and she isn't. Obviously I went through a lot of what she went through. But when enfolded in a fiction everything takes on a life of its own, including the author. It's Oei's story and it is her idea of "Rebecca" that we get.

What was it like working with a ghost as a narrator?
It was great fun. She can float up to the ceiling; she can eat people's French fries. I had some decisions to make about how startled she was going to be by contemporary technology, for instance - Google really astonished her. But she couldn't go around in a constant state of shock. For the most part she took things like airplanes and escalators in stride. Pun intended.

Can you tell us about that research? How did you discover what you did?
With a great deal of help! I made contact with some very generous art historians who directed me to sources. I spent a few years playing art detective. A second career! It was so much fun, and very revealing. At one point I put a person much like myself into the novel: you can read it in the Special Edition available in Canada only for Kobo and iPad. But since I still got a lot of questions from readers about where the facts ended and the fiction began, I wrote an Afterword. In it you can read about my discoveries and the questions it raises. It's available in the US edition, and in the Canadian paperback.

Did you like Oei? Did you like Hokusai?
At first I thought Oei would be difficult to sympathize with. But when she began to speak I grew to love her. Hokusai has enormous charm and energy. You only have to look at all the pictures that are attributed to him to see that. But he used and abused his daughter. He was an alpha omega male who lived to twice the average life expectancy of his time. He probably used and abused everyone. But Oei was trapped by circumstances.

Is it your intention to deconstruct the idea of the great masters?
It is my intention to tell the story of one great, lost woman artist. If that deconstructs the idea of the "master" who was her father, then yes.

What are you saying about father/daughter love?
I think it is most highly charged of human relationships. A father's love and approval makes or breaks a woman. Mothers are important too but with a father and daughter there is a sexual pull as well. A father of a gifted girl has to either challenge convention or sell her out.

Which did Hokusai do?
You tell me. He challenged the conventions of his society for sure. Especially when it suited him. With his daughter perhaps he only went half way.

Will you write more about Oei and Japan?
I don't know. I'm trying to decide. I would like to see what happened to her work after her death. I'd like to write about the dealers and the collectors. But we'll see. There are so many books to be written! And only so much time.

Does Oei still speak to you?
Yes, sometimes. All my main characters are like old friends. Very occasionally I run into one of them - Cory Ditchburn from Angel Walk, for instance, if I'm in Georgian Bay. Or I'll have an experience that reminds me of them. I miss them.

Interview reproduced from the website for The Ghost Brush.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  19The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller
  2.  103Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist


Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.