The Girl from the Lighthouse by Willard Thompson and Meet the Author

Look at that cover…. And the Heroine is such an example of perseverance.

The story is The Girl from the Lighthouse by Willard Thompson, a Historical Literary Romance.

The Girl From the Lighthouse tells the compelling story of Emma Dobbins. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she was raised by her father, a lighthouse keeper at Point Conception in California, where early on she discovers her artistic talent.  At the age of 17, Emma travels to Paris with a chaperone, to attend art school but is separated from the chaperone when the woman becomes ill. Emma arrives alone in Paris with no money, no language skills, and no friends. A chance meeting with a young working girl in the train station becomes her first Parisian friend.

The setting is Paris in the 1860s-70s, the start of the Belle Èpoque. France soon is involved in the Franco/Prussian War and the Commune Uprising; difficult times for Emma and all Frenchmen. Initially rejected by art schools, her determination keeps her moving toward her goal in the art world, where the Impressionists are starting to change the world. Frenchmen fall in love with her beautiful face and lustrous dark hair. Some wanted to paint her, others to court her, but either way, she does not abide by the rules they try to impose on her because she never learned them. She grows into an accomplished artist but never gives up her own principles… even when someone steals something precious to her and she fights to get it back.

The story is told in the first person, present tense, allowing the reader to enter the story and feel a part of it as it unfolds, sharing with Emma her highs and lows, loves and rejections, all focused in the art world of Paris.  The novel is filled with vivid characters, both fictional and real people, and the story unfolds gracefully from the 1870s until 1912, just prior to the start of WWI.

“It’s been several months,” I tell Berthe Morisot, “and I still copy with pad and pencil and sometimes watercolors. I think I have learned a great deal, but I’m still not ready for oils.”

“You should try,” she encourages me. “Jacque-Louis David is a good artist for you to copy. His portraits are beautifully executed, especially the one of Madame Recamier you are working on. Portraits like that are the kind of commissions you are likely to get when you are ready.”

“How so?”

 “There is always demand for portraits of wives and children that are best done by women artists.”

I study the wine in my glass, using the pause to consider Berthe’s recommendation. “I hope to paint landscapes one day,” I tell her.

“Difficult for a woman,” she replies. “Traveling alone to paint a landscape is often…” She pauses, “How do I say, looked down upon? There are not many buyers for the work of a woman landscape artist.

“I want to be free to paint whatever I want.”

She cuts a slice of cheese from the wedge on her plate and adds it to a piece of baguette before taking a sip from her glass. She looks at me with her doleful dark eyes the whole time. “That can be difficult,” she says at last. “Consider your decision carefully. It is easier for us to paint in a boudoir than side-by-side in a world with men.” She pauses again and picks at a piece of ham.

Feeling frustrated, and looking for a response that won’t offend my friend, I stab my fork at a mushroom. “It seems to me women in Paris have only limited freedom. Do you find it that way, Berthe?”

“I have never thought much about it, but yes, I do. It’s just the way life is for women.”

Follow the Tour for more about the Book or the Author. The tour dates can be found here: 

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Willard Thompson is an award-winning historical fiction and romance writer living in Montecito, California with his wife Jo. His newest historical romance, THE GIRL FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE was published in early 2019. His previously published three novels of historical fiction DREAM HELPER DELFINA’S GOLD, and THEIR GOLDEN DREAMS are part of his CHRONICLES OF CALIFORNIA trilogy. The Independent Publishers 2009 Book Awards selected DREAM HELPER for a gold medal as the best fiction in the Western/Pacific Region.

Thompson is a past president of the board of directors of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. He is a native of Manhasset, New York and a graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York

I had the pleasure to have Mr. Thompson here with me for an interview, and here’s how it went.

How did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I was in the Santa Barbara Art Museum with my wife, standing in front of a painting by Berthe Morisot, one of the characters in The Girl from the Lighthouse. The painting was titled View of Paris from the Trocadero. In it, two women stand with a small girl looking off into the city of Paris far in the distance. The women are blocked from moving forward into the city by a wooden fence that cut diagonally across the painting. It isn’t a strong barrier, more symbolic. Because I have done a lot of research and writing about the Victorian era, I was struck by how the painting represented the restricted status of Victorian women, and I got the idea to write about a woman of that era who was strong and independent, and in no way taught about women’s roles. To accomplish that I had to create a place where am I protagonist, Emma, grew up abandoned by her mother at age five. She was raised by her father and three other men. I chose a lighthouse on the remote and rugged California coast.

What sort of research did you do to write your book?

I did extensive research to write The Girl from the Lighthouse. It included numerous books about French history as well as art history and the role of the impressionists in art, maybe ten to fifteen books. I also researched specific topics on the Internet, and I got a general sense of the time by watching documentary films. Finally, even though it was tough duty, I traveled to Paris on several occasions.

If your story had a soundtrack which song would it be?

Non, je ne regrette rien by Edith Piaf. Translated the title is “No, I do not regret anything”.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?

I believe my book is an homage to women for their struggles for equality in the Victorian era. I created a character who had not been brought up in the prevailing society of the time and introduced her to the very structured social life of Paris, France. As she comes of age, we watch her learn and adapt to Parisian life without giving up her strong personal identity. There are ups and down for her in the story. She is an imperfect character who has to wrestle with decisions throughout the book. Sometimes she doesn’t make the right decisions, but she is always guided by her strong sense of self.

A fun fact about writing your book.

Several years before starting to write The girl from Lighthouse I was involved in a project at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum to bring the massive lens from the Point Conception lighthouse to the museum when the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse. In the process, I also wrote the history of that lighthouse and many of its keepers. So I had a substantial background in which to place my young protagonist, Emma Dobbins.

Did you always have the reins of the story or did the people in it try to take it over?

That is a fascinating question. When I start out to write, I always have an idea where I want to go and more often than not have a storyboard of index cards on the clothesline in my office. But during the process, I have serious conversations with my characters who often correct me when I get off track or suggest new possibilities for my stories. I think it’s a joint effort; no character hijacks the story, and I don’t impose my will on reluctant characters. Writing my newest novel, The girl from the Lighthouse was an interesting process. After writing a finished draft as a third person story, upon review I decided, with my editor, that it wasn’t working; I needed to get the reader closer to my characters. So I rewrote the whole manuscript in the first person present tense. Clearly, that put me in my character’s voice, and we worked very closely together.

What started you on your path to writing?

I guess the start was my mother giving me a love of reading. That led to my passion for historical fiction at a very early age. I read the novels of F. Van Wyke Mason and Kenneth Roberts as a pretty young boy, and I also devoured Classic Comics. In seventh grade, I wrote my first novel, an autobiography of me as a midshipman on Old Ironsides, The USS Frigate Constitution–never published, or even finished, of course. But I’ve never wanted to do anything else but write, and my life has been about writing in one way or the other. At first, I didn’t think my writing was special; I thought anybody could do it if they wanted to and practiced. Then I realized that’s just not true. It’s a monstrous gift that was given to me.

Can you describe your writing style in ten words or less?

The novel is a play without a stage, and without walls.

By that I mean I want the author to be as close to invisible in the story as possible so that character and reader can connect as closely as possible without my interference. Much of my writing is dialogue, and almost all is in scenes and not extensive summaries. I also write for readers who want to actively participate in the reading, so important information must come from the characters themselves. I try to avoid what I call “reader feeder” where the reader is spoon-fed what the author wants him or her to know.

What are your top three books of all time?

My top three favorite all-time books are all by Pulitzer prize-winning authors, and all are historically based. They are East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Big Sky by A.B. Gutherie Jr., and The Age of Innocence and the house of Mirth, both by Edith Wharton. I know that’s four, but Edith Wharton’s novels are tied.

If you were stranded on a desert island and can have only two people with you, a person from your book and a person from any other book, which would they be?

My main character from my book is my choice to be on a desert island with. She is an attractive and lively young woman who is artistically gifted. She had a long life in Paris, France in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. She would be able to tell me about her personal experiences with many of the famous artists of her time, as well as individuals with world famous actress Sarah Bernhardt, who befriended her and took her on a hot air balloon ride. She supported herself in Paris at a time when there were few opportunities for women by modeling the gorgeous ball gowns created by Charles Frederick Worth, the leading fashion designer of the time, and she was courted by several men, including one of France’s richest. My other island mate might be The Count of Monte Cristo, an amazing man who overcame all manner of personal hardship and became the richest man in France and had an adventurous life.

Pen or computer

Well, I have written both ways. My preference is to write with my pen on a yellow pad of paper while seated in a comfortable chair because I believe the hand/brain connection is stronger that way and the creativity flows more smoothly for me. Maybe because I’m left-handed I think the right brain connection is stronger. Recently, because of two hand surgeries I’ve had, I’ve relearned composing at the computer. It’s certainly is not a problem, and what it comes down to is personal preference. Both ways can create excellent fiction.

Amazon Author Page:




  • Willard Thompson will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

11 replies »

    • Thanks for following my VBT Victoria. Please leave a positive review on Amazon and Goodreads and follow me on Goodreads or Bookbub. Cheers, Willard

      Liked by 1 person

    • HI Mya. I collect lighthouses too and wrote the history of the Point Conception Lighthouse where Emma was raised. Hope you read and like the book. If so please give me a positive review on Goodreads and Amazon. Cheers, Willard

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.