NAW Interview With Lucinda Riley

Lucinda RileyLucinda Riley was born in Ireland and during her childhood, she travelled extensively abroad, particularly to the Far East. Moving to drama school in London, she became an actress, working in film, theatre and television. At twenty-four, she wrote her first novel, ‘Lovers and Players, based on her experiences as an actress. And then went on to write seven further novels under the name Lucinda Edmonds, which were translated into fourteen languages. Lucinda lives with her family in Norfolk, England, and the South of France. Learn more about her here.

NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write? 

I started my working career as an actress, but at 22, I became ill with glandular fever. As I was not able to work, I wrote my first novel and got a three book deal with Simon and Schuster. I wrote seven more novels under the name ‘Lucinda Edmonds’ and they actually did very well. But by then I was writing a book and having a baby a year and something had to go. So I concentrated on being a Mum for six years. Then, about four years ago, when my youngest had started school, I got the urge to write again and so came up with ‘Hothouse Flower’. Once the book was completely finished, I let my agent send it out, but as ‘Lucinda Riley’, so that I’d be judged as an unknown novelist without a track record. And four books later, I am celebrating selling over 3 million copies worldwide and am published in 27 countries.

NAW-Tell us about your book ‘The Light Behind the Window.’ Since the novel has such diverse themes, did you carry out any research? 

I first came across the setting for Château de la Martinières when my husband and I were driving back through France to England.  To break the journey, we stayed overnight at a beautiful old château in the Rhone Valley. And it was then, as I sat in the gorgeous lavender-filled courtyard, that I told my husband that a French chateau such as this was where I wanted to set my new story.

A few months later, I returned to France to begin writing the first draft in earnest and decided to move the location of the chateau to Gassin, a beautiful medieval hilltop village close to our home.

As with all my books, I research the past time period before I start writing.  I did this, for this book, by reading everything I could find on the brave women of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in the 1939-45 war. I read very broadly as a rule,  because I never know where the actual story will head. Even though I’m manic about making sure my facts are correct, I’m a storyteller first, not a historian.

As part of my research on the southern coast of France and how life was during the war, when I’d finished the first draft of ‘The Light Behind the Window’, I came across a wonderful elderly man – Monsieur Chapelle of the Domaine du Bourriane, whose surname, chateau and vineyard I’d written about before I knew such a family and their beautiful home actually existed in reality. I had walked into my own fictional story and it was a humbling and magical experience. This has happened to me on other occasions to.

NAW- ‘The Light Behind The Window’ is a story that has a bit of everything including love, betrayal, a bit of forgiveness. I especially liked Emilie’s character and how she learns to forgive her mother rediscovering herself in the process. How did you develop the character?

Emilie is the product of a mother who gave birth to her because she must produce an heir. Her mother was always disinterested in her, especially as she was a girl and not a requisite heir. Subsequently, Emilie grew up with a complete lack of self-confidence and a self-effacing personality. She has tried hard to live a life that is polar-opposite in every way to her mother. The story follows Emilie’s journey of understanding and accepting where her pain has come from. I think these characters are, as is often the case, shaped by friends of mine and their relationships with their respective mothers, particularly those who live in the public eye.

Italian Girl cover

NAW- Tell us about your upcoming book, ‘The Italian Girl.’ What is it about? How did you get the idea for the book?

I originally wrote the story of Rosanna and Roberto seventeen years ago and it was published as Aria in 1996, under my old ‘pen’ name, Lucinda Edmonds. Last year, some of my publishers asked me about my backlist. I told them all the books were currently out of print, but they asked for some copies. Into my cellar I ventured, and pulled out the eight books I’d written all those years ago. They were covered in mouse-droppings and spiders webs and smelt of damp, but I sent them off, explaining that I had been very young then and I completely understood if they wanted to bin them then and there.  To my surprise, the reaction was incredibly positive and they asked me whether I would like to re-publish them.

This meant that I had to begin reading them too, and as any writer who looks back on their work from the past, I opened the first page of Aria with trepidation. It was a bizarre experience, became I couldn’t remember much of the story, so I became involved just as a reader does, turning the pages faster and faster to find out what happens next. I felt the book needed some updating and re-editing, but the story and the characters were all there. So I set to work for a few weeks and the finished result it The Italian Girl.

NAW- What drew you to writing?

 I always had a very vivid imagination and as a child spent much of my free time making up stories. So it wasn’t anything to do with whether I had a talent, as much as a passion for writing. It always seemed to come naturally.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

Writing, and everything that goes with it – research, editing, promotion, touring – is incredibly demanding, so any time I do have spare is spent with my husband and four children.

The Midnight Rose cover

NAW- Are there any literary influences that you would like to name?

I love reading and always go to bed with a book. I have a few favourite authors whose books I’ve read over and over and they have played a huge part in influencing my writing and storytelling. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton and the Brönte sisters.

NAW- Please name your five favourite books.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

I am writing a seven book series called ‘The Seven Sisters’ based allegorically on the mythology surrounding the famous star constellation. I am very excited about this project and have not only finished Book 1 called ‘The Seven Sisters’ which is based in Rio and Paris in the 1920’s, but I am half way through Book 2 which is set in Norway, Greece and London.

‘The Seven Sisters’ will be published firstly in Brazil in August, then in England and followed by India release in November.


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