To celebrate the release of The Pearl Sister, the fourth instalment in the Seven Sisters series, I was very excited to be given the opportunity to interview Lucinda Riley.
Where did you get the idea the write a series of books based on the constellation of the Pleiades star cluster?
Just after New Year in 2013 I was searching for my next story but wanted to find an overarching angle to add another element to my past/present writing, something that would challenge and excite me – and my readers. I have always watched the stars – especially the Seven Sisters cluster near the belt of Orion – and on that frosty night in North Norfolk, I looked up to the heavens. Thinking also of our own seven children, I was struck with the idea for a seven book series based allegorically on the legends of the Seven Sisters constellation.
Do you have a favourite sister and her story?
For me, choosing a favourite sister would be like choosing a favourite child, so I’m afraid it’s impossible to say. Although I must admit, because I am currently working on Tiggy’s story, The Moon Sister, I probably feel closest to her right now. I adore her compassion and her spirituality.
I love to hear from my readers, and many of them tell me they have a sister with whom they particularly identify; for example, for some it is Star’s determination to come out of the shadows, for others it is Ally’s bravery and positivity. The wonderful thing about writing a series of seven books is that we don’t have to say goodbye to any of the sisters for a while yet.
Do you have a plan or diagram of the timelines for the stories so there are no inconsistencies?
No, I very rarely write anything down; it’s all in my head. Although I do have a tiny notebook the size of my palm which I keep with me to jot down an idea when it strikes. Of course, in a series of this scale, potential inconsistencies crop up quite a lot – I always need to make sure that the sisters are in the right place and don’t contradict things that have happened in previous books. But these things are all taken care of in the editing process. After writing my first draft, I edit the book at least twenty times, to ensure that it is as perfect as I can possibly make it.
Which sister are you writing about now, and which countries has it taken you to?
Tiggy is the most spiritual of all of her sisters, as we have seen in previous books. In The Moon Sister, readers will discover more about her work with animals at a secluded Highland estate in Scotland, but her journey will also take her to heat of Spain. Characters from earlier in the series will reappear in very unexpected ways.
At the end of The Pearl Sister, there is a short titbit of Tiggy’s perspective, which may shock some readers. You will have to wait until The Moon Sister is released in 2018 to find out more…
Apart from The Seven Sisters books, I understand you have another book coming out next year, can you tell me a bit about it?
Yes, The Love Letter will be published in the UK in July 2018, and it is rather different to my previous books. It’s a thriller set in the 1990s in London and Ireland. I originally wrote the manuscript a long time ago when I was living in West Cork, where the landscape is so inspiring.
The main character is a young journalist, Joanna Haslam, who is sent to report on a memorial service held in honour of the renowned actor Sir James Harrison, who has recently died. There, she meets an elderly lady who gives her a package of old documents — including a fragment of a mysterious love letter that hints at a dramatic back-story. Joanna’s curiosity is awakened and she begins to investigate. Little does she know that she has embarked on a mission that is not only dangerous, but one that will also throw her own heart into turmoil — because Marcus Harrison, Sir James’s grandson, is as charismatic as he is enigmatic….
When writing, do you have a particular place where you write, and do you have to be strict with yourself about sitting down to write?
After I’ve completed all my research, I begin writing the first draft – although ‘writing’ isn’t actually accurate, because I narrate the story into my trusty Dictaphone. I work best outside in the open air, but even if I’m indoors, I’m always pacing and on the move. I spend weeks talking to myself – my kids think I’m crazy, although they’ve got used to it over the years. I then hand it over to my assistant, who has the task of converting my verbal ‘vomit’ into words on a page.
I do work extremely long hours, and sometimes it’s a hard slog, for example if a particular section isn’t going well. But generally once I’ve started on a book, I don’t find it difficult to discipline myself because I become so involved with the characters and the story and can’t wait to get back to them. I feel privileged to be able to do this for a living.
When writing I also have a strict timetable of drinks – English Breakfast tea in the morning, coffee at 11am, and rosé wine from Provence at lunchtime!
What was your favourite book as a child, and why?
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. They both have fantastic heroines whose imagination and kindness helps them make their way in the world. Both books feature orphans, which perhaps may have subconsciously influenced me to write The Seven Sisters series about adopted young women.
Do you have much time to read, and what are you reading now?
I read every single night before going to bed – I believe that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader, and I’m a bona fide bookworm. I’m currently working my way through the ‘Inspector Lynley’ mystery series by Elizabeth George.
Which writers have inspired you to become an author?
My favourite period is the 1920s/30s and the wonderful authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh who wrote so evocatively about that part of world history. They have inspired my love for the historical. Most of my books are therefore told in dual narrative format, with powerful back stories and an underlying moral of forgiveness, acceptance and understanding of one’s past – in order to live happily in the present and also to embrace the future.
Going back to The Seven Sisters series, you have recently launched a charm bracelet and a set of charms that represent each sisters heritage, I recently purchased one and it is a beautiful piece of jewelry. The profit from the sale of the bracelet and charms are going to the charity Mary’s Meals, could you tell me a bit about the charity and why you chose it?
Mary’s Meals is wonderful charity that provides more than one million children across 14 countries with a meal at their school or place of education. Providing food in this way attracts children to the classroom and helps give them hope for a brighter future. This means that children who were once too hungry to concentrate now have the energy to learn. Parents who were anguished at not being able to feed their children themselves have more peace of mind and encourage them to go to school.
Writing the Seven Sisters series has taken me across the globe, and the more I travel and experience, the more I realize what privileges we in the Western World so often take for granted. When I heard about Mary’s Meals, I loved the simplicity of the idea behind it. It gives hope to children, and nourishes their bodies as well as their minds.
Every penny of profit from the sale of each Seven Sisters bracelet goes towards providing the £13.90 needed to feed a child at school for a year. If anyone reading would like to buy a charm bracelet, simply go to https://thesevensistersshop.com/
So far, the response from my readers has been fantastic, and I would like to thank all of them for supporting this amazing cause. We have now raised enough money to sponsor Assembly of God Mission School in Liberia for a whole year.
Thank you for answering my questions, I am a huge fan of your writing.
You can learn more about Lucinda and her books at www.lucindariley.co.uk