Monday, 30 April 2018

[Timeless Tour] Q & A with Susanna Kearsley, author of BELLEWETHER

For today's Timeless Tour post I have a Q & A with Susanna Kearsley, author of BELLEWETHER!

Q & A

1. What draws you to writing historical fiction?

I was born into a family of amateur genealogists, so for as long as I can remember I’ve had this strong sense of connection to my ancestors. I grew up seeing their photographs and portraits, reading their wills and their letters, knowing details of their everyday lives and the work they did, and this made them very real people for me. So when I was studying the Napoleonic wars at school, I’d be thinking of my ancestor who’d claimed that as a boy he’d heard the cannons on the battlefield at Waterloo, and when I was studying the Industrial Revolution I’d be thinking about my ancestors who moved from mill town to mill town across the north of England to find work as weavers. And that’s something I still enjoy—putting a personal face on the past.

2. What is your writing process like? For example, do you listen to music, do you plan or just wing it when you write?

My writing process isn’t elaborate. I can write pretty much anywhere, as long as it’s quiet—no music, no talking—or I have white noise on my headphones. I don’t have an outline. I do a lot of research, but the storytelling part is very subconscious-driven. I let the characters loose on the page and they lead me where they want to go, so when I sit down each day I only have a very general sense of what I think might happen. I might think, “This is where she should go to New York and talk to her cousin.” But the characters might lead me somewhere entirely different that day, and I’ve learned that it’s best just to follow them.

3. How do you go about writing your characters into history? Do you start with the historical elements or the characters?

With most of my books, I’m dealing with a specific historical event or a short span of time, so I start with that, and as I’m doing my research and reading the primary documents—letters and journals and anything else I can find from the period—I start to look for the people that I might be able to use in the story. There will be real people whose voices come through particularly clearly for me, or who capture my interest for various reasons, and then there will be spaces I know I’ll want to fill with invented characters. But the history is the starting point.   

4. If you had to pick a song (or songs) that would make up a playlist for BELLEWETHER, what would you choose, and why?

It’s interesting that you should ask that because, even though I write in silence, I gather a playlist of songs on my iPod to play between sessions. Some songs, I’ve learned, set certain characters in motion in my mind, and while the music’s playing, it’s as though I’m watching a short film in my imagination. The playlist for BELLEWETHER ended up being fairly long, with some songs for the present and some for the past, but there were two songs that straddled both storylines with equal resonance—Human, by Christina Perri, which seemed to speak for both heroines and their situations, and Breathe, by Ryan Star, which gave a voice to both the heroes.

5. In one or two sentences, how would you pitch BELLEWETHER to someone who hasn’t heard of it before? 

I would probably tell them it’s the story of a young museum curator, trying to keep her balance and hold everyone together in the wake of a family tragedy, who finds a reflection of her own struggles in the story she uncovers of a woman living in the same historic house three hundred years earlier.

Some houses seem to want to hold their secrets.

It’s 1759 and the world is at war, pulling the North American colonies of Britain and France into the conflict. The times are complicated, as are the loyalties of many New York merchants who have secretly been trading with the French for years, defying Britain’s colonial laws in a game growing ever more treacherous.

When captured French officers are brought to Long Island to be billeted in private homes on their parole of honour, it upends the lives of the Wilde family—deeply involved in the treasonous trade and already divided by war.

Lydia Wilde, struggling to keep the peace in her fracturing family following her mother’s death, has little time or kindness to spare for her unwanted guests. French-Canadian lieutenant Jean-Philippe de Sabran has little desire to be there. But by the war’s end they’ll both learn love, honour, and duty can form tangled bonds that are not broken easily.

Their doomed romance becomes a local legend, told and re-told through the years until the present day, when conflict of a different kind brings Charley Van Hoek to Long Island to be the new curator of the Wilde House Museum.

Charley doesn’t believe in ghosts. But as she starts to delve into the history of Lydia and her French officer, it becomes clear that the Wilde House holds more than just secrets, and Charley discovers the legend might not have been telling the whole story...or the whole truth.
About Susanna Kearsley

A former museum curator, Susanna Kearsley brings her passion for research and travel to her novels, weaving modern-day and historical intrigue. She won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Award for her novel Mariana, the 2010 Romantic Times Book Review’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction novel for The Winter Sea, was shortlisted for a 2012 RITA Award for The Rose Garden, and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada for Every Secret Thing. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @SusannaKearsley.

Follow Susanna: Facebook | Twitter

Follow along with the Timeless Tour on the tour website,

You can also find a tour schedule on my
[Timeless Tour] Kick Off Questions & Full Tour Schedule post.

What did you think of Susanna's answers?
Are you planning to add Bellewether to your to-read list?

No comments:

Post a comment

Comments are like smiles. Free to give, but precious to receive. Thank you for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment. I treasure every one. Also, check back! You'll probably find a reply. :D