October 03, 2011

7 questions with . . . Susanna Kearsley

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The October 2011 Romance of the Month tells the story of a love that transcends space and time. Reviewer Christie Ridgway picked The Rose Garden for its “understated sensuality,” aching romance and complex emotional dilemmas.

We chatted with author Susanna Kearsley about great books and what it means to be a writer.

Describe your book in one sentence.
The Rose Garden is the story of a woman who returns to the old house in Cornwall where she spent her childhood summers, and finds herself sharing the rooms—and becoming involved—with a man living there nearly 300 years before her own time.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one fictional character, who would you want it to be?
Barney Snaith, from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. I’ve always had a thing for Barney, and he has a thing for living on uninhabited islands.

If you could travel back in time to any decade in history, what would you choose and why?
If I could, I’d head directly for the first decade of the 19th century, for a purely self-serving reason: for years now my father and I have been trying to pin down the birthplace and birthdate of one of my ancestors who keeps eluding us, so like a good amateur genealogist I’d go back to London and follow his father and mother around till their son was born!

What are the sexiest scenes to write?
For me, the scene where the heroine first becomes aware of the hero, really aware of him, because there’s such a jumble of sensation and emotion in those moments. And also the first time they kiss, because, well, there’s just something incredibly sexy about the first kiss.

What was your favorite book as a child?
Beautiful Joe, by Marshall Saunders, a late-Victorian “autobiographical” novel of a dog’s life that I loved with a passion, because of my own love of dogs (and all animals, really).

What are you reading now?
Just at the moment I’m finishing an advance copy of a book called The Haunting of Maddy Clare, by debut author Simone St. James. It’s a chilling romantic suspense story set in the 1920s, and Deanna Raybourn and I were actually just talking on Twitter this morning about how unique it is, sort of like Peter Straub meets Shirley Jackson meets Dorothy L. Sayers. It’s very good.

If you weren’t a writer, how would you earn a living?
See now, this is a tricky question, because being a writer and earning a living at being a writer are two different things. I’ve always been a writer, from the time I was a child—it’s just the way my brain was formed and how I process things: I shape them into stories. Before I could earn my living by just writing, I was a museum curator and a waitress, in that order, and I suppose that if my ability to pay the bills with my writing ever disappeared, I’d do both again, in the opposite order: waitressing first, because it got me out in the company of people and gave me flexible hours and was a job I could leave at the workplace when I took that apron off, and museum work second, because I truly loved that hands-on connection to the past and the chance to preserve something special for future generations to enjoy. But published or not, I would still be a writer.

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