Copyright © Susanna Kearsley All Rights Reserved.   

Spring, 2015

With the upcoming spring book tours approaching, a lot of people have been emailing me to ask whether I’ll sign books (or other items) that they bring from home?

This answer’s an easy one: YES! I will happily sign what you bring me.

That said, there are a few rules of basic book-signing etiquette that are so obvious I’m sure most of you already know them, but I’ll share them here anyway:

The bookstores and libraries that are hosting me are counting on the book sales for their livelihood, so please try to give them your business. My mother owned a bookstore when I was little, so I know firsthand how tough it is to make a profit selling books, and every purchase really helps preserve your local bookseller (and in the case of libraries, fund programs for your hometown).

Some bookstores have a written policy that they’ll only allow me to sign, in-store, books that have been bought there. This is usually stated clearly at the event, and if that’s the policy of a store where I’m signing, then I’m bound to honour that. But I CAN still make arrangements to sign your books afterwards, so don’t despair (and often if you simply purchase one book from the store they will relax their rules and let me sign the other books you’ve brought without a problem).

If you have a HEAP of books (as in a big bag of them that you’ve been collecting for years) that’s still fine by me, and I’ll be more than pleased to sign them all for you, but I would ask you to consider taking a spot at the back of the line, so people with only one or two books can move through more quickly and not get held up.

I hope that seems fair?

One of the best parts for me about touring is getting to meet you, and one of the things I love best about signings is seeing the friendships that form in the signing lines, watching as people who start off as strangers arrive at my table in mid-conversation with each other.

I truly have the best readers. And I’ll stay and sign for as long as each bookstore will let me.


Winter, 2014

My friend and fellow writer Molly O’Keefe hosts a great feature in her newsletter in which she sits down and virtually “talks shop” with writers about everything from inspiration to process. In September it was my turn. You can subscribe to Molly’s free newsletter here on her website, and I’m sure she’d be happy to send you the digital back-issue with our interview as well. Among the questions she asked me was this:

I’m a big fan of the dual timeline but it’s got to be hard especially with a book like A Desperate Fortune to make sure that the contemporary timeline doesn’t get overwhelmed by the historical timeline. (I say this because of Hugh, gorgeous, dangerous Hugh). How do you approach this problem?

Well, it’s never easy. Each book is different and it needs a different balance, and I’ve learned I’m never going to please everyone. For every reader who wants more of the present day story, there’s another who wants to read more of the past. It’s difficult because the past story is generally set in a turbulent time, with more scope for adventure and mystery. There may be conflict in the present as well, but it’s often more personal and more internal, a quieter kind of suspense. I just try to be always aware that my readers might not want to be pulled too abruptly from one tale to the other, so generally towards the end of the book I let the past story take centre stage for a while. (And as you know yourself, with Hugh, it wasn’t like I had a choice—he’s not the kind of character you get to boss around!)


Summer, 2014

Megan from San Jose State University interviewed me at the end of April for one of her courses, and asked: What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer, and what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Working to a publisher’s deadline is always a challenge for me, because it’s an external thing imposed upon me and the work I’m doing, instead of something that rises naturally from the book, and because I don’t work to a proper outline and never really know for certain what my characters are going to do or how many chapters it’s going to take them to do it, a deadline date that sounds perfectly fine when I agree to it can turn out to be a huge problem for me as the book begins to take on its own life, and this is probably the source of my greatest amount of on-the-job stress. The deadline for my current book, for example – the book I’m just finishing now – has already been moved a couple of times, and now I’ve reached the point where the publisher absolutely needs it to be handed in next week or else they won’t be able to keep to their production schedule and the book won’t be published when it needs to be published, so I’m at the stage in the writing where I’m really only coming up for air and coffee when it’s truly necessary, and my kids are eating dry cereal out of the box for their supper. So yes, deadlines are my most challenging thing. The most rewarding thing? The creation. I love the actual storytelling, the act of sitting down alone in a room with a stack of blank paper and turning it into a novel. It’s a wonderful thing to be all on my own with the characters moving around my subconscious, because I see it all happening the same way I watch a film at the movie theatre, and when I’m fully in “the zone” all I have to do is let the characters go and write down what they’re doing and saying. But the craft is so enjoyable and so interesting to me, and coming out of my writing room after a good day’s work is one of the most rewarding moments I can experience.


Winter, 2013

Connie from Wichita, Kansas, asks: I just recently finished reading The Firebird…Will there be more sequels to the Slains series?

Hi Connie. That’s a really good question, and I wish I knew the answer! To be honest I never really thought about the books as a series—when I wrote The Winter Sea I thought it was just going to be a one-off, and when I later wrote The Firebird I tried my best to make it a companion novel, not a true sequel, so the two books didn’t really have to be read in any specific order and a reader could read one without ever having to read the other. But I do know that a lot of readers view the books as being in a series, and that’s fine. The book I’m writing now, A Desperate Fortune, deals with Jacobites again, but not with Slains, and while a character or two might wander in and play a bit role on the sidelines (as can often happen in my books) the story doesn’t follow on directly from The Firebird so I don’t think you’d consider it a sequel. Will there be a proper sequel, sort-of-sequel, or companion novel that does follow on from both The Firebird and The Winter Sea? I’m not certain. But a few readers have commented I haven’t yet explained just how the Firebird carving made it back to Cruden Bay, in Scotland. And another reader pointed out that Stuart Keith’s still single. And in doing research for the book I’m writing and the one I think I’m writing next, I did find mention of a rather interesting incident that happened up that way…so we shall see. These things can take a while to percolate, and sometimes they don’t ever come to anything. But I would like to think I’m not yet finished with the Morays, for I have a sense they have more tales to tell.


Summer, 2013

Blogger/Reviewer Kelli Catana asks: In The Firebird you told the present day story of Nicola and Rob along with the past story of Anna Moray… Will we see any of these characters in future books and if so, how do you decide whose story is unfinished?

I’ve learned, with my characters, to never say never, because the truth is that once they’ve come to life on the page for me they tend to stay alive within my mind, and one or two have wandered from one book into another, in the past. But usually, once a character’s main issues have been dealt with, once the problem that first set the plot in motion has been solved, the book is done, the story finished, and the character falls “silent” for me. They’re anything but silent while I’m writing—my writing process is very visual and I actually “see” the story playing out like a film, so the characters are moving and talking all the time, so when I reach the story’s end I know the moment that it happens, because all that stops. The characters stop talking, and they’re happy and I’m satisfied, and I go on to something else. Once in awhile, though, that doesn’t happen—a character keeps moving, murmuring, just at the back of my mind. That’s what happened with Colonel Graeme, one of the historical characters from my book The Winter Sea, and because of him I knew I wasn’t finished with that aspect of the story, that I’d have to write The Firebird, to tell what happened next. And sometimes, too, a character will turn up in another book because they’re a good fit to play a part. I once needed a vicar, for example, in my novel Every Secret Thing, and realized I’d already created a great vicar in my book Mariana, so I just used him, and he did the job perfectly. Rob himself, from The Firebird, began life as a young boy in The Shadowy Horses, and if you’d asked me then whether he’d ever appear in a future book, I’d probably have told you ‘no’. It wasn’t till a reader wrote to ask me whether Rob would ever have his own book that I started “seeing” grown-up Rob, and how he’d make the perfect hero for The Firebird. So although I don’t think, now, that he and Nicola will turn up in a future book, I can’t be sure. I can say that Anna will make a brief cameo in the next book, which I’m currently writing.

You can read the entire interview at www.kellidaisy.com.


Spring, 2013

Andrea from The Whitby Public Library asks: What is your favourite discovery from writing The Firebird?

One of my favourite discoveries was actually the correspondence kept by Thomas Gordon, the Scotsman who was a captain in the Scots (and later Royal) Navy when we met him in The Winter Sea, and in The Firebird has risen to Vice Admiral in the Russian Navy. One of his daughters married into a fairly wealthy family, so a lot of Gordon’s papers and his correspondence were preserved and are now held by the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh, where I was able to spend a whole week sitting reading them. Reading ten years’ worth of a man’s personal correspondence gives you an insight into his character that you rarely get as an historical novelist. What I learned about Gordon—his family, his habits, his household—made me grow incredibly fond of him, and made it easy to bring him to life on the page.


November, 2012

Angela from Royal Reviews asks: Everyone from fellow bloggers to my local librarians is asking if there will be a follow up to The Winter Sea. Can you tell us anything about it?

You can tell them all yes, my sort-of-sequel to The Winter Sea is finished now, and it will be out in the spring of 2013. It’s called The Firebird, and it continues to follow the lives of many of the historical characters from The Winter Sea, centering on Anna Moray, John and Sophia’s daughter, as she grows up and gets a romance of her own. As with The Winter Sea, I was able to use actual historical events and people to drive the plot, which takes Anna from Scotland into Russia, to St. Petersburg, where the Jacobite community was surprisingly active and successful under the leadership of men like Captain (later Admiral) Thomas Gordon. And as with The Winter Sea, the past story is wrapped in a modern-day one, but with new characters this time, including as the hero Rob McMorran, who first made his appearance as little Robbie in The Shadowy Horses, and whose psychic abilities are put to good use in The Firebird.  

You can read my entire interview with Angela here.


April, 2012

April from Fredericton, New Brunswick asks: Do you read manuscripts and offer comments or suggestions to new writers?

As far as reading manuscripts or offering critiques of other people’s work, unfortunately no, I’m very sorry but I just don’t do that. It’s not that I don’t want to help. Believe me, I can very well remember what it feels like to be toiling on that long, hard, bumpy road to publication, and I know firsthand the value of a helping hand along the way, but I just can’t read someone’s unpublished manuscript, for varied reasons.

What I can do, though, is try to answer a specific writing question, if you have one. And from time to time I’m able to get out and do blue pencil sessions, like the ones that I’ll be doing at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference in September, in which I can actually sit down and offer feedback to the writers I’ve been matched with.

And if you should ever see me at a signing or a conference, please feel free to come and chat. I love to offer what encouragement I can, and meet new writers. Just please understand that I can’t read your manuscript.

But when you’ve come a little further down that road, and found a publisher, I’m more than happy to be asked to read your book in proof. Last year I had a lovely writer get in touch and ask if I could read and maybe comment on her own unpublished manuscript, and reading through her letter just reminded me so much of my own struggle to get published that I honestly felt terrible I had to tell her “no.”

This year I got another email, this time from her editor, who edits for a major New York publisher, announcing that she’d bought that writer’s book and asking whether I would care to read it now, and give a possible endorsement?

And that made me very happy, because that was something I could do to help her.

April, thank you for your question, and if you’re a writer too, I wish you much success.  


December, 2011

The Book Page asked me: 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.

You can read all 7 Questions that the Book Page asked me here.


September, 2011

Sarah from Spain asks: Do you pick the era and fit the story around it? Or do you find the story and research the era after?

Usually the story comes first, but for me it has never been really a straightforward chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

It would probably be more proper to say that I start with an event, or situation – I tend to stumble on a moment out of history I find interesting. It can be something I notice first-hand on a trip, or hear about, or some small detail buried in a TV documentary or mentioned just in passing in a history book I’m reading, and it strikes me as an interesting thing I’d like to learn about.

Sometimes, from that very first moment – as when I first learned of the Jacobites’ 1708 invasion attempt – I can see what the story will be, and the shape it must take, and I structure my research accordingly.

But even then, the process is continual. The story simply rises from the research that I’m doing, piece by piece, and that in turn leads me to new research, new sources, which creates more possibilities within the story... On and on and on.

For this new book I’m doing, which will be a sort-of-sequel to The Winter Sea/Sophia’s Secret, obviously I already knew the era I would need to research. But again, while I was doing that, I stumbled on an incident that made me stop a moment and think, “Interesting...”, and the story changed again and started up from that.

The story finds itself, it seems, no matter what my starting point might be!



June, 2011

Karen from Coff’s Harbour, Australia, writes: Hi Susanna. Just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying “The Winter Sea” on my Kindle. I don’t see any of your other books available in Kindle format – can you convince your publishers to do something about this and quickly?!

Hi, Karen. I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much you’re now looking for more of my work for your Kindle.

I know, from the number of emails I’ve been getting on this topic, that you’re not the only person out there feeling this frustration, and if I could get the books out there myself for you I would.

Some authors are indeed bringing out their “backlist” books (the ones they wrote a while ago, that may by now have fallen out of print) as self-published ebooks, so their fans can enjoy them again. In my case, though, my publishers in both the UK and the USA have bought the rights to all my backlist titles, so I can’t bring them out myself. Like you, I have to wait.

Both publishers – Allison & Busby in the UK, and Sourcebooks in the US – are committed to bringing out the books for Kindle and other e-readers, but both publishers are smaller houses with limited resources and lots of other authors whose readers are similarly keen to see their books brought out as ebooks.

So that means there is a queue...but it is moving, and I know my books are in it, if that helps!

Allison & Busby have digitized three of my books so far: Sophia’s Secret (the UK title of The Winter Sea), Mariana, and my latest one, The Rose Garden, and because they hold the rights to the UK & Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Australia, you should be able to buy those for your Kindle. Try using this link, or going to www.amazon.com, selecting “Kindle Store” as the department and doing a search for my name, which should bring up a screen that has a small selection window over at the top lefthand corner under the heading: “Your Country or Region”. If you click on this and select “Australia”, it should show you the three UK books.

Does that work?

For those of you who fall within the American publisher’s territory, right now The Winter Sea is the only ebook available from Sourcebooks, but in October when they bring out The Rose Garden in the States they’ll also be bringing it out at the same time as an ebook, and Mariana will follow in the spring of 2012, with the rest of my backlist currently scheduled to come out at the rate of two titles a year.

I realize you probably wanted them faster than that, and again, I apologize.

I promise I’ll keep passing on your comments and requests to both my publishers, so they’ll know how you feel. And thanks for taking time to write to me.


April/May, 2011

Tanya asks: I was wondering if what was said about the rock with the hole in it was true. And where did you find out about that? There are so many things about The Winter Sea I could tell you that I loved about your book, but that one part really stuck out to me! Thanks!

Hi, Tanya. The rock with the hole in it is one of those small superstitions I’ve carried a long time, thanks to Canadian writer Gregory Clark and his wonderful story “The Talisman”, first printed on the inside back page of Weekend Magazine and discovered by me in The Ryerson Press’ 1963 collection of Greg Clark’s stories, Hi There!, which was on my parents’ bookshelf and now sits on mine, with all his other books that I’ve collected.

The whole story of “The Talisman”, although it’s very short, is too complex and beautiful to summarize – you really have to read it for yourself – but in the first part of the story he recounts how his own grandmother once told him that if he ever found a little stone with a hole in it, he should tie it around his neck. “It will protect you from the arrow that flieth by day,” she said, “and the pestilence that walketh in darkness.”

How and where he finds the stone is wonderful and moving, and I really loved that story when I read it for the first time. So much so that I got talking to my dad about it, and he promptly went and fetched me something that he’d carried for a long time in his briefcase, and that his father had given him: a small stone, with a hole in it.

I’ve kept it ever since. (That’s my stone, pictured in the photograph below). And when I came to write The Winter Sea, it just seemed natural to use the good advice of Gregory Clark’s Scottish grandmother, and have my characters look for their own little stone, for a talisman that would protect them from arrows that flieth by day, and the pestilence walking in darkness. With all that they were up against, I figured they could use it!  


February, 2011

Lee Ann from Melbourne, Florida, asks:  I saw on your website that you are writing a sequel to The Winter Sea and that the modern day hero is someone we have met before... is it Robbie from The Shadowy Horses? You know that I have been wanting him to have his own story. On a happier note as you know The Winter Sea was finally release here in the U.S. – I bought a copy and gave it to my sister – she said it will be the next book that she reads :-). I also got a copy of it under the name Sophia’s Secret – love that cover as well as the Canadian hardcover illustration as well. The teaser chapters you have posted from the next book looks awesome but they are just that – teasers. Have a very Happy New Years – can’ t wait for the new book this coming year and looking forward even more to getting to know Anna as an adult.

Hi Lee Ann,

Wonderful to hear from you again! It's hard to believe it's been more than three years since you first wrote to me asking whether The Winter Sea would be published in the U.S.A. – as you see, patience pays off! I really hope your sister likes the book, you'll have to let me know.

In the meantime, you'll be happy to hear that you're absolutely right – the hero of the book I'm writing now is Robbie McMorran. When you first asked me, three years ago, whether he'd ever have his own story, my first reaction was, "but he's only eight!", and then I got thinking, "hang on, he was eight when I first started writing the book – he'd be older than that, now", and THEN I thought, "and if I start writing a book now with him as the hero, he'll be even older by the time it's finally published..."

So when I began to sift through my ideas for a sequel to The Winter Sea, and went looking for new modern-day characters to wrap the continuing past story in, I already had a clear image of Robbie (or Rob, as he calls himself now) as a young man, and I decided that he would be perfect to cast as the modern-day hero.

I really want to thank you for your original question three years ago, because it started me down a path that's allowed me to re-discover a character I've always loved myself. I'm really enjoying getting re-acquainted with Robbie, and seeing how his gift of the Sight has shaped his life. I have a feeling it will shape my plot in interesting ways, as well...


December, 2010

Marg from Historical Tapestry asks: Due to the timeslip aspect of your novels, and also with the contemporary strands of your story, you have to write more than one leading man. What are the key elements required to make a convincing leading man?

It all starts, for me, with the name. I like plain, solid names for a man, not only when it comes to the historical heroes, where plain, solid names were the norm, but in my modern-day men as well. David and Richard and John – these are names of the men I might meet on the street every day, and that makes them more real to me.

I also like it when a hero isn’t perfect, since real men always have their imperfections and their blind spots, though that doesn’t stop us loving them. And physical perfection isn’t necessary, either. Because I write in the first person, when a hero in one of my books is described as being handsome, we’re seeing him through eyes of the heroine, so while to her he might be the most handsome man she’s ever met, that doesn’t mean he has movie-star looks, only that he fits her own definition of what makes a good-looking man. We all have different views, on that count.

I can only draw from men I’ve known in my own life: my grandfathers, my father, and my husband and my friends, all different men, and yet with certain commonalities. If my heroes tend to be quieter men, it’s because the real men I know don’t go emoting all over the place – as a rule, they don’t talk much at all (though to be fair, I talk so much myself it may just be that they can’t get a word in edgewise). They don’t always say the right things, but they’re there, really there, when you need them the most. They’re dependable, trustworthy, decent, intelligent, honourable men with a good sense of humour. So I give these traits to my own leading men.

To read Marg’s full interview with me, use this link.


November, 2010

Marijana from Australia asks: Dear Susanna, I believe that I have happily resolved the mystery (aided by your clues) and that you are about to embark on a sequel to The Winter Sea!  Are you able to confirm this please? I know that, aside from myself, many of my friends will be thrilled if that is the case.

Marijana, you’re a good detective! Yes, that’s what I’ve done.

I know I’ve mentioned before that a few of the past characters from The Winter Sea were still moving round in my mind, refusing to sit still, and I’d discussed the idea for a sort-of-sequel (more a companion book, since the structure would allow it to be read independently of The Winter Sea, so a reader wouldn’t have to have read the first book to enjoy the second) with my editor, Lara Crisp. She really liked the concept and was keen to see it written, but because I was already partway through the sequel to my thriller, Every Secret Thing, we both thought it would make more sense to finish that one, first.

The thing is, what makes sense doesn’t always mesh well with a writer’s subconscious. And my heroine Kate (of the thriller) appeared to know long before I did what book I should really be writing. Not surprising, since I’ve left her hanging twice before – the first time, she was jogging in Ottawa when I set the thriller aside to write The Winter Sea, and the second time, she was stuck in a taxi for nearly two years while I worked on The Rose Garden, so I suspect that by now she can spot the signs. This time, she cleverly settled herself on a terrace in Greece, overlooking the summer resort town of Nydri, with someone for company, dinner, and wine, so she’s good for a while.

This new book will continue little Anna’s story, from The Winter Sea, beginning in the dark final days of the 1715 Rebellion and taking her through France and into Russia, to the household of our old friend Captain Thomas Gordon, now an influential leader of the Russian navy in St Petersburg, and a major player in a Jacobite intrigue that, like the 1708, is often left out of the history books.

And, like The Winter Sea, this book will be wrapping that past story in a present-day one, but with a completely different heroine and hero (though I will give you another clue – you’ve met the hero once before, in one of my own novels...)



October, 2010

The Bruce County Museum Book Club asks: Why do you have a paranormal thread running through your books, does that come from your own experiences?

Before I answer the question, I have to thank the Book Club members for their gracious understanding last month, when at the last minute I had to cancel my plans to meet with them when one of my children fell ill with a fever. Instead we had a fun and lively talk thanks to a speaker-phone. This question came up after we’d rung off, and so they emailed me to ask it.

Have I had any experiences with the paranormal? Well, I don’t know. I’ve had a few things happen in my life that I find fascinating. I may or may not once have tapped into genetic memory. And I may or may not have had something – friendly, but still something – roaming through the hallways of my rented house in Wales. And I’ve certainly met people whose ability to know, predict, or see things that the rest of us can’t see defies an easy explanation.

So I’m curious. I like the fact that there are things in life we can’t explain, and I’m intrigued to see how scientists and academics study these phenomena. I like to read the theories, and the case files, and the arguments, and when I weave the paranormal with a plot I always let my heroine explore the science, too, because for me that’s where the interest lies.

Unlike my heroines, I’ve never been regressed to a past life, or met a ghost, or travelled back in time – but thanks to all my research, I’ll be ready if I do!


August, 2010

Janavie from the United States asks: Please post when your new book , "Rose Garden" is coming out because those of us who live in NJ ,USA, have to track you down.

Hi Janavie. I really appreciate the efforts my American fans have to go through to find and buy my books, and I hope it will become a little easier for you now that I once again have an American publisher, Sourcebooks, who have not only picked up my two latest novels, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden, but have also acquired my backlist and plan to re-issue those books, too, in due course.

Right now The Rose Garden, which will be published in the UK and Canada in the spring of 2011, is scheduled for a fall 2011 release in the States.

I know it seems like a long wait, but publishers only have so many places in their schedules each season, so they have to plan well ahead. I promise I’ll keep everyone informed as things progress – I’ll post the cover when they send me one, and when I know the day and month of publication I’ll post that, as well.

Meantime, thanks so much for your email and your loyalty!


July, 2010

John from London, England, asks: Do you plan your novels, as I usually think of a start, middle and finish but as soon as I start typing stuff seems to flow straight out and every time I end up throwing all my plans out the window.

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one! Let me preface this by saying every writer does things differently – there is no right or wrong way, it’s a matter of what works the best for you, and not for someone else. But no, I don’t do that much planning.

I start with a first sentence, usually. Sometimes a title. A small central group of main characters, and some idea of what the main problem will be. And the setting, I always know that. Then I turn those main characters loose in that landscape, and see where they take me.

The planning, if any, is done on a microscopic level in the middle of the book, to keep things moving when they start to come more slowly, as they always do. Then I sit down and plan the next scene, or the next conversation, in point form, to give me some direction.

But when things are flowing, as you yourself seem to have already learned, the best thing I can do is get out of my characters’ way!

(I should add the exception to all this is when I am writing a thriller, as I’m doing now. For the thrillers I find that I have to sit down and try planning beforehand – this helps with the pacing. But even in thrillers, my characters tend to have minds of their own).



May, 2010

Virginie writes: I'm sixteen, and I've written a book two years ago (that I don't want published, since it's my first novel and like my other ideas better) and now I'm writing a second one. I was just wondering if literary agents and publishing companies will mind my age if I send them a copy of the manuscript; will they read it at all? Of course I'll still try and send it, but is there any possibility of my getting published?

Yes, Virginie, there is a possibility!

Your question is near to my heart because writing was all that I wanted to do from a very young age, so in reading your letter I see a great deal of my own self at sixteen - except for the fact that you’ve managed to finish a novel, where I didn’t finish my first until I’d reached my twenties. Well done!

Will your age work against you? Well, I asked one of my own agents, Shawna McCarthy, who handles all my US sales and rights, for her opinion. Shawna has been in the business over twenty years, as both an award-winning editor and an agent, and her reply to you is,

“It's actually a plus to be a young writer as it gives you an edge with publishers looking for marketing hooks. Beyond that, though, you still have to be a good writer, as good as an adult, in order to get published. No one will publish a poorly written book just because it's by a 16-year-old. All writers, no matter what their age, need to have a firm grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar, and a good feel for plotting, character and pacing. Good luck!”

So there you have it, straight from a woman who knows. For my own part, the best advice that I can give you to increase your odds of getting published is to study everything you can about the business – read magazines like Writer’s Digest, visit the blogs of writers you admire, learn all you can about how publishing works, so you can send your manuscript out in the right way, with confidence.

And please, please, steer clear of those people and web sites that promise a quick and sure path to success. Read this page about “Vanity Publishers”, and be aware of the warning signs. And remember: Publishers pay writers, not the other way around – you should NEVER have to spend any money to “see your book in print”, nor should you have to pay an agent a “reading fee” to have them read your manuscript, but there are a whole lot of people out there lying in wait to take advantage of the unsuspecting (and hopeful) new writer, so beware.

And be persistent. Some writers are lucky enough to be published the first time they try, while for others it might take a few unsold manuscripts and a whole lot of heartache (and postage!) before they connect with that one perfect editor who loves their writing.

The trick is to never give up, and to never stop learning your craft. With a novel already completed at 16, you’re already well down the road to succeeding. Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged.

I wish you the best.



March, 2010

Carol writes: Susanna - I have been writing all my life, and I have several books in the works, at various stages of completion BUT I never seem to cross the finish line and send them off to a publisher. Did you encounter that fear before you sent your first manuscript or query letter off? If you did, how did you get over it? Were the rejections, if you got any, as horrible as some books on writing and authors I have heard speak say they were?

Carol, I was the Queen of First Chapters when I started out! First chapters that I polished and revised until, in my eyes, they were perfect...then I set them to the side and started something else. Sometimes I’d make it as far as six or seven chapters, but that was the absolute limit.

Looking back, I can see that part of my problem was that I had no idea how to navigate my way through the writing of a novel. It wasn’t until I had the prod of my sister’s dare and the roadmap of Phyllis A Whitney’s Guide to Fiction Writing that I managed to get all the way to the end of my first book, Undertow. But part of it, too, was pure subconscious self-defense: If I didn’t actually try to complete something, I’d never have to face up to the fact I might fail. And I was terrified of failing.

How did I get over it? Well, as I said, the dare helped (if I hadn’t finished the book, I’d have had to buy my sister an expensive dinner I couldn’t afford at the time). Phyllis A Whitney’s book definitely helped, from the opening chapters in which she warned: ‘In the beginning [your family will] feel that you have no right to sequester yourself. Who do you think you are – a writer? So you say to yourself and to others, “Yes, I am a writer. I write, and I am a writer...”’ through to the final pages in which she gave advice about surviving the submission process: ‘The most important rule through all this painful time is not to let the rejections discourage you. (You should be working on something else by this time, anyway.) Remember – a manuscript sitting on a shelf isn’t going to sell.’

I took her advice, faced my fear with pure blind confidence, and sent that first manuscript off to New York. It came back almost by return mail. But I sent it out again. And again. And again. My rejections, from both agents and publishers, weren’t really all that horrible. Painful to receive, yes. Discouraging, certainly. But for the most part, they were kindly worded. Several came with small handwritten jottings of encouragement. And after two years of rejections, Undertow finally landed on the desk of an editor at a small publisher who published just that sort of book, and wanted to buy mine.

It helps to persevere. Because one thing no one ever told me when I first became a ‘published author’ was that being published didn’t mean I’d finished with rejection. Editors and agents come and go, the focus of a publisher can change, a bigger publisher can buy out one that’s smaller and sack both its staff and authors – it’s an ever-changing business, and it helps to have thick skin and a lot of patience.

I have neither, as it happens. What I do have is a stubborn love of doing what I do, and I take comfort in the knowledge that it all comes down to finding that one person, that right person, in the right place at the right hour of the day, at the right publisher. And sometimes, that takes time.

Hang in there!


February, 2010

Leanne from Toronto writes: I enjoyed reading Mariana!  I’m British and although you are listed as a Canadian author I can tell by your writing that you have spent much time in England! I wanted to ask you about the location of Mariana.  A few years ago I found myself in Avebury in Wiltshire. Your description of Exbury reminded me of that town – especially the reference to the Red Lion and the church. I was curious to see if parts of Exbury could be linked to Avebury.

Leanne, your instincts were dead on – Avebury was, in fact, the setting for Mariana, but since I didn't want to use the stone circle in my story and it would have been hard to write about Avebury without mentioning the stone circle (the characters would have been bumping into the stones left and right!) I decided to change the name of the village.

But the buildings are all there, in their proper locations – the manor house, the pub, and the church. Even Greywethers was a real house – in Avebury it sits at the crossroads, just opposite the Red Lion, but I moved it a bit further out of the village for my novel. You can see the back of it here, in this photo.

The manor house is a National Trust property, and open to the public. It was closed when I visited so I didn't get a chance to stand at the window in the Cavalier Bedroom myself, but from all accounts the 'ghost' seen from there is a matter of record. You can find the National Trust’s page on the manor house here, including their link to a very cool Google Street View of Avebury that lets you sneak up behind the house I used for Greywethers, and look across the road into the back garden of the Red Lion!

To see the interior of the Red Lion, you can rent the movie Still Crazy, with Bill Nighy and Billy Connolly – the band members meet up in the Red Lion early on in the film.

And of course, there are always my own few photos of the locations...


September, 2009

Liz from London asks: I picked up 'Sophia's Secret' by chance in Waterstones, London, loved it and now have all of your novels that I can get hold of. On your website you say that you're near the end of your next book and I wondered how long it takes from the publishers receiving your text to my being able to buy it in London?

I'm still working to finish the new novel – two chapters left, then a few weeks' revising to tidy it up, then I'll send it all through to my publishers.

There's no hard-and-fast rule of how long it takes for a publisher to bring a book out, but the usual time from receipt of the typescript to book-on-the-shelf is about nine months (just like a baby).

The typescript will need to be edited first, in a back-and-forth between my editor and me, and then the copyeditor has a go at it, and then the book is set in proof and THAT has to be read through rather carefully for errors, then it's ready to be sent on to the printers.

In the meantime, the cover needs to be designed, and the book – having been added to my publishers' catalogue of upcoming titles – must be shopped round the major book-buyers for bookshops and libraries, since it's their pre-orders that will decide how many books need to be printed.

There is also the publicity to handle – months before the book comes out it must be sent off to reviewers and to magazines and influential booksellers, and all of that, in hopes that someone might say something nice about it :-) That's a lot of work my publisher must do, and those nine months fly by like nothing.

So assuming that I send them my new typescript in September, they will likely have the book out on the shelves next April, but if we just say "next spring" that should be safe enough!

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June, 2009

Louise asks: Will Allison & Busby be re-issuing all your previous books?

I can’t promise they’ll get round to all the books, but I do know for certain they plan to re-issue two others besides Mariana...

The Shadowy Horses will be out in a new paperback edition in the UK this September, and Season of Storms (which has never yet been published in the UK) is the next in line to be re-issued sometime after that. As soon as I know the publication date I’ll post it here. I’m really pleased to see the books getting another chance. Can’t wait to see the new covers!
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May, 2009

Patricia asks: I have a question about the Scottish royal family listed in The Winter Sea. When I studied History in university, the family name was spelled “Stuart”. On a British website about the History of the Monarchy, the Scottish line of royals is spelled “Stuart” as well. As a writer, myself, and as one who is greatly interested in history, I would appreciate it if you could explain the varied spelling and your use of “Stewart” rather than “Stuart”. It seems even more ironic that a character should be named "Stuart".

The spelling of the royal Stewart name in Scotland is an unsettled matter among historians. The original spelling was "Stewart" (from "Steward"), and remained so until Mary, Queen of Scots altered it to the French spelling of "Stuart". This revised form of the name became the one best known and favoured by the English, and so it was the one most used by English historians writing about British history (including, most likely, the texts you remember from your university days!).

But Britain is not always synonymous with Scotland, and many Scots appear to prefer the original spelling when it comes to their royals. (You'll find a lot of Scottish web sites, academic and otherwise, use "Stewart", like this one: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/scottishhistory/stewartscotland/index.asp)

Certainly many of the documents I used in my research that came from the time of my story (1708) used the "Stewart" spelling, and since my characters were Scottish and I wanted to respect that, I decided to use "Stewart" in my book.

Also, as you've pointed out, I had a modern character whose Christian name was "Stuart", so the different spellings made for less confusion, in my mind.

I hope this helps?
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April, 2009

Laura Hilly of Gloucester asks: How difficult was it to carry out the research for this book [The Winter Sea/Sophia’s Secret]?

I would use the word "challenging" rather than difficult. Certainly it took a great deal of time and study, because in the past story I was using a number of real people as characters and their lives had to be re-created as faithfully as I could manage. In the case of John Moray, this meant doing a bit of amateur geneaology to fill in the gaps of his immediate family records, identifying his brothers and sisters and using found bits of his personal correspondence to help track his movements and get a good feel for his character.

I had to do this with many of the characters, in fact, trying to make each person as real as I could while attempting to piece together the puzzle of what happened that summer and autumn, and why. But as frustrating as it could sometimes be, I absolutely loved that part of the research. Sitting in the British Library and reading letters Moray wrote - actually touching the paper he touched over three hundred years ago - that's just a moment I'll treasure, and never forget.

Excerpted from Allison & Busby’s Book Club Q&A.

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April, 2009

Muriel from Ontario asks: I’ve just finished reading Every Secret Thing and totally enjoyed it. We are reading this for our Book Club and I will be making the presentation of the book.  Could you please help me come up with some intelligent questions that I could ask the members as it seems a bit difficult to find information on the Internet. This is our first mystery so it would be nice to make it super interesting. Again it was a great book and enjoyable beginning to end and as my husband and I have spent a lot of holidays in Portugal it brought back the familiar towns. Thank you.

Muriel, I'm very honoured that your book club has chosen to read and discuss Every Secret Thing, and I'm so glad to know that you enjoyed it. Hmm...questions you could ask the other members of your club. I've given this a bit of thought and managed to come up with a few (though I don't know whether they can truly be classed as "intelligent" :-):

1. The story is told in two interwoven threads - one set in the present-day, another in the past. Did this approach work for you?

2. Could the past story have stood alone without the modern-day frame?

3. Did you find one story more compelling than the other?

4. Did you have a favourite character?

5. The contribution of the BSC ladies to the war effort fascinated me, as did the women themselves. Do you think modern young women would be capable of working under such secretive conditions today? Could you do it?

6. When I was writing Every Secret Thing I had planned on giving Kate and Matt a happy ending, and my first draft of the novel actually ended with them together. It just didn't ring true, somehow. Kate didn't seem quite ready for it yet, so I rewrote the ending leaving their relationship in limbo, unresolved, to be continued in the next book in the series. In your opinion, did I make the right decision?

I hope these few questions will give you a start, at least. And please do feel free to write back with any other questions that come out of your discussion – I'll be happy to answer them, if I can.

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March, 2009

The review site Singletitles.com asks: Your novels are a wonderful blend of romance, mystery, history, suspense and emotion. What drew you to writing these kinds of books?

The short answer, of course, is that those are the books I love reading. As children, my sister and I were given free access to our parents’ bookshelves, and when we were bored we could choose any book from the shelves that we wanted and squirrel it up to our rooms for a read. So from a fairly early age I was introduced to the books and the writers my mother loved best: Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber; Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn; Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice; My Lord Monleigh and Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas, The Masters of Bow Street by John Creasey, and all of Mary Stewart’s thrillers. All those books helped shape my own sense of story and taught me the value of strong and intelligent heroines.

My parents also passed their love of history on to me, a passion I still carry, and the mystery’s there because I have the kind of mind that likes a puzzle, wants a challenge, thrives on a whodunit. As for the emotion, well, that likely works its way into my stories because I’m so sentimental. Around the time of the 50th anniversary of D-Day there was an ad on television that I still can’t even describe to anyone without going all weepy. (The one with the old man who goes into a vintage clothing store to buy a pair of silk stockings so he can keep a promise that he made in wartime). (You see? Here I go…)

Read the full interview at Singletitles.com

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February, 2009

Rosemary from Vancouver writes: I am sure you get many people writing to you about Mariana, which is my favorite book of all time. I have actually gone through three copies now - I read it over and over again! My question is this - while I love the subtle references to the characters from Mariana in other books - Named of the Dragon and in Every Secret Thing - I want more of them! Any plans for a sequel to that? Any plans to "resurrect" your old characters from Mariana and return to that area of England? Of course, in present day, not necessarily in the past?!

Thanks so much for your email, I'm glad that you enjoy the books. I really am so flattered that so many people seem to fall in love with Mariana. All those characters are very dear to my heart, too – that's probably why they tend to sneak into other stories sometimes! But just at the moment I've no plans to write a sequel. It's a difficult thing to describe, but when I've got a book's ending right I can tell because all of the characters simply stop talking – there's nothing more for me to put on the page.

I suppose it's rather like Julia's journey in Mariana. Once she's travelled the path she was meant to, the circle is closed and she can't re-live life in the past any more. Having said that, I have learned to never say "never", and if I'm ever called back by those characters I'd certainly be happy to revisit them. And that's an area of England that I truly love, it's magical, so Exbury and Crofton Hall may one day have another tale to tell.

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January, 2009

Kerstin from Germany asks: How were you inspired to create the Roman legionary ghost in your book Rosehill (The Shadowy Horses)?

Thanks for your question, Kerstin. When I was a little girl I read a book for children called The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff (I see that this same book is available in German as Der Adler der Neunten Legion). It tells the story of the lost legion, and I was fascinated by it. When I came to write Rosehill I knew I wanted the characters to be working on an archaelogical dig, and I wanted Peter Quinnell to be something like Schliemann, devoted to finding the proof of a legend. I remembered the lost Roman legion then, and thought that it would make a perfect and romantic thing for Quinnell to be searching for, the sort of thing a man might dedicate his life to finding.

The dig, I knew, was in the Scottish borders, which have seen so many battles through the centuries that they feel full of ghosts. And to many people there the gift of second sight is seen as something normal. So the character of Robbie started forming in my mind, this boy who claimed he'd seen a Roman ghost out walking on the hill. And then of course I started seeing in my mind the ghost as well, and I began to wonder where he'd come from, what had happened to him, and why he still walked there all alone.

Few people know that, while I was searching for a British publisher for Rosehill, one editor asked me to rework the book to include the Sentinel's own story in flashbacks at the beginning of each chapter, and I did this (which took me some weeks), but in the end that editor did not want the book after all, and the publisher who finally did buy it liked the book better the way I had written it first, so the Sentinel's story was never included.

Perhaps one day I will try to re-write it into a separate short story, when I have the time.

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January, 2009

A fan from Ontario asks: When you’ve stopped work on one book to write something else, like you’ve done with the sequel to Every Secret Thing, how do you keep the characters and plotlines active in your mind so you can finish the book later?

Actually I’ve stopped work twice now on the sequel to Every Secret Thing to write Susanna Kearsley books – I set the sequel aside to write The Winter Sea, and then went back to it again for almost a year before the urge to write my Cornish novel grew too strong – so I can safely say with some experience the characters and plotlines seem to keep themselves alive all by themselves.

I keep a binder for each book I write (or plan to write) and that way even when I’m not actively working on that story I have a place to jot down all my thoughts and ideas for scenes, and of course because of the visual way my mind works I still get “glimpses” of the characters from time to time (like little daydreams that come when I’m washing the dishes or taking a bath) so I know they’re still there waiting for me to get back to them. When the time comes to take up their story again I’ll most likely re-read what I’ve written so far, just to get Kate’s narrative voice firmly in my mind, and then I’ll simply carry on and hope I finish it this time before getting sidetracked by something else!   

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November, 2008

Many, many fans have asked me recently: Why is the same book being published under two different titles – The Winter Sea and Sophia’s Secret?

I know it’s confusing, and my apologies to any of my British fans who bought Sophia’s Secret when they had already read The Winter Sea last spring. My British publishers, Allison & Busby, originally brought the book out in trade paperback and hardback as The Winter Sea in March, 2008, and of course that’s how you’ll find it here in Canada. But the mass market paperback release was scheduled for the summer, and all the big book buyers (the people who place orders for the bookstore chains and retailers) let Allison & Busby know in no uncertain terms that a book called The Winter Sea would be difficult to market in the summer, so the title was changed for the paperback.

Publishers don’t make decisions like this on a whim. Like their choice of a cover, the title they use for a book is the one that they hope will best serve that book’s interests by appealing to the readers who might like it. And it’s very, very common for a book be called different names in Britain and America. One of my favourite novels, Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice, was re-titled The Legacy by its American publisher. A lot of Agatha Christie’s titles were changed, as well (her 4.50 from Paddington was published in the States as What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, for example). And you likely won’t find Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander in a UK bookstore, because it’s called Cross Stitch over there.

Experience has taught me that the marketing departments of my publishers know best, so in most cases I will happily defer to their best judgement.

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November, 2008

Darlene from Ontario asks: When you write your books, do you have an audience in mind or does the story just pop up?

I must confess I really don’t write with an audience in mind. My stories play like movies in my head and I just write them down, and try hard not to worry what a reader’s going to think of what I’m writing. My mother and a close friend are the only ones who read the books in progress, read the chapters as I write them in first draft, and I suppose that they each represent a segment of my “audience”, but while I always listen to their comments I don’t write the book to please them, not in that way, and I know they wouldn’t want me to.

The writer Susan Isaacs says, in one of my old writers’ guides: ‘I never allowed myself to worry: What will my mother think? The minute you write to please someone, not to offend someone, or to take big bucks, or to be taken seriously, you’re gazing outward, not inward, and you’re doomed to lose sight of what is unique and true in you.’ I would agree.   

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October, 2008

Chadwick Ginther, of McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg, asks: One common theme in your work seems to be the past intruding upon the present. Rather than writing a straight historical novel, the events of the past are shown to have ramifications to our modern world. Do you do this to keep a point of relation for readers not necessarily versed in the period of your work?

Not really, no. Unlike those stage directors who think Shakespeare has to be performed in modern dress and out of context for a modern audience to “get it”, I’ve always trusted that my readers – even those who may not know the history when they start a book – are smart enough to grasp the parallels themselves. My blending of present and past likely comes from my own fascination with history, and my personal belief that the past does intrude upon the present, that you cannot separate the two, that we are what and who we are because of where we come from.

The British psychologist Havelock Ellis once said that “Man’s destiny stands not in the future but in the past.” I’d agree with that, just as I’d argue that what we do now will have lasting effects that we cannot foresee, in the future. So my mysteries are most often rooted in things that have happened before, and my characters have to dig deep and look back for the cause of a present-day conflict before they can find its solution.

To read Chadwick’s entire interview with me, click here.

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October, 2008

Chadwick Ginther of McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg asks: Even before you wrote Every Secret Thing, many of your historical novels also featured a mystery element. What made you decide to fully enter the genre pond?

I was already writing suspense novels with an historical element and a romantic thread and Something Strange going on in the background (which gives all my publishers headaches when they try to market my books since I never fit tidily into one genre). But when I got the idea for Every Secret Thing, I knew I’d have to take a slightly different approach to it, making it move a bit faster because it is really one big long extended chase, so I went back to the thrillers I’d loved as a teenager, pitting an ordinary woman against hardened spies: Catherine Gaskin’s The File on Devlin, Evelyn Anthony’s The Tamarind Seed, and Anne Armstrong Thompson’s Message from Absalom, books like that, and I looked at the structure they’d used for their stories, and I thought I’d try my own hand at it, see how it worked, since it seemed the best fit for the story I wanted to tell.

To read Chadwick’s entire interview with me, click here.

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September, 2008

The members of the Ajax Chapters Book Club, with whom I spent a lovely evening last month in discussion of The Winter Sea, are asking this month’s question: When you wrote The Winter Sea, were you already making plans to write a sequel?

For the benefit of everyone who wasn’t at our book club meeting, I should point out that you asked this question because some of you thought certain situations in the book would lend themselves to a continuation of the story. But the answer’s no, I wasn’t thinking of a sequel when I wrote it. I thought it would stand on its own. But the characters seem to have other ideas. I still hear them talking; I’m still seeing snippets of scenes that involve them, and I’m getting thoughts on how that may shape into a book that will follow them all through another less-known-about Jacobite intrigue (which might satisfy Colonel Graeme, who’s one of the characters talking the most to me, wanting to get himself back in the action.)

For more of my thoughts about sequels, read “What Happened Next...” in my Not-A-Blog.

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August, 2008

Sandy from Alberta writes: My reading partner and I both read The Winter Sea and were hooked. We have both tried to find copies of your other novels, but with no success. We live in Edmonton and if Chapters or Indigo do not have copies, we are out of luck. I have tried second hand book sellers, with no success. Ordering your books is not a problem, but I feel strongly about supporting Canadian writers and if books are not visible in the stores, other potential first time readers will miss a good read. Do writers have any influence re: this issue?

Hi Sandy. Thanks so much for your email, and your kind words of support. The only other novel of mine that you might be able to find in your local Chapters or Indigo stores would be the one I wrote as Emma Cole -- the thriller Every Secret Thing, which might be in the mystery section. Failing that, the only one of my books still in print in Canada is Season of Storms, which came out back in 2001 and so probably isn't widely stocked anymore, even though it's still technically available.

The other books have fallen out of print, which is why you don't see them, though you can often still find second-hand copies online. In answer to your question, no, writers don't have any influence at all in where or how our books are sold, not really. Most readers don't realize that in this day and age, to get that coveted "front of store" placement in a big chain store, a book's publisher actually has to pay a fee for it, and even then the placement only lasts for a couple of weeks.

I was very lucky that my Canadian distributer, Georgetown, which is very, very small in comparison to the big publishers, thought enough of The Winter Sea to scrape up the money to pay for the front of store placement I did get from mid-May to June. But now, of course, it's August and my book will be back at the back of the shelves! I am, however, very glad you found it and enjoyed it while it was at the front of the store. And I hope you're able to track down a few of the others.

It's always possible my current UK publisher, Allison & Busby, will choose one day to reprint my earlier books, if they feel there's a demand for them, but till then you’ll have to rely on the wonderful second-hand bookshops that keep me in stock.

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August, 2008

Marijana from Australia writes: To date I have not managed to spot a copy of your Emma Cole book in Australian book stores despite it being available for sale for some time via Amazon.

Hi, Marijana. I asked my wonderful editor, Lara Crisp at Allison & Busby, about this, and she said your best bet would be to contact their Australian/New Zealand distributors, who would be able to tell you which stores have ordered the books and would have them in stock. The distributers are:

Keith Ainsworth Pty Ltd

PO Box 7059

Penrith South NSW 2750

T: +61 (0)24 732 3411

F: +61 (0)24 721 8259

E: sales@keithainsworth.com.au

Both Lara and I hope this helps!

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July, 2008

Judy from Grandview, Missouri, writes: Hello, I just finished The Winter Sea and loved it. I saw that you are working on November Eve. Do you know when it will be published? I love Cornwall as a setting. Could you give me a brief synopsis about what November Eve is about? Any information will be appreciated. Thank you.

Thanks for your patience, Judy, in waiting for me to answer this! First off, I’d better clarify things by saying that ‘November Eve’ is only a working title for the book I’m now writing. You’ll notice I don’t mention it by name anymore in My Writing Room, because it suddenly struck me that people would assume that title was set, even though there’s a fairly good chance it will change (maybe a few times!) before final publication. So for now, to keep things simple, I’ll just call it ‘The Cornish Book’.

What’s it about? Well, the short answer is it’s the tale of a woman who comes to an old house in Cornwall and finds herself sharing the rooms and the grounds with a man living there in the 1700s. (Well, more than one man, only he’s the important one). I’m reluctant to say more than that, partly because I’m still writing the book so I don’t know where the characters will choose to take the story, and partly because I don’t like to jinx a book by saying much about it till it’s done, which I am hoping will be sometime before Christmas.

When you’ll actually see it on the shelves will be up to my publishers. Assuming they like it and want to publish it, they’ll need at least nine months or so to bring it out - to do the editing, and set the proofs, and choose a cover, put it in their catalogue and send their sales team forth to drum up orders from the booksellers, and...well, you get the picture. It’s a complicated dance for any publisher, and it takes time. If everything goes well, then, you might see the Cornish book in stores in autumn of next year. By which time, with a bit of luck, I should be midway through the next one!

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July, 2008

Recently I was the guest in a forum discussion in “Gail’s Kitchen”,at Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s web site. She asked me: I wonder if you could talk a little about your approach to planning out plot. How much is planned? How much is surprise for you?

Here’s my reply: When I'm starting a new book I start with a binder (which probably has more to do with my being an engineer's daughter than anything else) and I put down the date that I start, and I have a sort of "writing log" that I fill in each day to keep my honest -- it's easy sometimes to let things slip and go a few days without writing, but the log won't lie! It also helps to give me a sense of progress, even if I've only done a paragraph or two that day because the kids were sick, or I was tired or on tour. In the binder I also have a section for characters, but that stays mostly empty except for their names.

I've never been good at writing character studies. I tend to meet my characters like strangers at a party, and I learn about them as I go along. They do their own thing, for the most part, and that makes the writing fun. I also have a section I call "Plotting", but again this isn't very structured. It's where I keep all those scenes and stray ideas that I have when I'm on trains or in the bathtub! I'm not sure where they'll fit in, or if they will at all, but at least in the binder they don't get lost. And I have a place to write down things I need to check, and things that change as I am writing that I'll have to fix in second draft. The rest of the binder is where I keep pages of research, and notes.

And that's it.

I just sit down and start, and the characters move, and I see what they do and I hear what they say, like I'm watching a movie. And then I just write it all down. Sometimes I have a sense of where I'd like to move them, or of what scene might come next, but mostly I just try to let them go. For example, in the book I'm writing now, I know the ending that I want, but I have no idea how I'm going to get there. I'll just have to wait and see.

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June, 2008

Leslie from Ontario writes: I am a big fan of your writing, you are my favourite author. I once told my husband, if a fire was to happen in our house, here are my Susanna Kearsley books on my top shelf; make sure to run quickly and grab these books! I find that your books totally draw me into the story where I don't want to put the book down, I want to savour each line and I don't want the story to end. I was wondering if you had a favourite author(s) that you feel the same way about?

Wow. Thanks so much for your letter. I’m humbled. And I’m pleased we had the chance to meet in person when I came to sign in Burlington last month. In answer to your question, yes, there are three authors, actually, who I feel the same way about, all of them old favourites whose books I’ve loved for many years (and all of them, I’m sure by no coincidence, old favourites of my mother’s).

The first would, of course, be Mary Stewart. I still only have to read the first sentence of one of her books and I’m lost for the afternoon, happily elsewhere, neglecting the house and the kids and the dog.

The second is Nevil Shute, for the same reason. I’ve purposely left a few books of his unread so I’ll have something that I can look forward to!

And the third would be Jan Cox Speas, whose books were likely the source of my own love of Scotland. (I’ll be posting a tribute page to her here shortly).

When you’re a writer yourself, it’s a little like working backstage at a theatre - you see all the tricks and trapdoors and special effects, and a lot of the magic is lost, so I treasure those writers who still have the power to sweep me away with their stories, and make me believe in the magic again. And I’m really so honoured and happy if my books can do that for you. Thanks for writing.

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May, 2008

Jean from AncestorStuff asks: Why is your new book, The Winter Sea, not listed on Amazon.com in the US? It is listed on the Amazon site in both the UK and Canada. I would love to order it but not from Canada or England. Could you please get it listed on the US site? Thanks.

Thanks so much for your letter, Jean (and by the way, as an amateur genealogist myself, I love your site!)

I’ve been getting A LOT of mail lately from fans who are asking this question. The Winter Sea isn't listed on amazon.com because the American rights to the book have not yet been sold. It’s a question of territory. The reason you'll sometimes see the German translations of my books listed on amazon.com is that my German publishers have the legal right to sell German translations of my books worldwide, but my British publishers (Allison & Busby) are only licensed to sell the English-language version in the countries that make up the British commonwealth.

If it's any consolation, ordering the book from Canada isn't at all difficult - I've had a number of my American fans do this, from either amazon.ca or Chapters/Indigo. Or, if you prefer to shop American, you can always try one of the independent bookellers who carry British imports. One of my favourites is The Poisoned Pen, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and they usually keep my books in stock. To order The Winter Sea from them, click here. And if The Winter Sea is ever published in the States, I will be sure to post it here!

Thanks once again for taking time to write.

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May, 2008

Gwenda from Toronto writes: Dear Ms. Cole, I loved the first 98 pages of your book.  Alas, the 5 copies at my local Bookshop were all defective, and published with pages missing, and/or out of sequence. I am wondering if it was a Canadian printing error and if there has been a correction made and re-printing. My local bookshop refunded my money, but I am left still GASPING for the rest of the story!!! Perhaps you can forward this to the publisher for a reply?

First off, I am happy to report that Gwenda now has a COMPLETE copy of the book! I’ve since heard from one other reader who had something similar happen – in her case thirty pages or so later on in the book were repeated in place of the pages that ought to have been there, so the characters made a great and unexpected leap forward in the plot! These problems seem to be random and relatively rare, and are confined to the mass market paperback edition which was printed in summer 2007.

If you are unfortunate enough to have received one of these defective copies, my publisher asks that you please take it back to the store where you bought it so they can return it and get you a proper replacement. You can also contact my publisher, Allison & Busby, directly (their contact details can be found on my “Contact Me” page) and let them know. I apologize to Gwenda and to any others of you who have had this happen – hopefully it’s not a problem we will have again!

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March, 2008

Susan asks: I have been desperately looking for your book, Rosehill for months now and can't seem to come up with a copy in English. I did, however, find several in Germany, in German. Could you please tell me where in Canada or US I might find a copy?

Susan, you’re not the only person with this problem! Many fans have written now to ask the same thing. Rosehill is actually the title of the German translation of The Shadowy Horses, which is why you’ve only been able to find German language copies of it. My German publishers are re-releasing the book this summer under the new title Die Geister von Rosehill - that may help to end the confusion! (But be warned, my British publishers are considering changing the title of The Winter Sea to something else for their mass market paperback edition, coming out in the autumn. I’ll post details when it’s all confirmed, so you won’t think I’ve snuck another book out onto the shelves without telling you...)

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March, 2008

Peggy from  Ontario asks: My sister and I would like to know if you ever think of writing a novel based on the Wrens of our forces during the war.  They were referred to as Jennys and our Mother was one.  Some of her stories were fascinating and very interesting.  One of the highlights of her life before she died was attending the Wren reunion out west.  Some of the duties the Wrens performed were amazing but the average person hears very little about their efforts in the war.  Just an idea!

It’s a very good idea, and I’ll definitely keep the Wrens in mind if Kate’s investigations in the future ever lead her back to WWII. So much of what women contributed to the war effort continues to be unreported and unsung, and I’m always fascinated to learn the details for myself and to share them with others. So in the meantime, I’d encourage everyone who doesn’t know the history of the Wrens to make a visit to their web site. Thanks so much for taking time to write.

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February, 2008

Gail Anderson-Dargatz isn’t just a best-selling writer, she also teaches writing at UBC, and last month I was invited to visit an online forum hosted by her MFA students. Among other things, Gail asked me: I wonder if you could talk more about what makes a thriller a thriller and so on. How are these different genres different or the same?

A thriller is different than, say, a mystery novel, in that it doesn't have to have a murder in it. Doesn't even have to have a crime - the simple suggestion of one is enough, sometimes. It's the element of real or implied danger, coupled with the sense that in the background there's a clock that's always ticking, and your characters must work against that.

As for character development, you can delve as deeply as you like, so long as it's believable within the limits of the plot. My character Kate Murray, for example, is on the run for a lot of the time and distrustful of strangers, so it wouldn't be plausible for her to stop and have a leisured chat with someone, nor would she be very introspective at a time when her prime focus is survival.

What's interesting in most thrillers is seeing the change in a character when they're placed under high pressure - what comes to the surface when people are pushed to the limit.

What's the same about thrillers and other books? Well, they work best, as all books do, when they are well-written, when the characters are driving events and not just being driven by them, and when the settings are developed to the point where you can see them, feel them, smell them if you have to. And it's nice, too, if they have a point, or leave you with an altered view of something that you thought you understood.

In Every Secret Thing, Kate leaves the story with a different viewpoint of the elderly, for example. And after all the research I did for the book, all the people I interviewed who'd worked in espionage in the war, I was seeing them differently, too.

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January, 2008

Nikki from Ontario asks: I was wondering with regards to the artist of the cover of the book being published. The person that draws the cover for you, do they get a percentage of the profit per book sold?

Actually, Nikki, I don’t have a whole lot of say in the covers the publishers use for my books, so I’ve never had an artist draw a cover just for me, not in the way you mean. The publisher decides the cover. Sometimes it’s their art department who creates the image, or sometimes they use an existing image, or even commission an artist specifically for the project. It’s my understanding the artist is paid a flat fee for the use of their work, whether it was commissioned or whether the art department found it in a file somewhere and thought that it might suit the theme of the book. I rarely have an influence on what they choose.

When Transworld Publishers first brought out Mariana, they commissioned artist Gary Blythe to paint the house, Greywethers, based on photographs I’d given them (I later bought the painting, which is beautiful). And for The Splendour Falls they used a painting I suggested by my friend Paul Rhoads, who lives and works in Chinon, where the book is set. But otherwise my input on the covers of my books has been...well, let’s just say I’m happy if I get to see the covers of the books before they’re published! Which is probably the way it should be.

Covers are a marketing tool, like the packaging of any product, and the marketing and sales departments are the ones best suited to decide what will appeal to readers. Covers that look good to British readers might have a different effect on Americans - each  market has its own tastes.

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January, 2008

Several readers recently have asked: What made you choose to write a series?

Well, it wasn’t planned. I’ve always written what the mystery writing world calls “stand-alones” - each book is individual, the stories aren’t connected to each other, and the characters are different every time (although occasionally a character will wander from one book into another, as some sharp-eyed readers have already noticed). When I started writing Every Secret Thing is was supposed to be a stand-alone, as well, and at the ending of the first draft all the loose threads had been neatly gathered up, the hero and the heroine were happily together, and I thought that was the end of it.

But when I moved on to the next book, set in Greece, I couldn’t find a name for my main character. I tried name after name, but nothing fit. And gradually it dawned on me that Kate should be the heroine of that book, too. This was the first time this had happened to me - the first time a major character had stayed ‘alive’ for me beyond the ending of a book, most likely because I hadn’t resolved all the issues she needed resolved.

I hadn’t planned to write a series; wasn’t sure I wanted to, but then I remembered that Evelyn Anthony had written a short series of thrillers that followed the same people over a limited arc of their lives, and I thought to myself I could maybe do that - give Kate three books, or four, to take care of the things in her life that she hadn’t worked out yet. It meant going back to my first draft of Every Secret Thing and changing the ending to make it less tidy, but once I had made the decision to do that then everything fell into place, and the Greek book was easy to start.   

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December, 2007

As a museum curator you once “worked” a lot with history and you still pursue this interest while writing your novels. Is our present not exciting enough to you?

My love of history began with my mother, who read us the tales of the Greeks and the Romans, the stories of Troy and of Hannibal crossing the alps. My parents loved history themselves, and they passed this love on to my sister and me, introducing us both to historical novels and Shakespeare’s plays, so when I first saw the Tower of London I already knew of the young princes murdered there, and Hampton Court was alive with the shadows of Henry VIII and his wives.

As I grew, my interest in history expanded to take in the lives of the everyday people whose struggles and triumphs weren’t always recorded in schoolbooks, whose actions were affected by the laws of Kings but who, in their turn, could affect the lives of those who ruled them.

I am fascinated by the past. That doesn’t mean that I would choose to live there. As a woman of opinions with a strongly independent mind, the present is without a doubt the safest place for me to be! But there is always something lost, whenever our society advances, as it must, and it is human to be always looking back at what has gone before.

As Mrs Hutherson tells Julia, in my book Mariana: ‘The past is very seductive. People always talk about the mists of time, you know, but really it’s the present that’s in a mist, uncertain. The past is quite clear, and warm, and comforting. That’s why people often get stuck there.’ Just like Julia, and all the rest of my present-day heroines, I try to visit the past with my eyes fully open, and not become lost in it.

(This question was taken from an interview with Katja Menzel to promote The Winter Sea in Germany. To read the full text of the interview, click here.)

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December, 2007

Theresa from Ontario asks: When will the next Kate Murray book be published, and will Matt be in it?

The first part of your question is a bit difficult to answer, since I have to finish writing the book first, and then, assuming that my publisher is happy with it, they will take at least another nine months after that to run it through their whole production schedule - editing the manuscript and setting it in proof and deciding on a cover image so that they can list it in their catalogue and send their sales reps out to persuade bookstores to stock it on their shelves.

Nine months is about the average time for this, though I’ve known it to take longer.  So considering where I am in the book right now, it could be a while before you see the next Kate Murray book on the shelves.  But yes, I can assure you Matt is definitely in it!

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October, 2007

Jennie from Jennie’s B(ook)log asks: How do you balance the importance of the romance vs. the suspense in your novels? Is it something you consciously manage as you write, or is it more a function of the particular plot and characters in each specific work?

(Note from Me:  Jennie’s blog has long been one of my favourites - not just because she’s done nice reviews of a few of my books (and no, she doesn’t let them pass without a bit of well-aimed criticism!) but because we share a lot of common likes and dislikes when it comes to books and writers, so I invited her to ask me this month’s question.)

Jennie, if you’d asked me when I first got published what my genre was, I would have said ‘romantic suspense’ - meaning that broad genre that included everyone from Winston Graham to Mary Stewart, where the mystery and the love story were intertwined to varying degrees. But as you know, the genres have shifted a bit and the label ‘romantic suspense’ now means something a little, um, steamier, shall we say, than what I write, and I know that my books sometimes disappoint readers who pick them up looking for stories that fit the newer definition of the genre, so when I’m asked now I just say I write ‘suspense’.

That said, the love story is an inextricable part of the main story, in all my books (as it is, I’d argue, in most fiction). But you’re right, the balance changes with the book. It’s not a conscious thing I do. As you’ve suggested, it’s determined by the characters themselves.

In Named of the Dragon, for example, which I know you’ve just read, the main love story is actually between the heroine and her lost child, and because of the emotional intensity of that, and the short time she has in Wales, she couldn’t realistically do more than start to make a meaningful connection with the hero. The last scene in that book, really, marks the beginning of their romance, and not the end of it.

And in Every Secret Thing, the book I wrote as Emma Cole, I have a heroine who’s on the run, who’s just lost someone close to her and has to keep her guard up every minute just to stay alive, so once again she doesn’t have a lot of time to fool around. The main love story in that book happens in the past, and doesn’t involve the heroine herself, although she does meet someone on the run who manages to catch her interest, and who will become a stronger force in later books within that series.

At the other end of the scale, you have Mariana, where the love story is the story, and next year’s The Winter Sea, in which the romance between two of the characters rises above the suspense of their story and travels down three hundred years to inspire the romance of my present-day heroine. Everything depends upon the hero and the heroine, and how they interact - what baggage they’re carrying, what constraints their work puts on them, whether they’re outgoing or reserved. And I never know this until the character begins to move on the page and come alive for me.

Alex, for example, in Season of Storms, always kept to the background no matter how I tried to bring him forward, as though he knew that Celia should be paying more attention to other things, that she’d get round to him in time, while David in The Shadowy Horses was much more sociable - two very different men who each demanded different levels of attention in the storylines.

It isn’t just the men. The women, too, have things to do, things on their minds, goals to achieve. So every story has a different blend of romance and suspense, and I just have to write it down the way it comes, and hope that readers like yourself won’t be put off each time the balance shifts, and that you’ll let me write within the broader boundaries of the genre as it used to be, when Marnie and The Moonspinners were still considered romance.

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September, 2007

Susan from Canada asks: What qualities do you look for in a heroine/protagonist?

That’s an interesting question to answer, because while I usually write in the first person (meaning I’m always saying ‘I did this’ or ‘I felt that’) my heroines aren’t me. They all have their own personalities, part of which comes from the lives that I’ve given them, and part of which develops as I write.

A book will take me at least a year to write, working nearly every day, so above all a heroine has to be somebody I can spend that kind of time with - the kind of a person I’d choose for a friend. She has to be intelligent (a thing I measure not in years of formal education, but in how she faces problems), and she has to have a sense of humour, preferably dry. Her opinions can be different than my own, but her core values about right and wrong and how we should treat other people have to be the same - she might do things that I’m not brave enough to do, but she would never step outside my moral boundaries. And she has to keep an open mind about the world around her.

If she has all of that - especially the sense of humour - then I know that she’ll be someone I can live with for the time that I’ll be writing, and that she in time will join the rank of “friends” now on my shelves.  

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September, 2007

Valerie from Canada asks: Why did you make Kate Murray a journalist?       

In the beginning, I made Kate a journalist simply because the first idea for my story came from something I had overheard about a man who had arranged to meet a journalist to tell of an injustice he had witnessed in the war, except the man had died before he’d had a chance to tell his story. So from the start I figured that my heroine would have to be that journalist - I just invented Deacon and the details of the story he was going to try to tell her, and my book was off and running.

It wasn’t till later that I realized how well a journalist filled the lead role in a mystery. The same traits that make a good journalist make an efficient detective. Both are observant, inquisitive, able to analyze. Both work as well on the street as behind a desk, know how to interview people, and deal in the facts. They can think on their feet, and adapt under pressure, and both share a drive to discover the truth. And on top of all that, in the course of their work they both run into interesting people and strange situations that could lead them naturally into new mysteries.

I wish I could say I took all of that into account when I chose Kate’s profession - the truth is, I just made a fortunate choice!

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August, 2007

Liz from England asks: Why do you make references to or include some of the characters in Mariana in some of your books but not all of them?  And why do you choose Mariana in particular?

First of all, you’ve got good eyes - not every reader notices the cameo appearances of characters from other books! It started innocently enough, with Named of the Dragon, when I needed an author for my literary agent heroine to manage. And there was Bridget Cooper, who’d been mentioned but not seen in Mariana, as the famous children’s author whose books Julia had illustrated. Bridget already had a personality of her own (think of Julia’s first encounter with Geoff, when she thinks of what Bridget’s opinion would be of the man), and when I put her at that lunch table with Lyn in the opening chapter of Named of the Dragon, I knew she was right for the book.

A similar process took place in Every Secret Thing, when I needed a vicar for the funeral scene, and it occurred to me I already had the perfect vicar waiting for the job - Julia’s brother Tommy. And of course, once Tommy got into the story, he required a larger role than I had planned for him...  

It isn’t only Mariana, by the way. Gareth, from Named of the Dragon, has a play opening in the West End at the beginning of Season of Storms, which again seemed a logical thing to be happening, since he wrote plays and that book was about one. It’s not that I go looking for a way to bring these characters back into other stories, but each time I write a book I add more people to the world that I’ve imagined, and I guess it’s only natural that, as they go about their lives, they’re bound to come in contact with each other now and then.

I never know, when I sit down to write a scene now in a book, who might be sitting at a table near my characters, or coming round the corner...

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July, 2007

Why are your books set in Europe, not Canada?

I’m asked this a lot. As it happens, my first novel was set in Canada, on the east coast, but it’s now out of print, as is my third novel, which was set in South Carolina. But both were straightforward romantic suspense, with no historical element.

With all my other books, the mystery comes not only from the present, but the past. When it’s the recent past, as in the thrillers I’ve begun to write as Emma Cole, the stories can - and do - use North American settings as well as European ones. But when I’m writing of the distant past, there aren’t too many places here in Canada that have the layered depth of history I would need to tell that kind of story.  

Halifax might, or Quebec City, since both are long-established and have witnessed much upheaval, but for the most part the ideas for my books demand a setting where the presence of the past is stronger. (And of course, that means I have to travel there myself, to do the research...)

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July, 2007

Before now your main characters have always been British.  Why is that, and what made you switch to Canadian heroines?      

Actually, the first book I wrote had a Canadian heroine and a Canadian setting, but then I sat down to write Mariana, whose plot demanded that the book be set in England, and it only made sense to me that Julia, the heroine, should be English as well. Mariana won a British prize for best unpublished novel, and was first published by a British publisher, and from all that I was signed on by a British agent. So it didn’t seem unusual to me to go on writing English heroines. My books had European settings and the voices of my characters seemed suited to the stories they were telling. But Kate’s voice in Every Secret Thing was something different.

I already knew her grandmother would have to be Canadian, so I decided I’d try writing Kate as a Canadian, too, and she just came to life. And Carrie, the heroine of my next Kearsley book The Winter Sea, came in speaking with a Canadian accent from the beginning, so that was that. (When I’m writing I can see and hear my characters as though they’re actors playing in a movie in my mind. I hear their voices.) I have been asked if this is the beginning of a trend. I’ve no idea. But I do have an idea for a book I’d like to write some day whose heroine could only be a Scot...so we shall see.    

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June, 2007

Which of your books is your favourite?

I always used to say I didn’t have a favourite, and I meant it.  I had favourite characters...Adrian in The Shadowy Horses made me laugh, and Gareth in Named of the Dragon was one of my favourite heroes, and Vivien in Mariana was the perfect best friend...and while in honesty I’ve always had (and always will have) a special fondness for Mariana, because that story seemed like such a gift while I was writing it, for the most part my books were like children, all different but equally loved. Until I wrote The Winter Sea.

Now, for the first time in my writing life, I have to admit that I do have a favourite. It is, I think, the finest thing that I have ever written, and I grew so fond of several of the characters that even though the book is finished now they seem to live within me still. The few people who’ve read the book in manuscript so far have also told me it’s my best work, though I’ll have to wait until next spring to see if you, the fans, agree!

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June, 2007

Why isn’t Every Secret Thing available in the U.S.?

I’ve had several American fans write and ask me this recently, so here’s the short answer: While a few of my Susanna Kearsley books were published in the States several years ago, my agents and I have had little luck placing my latest books with American editors, who generally find my work too slow and not sexy enough for the market.

The good news is that my British and European editors don’t share that opinion, and my British publishers, Allison & Busby, will be distributing Every Secret Thing into the U.S. this fall, through a company called IPM, so you should be able to order it into your bookstores through them in September.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

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May, 2007

Why aren’t your first two books, Undertow and The Gemini Game, featured on your Web site?

Undertow was the first book I wrote, and the first to be published (by Avalon Books in 1993). But The Gemini Game was actually my third book. It took time to find a publisher for Undertow, and by then I had finished writing Mariana.  Avalon Books published short mystery romances for the library market, and Mariana was far too long to fit their guidelines, so instead I sent the manuscript to England to be judged in the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize competition, a process that took several months.

In the meantime, I had my first ideas for The Splendour Falls - another book that I suspected wouldn’t interest Avalon - and I knew I’d have to go to France to do the research properly. And so, to help raise money for that trip, I asked my editor at Avalon if she would like another shorter mystery from me. She said yes, and that summer, while waiting to hear back from England about Mariana and planning my French trip, I wrote my short novel The Gemini Game.  

While I’m proud of both the  books I wrote for Avalon, I’ve left them off the site for now because they’re long since out of print and very hard to find, and given the prices they sell for these days I didn’t feel comfortable encouraging people to go out and buy books that, in fairness, really aren’t in the same league as my other novels. Still, if they’re ever reprinted, or if enough people want to see them on the site, I may change my mind in the future.

Meantime, if you want to find out more about these early books, you can check out the Web site of Karen the Kearsley Fan.       

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May, 2007

How long does it take you to write a book?       

Well, that depends. Every book is its own entity, and while I always think I know how long the writing will take, I’m never sure.  Every Secret Thing took me four years to write, though I’m sure that had more to do with the fact that when I started I had one small child and when I finished I had two....

But with this last Susanna Kearsley book, The Winter Sea, I was back to writing at my old speed and had it done in just over a year. I hope that pace continues!

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April, 2007

What advice do you have for people who want to try writing or want to get a book published?

Believe in your work and believe in yourself. Don’t listen to voices that say you can’t do it. Just sit down and start and stick with it, no matter what happens. And don’t worry about what people might or might not want to read. Write to please yourself first; write the story that you want to tell, not the story that you think will sell.

In the meantime, learn all that you can learn about the industry, so you can send your book out wisely. There’s no magic route to publication, but when you’re discouraged just remember what the French writer Flaubert once said: ‘Talent is nothing but long patience.’  

Don’t give up.

FAQs Archive..

Spring, 2015

With the upcoming spring book tours approaching, a lot of people have been emailing me to ask whether I’ll sign books (or other items) that they bring from home?


Winter, 2014

My friend and fellow writer Molly O’Keefe hosts a great feature in her newsletter in which she sits down and virtually “talks shop” with writers about everything from inspiration to process. In September it was my turn. Among the questions she asked me was this:

I’m a big fan of the dual timeline but it’s got to be hard especially with a book like A Desperate Fortune to make sure that the contemporary timeline doesn’t get overwhelmed by the historical timeline. (I say this because of Hugh, gorgeous, dangerous Hugh). How do you approach this problem?


Summer, 2014

Megan from San Jose State University interviewed me at the end of April for one of her courses, and asked: What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer, and what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?


Winter, 2013

Connie from Wichita, Kansas, asks: I just recently finished reading The Firebird…Will there be more sequels to the Slains series?


Summer, 2013

Blogger/Reviewer Kelli Catana asks: In The Firebird you told the present day story of Nicola and Rob along with the past story of Anna Moray… Will we see any of these characters in future books and if so, how do you decide whose story is unfinished?


Spring, 2013

Andrea from The Whitby Public Library asks: What is your favourite discovery from writing The Firebird?


November, 2012

Angela from Royal Reviews asks: Everyone from fellow bloggers to my local librarians is asking if there will be a follow up to The Winter Sea. Can you tell us anything about it?


April, 2012

April from Fredericton, New Brunswick asks: Do you read manuscripts and offer comments or suggestions to new writers?


December, 2011

The Book Page asked me: If you weren't a writer, how would you earn a living?


September, 2011

Sarah from Spain asks: Do you pick the era and fit the story around it? Or do you find the story and research the era after?


June, 2011

Karen from Coff’s Harbour, Australia, writes: Hi Susanna. Just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying “The Winter Sea” on my Kindle. I don’t see any of your other books available in Kindle format – can you convince your publishers to do something about this and quickly?!


April/May, 2011

Tanya asks: I was wondering if what was said about the rock with the hole in it was true. And where did you find out about that? There are so many things about The Winter Sea I could tell you that I loved about your book, but that one part really stuck out to me! Thanks!


February, 2011

Lee Ann from Melbourne, Florida, asks:  I saw on your website that you are writing a sequel to The Winter Sea and that the modern day hero is someone we have met before... is it Robbie from The Shadowy Horses? You know that I have been wanting him to have his own story.


December, 2010

Marg from Historical Tapestry asks: Due to the timeslip aspect of your novels, and also with the contemporary strands of your story, you have to write more than one leading man. What are the key elements required to make a convincing leading man?


November, 2010

Marijana from Australia asks: Dear Susanna, I believe that I have happily resolved the mystery (aided by your clues) and that you are about to embark on a sequel to The Winter Sea!  Are you able to confirm this please? I know that, aside from myself, many of my friends will be thrilled if that is the case.


October, 2010

The Bruce County Museum Book Club asks: Why do you have a paranormal thread running through your books, does that come from your own experiences?


August, 2010

Janavie from the United States asks: Please post when your new book , "Rose Garden" is coming out because those of us who live in NJ ,USA, have to track you down.


July, 2010

John from London, England, asks: Do you plan your novels, as I usually think of a start, middle and finish but as soon as I start typing stuff seems to flow straight out and every time I end up throwing all my plans out the window.


May, 2010

Virginie writes: I'm sixteen, and I've written a book two years ago (that I don't want published, since it's my first novel and like my other ideas better) and now I'm writing a second one. I was just wondering if literary agents and publishing companies will mind my age if I send them a copy of the manuscript; will they read it at all? Of course I'll still try and send it, but is there any possibility of my getting published?


March, 2010

Carol writes: Susanna - I have been writing all my life, and I have several books in the works, at various stages of completion BUT I never seem to cross the finish line and send them off to a publisher. Did you encounter that fear before you sent your first manuscript or query letter off? If you did, how did you get over it? Were the rejections, if you got any, as horrible as some books on writing and authors I have heard speak say they were?


February, 2010

Leanne from Toronto writes: I enjoyed reading Mariana!  I’m British and although you are listed as a Canadian author I can tell by your writing that you have spent much time in England! I wanted to ask you about the location of Mariana.  A few years ago I found myself in Avebury in Wiltshire. Your description of Exbury reminded me of that town – especially the reference to the Red Lion and the church. I was curious to see if parts of Exbury could be linked to Avebury.


September, 2009

Liz from London asks: I picked up 'Sophia's Secret' by chance in Waterstones, London, loved it and now have all of your novels that I can get hold of. On your website you say that you're near the end of your next book and I wondered how long it takes from the publishers receiving your text to my being able to buy it in London?


June, 2009

Louise asks: Will Allison & Busby be re-issuing all your previous books?


May, 2009

Patricia asks: I have a question about the Scottish royal family listed in The Winter Sea. When I studied History in university, the family name was spelled “Stuart”. On a British website about the History of the Monarchy, the Scottish line of royals is spelled “Stuart” as well. As a writer, myself, and as one who is greatly interested in history, I would appreciate it if you could explain the varied spelling and your use of “Stewart” rather than “Stuart”. It seems even more ironic that a character should be named "Stuart".

April, 2009

Laura Hilly of Gloucester asks: How difficult was it to carry out the research for this book [The Winter Sea/Sophia’s Secret]?


April, 2009

Muriel from Ontario asks: I’ve just finished reading Every Secret Thing and totally enjoyed it. We are reading this for our Book Club and I will be making the presentation of the book.  Could you please help me come up with some intelligent questions that I could ask the members as it seems a bit difficult to find information on the Internet. This is our first mystery so it would be nice to make it super interesting. Again it was a great book and enjoyable beginning to end and as my husband and I have spent a lot of holidays in Portugal it brought back the familiar towns. Thank you.


March, 2009

The review site Singletitles.com asks: Your novels are a wonderful blend of romance, mystery, history, suspense and emotion. What drew you to writing these kinds of books?


February, 2009

Rosemary from Vancouver writes: I am sure you get many people writing to you about Mariana, which is my favorite book of all time. I have actually gone through three copies now - I read it over and over again! My question is this - while I love the subtle references to the characters from Mariana in other books - Named of the Dragon and in Every Secret Thing - I want more of them! Any plans for a sequel to that? Any plans to "resurrect" your old characters from Mariana and return to that area of England? Of course, in present day, not necessarily in the past?!


January, 2009

Kerstin from Germany asks: How were you inspired to create the Roman legionary ghost in your book Rosehill (The Shadowy Horses)?


January, 2009

A fan from Ontario asks: When you’ve stopped work on one book to write something else, like you’ve done with the sequel to Every Secret Thing, how do you keep the characters and plotlines active in your mind so you can finish the book later?


November, 2008

Many, many fans have asked me recently: Why is the same book being published under two different titles – The Winter Sea and Sophia’s Secret?


November, 2008

Darlene from Ontario asks: When you write your books, do you have an audience in mind or does the story just pop up?


October, 2008

Chadwick Ginther, of McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg, asks: One common theme in your work seems to be the past intruding upon the present. Rather than writing a straight historical novel, the events of the past are shown to have ramifications to our modern world. Do you do this to keep a point of relation for readers not necessarily versed in the period of your work?


October, 2008

Chadwick Ginther of McNally Robinson Bookstore in Winnipeg asks: Even before you wrote Every Secret Thing, many of your historical novels also featured a mystery element. What made you decide to fully enter the genre pond?


September, 2008

The members of the Ajax Chapters Book Club, with whom I spent a lovely evening last month in discussion of The Winter Sea, are asking this month’s question: When you wrote The Winter Sea, were you already making plans to write a sequel?


August, 2008

Sandy from Alberta writes: My reading partner and I both read The Winter Sea and were hooked. We have both tried to find copies of your other novels, but with no success. We live in Edmonton and if Chapters or Indigo do not have copies, we are out of luck. I have tried second hand book sellers, with no success. Ordering your books is not a problem, but I feel strongly about supporting Canadian writers and if books are not visible in the stores, other potential first time readers will miss a good read. Do writers have any influence re: this issue?


August, 2008

Marijana from Australia writes: To date I have not managed to spot a copy of your Emma Cole book in Australian book stores despite it being available for sale for some time via Amazon.


July, 2008

Judy from Grandview, Missouri, writes: Hello, I just finished The Winter Sea and loved it. I saw that you are working on November Eve. Do you know when it will be published? I love Cornwall as a setting. Could you give me a brief synopsis about what November Eve is about? Any information will be appreciated. Thank you.


July, 2008

Recently I was the guest in a forum discussion in “Gail’s Kitchen”,at Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s web site. She asked me: I wonder if you could talk a little about your approach to planning out plot. How much is planned? How much is surprise for you?


June, 2008

Leslie from Ontario writes: I am a big fan of your writing, you are my favourite author. I once told my husband, if a fire was to happen in our house, here are my Susanna Kearsley books on my top shelf; make sure to run quickly and grab these books! I find that your books totally draw me into the story where I don't want to put the book down, I want to savour each line and I don't want the story to end. I was wondering if you had a favourite author(s) that you feel the same way about?


May, 2008

Jean from AncestorStuff asks: Why is your new book, The Winter Sea, not listed on Amazon.com in the US? It is listed on the Amazon site in both the UK and Canada. I would love to order it but not from Canada or England. Could you please get it listed on the US site? Thanks.


May, 2008

Gwenda from Toronto writes: Dear Ms. Cole, I loved the first 98 pages of your book.  Alas, the 5 copies at my local Bookshop were all defective, and published with pages missing, and/or out of sequence. I am wondering if it was a Canadian printing error and if there has been a correction made and re-printing. My local bookshop refunded my money, but I am left still GASPING for the rest of the story!!! Perhaps you can forward this to the publisher for a reply?


March, 2008

Susan asks: I have been desperately looking for your book, Rosehill for months now and can't seem to come up with a copy in English. I did, however, find several in Germany, in German. Could you please tell me where in Canada or US I might find a copy?


March, 2008

My sister and I would like to know if you ever think of writing a novel based on the Wrens of our forces during the war. They were referred to as Jennys and our Mother was one. Some of her stories were fascinating and very interesting. One of the highlights of her life before she died was attending the Wren reunion out west. Some of the duties the Wrens performed were amazing but the average person hears very little about their efforts in the war. Just an idea!


February, 2008

I wonder if you could talk more about what makes a thriller a thriller and so on. How are these different genres different or the same?


January, 2008

I was wondering with regards to the artist of the cover of the book being published. The person that draws the cover for you, do they get a percentage of the profit per book sold?


January, 2008

What made you choose to write a series?


December, 2007

As a museum curator you once “worked” a lot with history and you still pursue this interest while writing your novels. Is our present not exciting enough to you?


December, 2007

When will the next Kate Murray book be published, and will Matt be in it?


October, 2007

How do you balance the importance of the romance vs. the suspense in your novels? Is it something you consciously manage as you write, or is it more a function of the particular plot and characters in each specific work?


September, 2007

What qualities do you look for in a heroine/protagonist?


September, 2007

Why did you make Kate Murray a journalist?    


August, 2007

Why do you make references to or include some of the characters in Mariana in some of your books but not all of them?  And why do you choose Mariana in particular?


July, 2007

Why are your books set in Europe, not Canada?


July, 2007

Before now your main characters have always been British.  Why is that, and what made you switch to Canadian heroines?      


June, 2007

Which of your books is your favourite?


June, 2007

Why isn’t Every Secret Thing available in the U.S.?


May, 2007

Why aren’t your first two books, Undertow and The Gemini Game, featured on your Web site?


May, 2007

How long does it take you to write a book?       


April, 2007

What advice do you have for people who want to try writing or want to get a book published?


NOTE: The questions from 2007, 2008 and 2009 were archived from this site and my old Emma Cole web site, which is why some months may have two questions.


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