Today we have a guest post from Lucinda Riley author of ~ The Girl on the Cliff.
Here Lucinda Riley tell about her inspiration for writing her latest US published novel The Girl on the Cliff, and how she considers herself a writer first and a historian second. She also offers some advice for would-be-authors in her “Five Golden Rules” for historical fiction writers .
It’s perfect NaNoWriMo inspiration. Welcome Lucinda!
The Girl on the Cliff is a huge, intricate dual narrative story spanning over 100 years. It tells the story of two families, the Ryan’s and the Lisle’s, whose lives and paths have crossed repeatedly.
To begin with, it’s always a location, or a house and the atmosphere surrounding it, that inspires inside me those first seeds which eventually germinate into a book. This was very much the case with The Girl on the Cliff. I was born and lived in Ireland on the West Cork coast and I loved its wildness and isolation. ‘Extreme’ locations are always exciting to me because they are dramatic and of course, romantic. The thought of a vulnerable child, barefoot and alone during the Atlantic storms that used to break with such fury when I lived there with my own small children, gave me the character of ‘Aurora’, the narrator of the book. I wanted to make her ‘other-wordly’ and ephemeral, almost part of the intense, dramatic scenery which surrounded her when she was born.
After I have the location, I begin to research the country and time period I want to write about. I approach this at the beginning with a ‘broad-brush’, reading as much about the era as I can, but not being specific. At the end of the day, I’m a story-teller, not a historian, eg, the ‘story and characters’ must come first. I’m very wary of never letting historical facts dominate or take over the actions of the characters I write about. I’m also aware that I could become so immersed in what I’m reading that I may never actually start writing the book!
So, once the story is written, it’s at this point I go into in-depth research over the specific facts and events that affect my plot and the characters directly.
If I’m honest, I find I’m far more comfortable writing in the past than the present. I have absolutely no idea why this is, but as a child, rather than going shopping in the local mall on weekends and holidays, I’d wander round the local museums. I was always fascinated to the point of obsession with history. And it was undoubtedly my favourite subject at school, along with English. Okay … I’m even sounding a bit of a saddo to myself now, but sadly it’s true!
I also think the fact that I spent some years as an actress has paid off, because I find it very easy to absorb myself in the characters I’m writing about. (And, ironically, almost every role I played was always a character from the past.) I dictate the initial story into a recorder and my PA giggles when she hears me imitating the voices and accents of the characters I’m creating, whatever the time period.
I really am of the opinion that no-one can teach you to tell a story, although they can teach you writing techniques to improve it.
Below are my five golden rules for any potential historical novelist to follow:
1) Let your imagination run wild! In my experience, the factual historical events will always slide into the story. Don’t be completely ruled by them initially and limit yourself or your characters. You’re writing ‘fiction’.
2) Live, breathe and inhabit the worlds you write about and your characters. Have fun with them!
3) Never, ever think that anything you write is ‘unreal’ – the truth really is stranger than fiction.
4) If you have a bad day when nothing seems to be going right, don’t read back or tear up the pages in a rage. Simply get up the following morning and continue with your story.
5) Above all, once you start, DO NOT STOP until you reach the end.
About: The Girl on the Cliff
To escape a recent heartbreak in New York, Grania Ryan returns to her family home on the wind-swept coast of Ireland. Here, on the cliff edge in the middle of a storm, she meets a young girl, Aurora Lisle, who will profoundly change her life.
Despite the warnings Grania receives from her mother to be wary of the Lisle family, Aurora and Grania forge a close friendship. Through a trove of old family letters dating from 1914, Grania begins to learn just how deeply their families’ histories are entwined. The horrors of World War I, the fate of a beautiful foundling child, and the irresistible lure of the ballet give rise to a legacy of heartache that leaves its imprint on each new generation. Ultimately, it will be Aurora whose uncanny intuition and indomitable spirit may be able to unlock the chains of the past.
(US publication details: Atria Books, October 2012; Trade Paperback, 416 pages)(UK details: Penguin, October 2011)
About the author: Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and became an actress working in film, theatre, and television. She is a prolific writer having written a large number of published books, many which have been translated all over the world. Her previous novel is Hothouse Flower (UK) or The Orchid House (US). The Girl on the Cliff, her most recent book has been published in Europe and has finally reached the US where it was published in October 2012.
She currently lives in Norfolk and France with her husband and four children.