An Evening With Susanna Kearsley

IMG_2420Last evening I had the chance to see Susanna Kearsley in action at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library here in Virginia, and it was such a treat! This time around, she was on tour(there’s still a few stops upcoming!) and promoting her new release, A Dangerous Fortune.

A nice big crowd packed one of the library’s biggest auditoriums, and it was so much fun to see so many enthusiastic readers. Seriously, the library closes at 9 but the signing and chatting portion of this event was still going strong well past closing time!

So, what did Kearsley have to say? Well, we started with a Q&A, and then readers threw in all manner of questions about her books, her writing process, and even history in general. If you’ve never heard Susanna Kearsley speaking live, she’s a wonderful storyteller and I learn something new about writing and history every time. This time around, we got to hear that:

– Kearsley told the crowd that she doesn’t think it’s quite fair to expect readers to pick up all of her books in order. However, while her stories stand alone, there are often characters from various books that make appearances in future books. So, her latest novel has a few appearances by characters from other books, but it’s not a true sequel to any of them.

– In writing her books, Kearsley often starts with the letters and diaries of her historical characters, and she credits this as a reason why her historical characters don’t come off as 21st century people playing dress-up. She spoke of some of the universal ways in which people connect, telling of poetry written by fathers mourning lost daughters, and letters showing family dynamics not entirely dissimilar to what we see today. In speaking of relationships across various time periods, she stated, “People connect in exactly the same way. You have to put the human back in the history.”

– And yes, she got to go on another trip to research her latest novel, A Desperate Fortune! Given the setting of the book, she traveled to France and then to Rome. She explained that in order to really get a feel for characters and what they did, she needs to see some of the places that they saw. Often, she will discover a location that ends up being pivotal in her stories and which she would not have known about had she not traveled to the location. For example, in Desperate Fortune, it was only while visiting Rome that she discovered a bridge that ended up being an important place for her characters.

– As with many of Kearsley’s books, her latest has both a modern-day and historical storyline. In this particular story, the modern-day heroine, Sara, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Kearsley mentioned that this posed special challenges because when a narrator has Asperger’s, that person isn’t going to recognize social cues in the same way others would, so she had to find other ways to get ideas across when storytelling through Sara’s eyes.

– Susanna Kearsley’s best ideas come to her while she’s in the tub. The endings of more than 1 book have revealed themselves this way.

– And her next book?  The latest book in progress, Bellwether, is her first set entirely in the United States, and it will have ties to Revolutionary War New York. I can’t wait!  Though, as Kearsley pointed out, she tends to be a slow-ish writer so her books usually come out every other year.  In my opinion, they tend to be well worth the wait.


And here’s the blurb for A Desperate Fortune:


Beloved New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley delivers a riveting novel that deftly intertwines the tales of two women, divided by centuries and forever changed by a clash of love and fate.

For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has kept its secrets. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas travels to Paris to crack the cipher.

Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.

As Mary’s gripping tale of rebellion and betrayal is revealed to her, Sara faces events in her own life that require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women are united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the unlikely coincidences of fate.

“A grand adventure…Susanna Kearsley just keeps getting better and better!” —LAUREN WILLIG, New York Times bestselling author


– Lynn Spencer



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04/10/2015 8:57 pm

I’ve read all her books. And many I have re-read. She really does fantastic research.

04/10/2015 7:27 pm

Seriously jealous that you got to hear her talk. I’m a recent fan of hers — glommed nearly her entire backlist the last year. And I was so hoping her tour would be somewhere near where I live. Sadly, not to be this year.