Wednesday 15 December 2010

Interview and giveaway: Susanna Kearsley with The Winter Sea

Today I welcome Susanna Kearsley to my blog. She is the author of The Winter Sea that I reviewed last week. And at the bottom of this post there is a giveaway, 2 copies.

Welcome to Mur-y-Castell.

Tell us something about yourself, so we get a better understanding about the woman behind the author.

SK: Let’s see…I’m Canadian, which means I always cross with the light and say “sorry” if you bump into me. I had a very happy childhood with a family I adore, and that happiness has continued for most of my life, the one notable exception being the loss of my only sister to cancer five years ago. I love traveling, reading, and watching live theatre, especially musicals, and when I’m not doing any of those things I live with my husband, two children and dog to the east of Toronto, and spend a few hours a day in my writing-room, making up stories.

Your latest release is called The Winter Sea; can you tell me what it is about?
SK: The Winter Sea is the story of a writer, Carrie McClelland, who’s working on a historical novel about a little-known Jacobite rebellion of the early eighteenth century. She rents a cottage on the northeast coast of Scotland, near the ruins of the castle where her story is set, and starts her book, giving her imaginary main character the name of one of her own Scottish ancestors who lived at the same time. But when she finds out that her ancestor actually lived at the castle, and when the scenes that she’s writing turn out to be more fact than fiction, Carrie begins to suspect that she’s dealing with ancestral memories.

The Winter Sea is a mix of the present and the past. Do you spend a lot of time doing research do get the past right?
SK: I really enjoy the research, so the more time I get to spend doing it, the better! It’s an ongoing thing that begins before I start the actual writing and continues all the way through the book, right to the end of my final revisions. Sometimes the research drives the story along, and sometimes the story veers off in a direction that leads me to new research. That’s part of the fun. A lot of what I learn is never used – I spent countless days studying shipbuilding and naval warfare to find the few details I needed for one or two scenes in the book – but the learning itself is enjoyable, and never-ending.

Do you believe in genetic memory? I certainly enjoyed the idea of it while reading.
SK: Thanks, I’m glad to hear that. I find the whole idea really fascinating, and I think some of the scientific studies being done now on the brain and human memory may teach us interesting things about ourselves. Other animals obviously carry certain complex memories in their genes – migration routes, and nesting sites – so I believe it’s probable we carry memories, too. Just how specific they might be, and how and when we access them…well, those are questions scientists are trying now to answer.

While reading I did wonder if you yourself had any interesting ancestors that you would like to write about…
SK: I do have my share of colorful ancestors! I had several on the Mayflower, including one, John Howland, who fell overboard during the voyage. Luckily, there was a rope trailing in the water and he was able to catch it and hang on till somebody noticed and he could be rescued, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. And another of my Mayflower ancestors, Edward Doty, would have fought the first duel on American soil if he hadn’t been stopped. So even back then, it appears that we didn’t fade quietly into the woodwork… I find my Mayflower ancestors fascinating because they humanize the history for me. They were actually there, on the ship, and they suffered at Plymouth through that first incredible winter. They knew and interacted with the people whose more famous names we all know from the history books. And a few of my ancestors made history in their own way, like Elizabeth Winthrop, whose story has already been told by Anya Seton in her book The Winthrop Woman.

But two of my favorites are lesser-known men. Captain Christopher Hatch, whose family like so many American families was divided by the Revolutionary War, remained a Loyalist and took part in shipping and free-trading off the coast of Maine. As a child I went to visit the grand house he used to live in on the east coast, and the letters that he left reveal an interesting character. The second man is Captain William Marter, who sailed twice to the Orient with the East India Company in the late eighteenth century and left behind ships’ logs that make for some riveting reading, so maybe one day he’ll turn up in a book of mine.
I see that you have written a couple of other books. Could you tell me about those?
SK: The Winter Sea is my ninth book to be published. The first book and the third one are much shorter, simpler mysteries, and are now quite hard to find. But the others, although they all tell different stories and are set in different places, from the borders of Scotland to France’s Loire valley, are all books of romantic suspense and adventure with modern-day characters sorting out mysteries that come from the past. I won’t bore everyone by listing every book here, but each one has a page on my web site, with photos of the location where it’s set, and an excerpt in most cases, so if anyone’s interested in finding out more they can go to my home page, here:, and click on the “Books” tab and scroll through the titles.  My next book, which comes out in May in the UK, is there, too – The Rose Garden – with two full chapters to preview.

Are you working on something new and exciting right now?
SK: Right now I’m working on a new novel that continues the story of the past characters from The Winter Sea, but uses different present-day characters to uncover the history. I have to confess that, when I read your thoughtful interview of The Winter Sea, I had to smile a little when you were wanting so badly to tell what the one thing was at the end that you wished had been different, and yet you didn’t want to spoil the story. I think I know what it was you were wishing for, and if it makes you feel any better the book I’m writing now is very much Anna’s book, and hopefully you’ll like the way her story ends!

What kinds of books do you read? Any favorite authors?
SK: I read all kinds of books, although when I’m working on a book myself I try to avoid reading things that are too similar, so I’ll read crime novels when I’m writing something historical, for example, or poetry, or non-fiction. As for favorite authors, I have several. Mary Stewart tops the list, and always has, with Nevil Shute a close second. Jan Cox Speas, Anne Armstrong Thompson, Lucilla Andrews – all my comfort reads, and writers whose books hold a place of honor on my shelves. But those shelves are full of other favorites, too. You’ll find Winnie-the Pooh next to Françoise Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut, with Rumer Godden and Gregory Clark just a shelf or two over. A strange group, perhaps, but I love them all.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
SK: The best advice that I can think to give to someone starting out, is to shut out the voices that tell you it can’t be done. Never give up. The French writer Flaubert once said, “Talent is nothing but long patience,” and I’m inclined to believe he was right.

Thank you for having me here, I really enjoyed doing this interview.

The giveaway is now closed.

Now to the Giveaway:
*2 copies of the Winter Sea
*Open to US and Canada
*Ends Monday 20th.

*Ask a question, comment on the interview, or the book. Something to show that you do want this book :) And mostly to make it fun.

*Be sure there is a way for me to contact you, profile, email or something.
History has all but forgotten…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

About the Author
After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit


  1. Great interview! I'm in awe of anyone who enjoys research!

  2. Great interview! Truly enjoyable to read. You asked good questions and the answers are great.

  3. You do the most amazing interviews! This book sounds fantastic, and it's always nice when the author knows what they're talking about...and that is an amazzzzing cover! :D

    iswimforoceans at gmail dot com

  4. What a beautiful cover! Great interview B! Quite enjoyable!

    Dottie :)

  5. I discovered this book after you reviewed it and really found the premise interesting =)

    I really liked the interview questions and Susanna's answers as well. I was really enjoying the question about her ancestry.

    mishtakes AT gmail DOT com

  6. Great Interview to both of you. I have been staring at this book for sometime as just the cover caught my eye but now after reading your Q & A's I'm really going to have to have this.

    Susan, like you I am a Mayflower decendent from Stephen Hopkins. It's just so amazing what they went through on the way over.

    You have convinced me that if I don't get this from Santa then I'm going to have to buy it right after Christmas. Ugg, it's going to kill me to wait but wait I must.

    Thanks to both of you and Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Please stay safe and remember, no peeking at the presents under the tree. :)

  7. awesome interview!! genetic memory is really fascinating!

  8. Love the interview and also love any author who researches like mad. It is easy to see their found presents in the book. The interview makes me think of Annie Proux who also loves to research a lot before writing a book. I would really love to win this one.

  9. Great interview and the book sounds wonderful too.

  10. Please enter me. It sounds really good and I'd love to read it.

    thesilverdevil at gmail dot com

  11. lovely interview. i love the castle setting. question for both author and blodeuedd. i would like to know which room in a castle would be your favorite and why?

  12. Bermuda
    Me too, some I can take, but only the fun parts :)

    Awww thanks! You are too sweet

    *blushes* You are too kind.

    Thanks Dottie!

    Thanks, hm, I wonder if you all thought I was fishing for compliments when I wrote "say something about the interview" ;)

    No peaking..not at all *sighs* But I looove to peak ;)
    Merry Christmas to you!

    It truly is.

    If researching meant going to Scotland then I would be all in.

    Thanks Jackie

    You're in

    A question for the both of us, yay.
    Ok, let's this one was hard, but my own room *coughs* That is masterbedroom. A big old room that has one of those windows to sit in ;)

  13. Great interview. Plus, your review of this book already had me interested.
    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (dot) com

  14. I don't think I have ever read a book like this before, this sounds so interesting. Ancestral memories so she may have actually lived back then or her family did that is cool.

  15. Did you go to Scotland to do research?

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

  16. A very interesting interview - I love authors who know they have to do a lot of research before writing a book with historical background!

    BTW You still claim to be not smart, Blodeuedd ? I do not believe you at all! ;)

    portiabridget at yahoo dot co dot uk

  17. Great interview.
    How cool that she had ancestors on the Mayflower!

    The Winter Sea sounds like a great read.

  18. Melissa
    Glad to hear that :)

    It would sure be something, I think I would like to go really far back if that was possible

    Lol, how did you figure that out, hey I am still sticking to that your essays on things are so much better than anything I could write about :)

    I sure didn't..but then that would have been weird since we live here, lol

  19. Thank you so much Susanna for this interview- Those ancestors of yours sound very fascinating and I do hope at least one of them make it into the pages of a book one day :)

  20. Okay...both of you during the interview with your I wish it would happen and it does happen in the next book has my curiosity Piqued!! Now antother book to read!

    twinmomx5 at gmail dot com

  21. Cool interview! Because of your review I have the book on my tbr kindle list, and to hear the second will be a continuation of sorts is fabulous!! I can't wait. XD

    You can reach me twitter or email. If you need my email..holler! XD

  22. Great interview! This book keeps popping up and I really would liket the chance to read it so thanks for the opportunity :)

    Taylor @

  23. Yes please, I would love to win this book. Sounds like another reincarnation theme going on here?


  24. Question for Susanna,

    Do you have any relatives that were a part of any historic event? I think your story is interesting, especially when the book becomes more fact than fiction and deals with ancestral memories. Thanks. Hope to read this book!
    caliblue7 at gmail dot com

  25. I totally loved this interview, especially because I'm reading her book right now!! How did I miss your review? I will have to read it lightly as I want to make sure not to spoil my own experience!!

  26. Oh, I'm so excited about your interview! I have an ancestor that came over on the Mayflower group, as well, and was at the Plymouth Colony. It was so interesting to see Susanna's comments about her ancestors since I have been researching mine and thinking about that link to the past very much in the past couple of years. I wonder if we have a "by marriage" connection.
    I would love to have a copy of her "The Winter Sea!" Thank you so much for this wonderful review. I'm going to contact her, too!

  27. Terrific interview of a fascinating book (especially the genetic memory concept)

  28. I've been enjoying reading all your comments, thanks so much.

    Terra, did you know that your ancestor, Stephen Hopkins, actually brought my ancestor, Edward Doty, over with him on the Mayflower, as one of his indentured servants? It is indeed a small world!

    vvb32, my favourite room in any castle would probably be the kitchen, simply for the warmth, the food, and the gossip...

    PoCoKat, yes, I did go to Scotland for my research, north of Aberdeen to Cruden Bay, where the book is set. The people who lived there were wonderful and really helped me in gathering all the facts I needed.

    Elise, you asked whether I had any ancestors who were part of any historic event. One of my ancestors on my mother's side was at the battle of Waterloo, but we think it's unlikely he was on the battlefield itself because he was attached to the Storekeeper General, in charge of supplying the troops, so he probably would have been somewhere on the periphery. Again, for me this helps to humanize the history, just knowing my ancestor was there while the battle was going on.

    But I always feel, too, that "historic events" aren't only the ones that historians have decided were important -- I'm just as intrigued by the lives and experiences of all my north-of-England ancestors who struggled through the industrial revolution, moving across the country to find work as weavers and miners and having the whole world shift drastically under their feet in a way that would make our modern economic troubles seem very tame, I'm sure.

    Sometimes, the people the history books leave out end up having the more interesting stories.

    Thanks again to everyone for commenting.

  29. Not entering, but I'll mention it Friday! Oh, did you see that a bunch of Jane Austen "continuation" books are free at ebookstores today, in celebration of her 235th birthday? You could download them for when you have an ereader, someday...

  30. Thanks everyone for stopping by :D

    Thanks Chris, oh how ever did you know I love those kinds of books ;)

  31. What a great interview and this is a marvelous book! I have read this and it is one of my favorite books of all time. I couldn't put it down. I got mine from the library but I would love to win a copy so that I could reread it many times. This is definitely a keeper! By the way I also loved Marianna and The Shadowy Horses. I have you other books on my TBR pile. Looking forward to reading them and also looking forward to your new one coming out next year!

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  32. Sounds wonderful - I'd love to read it! And I also have a Mayflower ancestor :)

  33. I would LOVE to read this book! Thanks for the great interview


  34. I think that being able to do the research and then write a book would be the best job.


    chocolate and croissants at yahoo . com

  35. great interview! I had not heard of this book before but it sounds quite interesting, something i would enjoy! Happy holidays.

  36. Ancestral memories, pretty interesting concept. This sounded like a fun book to do research for. Thanks for the interview and looking adding your book to my GR shelves.

  37. I love well researched novels and from your interview, it sounds like Susanna did a terrific job.

    I have a book tracing my mother's family back to the Normans, but what I'd love to know is the stories of all those people!

    nblexp ( at ) gmail (dot) com

  38. I would love to read this book. In the mean time, I think I better pull the Mary Stewart out of the TBR pile. =)

    tiredwkids at live dot com

  39. I really enjoyed reading the interview with Susanna Kearsley. The Winter Sea sounds like a fantastic book and I would love to read it. Thank you for the chance.

  40. Winners:
    Deborah and VVB

    Both have been notified



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