Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and grew up in England. She went to dance and drama school in London and worked as an actress before turning to writing in her early 20s. She is the author of 15 novels, including the epic Seven Sisters series, the latest of which, The Sun Sister, was published in October 2019.
1. Who were your literary heroes and influences as you were growing up?
As an adult, the writers who inspire me the most are F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Edith Wharton (The Custom of the Country) and Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited). They are what drew me to historical fiction.
2. Where did you get the idea to write a series of books based on the Seven Sisters?
In January 2013, I was searching for my next story but wanted to find an overarching angle to add another element to my past/present writing, something that would challenge and excite me – and my readers.
I had always watched the stars – especially the Seven Sisters in the belt of Orion, and on that frosty night in north Norfolk, I looked up to the heavens, and, thinking also of our own seven children, came up with the idea for a seven book series based allegorically on the legends of the Seven Sisters constellation.
3. The Sun Sister is your latest book. For Suffolk readers who have not had a chance to read it yet, can you please give us a brief taster?
The Sun Sister follows Electra, the youngest of the D’Aplièse sisters. Readers of the series have so far only caught glimpses of her. When we meet her at the beginning of the book, she is a supermodel living in New York; the death of her adoptive father, Pa Salt, has sent her spiralling, and she seeks solace in drugs and alcohol. It is when her biological grandmother suddenly walks into her life, that Electra realises she needs to face up to her demons…
In 1939, Cecily Huntley-Morgan travels to Kenya from New York to recover from a broken heart. But once in Kenya and embroiled in the decadent lifestyle of the ‘Happy Valley’ set, Cecily finds herself faced with a decision that will change the course of her life.
As Electra discovers how she is connected to Cecily, she takes stock of her life and gains empathy for the people around. Of all the books in the series so far, The Sun Sister has been the most complex and challenging to write, but Electra has become one of my favourite sisters – passionate, outspoken and determined. This sixth book in the series also contains more clues in the overarching mystery of Pa Salt and the missing sister…
4. Do you get nervous as your characters go out into the world, and do you feel under more pressure as the series builds to meet everyone’s hopes for their favourite characters?
I feel incredibly nervous – it’s like sending your child out into the world to be judged! With the increased interest in the Seven Sisters series from readers around the world, of course there is immense pressure for each new sister to conform to readers’ expectations.
But since the very beginning, I’ve had very firm images of what each sister is like, and I can’t be swayed from them. Instead of viewing the Seven Sisters as a series of separate books, I’m viewing it as one very, very big book, and each sister is just one more chapter in an epic story.
5. Who designs your book jackets, and do you have any input? They are always beautifully produced.
The wonderful designers at my UK publisher Pan Macmillan design them. My absolute favourites are the original dust jackets for the Seven Sisters series, with simple jewel-toned colours and the Pleiades star constellation.
Although the hardcover editions have now been redesigned, it was my request that readers could still order an original dust jacket for free to make sure that their collection of the series matches. As a keen reader and book collector myself, it was so important to me that they all look good together on a shelf!
6. Is there anything you can share about your next project?
I’m notoriously secretive about the future of the Seven Sisters series – readers write to me all the time asking to have their theories about #whoispasalt and the ‘missing’ sister confirmed. All I can say for now is that I have just begun the research process on book seven – in fact, I have recently been on a journey, following in the footsteps of the ‘missing’ sister…
7. What is on your ‘to read’ shelf at the moment?
On my current ‘to read’ shelf are mainly historical research texts for book seven… but for fun, I recently read Lucy Foley’s wonderful new book The Hunting Party – I’m a big fan of a murder mystery, and it’s set in the wilds of Scotland in winter, so it’s perfect to curl up with in front of the fire.
8. Can you tell us one thing your readers may not know about you?
It was twenty-six years ago, a few hours before the book launch party of my very first novel Lovers and Players (published under my maiden name Lucinda Edmonds back then) that I found out I was pregnant with my first child, Harry! No champagne for me that night!
9. This is our Christmas week Meet the Author. What are you looking forward to most, and do you allow yourself a proper break from writing over the festive season?
I absolutely LOVE Christmas – it is simply the biggest and most important event of the year for my family. We have a lot of traditions that I look forward to, such as decorating the trees (we have two!), and going to London to see Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, which is something I’ve done since I was a child.
On Christmas Eve, we have a ‘show’ where each member of the family has to perform something, often a song, dance or comedy sketch. We eat a simple but special meal with lots of crackers and candles in the evening and go to Midnight Mass at the local church. Christmas for me is all about family, so work takes a backseat.
10. Do you have a message for your many Suffolk readers?
I’d like to say thank you so much to everyone for your support – I receive a lot of messages from readers in Suffolk, and they all motivate me tremendously. I adore Suffolk – in fact, The Butterfly Room is mainly set in Southwold, as it is a place where I have such happy family memories. I’m wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year!