What first made you want to write historical fiction?
I had written fifteen novels when I decided to write a trilogy based in south west Ireland. I needed a change from what I’d been doing, which was stand-alone novels based in Italy, France, South America and England and I was looking for a real challenge. The idea of being able to dig deep into a family’s history, over the generations, really appealed to me, because I hadn’t done it before, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, which was both scary and exciting at the same time. I had the time and space, over three long novels to explore the lives of Bridie, Kitty and Celia in detail and to really work out what made them tick – and to explore the life of Castle Deverill, which is really the protagonist of the book because everyone revolves around it. The fun part was choosing a country with such a tragic but beautiful history. The War of Independence in Ireland was brutal, as all wars are, but the passion behind it was like a great big wave that swept my characters along. It gave the three books a very solid backbone around which I could create my dramas. Kitty and Jack’s love for Ireland and their longing for independence created dilemmas and inner battles that were so meaty, I could really get my teeth into their characters. Their love for their country gave their relationship such depth. I learned a great deal while researching it too because when I started out I knew very little about the War of Independence, or indeed any Irish history. It was an adventure for me, which I relished. I love writing historical fiction because it’s fun to travel back in time and imagine how people lived. Their lives were so different to ours – and for a romantic novelist wars are as water to hippos.
What are you currently reading?
I’m writing the fourth Deverill novel, part of which is set at the end of the nineteenth century, so I’m reading some wonderful books for research. Anne de Courcy’s The Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York. Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence (for about the fourth time!). I am also reading Deepak Chopra Synchrodestiny, just for pleasure. I’ve just been on holiday in South Africa and read A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman, which is incredibly touching. (I’m usually behind the groove in books because I get so little time to read for pleasure…I know that one has already been made into a movie! I should really make more of an effort to keep up!)
Which of the three friends do you connect with most personally? (Which one is most like you?)
This is a very difficult question to answer, because there are parts of me in all three women, which is why I am able to identify with them so easily. The fun of writing novels is that you can live many difference lives. Take yourself on a fantasy, be someone else, live another life you would never otherwise live – be outrageous, brave, outspoken, passionate…the possibilities are endless. If I had to choose one, however, I’d choose Kitty. I’m psychic like she is, I adore nature and I’m strong. But I don’t have her bravery and am nothing like as feisty or outspoken as she is, but I am a deep thinker and love with passion.