How I write a novel by Lucinda Riley

16 March 2015

By Pan Macmillan

Bestselling author of The Seven Sisters series, Lucinda Riley describes how she came to write her own take on the the mythology surrounding the famous star constellation.

I always begin a new novel with an initial whisper of inspiration. The idea for The Seven Sisters came to me one winter’s night at my home in North Norfolk as I was looking up at the skies.

I couldn’t resist the challenge of taking on the ancient legends of the Pleiades constellation and lending it my own very modern twist: six girls, adopted from all four corners of the world by their mysterious father, Pa Salt.

As for the actual process of writing, I’m unusual in that I don’t sit down to physically write! When I was penning my first novels, all my hours of work on the computer gave me Repetitive Strain Injury. I now speak the entire first draft into my trusty dictaphone, ‘Dick’, as I affectionately call him. [no lewd cackles allowed!].

This gives me the freedom to wander around and simply let the words flow. I prefer to do my ‘writing’ out in the fresh air (depending on the weather) and this is where I have my best ideas. As I was trained as a dancer, I think better on the move.

I spend weeks talking to myself this way, and my children think I’m completely bananas. They’ll often tease me about my habit of adding the punctuation verbally, by popping into my study to say, ‘Hello Mummy comma how are you question mark space new line…’

My long-suffering PA, Olivia, then gets the job of turning my verbal ‘vomit’ into real words on the page. I spend months re-editing, going through each sentence with my red pen in order to get everything as perfect as I can. The books are not only enormous in length but also in scope. I’m working on ‘The Second Sister’ at the moment and the plot spans one hundred and thirty-five years. Every detail and historical fact needs to be checked and double-checked.

I never keep meticulous notes or ‘storyboards’, but as the plot arc of The Seven Sisters series is so ambitious, I’ve found I do have to keep track of where all the sisters are at any given time. But it’s all stored in my memory, not on paper. And at the back of my mind, I know what my plan for the final book in the series is.

To write the past, I always try to go to the country where it’s set. For The Seven Sisters, I spent some time in Rio de Janeiro and a beautiful fazenda in the mountains behind it. This really allowed me to get a feel for the country and infuse that into my writing. I love to immerse myself in the world and the characters that I’m creating, and I want my readers to feel the same way!

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