Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Susanna Kearsley

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Susanna Kearsley

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) is our newest interview series at Open Book, and gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Author Susanna Kearsley?s latest novel is The Firebird (Simon & Schuster), which was published in April 2013. It?s a novel that follows Nicola Marter, a woman who has the gift to see the previous owners of an object, as she struggles to prove that a wood carving known as ?The Firebird? really did belong to Russia?s Empress Catherine. Today, Susanna tells us about some of her favourite reads, including the hospital romance she?s read multiple times, the Scottish historical novel she read as a child and the fiction writing guide that helped her complete her first novel when she was only in her 20s.


The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
I don?t remember. I began to read when I was only two or three — I have no memory of not knowing how to read. But the first book I remember reading over and over again, in my room, was a Whitman Big Tell-a-Tale book I still own (though it?s falling apart at the seams): By the Sea by Anne Welsh Guy, the story of a little boy who loses his tin soldier on the beach, while walking with his grandfather. Published in 1966, it?s beautifully illustrated by Wendell Kling, and is just a lovely, lovely story, with lyrical writing that reads almost like poetry:
?Grandfather was with him
         exploring with him
         by the sea at evening time.
They were exploring together,
          by the sea at evening time,
          all alone together.?

A book that made me cry:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The end of Chapter 21, after the guilty verdict, when everyone stands up in the balcony as Atticus passes. It?s such a perfect, understated, devastating scene, and it always gets me.

The first adult book I read:
I believe it was The Hepburn by Jan Westcott. I was very into Scottish history when I was ten, and I remember taking this down from my parents? bookshelves and getting completely lost in it.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Hi, There! by Gregory Clark. Well, anything by Gregory Clark, though he?s as good at making me cry as he is at making me laugh. But Hi, There! was the first of his books that I read, so I?ll let it have first place here.

The book I have re-read many times:
The First Year by Lucilla Andrews. Ian McEwan controversially used her autobiography to shape the wartime nursing experiences of his character Briony in Atonement, and she herself was a brilliant and too-often overlooked writer. This novel, a hospital romance that goes far beyond that, is one of her very best.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I?ve read the opening pages, and the ending (I know, I know), but never the book in between.

The book I would give my 17-year-old self, if I could:
Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney. The book that gave me the tools to finish my first novel in my 20s, and that I wish I?d found years earlier.

The best book I read in the past six months:
The Works of Ossian by James Macpherson. I?m a little behind the curve with this one, admittedly, since the poems were published in the mid-18th century, but I?d never read them before and I got drawn into the rhythms and the language. I opened the book to search out a specific quote, and kept on reading for the rest of the evening. I love when that happens.

The book I plan on reading next:
Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. Historical fantasy set in 1765 Boston, with an amazing cover that practically sold me the book on its own, before I?d even read the jacket flap synopsis.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Farthermost Corners, from a quote I?ve always loved by Richard Halliburton, who wrote several books chronicling his adventures before he disappeared, presumed lost at sea, in 1939. ?Let those who wish have their respectability,? he wrote. ?I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy, freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.?

As a former museum curator, Susanna Kearsley brings her own passion for research and travel to her novels, weaving modern-day and historical intrigue. She won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Award for her novel Mariana, the 2010 Romantic Times Book Reviews Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction novel for The Winter Sea, was shortlisted for a 2012 RITA Award for The Rose Garden, and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel from the Canadian Crime Writer?s Association for Every Secret Thing. She lives outside Toronto, Canada. Visit Susanna?s website here, her Tumblr page here and her Twitter page here. Also watch a video with the author.

For more information about The Firebird please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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