Keira: Did a real farmhouse inspire Greywethers, the one in Mariana?
Susanna Kearsley: Greywethers was, in fact, inspired by an actual house—not a farmhouse, but a house in the village of Avebury, Wiltshire. The real village is built inside a stone circle, and since I had no use for the stones in my novel (and I couldn’t exactly write about Avebury without mentioning the stones) I opted instead to change the name of the village and play with its layout a little, for my book. If you ever go to Avebury, the grey stone house that I used as the model for my Greywethers sits at the main crossroads, just opposite the (real) Red Lion pub.
Keira: What do you like best about 17th-century England?
Susanna: I’ve had a longstanding fascination with the English Civil War era and the Restoration that followed it. As with the American Civil War, it was a violent time of clashing values, with families divided and brother pitted against brother in many cases as neighbors and former friends had to decide where they stood on the issues they held most important. Conflicts like that can be fascinating and poignant all at the same time, because being on the “right” side is often only a matter of perspective, and that can be interesting to explore in a story. And the Restoration was just such a vibrant and colorful time, with so many wonderful real-life characters all in the mix together that I’ve always loved reading and learning about it, whether from fiction or non-fiction.
Keira: Why is Julia enthralled with Mariana's life? How does her life begin to eclipse Julia's?
Susanna: I think Julia just feels very strongly that she’s been drawn to Mariana’s life for a reason, and that her own happiness depends upon her sorting out what happened to Mariana. But because she can only learn about Mariana’s life by re-living it, by experiencing it herself, that creates a problem for her, since Mariana’s life is so much more dramatic and richly emotional than her own that it becomes a bit of an addiction to her, and the more time she spends in the past, the more her own life begins to pale in comparison and seem less interesting. That’s when she starts to risk becoming detached from reality, and from the present.
Keira: Tell us a bit about Julia's hero, the eligible squire of Crofton Hall. What makes him special?
Susanna: In Julia’s eyes, her new neighbor—Geoff de Mornay—would be the perfect hero for the fairy tales she illustrates. He’s handsome, charming, successful, and lives in a virtual castle of a house. And his ancestor, Richard de Mornay, was Mariana’s first and only love.
Keira: What is your favorite thing about time travel romances?
Susanna: I’ve only ever written one true time travel romance—The Rose Garden—but I have written a few books now that use dual-time storylines, with the past and present interwoven. In Mariana, reincarnation is what binds the two together, though I’ve also used genetic memory and dreams. I think what I like about the dual-time plots is that they let me play in both sandboxes—writing both contemporary and historical stories without having to choose one over the other, and exploring the ways that the past can affect and shape the present day.
Keira: What will you do next?
Susanna: Right now I’m finishing the manuscript of my next book, a sort-of-sequel to The Winter Sea that again follows characters in both the present and the past, this time from modern-day London and Scotland into Peter the Great’s Russia and present-day St. Petersburg. With luck, this new book will be out sometime next spring, by which time I should be well into the writing of the next one.