OK, so I'm rarely in jeopardy, but I write woman-in-jeopardy novels—otherwise called "Modern Gothics"—and this is my blog. It will probably have lots of time between posts, but I'll try not to bore you. Welcome.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Writing Set for Christmas

Last month a reader posted on my facebook page that their 8-year-old daughter wanted a “writing set” for Christmas this year, and asked me: “What does every budding author need in their ‘set’?”

Of course, “need” is a relative term. All you actually need as a writer, at 8 years old or 80, is a story in your heart and mind and some means of recording that in words, so you can share it with your listeners and readers.

But I loved the idea of putting together a “writing set”, especially one for a young “budding author” who’s already starting her life as a writer with one of the most vital things in her toolbox: a parent’s support.

So I thought back to what I was given, when I was around that age, that made me feel like a real writer. And I thought of what I use in my everyday “writing set” now. And I blended those together in this list of my suggestions:

The brown one here was mine, when I was 12. I still remember picking it out at our local Coles Bookstore. There’s something about that old-fashioned-gilded-leather look and the lovely blank pages inside that makes you feel like a true storyteller.

I always have one with me. In my case, they range from little notepads scooped up from a hotel bedside table to those little spiral-bound notebooks you can buy in packs of three from a drugstore to the fancier little Moleskine versions, like the red one here that was my primary notebook for my research travels for my book The Firebird.

Indispensable. Sitting in one place for hours, especially during late nights, early mornings, and winter, gets chilly. If you can’t find a blanket, a cozy cardigan will do, like the beige one my notebooks are sitting on in the above photo. It was a castoff of my father’s, and has kept me warm through many a writing session.

For one of my childhood birthdays, my parents gave me a silver-toned pencil-and-pen set. It came in a box, and was beautiful. And best of all, they had taken it to the engraving kiosk at the mall, so both the pen and pencil were  engraved with my initials. If you have a young (or even not-so-young) writer on your Christmas list, this is one gift that’s sure to make them feel like an actual writer. I suggested to my reader that, for her daughter, she might want to engrave not only her daughter’s name, but the word “Writer” after it.

Eight years old is a little young for coffee, but hot chocolate can fuel the writing muse equally as well! My own preferred writing mugs tend to change to subtly match the subject of the book I’m writing—I ended up using my tartan one a lot while I was working on A Desperate Fortune, and back when I was writing The Rose Garden my favourite mug was floral—and I have a special Motivating Mug (pictured here) that I use when I’m approaching deadlines.

If there’s a single book that’s helped me more than any other on my journey as a writer, it’s been Phyllis A. Whitney’s GUIDE TO FICTION WRITING. As a practical guide for working your way through that first novel (and keeping your focus through later ones), it’s invaluable. But for an 8-year-old, you might want to start with a few Writer’s Digest magazines. Around this time of year, WD also puts out a special edition Yearbook filed with all sorts of tips and advice. Just remember, there’s no one “right” way to write—don’t take anything as gospel. My favourite writing books are the ones containing many different articles by a wide variety of well-published writers, because I can almost always learn something useful from a few of them, and as my skills and needs develop and change other articles within those books become relevant.

For my 8-year-old self this would have been the icing on the cake! I loved staying in bed all day and writing as it was, but to be able to do it comfortably and without having to change position every five minutes would have been wonderful. This is the kind of thing I mean—the ones with the beanbag bottom and the hard top. Some, like this one from Chapters/Indigo, even come complete with a cup holder so you have a place to put your Special Mug.
What would YOU add to the list, if you were Santa?

Friday, February 13, 2015

February Sweepstakes!

Thanks so much to all of you who took time to leave a comment on the NAMED OF THE DRAGON cover choices. I've compiled everything and forwarded it to the design department of my American publishers, Sourcebooks.

And while they work to come up with the final cover, they've also been working hard to get the word out about my newest book, coming out in just a handful of weeks!

To celebrate the almost-here-now publication date of A DESPERATE FORTUNE, Sourcebooks has partnered with BookPage to hold this amazingly wonderful sweepstakes.

It's for Americans only, I'm afraid (and my apologies to those of you who don't live in the USA, this contest isn't being held by me directly, hence the geographical restrictions), but it's really such an awesome contest I just had to share it here.

You can enter till the end of February, I believe, by clicking this link and following the instructions:

Best of luck!

(And to those who aren't in the USA, I'll keep you posted when my other publishers hold THEIR contests and promotions).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Help Choose a New Cover!

My American publishers, Sourcebooks, are getting set to re-issue the novel I wrote in the winter I lived in Wales NAMED OF THE DRAGON – and they'd like your vote on their shortlist of covers...

I make no secret of how deeply I adore my Sourcebooks covers, nor of how much I appreciate the hours of work and effort that go into them. If you want an inside look at the process, you can read this excellent Q&A post that Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches did with Sarah Cardillo from Sourcebooks, all about the evolution of my covers.

You can see what a great job they did of blending their "refresh" of the cover style for the new book, A DESPERATE FORTUNE, into the already established "look" of the collection.

And now they want to do their best with NAMED OF THE DRAGON. Here's what the story's about:

The invitation to spend Christmas in Angle, on the Pembrokeshire coast, is one that Lyn Ravenshaw is only too happy to accept. To escape London and the pressures of her literary agency is temptation enough, but the prospect of meeting Booker Prize nominee James Swift - conveniently in search of an agent - is the deciding factor. Not that she expects it to be a restful holiday. Her travelling companion and bestselling client, Bridget Cooper – James's current girlfriend – has a reputation for mischief. Already Bridget's eye is wandering, taking in James's charming antique-dealing brother, Christopher, and their neighbour, the difficult and mysterious Gareth Gwyn Morgan. 
More disturbing, though, is the sad figure of Elen Vaughan, recently widowed and with an eight-month-old son whose paternity is a subject for local gossip. Elen's baby arouses painful memories of Lyn's own dead child and strange, haunting dreams, in which a young woman in blue repeatedly tries to hand over her child to Lyn for safekeeping.

Who is the father of Elen's baby? What is the eerie, monstrous creature of Elen's dreams that tries to ensnare her son, and what makes her so sure that Lyn has been sent to protect him? As Lyn begins to untangle the truth behind the stories, she finds an unexpected ally in Gareth Morgan, and the secret she discovers leads her to an encounter with the past that will change her life forever.

The final cover they choose might end up being none of the ones here, but as part of their process they've asked me to ask for your feedback, so they'll have a sense what direction to take.

So if you have a minute, please comment on which of the four cover options below is your favourite, and why. What works for you? What doesn't work? Your input and opinions will be useful and appreciated by the Sourcebooks team.

And as soon as the cover is finally decided, I'll post it up here!

Thanks so much.





Which one's YOUR favourite?

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Sorry about the delay, there, but the trusty Random Number Generator has at last been put into service and the winner of Lauren Willig's THAT SUMMER (signed by Lauren, even) is:

mk, who was the very first commenter!
Congratulations! Please drop me an email at susanna(underscore)kearsley(at)yahoo(dot)ca to let me know where we should send your book.

And for everyone else who might have entered one of the two OTHER giveaways I've held recently, just gentle reminder that time is ticking on. It's been some time now since I announced the winners, and the prizes are still sitting here in my writing room.

To be perfectly fair, I'm going to announce the winners' names again right now:

The winner of the "Between Friends" Giveaway was Kay, who commented on December 28, 2013 at 12:54 p.m., and whose best friend is Andrea.

And the winner of the Beatriz Williams ARC Giveaway was Allina Flaat.

If I don't hear from Kay or Allina by the end of July, I'm going to have to draw again for new winners, so if you're Kay or Allina, or know them, PLEASE drop me a line at the email I've given above.

Thanks so much.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lauren Willig Giveaway

Yep, I'm at it again :-)

This time it's my friend Lauren Willig who has a new book out, and since I know many of you like her books, too (as I do), I'm going to give away one new signed copy.

Here's a peek at what the novel is about:

A page-turning new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, about a woman who inherits a house in England… and the mysterious past that comes with it.
2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.  

Photo by Christina Courtenay
Again, you should know that I know Lauren, and while I've never trudged through a blizzard with her as I did with Beatriz Williams (Lauren wisely stayed at home for that one), I have shared the odd panel and coffee and chat with her. Here we are only last month in New Orleans at the RT Booklovers Convention, doing our "Call My Bluff" historical words and phrases game. (Left to right: Beatriz, Lauren, Molly O'Keefe, Deanna Raybourn, and Me).

So I'm admittedly biased, but I can also honestly recommend her writing to you, because it's very, very, (very) good.

If you want to sample it yourself, you can read an excerpt from THAT SUMMER here at Lauren's website.

You have until midnight EST this Sunday, June 7, to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below telling me:

If YOU could inherit a house anywhere, where would it be located?

I'll choose one name at random when the contest closes. Best of luck!

(NOTE: If you have trouble leaving a comment because you don't have any of the ID's listed, just leave one as "Anonymous" and put your name in the comment itself, so I'll know how to get in touch with you if you win).

Beatriz Williams Giveaway: And the winner is...

Allina Flaat!

Congratulations, Allina! Drop me an email at susanna(underscore)kearsley(at)yahoo(dot)ca and let me know your mailing address, and I'll get your signed ARC of Beatriz Williams's new book mailed out to you.

Thanks so much to all of you for sharing your amazing comments. As one reader mentioned, each one of your comments could be its own novel. I really enjoyed reading all of them.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Beatriz Williams ARC Giveaway!

You'll be thinking all I do here is give stuff away, but I can't help this one. Sorry.

My friend Beatriz Williams, whose previous books Overseas and A Hundred Summers are both beautiful, has a brand new book coming out TODAY, and I have in my hot little hands something even better than a regular copy such as you'd find in a store: I have a more-rare-and-much-harder-to-come-by ARC (Advance Reading Copy), SIGNED by Beatriz herself!

(Full Disclosure: She actually sent it to me a couple of months ago so I could give it away, and being Me I set it here on my desk with Good Intentions, and promptly buried it in pages of the novel I'm now working on...)

Here's the official story synopsis for THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT:

Passion, redemption, and a battered suitcase full of secrets: the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers returns with another engrossing tale.

Manhattan, 1964. Vivian Schuyler, newly graduated from Bryn Mawr College, has recently defied the privilege of her storied old Fifth Avenue family to do the unthinkable for a budding Kennedy-era socialite: break into the Mad Men world of razor-stylish Metropolitan magazine. But when she receives a bulky overseas parcel in the mail, the unexpected contents draw her inexorably back into her family’s past, and the hushed-over crime passionnel of an aunt she never knew, whose existence has been wiped from the record of history.

Berlin, 1914. Violet Schuyler Grant endures her marriage to the philandering and decades-older scientist Dr. Walter Grant for one reason: for all his faults, he provides the necessary support to her liminal position as a young American female physicist in prewar Germany. The arrival of Dr. Grant’s magnetic former student at the beginning of Europe’s fateful summer interrupts this delicate d├ętente. Lionel Richardson, a captain in the British Army, challenges Violet to escape her husband’s perverse hold, and as the world edges into war and Lionel’s shocking true motives become evident, Violet is tempted to take the ultimate step to set herself free and seek a life of her own conviction with a man whose cause is as audacious as her own.

As the iridescent and fractured Vivian digs deeper into her aunt’s past and the mystery of her ultimate fate, Violet’s story of determination and desire unfolds, shedding light on the darkness of her years abroad . . . and teaching Vivian to reach forward with grace for the ambitious future––and the love––she wants most.

More Full Disclosure: As I said above, Beatriz is my friend. We have trudged through a New York City blizzard together to sign books (though she, being Beatriz, looks Elegant even in blizzards, whilst I, being Me, look Bedraggled...)

We have been known to hang out in hotel lobby bars together at conferences.

She has even allowed me to talk her into entering Historical Costume Competitions whilst wearing my reproduction 18th century gown when I forgot to pack my stays so couldn't wear it myself (Beatriz, as you can plainly see, does NOT need stays).

But besides being my friend, she is also one amazing storyteller, and I think anyone who enjoys my books would enjoy Beatriz's also.

To enter for a chance to win this single advance reading copy I have on my desk here, just leave a comment  answering this question:

What member of YOUR family would you like to know more about?

I'll choose the winner at random from all the comments left here before midnight, May 31st.