Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lunch with Lucinda Riley to talk about The Seven Sisters

This Summer I have been very fortunate to have been invited to some fab book events including an invite yesterday to have lunch with bestselling author Lucinda Riley to hear about her new Seven Sisters series.

First off I have to say a very big thank you to Olivia, Lucinda's PA, for the perfect instructions as to how to get to The Phene pub in Chelsea as I'm sure I'd have gotten lost if I'd tried to find it myself... those who know me personally know how shocking my sense of direction is!

We started off in the garden with a drink meet & greet session, Lucinda with FB competition winner Victoria, Jo, Jo, Susan, Jax and myself, and then moved upstairs for lunch and to have a chat with Lucinda about her books.

Lucinda has made a couple of videos to talk about the inspiration behind the series and an introduction to the first book The Seven Sisters, which is Maia's story, which I can share with you below.

Their future is written in the stars...

Maia D'Apliése and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home, 'Atlantis' - a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva - having been told that their beloved father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died. Maia and her sisters were all adopted by him as babies and, discovering he has already been buried at sea, each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage - a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of where her story began...

Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Epoque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio's father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is working on a statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision. Izabela - passionate and longing to see the world - convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski's studio and in the heady, vibrant cafés of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again.

How hard was it to write your new book The Seven Sisters? And why the choice of Brazil as one of the central countries of the plot?
I came for the first time to Brazil two years ago.  And when I flew from Sao Paulo and stepped off the plane and drove into Rio de Janeiro and saw the Christo, I fell in love instantly.  So much that I decided to set the first of my new series of books there.  I then came back to discover the history and lived for a month in an apartment in Ipanema and lived like a local.  I could see the beach and the Christo as I wrote the story.

I then discovered that my neighbour in the next street was Bel Noronha, the great-granddaughter of Heitor da Silva Costa, the architect and engineer of the Cristo. She gave me access to his photographs, diaries and the wonderful film she had made about the construction.  I then wrote about Rio in the present day, wanting to show the world through the story of my character what an amazing, vibrant city it is.  Like any other, it has its good and its bad characteristics, but part of the book is set in a favela, which I visited.  In fact, my heroine discover it is part of her heritage.  The moment I wrote that, as she watches the young children learning to samba for carnival, I was crying.  They were dancing for their lives.  

You've discovered amazing facts about Christ the Redeemer in your research. Tell us three amazing things about the statue. 
The first miracle is the sheer size and weight of the Christo and the genius of Heitor da Silva Costa; then the understanding that, contrary to the belief of many Brazilians, that the French did not donate the statue and in fact only played a minor role in its construction mainly providing the moulds for the hands and head; and lastly the story of the model used for the hands which for years was thought to be Margarida Lopes de Almeida, a famous Brazilian actress - but before she died she admitted it was not her, creating the mystery of whose hands they really were, and giving me a wonderful idea for my book.  

'The Seven Sisters' series will have seven books.  Who's going to be the next sister after Maia? 
The next one is 'Ally' (Alcyone in Greek), and this story is based in Norway, Greece and Leipzig in the 1880's.  She is a very different character to Maia!   

Writing a seven book series must be a daunting prospect, did you have to work out the plot of the final story before you began?  

As a matter of fact, knowing where I'm headed for the next six years is a positive, not a negative.  Even though each book is stand-alone, I see them as one huge story. So for the foreseeable future, I won't come to the end of a book and have that dreadful moment when I have to think 'what do I write next?'  I can't wait to get on and start!  I've already finished the first draft of 'Ally', the next sister, who could not be more different from Maia in personality.  As a novelist, it's the most exciting thing I've ever written because it's so multi-layered.  Not only am I following allegorically the myths and legends of the Seven Sisters, but there is an overarching plot that runs through each one, only revealed in the final book - the details of which are hidden in the stories and known only to me!

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