Joining us today is Lucinda Riley, author of one of my favorite books of 2012, The Orchid House. Riley’s newest novel, The Girl on the Cliff is finally being released in the US on October 30th. She’s been gracious enough to stop by the blog today to talk about the inspiration behind The Girl on the Cliff. Please join me in welcoming her!
It’s always a location, or a house and the atmosphere surrounding it, that inspires inside me those first seeds which eventually germinate into a book. This was very much the case with The Girl on the Cliff. I was born and lived in Ireland on the West Cork coast and I loved its wildness and isolation. ‘Extreme’ locations are always exciting to me because they are dramatic and of course, romantic. The thought of a vulnerable child, barefoot and alone during the Atlantic storms that used to break with such fury when I lived there with my own small children, gave me the character of ‘Aurora’, the narrator of the book. I wanted to make her ‘other-wordly’ and ephemeral, almost part of the intense, dramatic scenery which surrounded her when she was born.
I will confess that Aurora is the first character I’ve ever written who is basically ‘me’. I poured my soul into her – something I’ve never done before in one of my books. All my beliefs, hopes and fears; a lot of my life – I’m an ex-ballerina who got so sick I was bedridden and had to ‘use my mind, not my body, to express myself’ – is in there . Yes, like her, I’ve seen ghosts and angels and believe in the ‘afterlife’. I’ve suffered terrible loss , as most of us have at some point in our lives, but still believe, as Aurora says, that ‘love and faith and goodness and hope’ will win the day. And that human nature, for the most part, is intrinsically ‘good’. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here on the planet – we’d all have murdered each other thousands of years ago! This book is so personal, it’s painful. Basically, if readers reject Aurora, they are rejecting me!
Some readers may find Aurora’s spiritualism and endless positivity in the face of adversity irritating. But, the US dollar bill itself has ‘In God We Trust’ written on it … yet, to my knowledge, no-one has ever managed to take a photograph or interview him! As Aurora says, ‘just remember, there’s no proof either way. So I choose to believe. It’s much the best option.’
I’m not into any particular organised religion, by the way, I just believe in a power higher than us humans, and am humble enough to realise there is so much we can never understand. Who/what energy created the Big Bang in the first place …? No-one knows. So, it’s pretty obvious this book is not for ‘cynics’ who don’t believe in a ‘higher level’, or that the world is fundamentally a bad place. Redemption and some level of forgiveness is always a possibility, if not an actuality in some cases. And that is the rock-bed from which all my stories and characters come.
And besides Aurora, there is a huge, intricate family story, spanning over 100 years. There are characters, good and bad, that pepper the plot. Also, in The Girl on the Cliff, I’ve explored the fact that, as one grows older, the seesaw of pain and joy of the human condition become more stark. During the writing of the novel, I became fascinated by ‘the fairy tale , which all modern romantic novels are a derivative of. In particular, the ‘happy ending’, which every fairy tale contains and is in fact, an integral part of their beauty.
Yet, what happens after the ‘Happy Ever After’? And how to write an ending, given the depth of the characters involved in The Girl on the Cliff, in which the conclusion is both satisfying and moving? In conclusion, The Girl on the Cliff has all the ingredients of The Orchid House: the ‘big story’, a dual narrative and locations which fire my imagination, yet I hope I have added a new dimension, a depth and realism in the storyline which isn’t trite or contrived. In this book, more than any other story I’ve written, the characters demanded to be heard and I gave them their voice.