Q&A with Santa Montefiore
For Simon & Schuster Canada's Timeless Tour we had the pleasure of asking the authors questions. Today, we have Santa Montefiore, author of Songs of Love and War, answering the Literary Hoarders' questions:
What inspired the characters in Songs of Love and War? What inspired you to make this a trilogy?
I had written 14 stand-alone novels and was unsure what to write about next when Simon & Schuster offered me a three-book deal – the thought of three new ideas slightly freaked me out, but then I thought of one huge idea, across three books, and that was exciting. It would certainly be a challenge. However, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. All those characters, spanning three books, but it turned out to be wonderfully liberating. I could really indulge myself by creating a world on a vast canvas, with time and space to weave a complex story. Ireland was a gift – the history is fascinating; tragic, passionate and beautiful all at the same time. I adore Irish castles and have spent a lot of time wandering around ruins and imagining what they must have been like when people lived in them and loved them. The book was a delicious fantasy for me. I wrote about all the things I love. I’m now writing a fourth – couldn’t leave it alone… not yet, anyway.
Please share the story of how you became a writer, what or whom inspired you?
I have always written stories. I think, like a lot of creative people, writing is not something I do, it’s what I am. There was no way I wasn’t going to write. There was a big chance I wouldn’t be published, of course, but I was always going to write as a hobby. I wrote children’s books as a child, teenage books as a teenager and adult books as an adult. I write for myself and my own pleasure. I’m just fantastically lucky to be paid for it. As for inspiration, I had a few really inspiring teachers at school. Other writers have inspired me – the greats like Austen, Dickens, Dumas and Tolstoy. I never aspired to be as brilliant as them (that’s impossible) but I knew I could tell a good story, in my own way. I’ve never doubted that. When I was 25 and working for Ralph Lauren, my husband who was then my boyfriend, encouraged me to send the manuscript of what later became my first novel, to agents. I was rejected by three but accepted by one. You only need one agent and one publisher, so I was very lucky. I was also lucky to have an agent who was prepared to mentor me and work on the manuscript with me. It certainly wasn’t ready to be published when she first got it. I have now written eighteen adult novels (and two children’s books with my husband – The Royal Rabbits of London) and am writing my nineteenth. I consider myself lucky every day to be published. It’s a tough world out there and there’s a lot of talent which doesn’t see the light of day. I’m also fortunate to do something I love and to be able to earn a living from it.
You say that all of your stories are about love. Love with a capital L. What was the major inspiration or reason why your stories are about it.
My stories are about life and life is about love. Love for family, friends, children, lovers and spouses. What propels us through our lives if it is not love? Love is fascinating and complex. It can drive us to do wonderful things, but like everything, it has its opposite and can drive us to do terrible things. It can raise us up or bring us down. The Deverill Chronicles is about love for home, for one’s roots, for one’s country as well as for people. Take the heart out of life and what have we got? Emptiness, futility and a meaningless existence. I think, if you boil most novels down to their essence you’ll find love at their core.
Do you have someone assisting you in your research? Please feature them, and explain their role and their contributions to your research.
I was very lucky when I started to research The Deverill Chronicles. I received an email from an Irishman called Tim Kelly who was a fan of my books. When I told him that I was about to write three novels based in County Cork from 1910-1960s, he wrote back and told me that he was from there and if I needed any help, he’d be happy to oblige. Well, I had no idea how wonderfully helpful he would become. We corresponded a lot and he was like an encyclopedia. He then came to my house for tea and we really hit it off. He’s in his late sixties and is cultured and wise. I could never have written about the Doyle family if it hadn’t been for his help. He really brought them to life for me. He also helped me understand Ireland’s history. He was brilliant at plotting too, and it was nice to have someone with whom I could talk through ideas. It’s thanks to him that I haven’t received any letters from readers complaining of inaccuracies (you wouldn’t believe how quick people are to put you right!). So I’m very grateful to him and have acknowledged him in the books, and dedicated one to him. It’s lovely to have found a friend like that through my work.
Thank you Santa, it was a genuine pleasure! I, for one, am particularly thrilled to discover there isn’t just going to be two more in the Deverill Chronicles but three! Hurray!