The truth is, we’re shaped by our families. Whether we love them or try to escape them, and whether they help and support us or stand in our way, they are there. In real life, people don’t operate in a vacuum—even those who have lost all their family still live with the memories. A father who’s absent can have just as great an effect as one you see each day, and our cousins and relatives living in places far distant can still have a hold on our hearts and our loyalties.
I learned early on in my writing to give all my fictional characters families, and when I’m writing of actual people from history I work hard to fill out the blanks of their own family trees as well, putting to good use the skills I’ve learned both from museum work and from a lifetime spent helping my parents trace our family history. Amateur genealogy can, at the best of times, become an enjoyable obsession, and when I apply it to real-life historical characters I find it not only helps me create a more fully-formed version of them in the novel, but also gives me added insight into their decisions and choices, shining new light on the motivation for their actions.
Trying to understand why a person went out of his way, and at risk of his life, to help someone who seems to be a total stranger becomes much less puzzling when I fill in the strands of their families and find they’re actually cousins.
And even with a minor character like Mr. Trescott, the St. Petersburg tavern owner in The Firebird, my research gave me knowledge of his family and his drive to give his sons a better life, which helped me better understand some of his actions.
Look around you. How does your family affect the things you do each day? Whether you avoid them, love them, hate them, or remember them, the truth remains: they’re there. And that’s as true for characters in every novel, too, whether they’re fictional or drawn from life. The family shapes us all.
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Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she keeps it buried deep. But when she encounters a desperate woman trying to sell a modest wooden carving she claims belonged to Russia’s Empress Catherine, Nicola knows the truth.
There is one with greater powers than Nicola’s, but he’s a man she can neither love nor lose. Together, they’ll pursue answers and perhaps untold rewards. In once-glittering St. Petersburg, the tale of The Firebird unfolds, irrevocably changing all who’ve pursued its secrets.
Beloved by readers as varied and adventurous as her novels, you will never forget spending time in Susanna Kearsley’s world.