A storybook Christmas

Posted on: 10th December, 2018

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

My Christmas traditions series

Well-known author Lucinda Riley has made Clonakilty her home and is looking forward to celebrating Christmas in West Cork this year with her family. Lucinda’s books have been translated into over thirty languages and sold fifteen million copies worldwide. She is currently writing The Seven Sisters series, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is based allegorically on the mythology of the famous star constellation. The fifth book in the Sisters series “The Moon Sister’ is now available in bookshops. Although she has to travel abroad alot for research and PR trips all over the world, Lucinda writes all her books at home in Clonakilty.

It’s going to be a particularly festive event in Lucinda’s home in West Cork this year, with the whole family arriving for the holiday. “Everyone is coming here for Christmas this year, including three dogs on the ferry!” she says laughing. Lucinda plans on lighting up the very old, very large Christmas tree in her garden. “I’ve just had a meeting with a crane driver to talk about lighting it up – it would look amazing and you would see it for miles.”

The author simply loves Christmas. Her favourite part of the holiday is lighting the Christmas candles with her children at 3pm on Christmas Eve, when Carols from Kings College, Cambridge begins on BBC Radio 4. “It’s a quiet, reflective moment, thinking of those that are no longer with us, and knowing that the wider family is about to arrive and all the fun is about to start,” she explains.

It’s turkey and all the trimmings served up by Lucinda every year for Christmas dinner. “I love it as I’m a savoury cook and with such a big family, I’m used to cooking for a lot of people. My step-daughter does all the puddings, as I’m very bad at desserts!”

Looking back at her family’s Christmas traditions growing up, Lucinda fondly recalls the show she and her sister put on every Christmas Eve. “All of our friends and neighbours came round. We made all the costumes and scenery and, as I got older and became a professional actress, we would rope other actor friends into the show. It became famous in the neighbourhood and we once gave a very passable performance of Les Miserables in my parent’s sitting room!

“My father always took us to see The Nutcracker Ballet in London every year, which is something I still do with children to this day. Even the boys come along.”

The Christmas Eve Show tradition has been taken on by her own children, now including homemade films and videos, as well as live performances. “It’s taken very seriously indeed – rehearsals go on in different corners of the house for days beforehand. The sketches are often hilarious, normally about something that has happened that year in the family and no-one gets out of performing.” Even Stephen, Lucinda’s husband, performs a song he’s written the lyrics to himself.

When the children go up to bed afterwards ready for Santy to come, Lucinda goes upstairs with them and tells the story of ‘The Elf That Got Left Behind’ – a story she made up here in West Cork when her eldest son was only two-years-old. On Christmas morning, it’s always Lucinda who awakes first with excitement. “We have stockings from Santy in our bedroom, then everyone gets dressed up in their best and we gather in the sitting room. I hand out a riddle I’ve made up to each child and they have to search the house to find their special present, while we all drink champagne and wait for them to find them!”

On the writing front, Lucinda is currently writing the sixth book in the Sister series ‘Electra – The Sun Sister’. She also took a first draft of a story she began years ago out of her bottom drawer and completely re-wrote it over the summer. It’s called ‘The Butterfly Room’ and will be published in May. “Writing standalone novels in-between the sisters stories keeps me fresh and takes my mind away from them for a while,” she explains. Although she says she won’t doing a standalone book again until she has finished the series. “Two novels a year is too much and I want a life back!” Sayting that, she does admit that having lived and breathed the sister’s stories for the past six years, she’ll be devastated when the series comes to an end.

The research on Spanish gypsy culture was the greatest challenge for Lucinda in writing The Moon Sister. “Their spiritual ways and healing remedies are handed down by mouth rather than written, but I managed to find some Gitano Gypsies in Granada and Sacromonte in Spain that helped me.,” she says. “The highlight was definitely going to The Alladale Estate right up in the Highlands of Scotland and writing the beginning of Tiggy’s story, tucked up in a cottage in the most beautiful snow-covered glen.”

Fans of the Sisters will be eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Lucinda has just started writing Electra. “She is very different to Tiggy in every way and resembles her name – she is Electric!  Even though she is hugely successful as a model, she is extremely troubled.” The story follows Electra from New York, to Rio and the vast plains of Kenya in Africa.

And although rumours abound that one of the remaining sisters books will be based in Ireland, Lucinda is keeping tight-lipped on the subject. “I can neither confirm or deny …!”

Wherever in the world her books take her, Lucinda says that West Cork is the home she looks forward to returning to. “There is such a sense of community here that’s getting lost elsewhere in the world. I know all my neighbours and they look out for me and the house if I’m away.

“And of course, the scenery is just stunning. I even like it when it rains, which I suppose is a good thing as it rains all the time!,” she says laughing.

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