News article from 2000

Pilcher's Day in the Sun

Originally found at    Autumn 2000
An interview with Rosamunde Pilcher

Rosamunde Pilcher has finally given her adoring, fiercely loyal--and growing--army of fans what they have been begging her for since her last, bestselling novel, Coming Home, was published five years ago. Having announced she would be writing no more, Mrs Pilcher has relented. In return, and almost before the ink has dried, her fans have helped to place Winter Solstice firmly, and defiantly, at the top of the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic. Rosamunde Pilcher talks to Carey Green for Was it a surprise when Winter Solstice, your fourth major saga, shot straight to the top of The Times and The New York Times bestseller fiction lists?

Rosamund Pilcher: Well, perhaps not exactly a surprise, more of a relief I'd say! I've never had that much confidence in anything I've ever written. I still think, maybe this time it's going to fall flat on its face. The Shell Seekers was my first bestseller and I was as surprised as anyone by its enormous success. How autobiographical was The Shell Seekers?

Pilcher: It wasn't really autobiographical but it was all about things I had known and done and it encompassed the bohemian life I have always loved. I was brought up near St Ives and all my friends' parents were creative people in some way or other--potters, painters, writers, sculptors--and we absorbed this extraordinary atmosphere of creativity. It was the first time I had gone back in time and not written a contemporary novel, and it was lovely to go back and write about the way things were as I remembered. Do you think that writing about events and places and people you have known is the key to your success?

Pilcher: Yes, as it is for any writer. That is why I could never write a historical novel or a science fiction or a children's book--I just haven't got that kind of imagination. I could never tell my children stories either--I always had to read them out of a book. I love children dearly and relate to them well--I love their minds and the things they say--but I could never write a children's book! I just stick to what I feel I can do properly. Are there things about success that are difficult to live with? Like interviews?

Pilcher: No, no, basically people are very nice. At home in Scotland people are generally reserved so that one is usually left alone. In places like Vienna and Berlin, though, people come up to me with autograph books all the time. It can be a little overwhelming. And I did a three-week tour in America for September which was absolutely amazing. I went to Atlanta and never saw so many blue-rinsed ladies screaming and waving at me. They gave me recipes and asked my advice on gardening as if I were the girl in the book. She was incredibly domesticated and competent which I am not at all! I mean, I'm OK, I get by, but I'm not brilliant at that sort of thing. I felt like an agony aunt. But it was all rather nice really. I did a two-week tour in Germany, also for September, and I remember getting on the plane to come home and I was absolutely drained. I don't actually get tired, but I remember wanting to curl up in a corner. Both The Shell Seekers and Coming Home have been filmed. How does it feel to see your characters come to life on screen?

Pilcher: Sometimes it's great and sometimes it's rather difficult. Joanna Lumley in Coming Home was so perfect and so 1930s, so exactly right. But if you get someone who isn't right the whole thing can collapse. I don't really get involved in the adaptations--that's not my job. But they do send me the treatments and I get to read the scripts and they talk to me about who they're casting. I'm already talking to a company about filming Winter Solstice and have my eye on a particular actress I think would be perfect for Elfrida! How long does it take you to write a book and do you have a writing routine?

Pilcher: I took two years with The Shell Seekers, a year to write September and three years for Coming Home because there was so much research. When I'm writing I try to get going about 10 am and then stop to make my husband lunch which, in a way, is a good thing because it can be easy to lose sight of what life is all about when you're writing. In the afternoon I go for a long walk by myself with the dogs. That is part of the writing process for me--I have long conversations with my characters--chat, chat chat! Then I come back and write again until around 7 pm. I try never to let a day pass without doing a little bit of work. It is a slow, continuous process. Does writing come easy to you?

Pilcher: Yes, once I start. Once I have my characters sorted out. I get them very strongly in my head so that by the time I start to write a book I know all about them and what they look like. Once I have worked out the plot on paper, it is a mechanical thing. I rewrite as I go; sometimes I will rewrite a page four times until it is absolutely right. No-one ever reads anything I write until a book is finished--except my American publisher, and I feed him chunks and talk to him on the telephone as I go. I don't even let my husband or children or best friends see it until it's published. You must put enormous trust and faith in your American publisher?

Pilcher: Yes, I do, He's a fantastic editor. We've worked together for 20 years now and he's truthful and his criticisms are always very constructive. We understand each other. We have arguments. He's a sounding board--everyone needs one sounding board and a professional is much the best kind. You said you weren't going to write any more after Coming Home, what changed your mind?

Pilcher: I was terribly exhausted after six years of solid writing, not including the publicity, and I had honoured all my contracts so I said I wasn't going to do any more. We also moved from our old family home into a smaller one and my husband and I traveled a lot. Then my American publisher, Tom, rang up and said, oh come on, let's do another one, a little thin book about Christmas. I said I don't really like writing about Christmas. So eventually I got these five people in my head and I thought I'd write about a Christmas that wasn't really a Christmas. And I managed to end it on Christmas Eve so I didn't have to write about Christmas at all, which is usually a miserable anti-climax anyway.