Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Rebecca Kightlinger, Author of The Lady of the Cliffs, Book Two of The Bury Down Chronicles

23 December 2020

Special Guest Interview with Rebecca Kightlinger, Author of The Lady of the Cliffs, Book Two of The Bury Down Chronicles

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Cornwall, 1285 CE: Now nearly seventeen, Megge and Brighida must endure another brutal loss. And as they perform the rites of transition that precede a burial, Megge accepts a daunting new charge that carries consequences not even her cousin the seer can predict. It brings visions. Dreams. And voices that come to her 
as she goes about her work.

I'm pleased to welcome author Rebecca Kightlinger to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

The Lady of the Cliffs, Book Two of the Bury Down Chronicles series, picks up where Megge of Bury Down left off. Taking the reader from the warmth of Megge’s cottage into a dimly lit copse and the aftermath of a brutal murder, The Lady of the Cliffs is faster paced than Megge, which was intentionally crafted as a slow-build tale that would immerse readers in the storyworld and lay down the basis of the life-sustaining power which the women of Bury Down wield throughout what will be a long series.

In Book One, Megge was charged with accepting this ancient—and frightening—power as her birthright. In Book Two, when a murder, an orphan, and an old woman’s tales draw Megge to Cornwall’s cliffs, she discovers that her birthright is far different—and even more daunting—than she had feared.

What is your preferred writing routine? 

When I’m writing the first draft, I clear the decks, sit down at an old kitchen table set up in my living room, and just close my eyes until a scene starts. I watch and listen, writing what I see and hear as clearly as possible. I write until the scene is complete, then I make a note of where the story has to pick up next time and call it a day. Sometimes the scenes are quite long, other times only a few pages. I do this almost every day until I think the story is done. (It is never done at this point.)

The editing routine is much different because when you write this way, letting the story take you where it will, you go down a lot of side streets that are interesting and that tell you a lot about the characters, but that lead nowhere and have to go. So editing days entail long hours squinting at scenes spread out all over the dining room table, hung on chairs, and organized in big notebooks. There’s a lot of sifting and tossing until the real story comes to light.

Then comes the revising routine: months of rewriting, shaping, researching, and ditching until a “final” draft is ready for my skilled and patient editor, Vinnie Kinsella.

During the editing months, Vinnie analyzes the draft, sends me his questions and comments, and I start on the long, concentrated days of rewriting, because no “final draft” sent to an editor is ever the final one! (And that’s a very good thing!)

What advice do you have for new writers?

Find and hire a skilled, professional editor. By professional I mean someone with training, certification, and experience in developmental and line editing, who does this work exclusively for a living. Find someone who understands what you are trying to write, communicates clearly and professionally (kindly is a bonus), and is geared toward improving your manuscript without rewriting it him/herself.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Word of mouth is everything, whether from a reviewer, a librarian, or someone who has picked up the book online, at the bookstore, or at the neighborhood Little Free Library. Nothing is more powerful than an enthusiastic “You gotta read this!”

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Setting is crucial in this series, so I learn everything I can about the location and its history, then I travel to Cornwall to make sure the places that I have “seen” in my imagination could possibly have existed there. The most unexpected thing I have discovered is that the two sites where the mystical events occur—Bury Down in Book One and The Sorrows Cove and the unnamed seaside hill in Book Two—actually exist.
Bury Down, I discovered, is the site of a Neolithic hill fort and still retains the stone ruins beneath wild grass and windblown thorn trees. [History of Bury Down, written by its caretakers]

Daymer Bay (“The Sorrows Cove” in the book) also exists. It is located on the North Coast, and alongside it is Brea Hill, a cliffside hill topped by the stones of several ancient burial cairns. At the foot of the cliff is a sea cave much like the goddess cave. At the mouth of the cove is a treacherous sandbar called “Doom Bar,” said to have been cursed by a lovesick mermaid.

Both sites, which I had never seen before my visits to Cornwall, were exactly as I had imagined while writing the stories. And the ancient stone structures on each provided the unexpected touch of mysticism I had felt as I wrote the stories.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

From a craft standpoint, it was the torture of Megge’s mother and aunt in Book One. The story is written in the first person from Megge’s point of view, and Megge was not present after the women were arrested by the Blackfriar abbot, so I had to find a way to bring those scenes to life for the reader.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on Book Three of the series, in which Megge embarks on the work she was born to do, armed now with the wisdom and power she acquired on the cliffs of Cornwall. Her family and all her companions, old and new, will play a big part in Book Three, so we will get to know them better. *Warning: I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Tinker Penneck.

Rebecca Kightlinger
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About the Author

In her twenty years of medical practice as an obstetrician gynecologist, Rebecca was privileged to care for the women of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Guyana, South America. She now holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Program and studies ancient medicine, medieval midwifery and surgery, and the manuscripts and arts of the mystical healer.A full time writer and literary critic, the award-winning author of the Bury Down Chronicles studies the history of Cornwall and travels to Cornwall to carry out on-site research for each book of the series. She and her husband and their pets live in Pennsylvania. Find out more at Rebecca's website and follow her on Twitter @RS_Kightlinger

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