Susanna Kearsley – Loving Love at First Sight

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The Joy of the Thunderbolt: Love at First Sight

It seems to be one of those things people find unbelievable: Love at first sight.

I can write about psychics and reincarnation and ghosts and my readers will generally Desperate Fortunegive it a pass and suspend disbelief for the sake of the story, but any time I have two characters look at each other and know  ̶  simply KNOW, beyond any conceivable doubt, that their world has just changed, I know some of my readers (and maybe a lot of them) will roll their eyes and sigh heavily and call it “unrealistic”.

Now, I never argue with readers. It’s their book, too, and it’s their right to sigh heavily all that they want to. Each reader brings to the book their own experience, their own beliefs, so if they don’t think thunderbolts happen, I can’t change their mind.

But I still hope that, once in their own lives, it happens to them, because it’s pretty wonderful.

In Italy they know it as the “colpo di fulmine”, and in France it’s called the “coupe de foudre”  ̶  quite literally “the lightning-strike”  ̶  because it’s just that rare, that unexpected, and that powerful.

It’s been around at least since Isaac and Rebekah, in the Book of Genesis, first lifted up their eyes and saw each other in that field at eventide, and it’s been a central trope of storytelling ever since.

Even Louis L’Amour’s tough-guy heroes aren’t immune to it, as clearly shown in this named of the dragonmoment when the hero of his book Westward the Tide first sees the heroine step down from a stagecoach:

“He was lifting a match to the freshly rolled cigarette when he saw her, and he looked past the flame into her eyes and something seemed to hit him in the stomach…Something had happened. The thought disturbed and irritated him. He had known many women, but none until now that he knew he had to have. Always before he could mount and ride away, and while he would often remember, he would never feel the urge to go back. Now, he knew that was over. This time he would not ride on.”

Unrealistic?

To some, I suppose. But I’d humbly suggest that the reason something gets to be a central trope of storytelling in the first place isn’t because it idealizes real life, but because it reflects it. Because we relate to it. That’s why the trope survives.

Let me illustrate:

I can still point out the high school stairs my first boyfriend was walking down, as the friend standing beside me was saying, “Hey, let me introduce you to…” And I just knew.

I can point to the place in another friend’s kitchen where, in my late twenties, I casually turned round to greet a guy I hadn’t seen for a few years. And at the moment he walked through that door, something hit me so hard and from out of the blue there’s no way to describe it EXCEPT as a thunderbolt. (Reader, I married him).

So when my characters look at each other and realize their world has just changed, roll your eyes if you must, I won’t mind. And I won’t argue, either, if you say it’s “unrealistic”.

I’ll just say that sometimes, as writers, we write what we know.

Susanna Recommends:

I’m going to go off-course here and give in to my Museum Curator side, and instead of recommending new writers I’m going to recommend a couple of older writers whose books are hard to find, which puts them in danger of being forgotten, and that would be a shame because they’re both amazing.

Lucilla Andrews (Read her Wikipedia article here) wrote medical romances drawn from her own experiences as a nurse in wartime and post-war Britain. My favorite of her books is The First Year, but they’re all good.

And anyone who knows me knows my love of Jan Cox Speas ( jancoxspeas.com ), whose Bride of the MacHugh and My Lord Monleigh set the bar for all Scottish-set romances to follow. Keeping the voices of those who’ve come before us in our genre alive is as important, in my view, as encouraging and amplifying the voices of those who are just emerging, so keep an eye out in used book stores and libraries for these older romances. (It looks like she has an ebook of My Love, My Enemy for $1.99 ~ Bobbi)

Questions for the Author:

Tell us about a moment in your life when you experienced sheer joy. 

Well, my favorite author is, and always has been, Mary Stewart. So naturally when I went to Greece several years ago with my mother (who is responsible for passing on her Mary Stewart love to me), we had to make a stop in Delphi, to explore the spots where Mary Stewart set scenes in her book My Brother Michael. We took turns standing at the center of the ancient theatre in the ruined Temple of Apollo (Stewart fans will understand that one), and wandered round the winding streets, and lunched beneath the same tree where the hero and the heroine had shared a meal. And while I sat there, drinking wine and looking out across the gorgeous valley, it occurred to me that Mary Stewart must have sat in that exact same spot, to get the details she’d have needed to create that scene. That little realization, and the way it made me feel connected to my favorite author, knowing we had shared this view across the years dividing us, just filled me with a sense of joy and awe and wonder. It still does.

Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

I spent weeks doing research for one of my early novels, The Splendour Falls, in the SPLENDOURmedieval town of Chinon, in the Loire Valley of France. Every day I spent in Chinon brought me joy, and one of the most beautiful, romantic moments of my whole life happened there. So both the place and all the memories that I carry of it hold a special place within my heart.

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

Waves on sand. I’ve spent a lot of my life at the edge of an ocean or one of the Great Lakes. The sound of waves coming to shore is a sound that can instantly center and calm me, and one that I miss when I’m too far away from it.

What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

OK, this will probably sound crazy to anyone who’s not a writer, but one of the things that I gradually lost when I made the transition from being a reader to being a writer wasbitten-kelley-armstrong-paperback12-med1 the ability to completely lose myself in a story. The more I learn of my craft, the more I’m able to see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. When I read, I tend to read as a writer, so if I come across a line that makes me shiver, my first response is usually to flip back in the pages to see what technique the author used to DO that. Which doesn’t mean I no longer enjoy books, only that I read them differently.

So when I picked up Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, several years ago, and settled in to read a chapter before bedtime, I was unprepared. I couldn’t put it down. At every chapter ending I just told myself, “OK, one more…” And when I’d finally finished it was after sunrise, time to wake the children up for school. It had been YEARS since I had read like that, been caught up in a story so completely I lost track of time and place. So even though I spent the next day sleep-deprived and bleary-eyed, it brought me so much joy to know that I could still find books that let me feel like that again, that let me simply be a reader.

And for fun, the joy of choice ~

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer (circ. 1964 aka Capt. Von Trapp?) – trying for a little diversity! ;o)

I’m going to be an outsider here, too, because although I’m fond of all of the above, my very favorite Chris of all remains Chris Cooper, who stole my heart ten years ago with his role in the movie Lone Star.

Susanna is generously giving away four signed copies of her latest book, A Desperate Fortune, two to US readers and two to international readers. To enter leave a comment on this post, on the RARM Facebook post or both (you can find that here) before  Sept. 7 11:59 pm CST. International readers, include your country in the comment.

Buy Susanna’s books:

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  • mariannewestrich

    I love getting lost in a book, like you did with Bitten. It truly is a Joyous experience!

    • susannakearsley

      It used to happen all the time in my childhood and youth, so I really missed it when it stopped happening. Bitten gave it back to me, and now Tessa Dare and Nalini Singh and many others in our genre give me that joy regularly, along with re-reads of my older favs like Mary Stewart. 🙂

  • Kareni

    Thanks for a very enjoyable post. I may need to re-read a Mary Stewart book now; I read and enjoyed many of her books back in the (cough, cough) 1970s. Wishing you much joy in writing and in reading as well as an abundance of waves on sand.

    • susannakearsley

      Thanks! And I discovered Mary Stewart in the 70s, too, so don’t feel bad 🙂

  • Zoya

    Chris Cooper is absolutely the best Chris!

    • susannakearsley

      He’s a wonderful actor. And he really was adorable in Lone Star.

  • Karen Mikusak

    Love your books!

    • susannakearsley

      Thank you very much.

  • Marissa Yip-Young

    I’ve always wanted to visit France~

    • susannakearsley

      I love France, and the French, so I hope you get to go there one day. Paris is pretty, but Chinon is absolute magic.

  • sj1384

    Susanna is, by a long shot, my very favorite author. I have every book in three styles (paperback, Kindle and Nook) and wait anxiously for the next one. I think love at first sight happens in real life, though not nearly as often as in novels. =D It’s still just as powerful. Thanks for sharing! I always love your recommendations and have bought several just from your posts on them. When you trust the writer…you really trust the writer as a reader.

    • susannakearsley

      Thanks, that’s really sweet of you. I have a policy of only recommending things that I not only love myself, but think my readers might enjoy as well. I’m glad you find me trustworthy 🙂

      • sj1384

        I do, and hope that my occasional Twitter stalking doesn’t drive you mad. LOL I have to comment when I find a book brilliant. I just do. Hope you’re mending quickly btw!!

  • Deana Dick

    I enjoyed getting to know you better. I loved how you described about getting lost in a book. We all find ourselves doing that when we have such a great story that we need to finish it. Your books are like that.

    • susannakearsley

      I love the feeling of sinking right into a story so I lose all track of time and dinner burns (or never gets made at all). If my books give you even a part of that feeling, I’m honored.

  • Anne Williams

    That’s a great post – Susanna’s one of my favourite authors, and we don’t read enough about her in the UK (where I am). And I’m thrilled to read that she loves Mary Stewart too…

    • susannakearsley

      I think there are a lot of us who grew up wanting to be Mary Stewart heroines 🙂 I know I did. And thanks for the UK nod! I still get over when I can.

    • Hi Anne! You’re one of the SK international winners! :o)

      Either reply ot this or send me your email address to bobbiwrites@att.net and I’ll have Susanna send it out asap. (Sorry for the delay, it’s been a crazy month…) xo

  • Susan Craig

    I am willing to believe in love at first sight – I have seen it happen.

    • susannakearsley

      It’s a wonderful thing, when it happens. There’s simply no way to describe it.

    • Hi Susan! You’ve won one of the SK prizes. Either reply ot this or send me your email address to bobbiwrites@att.net and I’ll have Susanna send it out asap. (Sorry for the delay, it’s been a crazy month…) xo

  • Texas Book Lover

    I love that feeling of getting lost in a book!

    • susannakearsley

      Me, too. It’s one of the best feelings ever.

  • susannakearsley

    It’s happened to me, so I KNOW it exists, but I understand why some people who’ve never felt it would be skeptical.

  • LSUReader

    What a great story of when you read Armstrong’s Bitten! I enjoyed your post. Thanks for visiting.

    • susannakearsley

      I love that book. Though my absolute favourite of Kelley’s books is Dime Store Magic (with Industrial Magic a close second). Lucas and Paige are my catnip 🙂

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. To visit the places you’ve been, I know research, but still my wanderlust dreams of travels like that. I’m not one of those readers who would roll their eyes because I had that same reaction when I met my husband.

    • susannakearsley

      I remember asking my mom how you know when you’ve met the person you should marry, and she told me, “You just KNOW”. Which wasn’t really helpful at the time, but having experienced the thunderbolt myself with my own husband, I now give that same advice to others 🙂

  • susannakearsley

    Thanks to everyone taking time out of your day to comment. I just have to run out for a couple of hours to take the kids to an appointment, but will be back after supper to catch up on the conversation…

  • Jerry Marlatt Pierson

    I love to get lost in a good book. My husband says he will call me to call me a few time before I will answer him. Thank you for your giveaway and a chance to win.

    • susannakearsley

      One of my nephews gets so lost in books that you have to literally hit him with something if you need to bring him back into the present. And I think that’s truly awesome.

  • Bube

    Ah,the feeling of getting lost in a book,one of the best 🙂
    Thank you for the wonderful post 🙂

    • susannakearsley

      It’s one of my favourite feelings. Glad you liked the post.

  • Debbie Fuller

    Great post! I love searching book stores for old books, so I’ve just added a few to my find list. Thank you for posting and sharing.

    • susannakearsley

      I love used book stores. I can spend a lot of happy hours hunting down old favourite authors and discovering new ones.

  • So, so excited to read an author mentioning Lucilla Andrews, I adored her books when I was younger, read every one I could get my hands on. I can’t remember any one in particular but loved them. Last year to begin my year of reading I read her memoir No Time For Romance. She certainly saw the tough side of life in the war.
    (New Zealand)

    • susannakearsley

      I’m equally excited to hear from someone who knows who Lucilla Andrews is! I nearly became a nurse because of her novels. The First Year was my first by her, which is probably why it’s my favourite.

  • Connie Saunders

    I became a Mary Stewart fan in middle school and I was able to get
    many of her books through membership in the Doubleday Book Club. Don’t know which one I loved the most but My Brother Michael ranks as one of my favorites!

    • susannakearsley

      My mother was actually reading “This Rough Magic” while she was pregnant with me, so we often say that’s probably when my love of Mary Stewart’s books began. (And why I still have such a crush on Max 🙂

  • Emily R.

    One of my long-time dreams is to travel to all of the places where Mary Stewart set her books. I love knowing that one of my favorite authors is also a fan of another favorite!

    • susannakearsley

      I can heartily recommend Delphi. It was just as she described it. Right down to the little lights strung in the tree outside the hotel 🙂

  • Donna D

    I LOVE your books, Susanna! I have read all but 2 of them. Yes, I agree that there is such a thing as love at first sight. The night my father met my mother he woke his parents up and told them he met the girl he was going to marry. They were married for 62 years until his death.

    • susannakearsley

      That’s so lovely! Men are often so much more romantic than we give them credit for, aren’t they?

  • Sue G.

    Isn’t fun the little romantic things we remember! Love how you knew with your husband.

    • susannakearsley

      I’m lucky to have several really beautiful romantic memories. They seem to be the ones that last, when everything else starts to fade and get blurry.

  • Heather Lane

    I too love your books!! I also believe in love at first sight. Strangely enough I didn’t feel it with my husband but with two pets I have/had. One was with a horse I purchased many years ago. I had gone out that day with my trainer and best friend. I had easily seen over 10 horses that day when my trainer brought me to his barn. In the aisle was this horse and I just took one look at him and just knew he was the one. First time that had ever happen to me. Fast forward 15 years and I was out at some local shelters looking for another dog to replace my most dearly loved dog who had died several months earlier. After looking through this one shelter, we came to the last room and there she was! I again knew it the moment I looked at her that she was the one!! Its like something just clicked in my brain and I knew it when I had seen both of these animals. A true believer in a weird way.

    • susannakearsley

      Not weird at all 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • marypreston

    Love at first sight is powerful indeed.

    AUSTRALIA

    • susannakearsley

      I think it is. And the relationship that comes from it, whether it lasts or it doesn’t, always seems to be a pivotal one.

  • Christyna

    Thunderbolt is accurate and true! It’s too bad that some people just don’t experience it and so therefore make a blanket claim that it doesn’t exist. Bah!

    • susannakearsley

      I think a lot of people confuse it with instant attraction and/or infatuation, which is how the scientists always try to analyze it. But in my experience it’s more a knowing than an attraction. Like getting hit with a bucket of bricks 🙂

  • T. Rosado

    I, occasionally, love a little time travel with my romance and you write the best ones.

    • susannakearsley

      Aw, thank you for that. I’m glad you like the books.

  • Aye Lopez

    Thanks for the chance! 🙂 You are a new author to me, looking forward to read your books 🙂

    • susannakearsley

      Good luck with your entry!

  • Pamby50

    New author. I have also put the books your recommended by your name. It is fun finding new authors.

    • susannakearsley

      I hope you manage to find a couple of them. And finding new authors to read IS fun, isn’t it? I love discovering new storytelling voices to enjoy.

  • May

    I love all the Chris! 🙂 (Canada)

    • susannakearsley

      I do, too, to be honest. But they only let me choose one 🙂

  • Emmel

    Lone Star is an underrated and thought-provoking movie. Thanks for reminding me of it!

    • susannakearsley

      I love that movie. The people are so real and complex, and the story is wonderfully twisty. And Chris Cooper just looks so badly in need of a hug.

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I love the “moment.” That is what draws me into stories over and over again. I feel sorry for the eye rollers and disbelievers because they’re basically closing themselves off to one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer. Just downloaded one of your books and looking forward to checking it out. I love Kelley Armstrong too 🙂 Thanks for your post today!!!

    • susannakearsley

      Kelley is terrific, isn’t she? I love her Women of the Otherworld. And I, too, feel a little sorry for the disbelievers, because I can’t imagine having gone through life without those moments.

  • Rose K

    LOVE that your recommendations are for older authors to be explored. I’m particularly intrigued by Lucilla Andrews. Officially added to my TBR list!

    • susannakearsley

      Lucilla Andrews was brilliant. And Jan Cox Speas was honestly beyond compare. I hope you manage to hunt down their books for a read.

      • Rose K

        Thankfully, due to the magic that is inter-library loan, I have managed to track down Lucilla Andrews. Unfortunately, Jan Cox Speas is proving more difficult to find. I’m hoping I can find a used copy somewhere!

  • Patty Vasquez

    My mom told me that when she first met my dad she she knew he was the one after the very first time they talked; which was for hours! And my daughter was 13 years old at overnight camp for the first time. She was scared and lonely. However, as she got to know the counselors and other campers, she started to relax. One day she told a new friend she was going to marry the lifeguard. Fast forward 9 years. My daughter and the lifeguard reconnected at a fundraiser and they are dating seriously. My grandparents have the best love story and we have their love letters to prove it. (It’s a long one and I won’t tell it here. It would make a great novel, though!) So, I believe you’re correct. Our romance tropes do reflect our life stories and they’re wonderful.

    • susannakearsley

      It sounds like there’s a lot of love in your family! My fingers are firmly crossed for your daughter and her lifeguard 🙂

  • Glenda

    I’m another example of that instant attraction. I met my husband when I was on a temporary job assignment…. 24 years later the job is long gone but the relationship is going strong. 😉

    • susannakearsley

      Glad to hear it. I think it happens more frequently than the naysayers believe.

  • Lisa Hutson

    I love love love stories like that. When a wonderful writer can write that moment. I love when they know they must be together and have to figure a way to make it happen. And certain writers can write that. Eloisa James is one I can think of off the top of my head. Its a fabulous thing to read!

    • susannakearsley

      I love stories like that, too. And Eloisa’s books are wonderful examples.

  • Dawn Anderson

    I’ve never experienced love at first sight, but I’ve always believed in it, so I love those moments in books.

    • susannakearsley

      I’m glad you’re a believer. Thanks for commenting.

  • Such a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing. (Italy) Ah, il colpo di fulmine…

    • susannakearsley

      🙂 I figure if Italians have a phrase for it, it must exist!

  • Amy C

    I have always enjoyed reading Susanna’s books. She is a great writer and always leaves me wanting to read the next book. My hubby and I met and felt that spark of love at first sight. We have been married for over 16 years now and still going strong. Thanks for sharing with us!!

    • susannakearsley

      Lovely to hear that’s how you and your husband connected. And thanks for your kind words about my books.

    • Hi Amy! You’ve won one of the SK prizes. Either reply to this or send me your email address to bobbiwrites@att.net and I’ll have Susanna send it out asap. (Sorry for the delay, it’s been a crazy month…) xo

  • Kim V

    Susanna’s books sound amazing. I can’t believe I’ve never read one.

    • susannakearsley

      If it makes you feel better, there are people in my own family who have never read one, either 🙂 Nice to meet you here.

  • Amy Livesay Hart

    Thanks for participating!

    • susannakearsley

      You’re very welcome. I always love getting a chance to chat with my readers.

  • susannakearsley

    That’s so kind of you to say. Both those books are very special to me. I’m happy to hear they connected with you, too.

  • Tanya Guthrie

    Sadly I’m new to your work, I have seen them around and admired the covers!

    • susannakearsley

      Sourcebooks gives me (and their other authors, too) some amazingly beautiful covers. I love them.

  • Carol Luciano

    Susanna, I love your books. Whenever I’m reading one of your stories I experienc the “one more chapter”. Thanks for the giveaway chance.

    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    • susannakearsley

      Best of luck, Carol!

  • catslady

    I’ve enjoyed many of your books and I’m sure this is another great read -thanks!

    • susannakearsley

      Hope it lives up to your expectations 🙂

  • Janet Ghilarducci

    Susanna- I love your books! I have listened to many of them through audible. i remember hiking in my favorite woods and listening to “The Winter Sea” and sobbing over a heart wrenching part, then later sobbing for joy at the turnaround. That story moved me more than most. Thank you. I am also delighted to share the love of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld. I found her through Charlaine Harris’ book and blog and have read several of her series, she’s great! I have never read Mary Stewart and will definitely start as well as look for the other authors you’ve recommended. Thanks again for your wonderful, beautifully written, emotionally rich and satisfying stories.

    • susannakearsley

      Rosalyn Landor did such a brilliant job with the performance of The Winter Sea in audio, didn’t she? And yes, Kelley’s books are all keepers, for me.

  • Karin

    I’m a fan of Chris Cooper too-I think I first saw him in Matewan. John Sayles directed that as well as Lone Star.

    • susannakearsley

      That’s also a great film. John Sayles’ movies should be better known and appreciated, but I think they’re not quite “Hollywood” enough. They’re very layered and complex.

  • Carin Shaughnessy

    Ahhh, Mary Stewart. I read every book I could while in high school. The best at suspense and romance. Good memories.

    • susannakearsley

      No one, but no one, can top Mary Stewart, in my view. 🙂

  • kirsten west

    Enjoyed your interview! I haven’t read Mary Stewart, but I’m going to give her a try. Thanks.

  • Mary McCoy

    Loved your interview, I started reading romance in part due to picking up a copy of Nine Coaches Waiting back in the 1960s. As far as the lightening strike, hubby of almost 30 years started proposing to me 2 weeks after we met (he said he would have right away, but didn’t want to freak me out).

  • Hi Cass! You’re one of the international winners of the SK prizes. Either reply to this or send me your email address to bobbiwrites@att.net and I’ll have Susanna send it out asap. (Sorry for the delay, it’s been a crazy month…) xo