Lucretia Bingham is the author of the new novel She, a sequel to her novel The Talcott House. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Vanity Fair and Conde Nast Traveler. She lives on the Long Island Sound.
Q: Did you know from the beginning that you'd be writing a sequel to The Talcott House?
A: I did not start off with a plan to write a sequel to The Talcott House. But writing a novel is part delving into the unconscious and part a deliberate manipulation of characters and events.
Somewhere in the middle of the writing process, the characters begin to invade my dreams and waking thoughts, often speaking and behaving in most surprising ways. Sometimes I tamp them down; at other times I bow to their imperative.
Sophie is just such a character. She intrigues and inspires me. I fell in love with her. She clamored to stay alive. At the end of The Talcott House, I needed to continue her story. Thus I wrote She. But Sophie's story is not yet over. So there is sure to be a sequel to She.
Q: What was it like going back to these characters again? Did you get more insights into their personalities?
A: I loved recounting the adventure of She. I knew Ophelia would rise to the challenge. As would Sophie. With them, I went along for the ride.
But Stuart surprised me. I grew to know him better. So did several of his children. I learned more about his motivations and shortcomings; his vulnerability surfaced.
Despite being separated through most of She, I believe Stuart and Ophelia fell even more in love with each other. I love their passion.
Q: Why did you decide to set this novel in Morocco, and how important is setting to you in your fiction?
A: Setting is extremely important to my fiction. I was a travel writer for many years and was known for an ability to evoke a landscape and culture with a few telling details.
As I wandered throughout the world, taking notes, eating food, snapping pictures, some cultures touched me more than others. Morocco is one that lives on in my imagination. It's mysterious, full of beauty and history, colorful, and a bit wild.
And once, in a narrow alley, high up in a mountain village, I saw two young men dragging a younger girl from one house, down the street and into another. As the door slammed behind them, I knew the sight would one day be used in a story of mine. And now that scene has surfaced in She.
Q: You mentioned in our previous Q&A that She was inspired by the writing of H. Rider Haggard, who also wrote a novel titled She. Can you say more about that novel and how it inspired yours?
A: My mother read books out-loud to us when we were children. She, by H Rider Haggard, was one of my favorites. It involved a quest, a difficult journey across a desert, all to find a most mysterious ageless woman, obsessed with living forever, living an isolated life inside a mountain.
Caroline, Stuart's first wife, presumably dead, haunts my novel She. Is she still alive? Or is she evoked time and again in the flesh of others? Is eternal beauty a quest in itself? Does love die if the flesh dies? Or does some love get twisted in the effort to evoke a remembered physical perfection?
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on several novels. A sequel to She is in the beginning stages. I've been sidetracked by a final edit and reworking of a novel called The Four Absolutes, a coming of age story about a girl growing up in a cult. That should be finished in several months.
Setting is once more important. The final section takes place in India, one of my other favorite countries in the world.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I hope my readers know how very much I appreciate them letting me hold their hand while I take them on one wondrous journey after another. Thank you for that trust.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Lucretia Bingham, please click here.