Tracy Chevalier on making hits out of history

Novelist Tracy Chevalier has made a successful career out of reimagining the past. She discusses her inspiration and her craft with Talking Books’ Gavin Esler.

Tracy Chevalier is a best-selling historical novelist. She has written seven books, the most famous of which, Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), has sold 4 million copies worldwide and was adapted into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

She discusses the unprecedented success of the novel with Gavin Esler, and about how strong female characters who are at odds with society are the predominant theme of her novels.

Chevalier’s latest work, The Last Runaway (2013), is about an English girl who emigrates to the US and helps slaves escape to safety in the North.

Esler asks Chevalier why, as an American who has lived in the UK for nearly thirty years, The Last Runaway is the first novel she has set in her home country – and how she tackled the difficult topic of race in America.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.