October 2013


Hilary Boyd trained as a nurse before becoming a health journalist. She has published several non-fiction books on health-related subjects. Her novels include Thursdays in the Park and Tangled Lives. Her latest book, When You Walked Back Into My Life, is published this month. (Interview by Jade Craddock)

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  1. 1. Tell us about your latest novel When You Walked Back Into My Life?

    When You Walked Back into My Life is unashamedly a love story. But I also wanted to explore sexual love versus romantic love. Flora, my heroine, had been sexually in love with Fin, a capricious but charismatic mountaineer, for years. Her relationship with him was thrilling, all she’d ever dreamed of. But when he leaves her in the lurch, then suddenly reappears a few years later, is the sexual connection – still very strong – enough for Flora any more? She’s changed, faced some serious demons in his absence, not least the fact that she’s probably missed the chance to have children now that she’s forty. But has he grown up too?

  2. 2. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?

    I’d worked as a private nurse as part of my chequered career, and that strange, isolated environment of someone being nursed at home seemed like a good place to set a novel.

  3. 3. The novel touches on care (and abuse) of the elderly. Is this a topic that is particularly close to your heart?

    Yes, definitely. A person who is shut up in their home 24/7 with carers who are virtual strangers, and no family members around to monitor them is very vulnerable to the possibility of abuse - even if it’s just minor neglect, such as not giving them enough to drink. Most carers are brilliant and do a difficult job, but you can’t be blind to the possibility.

  4. 4. You were a nurse yourself, is there anything of you in Flora?

    I did nurse an old lady like Dorothea once. She was totally wonderful. But Flora is definitely not me! Flora is much prettier than me, and much more tolerant. But I do draw on my experiences, of course.

  5. 5. What do you hope readers to take from the novel?

    A jolly good read. I’ve failed if the reader isn’t gripped. And I suppose it might make them think about the nature of love.

  6. 6. You didn’t get your first novel published until you were 61, can you tell us about your journey to publication?

    The journey was a pretty depressing one! Twenty years of writing and x-number of rejections. But I was working at other jobs too, so my writing time was limited and I never got a really good run at the books. But I kept on writing because I love the process. I delivered Thursdays in the Park with the usual trepidation, steeling myself for yet another rejection. Then incredibly my agent loved it. And Quercus was the first publisher she showed it to. And they took it. And I was head over heels with joy and amazement.

  7. 7. Do you think being a mature author is an advantage?

    Interesting question. I do think about that. Could I have written a successful book when I was younger? Has my age helped to make this one work? I do feel it’s an advantage, in that I’m hardly going to get swept away believing I’m a genius or anything, which I think can happen if you have success young. And I’ve had a lifetime of experience to draw on. But then I’m sure a younger author thinks being young is an advantage for different reasons. The truth is, you can only do it when you do it. And I think if I’d have written this book ten years ago, it might not have got published at all. It’s the luck of being up with the zeitgeist.

  8. 8. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt on the path to publication?

    If you love writing, NEVER GIVE UP.

  9. 9. What changed the most for you after you were published?

    Being able to give up my day jobs. It’s heaven to be a full-time novelist. My dream. That and more money! It’s only since Easter this year that I’ve been full time, but it’s amazing how I still don’t seem to have enough time. I’ve no idea how I did both now.

  10. 10. What authors have inspired you in your journey to be a writer?

    All of them. I read masses and widely, from detective to literary to women’s fiction and non-fiction. I read all the time. When I was writing Thursdays I had in mind two books. One was Anita Shreve’s Fortune’s Rocks, the other was The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller. They are both wonderfully romantic and I wanted to somehow capture that same atmosphere.

  11. 11. What are you most proud of so far in your career as a writer?

    Having a bestseller. Still can’t believe it. Me and my husband watched it creep up the Amazon charts and thought it might stay up there for a day or two, but it was number one for six weeks!

  12. 12. I read an article that referred to your novels as gran lit - how do you feel about that classification? How would you classify your novels?

    I’m in two minds about ‘Gran-lit’. It was great to have a hook for marketing purposes, so I like it for that and the publicity that followed. But I don’t just write about older people. My books contain all age groups, and When You Walked Back into My Life is mainly about people in their forties. Even Thursdays, which has a heroine of 60, appeals to a much younger audience as well. So perhaps I don’t like it too much!!

  13. 13. This is your third published novel, how have you evolved as a writer?

    I really hope I’m evolving. I think I have. I think I’ve become more aware of how I write and what my strengths and weaknesses are. I think I’m becoming braver about my writing too. I was accused of too much ‘tell’ and not enough ‘show’ before Thursdays. So I put virtually no ‘tell’ at all into the first draft. My editor said she would like a little bit more context… for instance, where the characters were at various times, which wasn’t at all clear until I filled in some of the gaps. But now I am more confident about descriptive passages, even if I do keep them to a minimum. For me it’s always character over plot, so I’m always working to improve the various ways of describing one of my characters.

  14. 14. What one aim do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

    I’d love to buy a house!!!

  15. 15. What one thing can you not live without as an author?

    Solitude. I’m not one of those writers who can shut out the world and hang out in a cafe, or sit surrounded by family while they’re working. I need to be alone and I’m afraid I am a bit mean to my husband, and insist I have certain hours in our small flat without him. I don’t even play music, because I find I’m listening to the music and not the words.

  16. 16. And finally what’s next for you?

    Well, I’m half way through my fourth novel, titled A Most Desirable Marriage. I’ve got to the stage where the characters are sorted in my head, and I’ve just got to keep the tension going, get the rest of the story down. I know what I think will happen, but my books tend to surprise me and have a mind of their own, so we’ll see how it all works out!

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