Author Interview: Judy Leigh



Here's what Judy Leigh (author of A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventures) had to say about her hilarious and feel-good novel, Five French Hens, released Dec 2019!

      In a hundred words or less, tell us a little bit about you.
      I'm an idealist, and I love meeting new people. (I already sound like an ad for a lonely heart!) I live in the depths of Somerset currently, but I’ve lived all over the UK from Oxford to Cornwall to Liverpool. I often have wanderlust and leap in the campervan for new experiences. I used to teach theatre before I threw myself into writing. I have two children who have just grown and flown. I love music, theatre, running on the beach, football, yoga, going to the gym. I have three black cats. I ‘m a vegan and a Reiki healer.

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?

When I learned to read at my Mum’s knee when I was three years old. She was my most encouraging critic and I’m sad she’ll never get to read one of my books but, in truth, she’s there in all of them.

Tell us about your genre, and how it is different from other women fiction writers.
I write about older characters, particularly women, some in their seventies and older. It’s what we should all aspire to, being older, feistier and proud of it. I am passionate about the idea that there perhaps aren’t enough positive, funky protagonists for older readers so I love to create strong characters that are mischievous, funny, loveable and flawed. I write about people who may be older but they are certainly living each day well and having fun, with an eye to the future. Getting older should bring new opportunity: each stage of life gives us chance for celebration. Life is about new experiences and my characters are still on a journey of self-discovery. That is liberating, humorous and often bitter-sweet.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
I did until recently when I took off and did a MA in Professional Writing. It was one of those Eureka! Moments: I either had to commit forever to the job that I loved or follow my heart. On this occasion, the heart came up trumps.

What are some things that inspire you to write?
Great question. Nature and travelling – I love finding new settings and inspiration in so many different places. People inspire me: most people I know are inspiring and awesome. I’m prompted by the suggestion from my childhood that an education is a waste of time for a girl! It’s a perfect chance to prove someone wrong. Also I’m inspired by brilliant books and films and the wonderful comments I get from readers, especially older people who love the idea that life is there to be taken by the scruff. One lovely lady in her eighties told me she’d bought a camper van and was off to Amsterdam after reading one of my novels. That’s a real inspiration to me.

What is your typical writing routine like?
Up, breakfast, gym, then write, four days a week. Wake up at two in the morning and work with my busy thoughts – it’s usually a good time to plan the next chapter, character or episode. I finish about eight in the evening. If the weather is good, I give myself permission to take time off and go to the beach. If there’s a deadline, I’ll work extra days. I take time off for others’ needs. For me, self-discipline and flexibility go hand-in-hand.

Does your book (books) carry a message?
Definitely. Life is for living. You’re never too old to change, love, travel or do whatever your heart desires. Hope, love, laugh.

Has your writing incorporated certain aspects of your own life or others?
My mum is in all my books. She voices the Irish characters often and hers are usually the words of wisdom. She was a strong influence in the character of Evie Gallagher in A Grand Old Time. My dad, who I love to bits, voices all the grumpy characters. There’s often a strong sense of independence and the need to travel, which comes from me. I try to let my stories write themselves, though, and not use them as a platform for my own life. I try very hard to put readers first.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I’ll try not to go on and on, but I’ll read anything. My favourite book is probably Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. Bitter-sweet, hilarious and heartbreaking . Roddy Doyle is great, as is Kamila Shamsie, Sarah Winman, Jeanette Winterson, Louise Doughty. I love Zola, Solzhenitsyn, Camus, Martin Amis, and the Bront√ęs. I’ll have missed some really important writers out. I love reading.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My partner, Big G, who reads everything I write chapter by chapter and picks out anything that isn’t scientifically accurate. My son, Liam, who is such a great intellect and my brilliant daughter, Cait, who can spot any mistake at a hundred yards. She’d be a great editor.

Any advice you’d like to give to your younger self?
Don’t care too much about what others think - just care what the important people think and care about what you think. Be nice to everybody. (I was a bit of a tearaway at Primary School…)

Any advice you’d like to give for aspiring writers at this stage in life?
Writing is the best job in the world and I have the best fun doing it. Ask yourself really if it is for you. I’d love to run a marathon but I don’t have the time, the focus or the dedication. The same is true of writing. If your answer is still yes, if you’re up for it, write that novel. There is no reason on earth why you shouldn’t.

Get in Touch with Judy here!
judyrleigh@gmail.com
judyrleigh.com (Blog) 

07874719572
Bazeley Farmhouse
Greenham
Wellington
TA210JS

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