Best-selling author Veronica Henry
Veronica Henry’s latest novel is the story of that perfect Cotswold house that no-one would ever want to sell - until they have to
You know that beautiful old Cotswold stone house you often pass and always fantasise about living in? Well, this is its story – or, at least, the story of a house like it. Hunter’s Moon is a glorious honey-stone house, set in the fictional Peasebrook Valley. When the Willoughby family – for whom it has been home for more than 50 years – are forced to sell, decades of secrets spill out.
The novel is the latest from bestselling author Veronica Henry, who often finds inspiration in the beauty of the Cotswolds. “I always find it hard to believe that real people actually live there!” she says.
Veronica, tell us about your latest book…
It’s called The Forever House – a beautiful Cotswold house called Hunter’s Moon in the fictional Peasebrook valley. The Willoughby family have lived there for over 50 years, but they are having to put it on the market, which will break their hearts. The story is split between the 60s, when the highlystrung authoress Margot first bought the house, and the present day, when estate agent Belinda Baxter has to find a new owner. There are love stories at the heart of each strand, but it’s a book about the importance of family and home, as much as romance.
Who would enjoy your books?
Anyone who loves a page-turning, feel-good, slightly escapist read – there are moments of real gut-wrenching emotion, but also lots of fun, as the Willoughby family are far from dull. I want to make my readers feel as if they are really there, at Hunter’s Moon, with all my characters. We all need an escape from reality: sometimes I get letters from people who’ve been through a really tough time – chemo, say, or bereavement – and they tell me my books have helped them get through. That means the world to me and inspires me to keep writing.
To what extent did the Cotswolds influence your writing?
The Cotswolds are unbelievably beautiful. When I lived in the Midlands, I would head as often as I could to the Cotswolds for a picnic, or Sunday lunch in a pub, or a wander around Chipping Campden or Broadway. Then one day I visited the little brewery at Donnington and thought what a wonderful setting it would make for a novel. As a family business, it was the Cotswolds’ answer to Ewing Oil! The Liddiard family came to life,
and my first three novels follow their escapades in the village of Honeycote.
Where and how do you write?
I write a book a year, so have to be fairly disciplined. I write at the dining table, overlooking a view of the sea – I’m very lucky to live on the North Devon Coast. When I get stuck, I take the dog for a walk on the beach; and, very often, I’ve sorted out my plot problem by the time I get back. I try to write between one and two thousand words a day. But some days inspiration doesn’t strike at all. You have to be patient with yourself. Writing is quite solitary so I try to get things in the diary – I’m a single mum so it’s important to make an effort to have a social life. And mixing with people always provides material. Exploring new places, going to art galleries, poking about in antique shops – all these are a source of inspiration. Sometimes, just a scrap of material or a painting or an overheard conversation will give me an idea.
Which authors have influenced you?
I love pastoral novels about the English countryside – The Darling Buds of May, Cold Comfort Farm, Cider with Rosie. I’m also intrigued by the depth and scope of Daphne du Maurier – her characters and plotting are so ingenious, so memorable, so atmospheric. And, of course, Jilly Cooper – she writes with such verve and passion and humour. She is my literary heroine.
Tell us more about your background?
I started my career as a secretary on The Archers! It made me realise how much people rely on fiction to give them an escape from the real world – that 15 minutes while you make the spaghetti Bolognese is so important for your wellbeing. I learned so much about the importance of vivid characters from working on the programme, as well as how to keep people hooked into a story. From there, I went on to be a script editor; and, when I was expecting my first child, I jumped over the fence and became a script writer. I
wrote for lots of our best loved dramas, including Heartbeat and Holby City. But deep down I always wanted to write books – and my dream came true when I got my first book deal with Penguin, with Honeycote.
If you could be any character from one of your books, who would you be and why?
I love Lucy Liddiard, who has the best kitchen in the world at Honeycote House – huge and slightly chaotic, filled with laughter and dogs and wine glasses. She’s a fabulous cook and a great hostess and a brilliant mother. Imagine Jilly Cooper mixed with Nigella Lawson. She’s flawed though – she has her moments when she gives in to temptation, but that makes her human and stops her being too perfect.
How easy was it to get published?
I spent a long time writing Honeycote before I let anyone see it. I think everyone has to labour long and hard while they work out their voice and what makes them stand out from everyone else. But because I had written television for many years, I had a head-start, as I was used to generating story material and structuring plots. When I met Harriet Evans, my editor at Penguin, we clicked straight away and I knew I wanted her to publish me. She is now a hugely successful author, too.