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

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS -

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.

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