|Hilary Boyd (photo from Quercus)|
CREATIVE LATE BLOOMER: HILARY BOYD
LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: When You Walked Back Into My Life will be published in the UK by Quercus on October 10. It is Hilary Boyd's third novel to appear in three years after 20 years of rejection slips. Her bestselling first novel, Thursday in the Park, was released in the U.S. on October 1.
HER LATE-BLOOMING SUCCESS STORY: At age 60, Hilary Boyd, after 20 years of rejection slips, was just about to give up on her dream to be a novelist. Then she hit pay dirt with Thursdays in the Park, her story of a 60-year-old woman in a sexless marriage who falls for a 60-something man she meets in the park where they both are bringing their grandchildren to play. Published in the UK by Quercus, the novel became a bestseller when it was issued in 2012 as an e-book, even outselling that other sexy e-book phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. Now Boyd is on a late bloomer's publishing roll: In 2012, Quercus published her second novel, Tangled Lives, the story of a woman who is contacted by the son she gave up for adoption when she was 18. And due out this month in the UK from Quercus is When You Walked Back Into My Life, a story about the complications that arise when a lost love resurfaces. Also this month Thursday in the Park was published in the U.S. It has been optioned for a movie.
NO ONE EVER SAID IT WOULD BE EASY: Hilary Boyd has had what she calls a "chequered" career. She trained to be a nurse. She had three children. She trained to be a marriage guidance counselor. In her 30s, she went back to school and got a degree in English Lit. She became a journalist, specializing in health. She wrote a Mind/Body/Spirit column for the Daily Express and published six non-fiction books on health-related issues.
Her dream, however, was always fiction. So in her 40s, alongside her non-fiction work, she began writing novels in her spare time. She completed four.
"But rejection followed grisly rejection with every book. I kept going because I love the process of writing, of telling a good yard. It's like a drug to me. The goal was always to get published. I wasn't one of those writers who say -- untruthfully, perhaps -- that they're happy for their books to languish, forever unread, in the desk drawer," Boyd wrote in The Telegraph.
By age 60 she began to lose heart that she would ever find success in fiction -- "despite being repeatedly told about Mary Wesley," she says. English novelist Mary Wesley published her first novel in her 70s and went on to sell three million copies of her books, including 10 bestsellers in the last 20 years of her life. Hilary Boyd, on the other hand, had faced 20 years of rejection slips.
Then -- finally -- in 2011, an independent imprint took a chance on her and published her novel Thursdays in the Park. Even then though success continued to elude her. The novel sunk like a stone, selling fewer than 1,000 copies. Only when Quercus issued the novel in paperback and as an e-book a year later in August 2012 did the book take off. Thursday in the Park became an e-book sensation, climbing to number one on Amazon UK with more than 500,000 sales, even outselling Ken Follett and E.L. James. Two more novels followed. Hilary Boyd now works full time writing fiction.
ON PUBLISHING LATE IN LIFE: "I often wonder what people who publish when they're young find to write about, whereas I've had a life, and jobs, and relationships; I've had experiences to plumb, rather than sitting in an ivory tower."
ON BOOKS ABOUT AGING: "Old people falling in love and having passionate relationships is not a story that's had much exposure before, but I'm in no doubt that the market's out there."
ON BABY BOOMERS & AGING: "I wanted to write about what it was like to be a young-at-heart pensioner and a grandmother in the 21st century. Not a white-bun, baggy-cardie, specs-toting granny -- although I'm sure these are the very best kind -- but a modern one, someone who still works, goes to the gym and dyes her eyebrows, blondes up her hair. Someone who's been married an extremely long time, who still likes and needs sex and who feels like someone 15 years younger. Someone still capable of romantic longings. Because -- breaking news -- we baby boomers are not going gently into old age, we're fighting every inch of the way." -- From "Hilary Boyd: The over 60s want romance and sex too," The Telegraph, November 12, 2012
ON SEX AND AGING: "(We) all lie about sex -- or so most sex surveys insist. So who's to know for sure if any of us have good sex, bad sex, or no sex? ... who's to say how much sex is good for us? In my novel Thursday in the Park, my heroine finally tells her friend that she hasn't had sex for eight years, with her husband or anyone else. And her friend is gobsmacked. But it's probably not uncommon for couples to have little or no sex a they get older -- or even not very old. And to be perfectly happy about it ... The problem, obviously, comes when one wants it, the other -- for any number of complex reasons -- does not. So what do you do if your partner says No and you're dying for it? It must be very distressing. Do you vamp up in a bustier, black stockings and scarlet lippy, (assuming you're a woman that is) ply him with booze and leap on him, risking a humiliating rejection? Do you leg it and find someone else to have sex with? Do you send him to a shrink? Do you, like the heroine in my novel, do nothing at all, because she simply doesn't know what to do? I'm afraid I don't have the answer. And my sex life is perfect of course. I have sex at least twenty times a day, every day -- with my husband or anyone passing -- even though I'm over sixty. And I'm not taking part in a sex survey, so I must be telling the truth!" -- From Hilary Boyd's "No Sex With Your Partner? Does It Matter?" posted at huffingtonpost.co.uk on September 21, 2013