Gran Lit? I don’t feel part of that group
Hilary Boyd on becoming a bestseller overnight
If you haven’t heard of Hilary Boyd, then the chances are you’ve been living on another planet for the last few weeks. The Hornsey Lane author has been everywhere from the Today programme to News at Ten after her debut novel, Thursdays In The Park, enjoyed a renaissance through e-book sales, topping the Amazon e-books chart for five weeks straight.
In the tradition of the media, Boyd has been crowned the founder of a new “lit”.This time it’s gran lit, a title inspired by her 60-plus heroine, who finds love away from her sexless marriage after she meets a hot grandad while taking her granddaughter to the swings in Waterlow Park every Thursday. “It’s incredible, isn’t it?” enthuses Boyd over a cup of tea, “the media do need a hook and this has really come out of nowhere.”
The story is partially inspired by real life. Boyd did take her granddaughter (one of four) to Waterlow Park on Thursdays, and she did see a hunky man across the woodchip, but that’s as far as it went. The rest of the story happened in her mind. “Looking after children can be really wearing. When you’re watching the grandkids play in the park, you can drift into thoughts. I’d be pushing my granddaughter on the swings, which put her into a bit of a trance and be thinking away. I saw this dishy granddad and thought, ‘Now there’s an idea’.”
In reality, Boyd is happily married to director William Boyd – 40 years next year. “He said at a party the other day, ‘Hilary has been Mrs William Boyd for years. Now I’m Mr Hilary Boyd.’ Of course, he’s thrilled about it all, as am I.” Mr Boyd won’t be directing the film of Thursdays In The Park, something Charles Dance has optioned to direct. “It’s better that it is separate, as the film industry can be a really cruel one. I’m not going to be heavily involved, I think you choose the person you want to do it and you put your faith in them to do it well.”
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Gran lit seems to be code for writing about anyone over 60 showing signs of wanting to continue with their social, sexual and working life. For Boyd, it’s not a startlingly new concept, that women in their 60s have lives of their own, but she does accept that hers may be the first generation to enjoy this kind of freedom. “Women never used to be independent financially. When my mother used to go out, she’d go out with my father. But my generation, we go out with our friends separately from our husbands. Most of us have got some sort of economic independence. We’ve got our own lives. That’s the difference. I see pensioners now and, even though I have my Freedom Pass, I don’t feel part of that age group. No offence, but people of your generation will know me and my friends as ‘pensioners’ and I don’t feel that way at all.”
The story is one of liberation. The main character’s husband is set on a retirement in the countryside, something the heroine is not so keen on. “He has lived his working life and wants to go off golfing in the country, which is her idea of a nightmare. That can happen in real life; in long marriages each person’s priorities can be different.”
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Boyd didn’t expect the success, particularly as the first release of the book’s print edition only sold 3,000 copies. “I thought it’s just a good women’s fiction, nothing more, nothing less and writers don’t usually sell so much. I also knew I’d be writing for older women, but it seems other people are now reading it too.”
The story has been thrown in with EL James’ Fifty Shades sensation. Boyd admits she is somewhat riding on the tailcoat of that phenomenon but says, content-wise, the comparison is inaccurate. I’m inclined to agree. Sex happens infrequently and discreetly in Thursdays In The Park. In the next book Tangled Lives, sex isn’t even a part of it. “The only similarity between this and Fifty Shades is that they have both been Amazon successes,” says Boyd. “I also don’t want to be cast as someone who writes just about older people. The one I’m writing now is about people in their 40s. The only thing people can expect from my books is a happy ending. I love a happy ending. Life’s hard enough anyway, isn’t it?”
Thursdays in The Park and Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd are published by Quercus