Last night we attended an event organized by the Essex Book Festival, Richard Madeley interviewing his wife Judy Finnigan about her latest bestselling novel I Do Not Sleep. It was at the Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, and I was curious to hear about Judy’s writing journey and her life as a writer. As the founders and the face of the Richard and Judy Book Club, I share their passion for books so was really looking forward to this. And rightly so. It was a great evening. Thank you to the Essex Book Festival and to Richard and Judy.
It was a positive, uplifting and just lovely evening and the interview was so interesting. As a fellow writer and someone who has heard many writers speak, and having spoken at a couple of literary festivals myself, I always love to hear how other writers work. Of course Judy alongside Richard had successful careers as journalists before the award-winning daytime TV show This Morning that I used to watch avidly. In fact many years ago I was at the Albert Dock studio in Liverpool (where they used to do the show) with my face pressed to the glass because Barry Manilow was the other side! Did I really admit that? I was spotted bunking off uni — more’s the point! Who knew the vet school staffroom had a TV? Oops. I digress, but having followed Richard and Judy with interest and beyond that still very successful TV show, into writing careers, and have myself read many titles in the Richard and Judy Book club, there was much of interest to talk about.
Interestingly I often thought about Judy as a writer when her first novel Eloise came out because it’s loosely based on the beautiful Caron Keating, TV presenter, daughter of Gloria Hunniford. Caron sadly lost her seven-year battle with breast cancer in 2004, a year before my lovely Lee died of cancer. At Bridge House Publishing we put together a collection of angel stories called Voices of Angels (I have a story in this) and Gloria kindly wrote the foreword. Proceeds to The Caron Keating Foundation. Caron always believed in angels, so we felt that was right. Judy spoke about how Caron was the inspiration for her first novel, a young mother who died and left behind young children.
What I found interesting was when she talked about the importance of place and the landscape in her writing, both novels being set in her spiritual home of Cornwall. She talked about how this beautiful place with its sense of mystery and steeped in history, impacts on her mindset and it’s through that emotional connection she finds herself being ‘the writer’. She confesses that writing has always been a dream and has allowed her to leave behind the tight and demanding schedules of her former TV life (I don’t blame her with 2 hour live shows every day!) and while she is still on Loose Women from time to time, she can now devote more of her time to writing. Although she says she writes when she feels connected to it and not every day. After the deadline driven life before, who can blame her and with two bestsellers, then clearly it’s working.
What I want to say is that both Richard and Judy came across as humble, genuine and incredibly down to earth. They talked about the risks of both being writers and the pressure on them as the face of the Richard and Judy Book Club when both their first novels were released. On a much much smaller scale I can relate. I spend every afternoon editing and critiquing for clients, and I write this blog about how to write. If I hadn’t pulled it off with my novel it might have destroyed my credibility. Thankfully that never happened, but I can only imagine the pressure on them. I appreciate how candidly they spoke of this. Insecurity as a writer is part of the job and it’s refreshing that they feel the same, even with their success.
At the end of a delightfully enlightening evening, I lined up to have my book signed and we talked. Again, they were so nice and I appreciate the time they took to talk and listen to everyone who was there.
I told Judy about my writing and about Caron Keating and the book; also mentioned knowing Sarah Hilary who was here on the blog and whose debut Someone Else’s Skin made the current Richard and Judy Book Club list. Sadly with Parthian being a small press they would not be in a position to submit a title for consideration to this Book Club, but I did sneakily offer them a copy of my novel, While No One Was Watching, which Judy said she would read. In fact they were both seemed interested in the plot and the Kennedy tie-in. As Dad later got his book signed I also talked to Richard about Kennedy as his novel also features Kennedy, The Way You Look Tonight. I talked about loving the way fact and fiction can come together in novel writing and wondered how he felt about adapting to fiction after a life writing non-fiction, it’s a freedom from the constraints of telling to showing. He says how much he loves his novel writing.
Richard and Judy… if you’re reading, thanks for a really lovely evening. I look forward to reading I Do Not Sleep and I hope you enjoy my book. You never know Richard, my blog post might go viral on the World Wide Web (sorry, and if you didn’t see Ant and Dec readers, you will have no idea what I’m talking about)!
Thanks for a great night.
Have a fab day everyone!
Judy Finnigan talking last night at the Essex Book Festival