A Quickie with Hilary Spiers

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

My latest book, Hester & Harriet: Love, Lies and Linguine sends the two sisters from my first (Hester & Harriet) on a life-changing Italian holiday, while all sorts of catastrophes are unfolding at home. I specialise in writing about older women because I’m exasperated with them (let’s be honest, women like me!) being portrayed as burdens, peripheral characters – or, increasingly, demented. If you want to see more mature women living exciting, fulfilling lives, and driving the story, I’d say, read my books.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?

What a question! I’ve flitted from job to job in my extremely varied career (writing being the only constant) so: The Eternal Butterfly? Or, given the fact I’m always prepared to give something a go: Never Say Never?

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

‘Please would you email me the recipe for Hester’s biscuits. The ones that Ben keeps nicking. Oh, and that trick for peeling quails’ eggs.’ (My books do feature quite a lot of cooking and copious amounts of alcohol.)

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

I absolutely adore Beryl Bainbridge and the dark wit that suffused her writing. Given my own interest in the theatre, I think it would be great to spend time, when we weren’t trying to get some words down on the page, mining the dramatic roots that informed and enriched her own writing.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

I’ve always wanted to play mixed doubles with Roger Federer.

Three books I’ve read recently and why I’ve chosen them

The Purple Swamp Hen by Penelope Lively: If you love short stories, as I do, these are perfect examples of the genre, deceptively light but with an inner darkness and truth. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the characters, they reveal hidden depths and surprises.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon: a bit of a cheat, this one, as I haven’t quite reached the end. But I’m loving the language, her quirky turn of phrases, as well as the central setting, that relentlessly hot summer of 1976 that I remember well. The book recreates both the suffocating heat of those months and the metaphorical suffocation of the petty suburban lives and preoccupations of the cleverly interwoven residents of one small cul-de-sac.

Birds of Passage by Bernice Rubens: This is a recent re-read (for perhaps the fourth time – and there are few books that I re-visit so that tells you something). I love this book, now disgracefully out of print, and hope that if enough fans demand it, someone might have the wit to re-publish it. It’s a brilliant, witty, dark, unputdownable novel about two elderly women taking a cruise after their husbands’ deaths. One of those books you feel guilty laughing over because some of the events are so awful – but hilarious.

Who is Hilary Spiers? Hilary Spiers is a novelist, award-winning short story writer and playwright. She enjoys writing about ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. Hilary lives in the finest stone town in England, with her husband and their neurotic cat Lola. When she isn’t writing (which she is most of the time), she is directing, performing or cooking up a storm. Pies are a speciality.

Hilary’s novel, Hester and Harriet, was published in March 2016. Her second novel, Hester & Harriet: Love, Lies and Linguine was published in March 2017.

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