As A Family Recipe is about to be published I had a wonderful opportunity to interview Veronica Henry about her inspiration and her life outside her books.
We love the structure of A Family Recipe, what was your inspiration for writing the book in that way?
I wanted to write about two different generations in one house; the relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter, and how their lives are intertwined. And it was my family recipe box that provided the key to that relationship – how the recipes in it had been handed down through the generations, and reflected what was happening at the time. And when I began researching houses in Bath, to find the perfect place for my family to live, I found out about the Bath Blitz. I immediately wanted to write about the effect that had on a friendship – two young girls who survive that trauma, and what happens to them afterwards.
We are always impressed by the perfect way that you always tie up the loose ends in your books, how difficult is it to create such satisfying conclusions?
It takes a while to figure out what happens to everyone. Not so much how the stories end, because I usually know that right from the start, but what happens along the way. I usually map out a few major plot points, but then I start writing and see what happens and I’m quite often surprised. That’s when writing is exciting, when your characters take you somewhere unexpected. I spent a long time writing television drama, so I know how to keep control of what is happening and not get sidetracked. There has to be a purpose to the story – your characters can’t just wander off and do whatever they like!
You have used a variety of locations in your books, if you were the main character in a book, where would you like it to be set?
I live by the sea, and a change is as good as a rest, so I’d like to have a big, rambling bohemian house in Chelsea, perhaps in the 1970s, when the Kings Road was a place to see and be seen and was full of creativity, but also slightly decadent. Perhaps I’d be an artist. I can’t paint for toffee, but maybe my fictional self is a talented genius!
What advice do you have for writers that want to switch genres, e.g. from non-fiction to fiction.
Don’t swap genres just because you think that’s where the money is, or because that’s the current trend. Write what you believe in. Write what you love; what makes you tingle inside when you think about it. In other words, write with your heart, not your head or your bank balance.
You have achieved so much in your writing career, do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
I am so lucky to do something I love. I do fantasise about having a little bar by the sea somewhere warm, where people can come and enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine, and have something delicious to nibble on, and close their eyes and drift away … A secret bar that only lucky people will know about. A place for assignations and affairs and honeymoons. A place to fall in love.
When you are not writing, what do you do to relax?
That’s something I’m struggling with at the moment. I spend so much time writing and reading for work, it’s hard to relax as you can’t really escape from it. I went for a walk on the beach with my dog Zelda this morning, but spent the whole time thinking about my new characters …I do love cooking, though. I find that quite relaxing. So today I’m going to make an asparagus quiche, and a roast chicken salad with Green Goddess dressing, and play some new music that’s been recommended to me, and try and forget about my fictional worlds for a short while!
Image of Veronica Henry credit: H.J.Lewis
See the review of A Family Recipe