Tales of Hester and Harriet are making Stamford author Hilary’s dreams come true

Stamford book author Hilary Spiers
Photo: Lee Hellwing

Stamford book author Hilary Spiers Photo: Lee Hellwing

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A Stamford woman who gave up a high-profile job as the director of communications for a charity to follow her dream of becoming a writer is about to release her second book.

Hilary Spiers decided in 2005 to give up her job to pursue her dream of becoming a writer.

Since then, she has completed a MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent and written many short stories. She’s also a playwright but when it came to writing a book her immediate thought was ‘oh that’s too big’.

But a friend set her the challenge of writing three chapters a week to coax a book from her and she turned to two characters who had already made an appearance in a book of short stories.

Her first novel Hester and Harriet was published in the UK last year by Allen and Unwin, who was sourced through Hilary’s agent Gregory and Co.

It was a huge success, earning fantastic feedback from critics and readers alike, and was included in the 2016 Rising Stars List.

It tells the story of two widowed sisters who share a home but find their orderly lives turned upside down.

Hilary found that she just couldn’t let the characters go and thanks to the first book’s success, she was able to pen the second book in what she hopes will become a series.

Hester and Harriet: Loves, Lies and Linguine is released on Thursday.

The second story follows the sisters as they widen their horizons with a trip to Italy, leaving their nephew at home.

“Hester and Harriet are with me all the time and when things happen in the world, I wonder what they would do.

“Writing this second book was much easier than the first - and a lot quicker - and I definitely have a plot for a third book. We’ll have to wait and see what the response is to the second though. I hope they’ve got more mileage,” Hilary said.

Hilary, who has lived in Stamford since the early 1980s with her husband, said she was inspired to write about older women and not because she is 64.

She said: “Older women get quite a raw deal in literature - they’re either a problem or they are harridans, which I think is very sad. There are lots of books about older men and you’re not telling me that men have more interesting lives than women. It’s women’s lives that I’m concerned about.”

She admits to being surprised at the success of the first novel, which was released initially in Australia where her publishers Allen and Unwin are based.

“I thought it would be a book that would appeal to older women because of the characters but in fact, because there’s issues like illegal immigration and homelessness, a lot of feedback has been that it’s a book for today.

“I wasn’t consciously writing it like that but it’s appealed to a bigger readership than I had actually anticipated.”

Hilary describes the book as a comedy of manners, adding: “I’m always looking for the absurd in life and particularly now when times are unsettled, we all need a bit of light relief.”

As a mother of twin sons and a grandmother of four, Hilary praised her family and friends for being incredibly supportive of her books, with her sons and friends’ children even helping her with queries on the younger generations.

Although Hilary has a sister, she says the characters of Hester and Harriet bear no resemblance to them but in fact, have qualities that she picks up on in everyday life in a variety of people.

Hilary said: “I certainly wasn’t thinking of my sister. They’re not easy ladies and they are quite opinionated.

“They are a malgamation of lots of different characters and people I know, including myself.”

Before turning to writing full-time Hilary completed a law degree but never worked as a solicitor, instead working in a variety of roles during her career, including in the NHS and teaching.

Her last role was as director of communications for a charity.

She was always a keen writer and a self-confessed book worm but says it was a big decision to quit such a big role to follow her passion, adding that she was lucky she had the luxury of being able to do so.

But she’s never looked back, saying: “Writing doesn’t feel like work to me - it’s just sheer pleasure.”

As well as reading for pleasure, she also reads aloud for Calibre Audio Library which is aimed at people with sight problems - and has managed to expand her reading repertoire.

Hilary is currently working on a third novel, this time with a different protagonist - but still a lady of a certain age.

But Hester and Harriet are still close to her heart and she hopes Love, Lies and Linguine will enjoy similar success to the first book.

“I really hope people enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Hester and Harriet: Love, Lies and Linguine by Hilary Spiers is published in paperbook format on March 2 by Allen and Unwin, RRP. £8.99 with eBook also available.

Hilary will be signing copies at Walkers in High Street, Stamford, on Saturday, March 4, between 11am and 1pm.

To find out more about Hilary visit www.hilaryspiers.co.uk.