Lil’s Bus Trip is published on the 26th August. It is my seventh novel, and my eighth one is currently under wraps for publication later this year. All my novels feature older people as main characters, embracing the fact that all people can still laugh, love, develop and enjoy life, whatever their age. I try to include a range of characters from all ages and backgrounds in my novels, each with something to offer the reader in terms of their uplifting stories, adventures, laugh-out-loud moments and, occasionally, there may be a few tears.
I also often feature travelling in my novels, and I like to visit a wide range of locations. Sometimes, the characters will stay in one place, a village or a rural setting close to the sea. But, quite frequently, my characters will take off somewhere, perhaps on holiday, perhaps to relocate, and there will usually be some sort of transport involved, whether a camper van or a Harley Davidson. In my novels, the physical act of travelling usually implies a new start, a journey of self-discovery and an ending where change or new beginnings can be possible.
I’ve travelled a bit over the years, and I’ve lived across the UK, from Liverpool to Oxfordshire to Cornwall. I now live in Somerset and I often find myself writing about the countryside, the seaside, rural villages, or how a quiet lifestyle contrasts with the lively bustle of a town. I love both. I like to write about a variety of locations I love to visit, settings from Paris and the south of France to Mexico and Spain. On her trip in a bus with several other holidaymakers, Lil, who is 82, her friend Maggie and her daughter Cassie visit the beaches of Normandy and sample the cultural delights of Belgium before spending several wild days in Amsterdam.
When I’m writing, my thoughts are often about how I can create characters that will keep my readers entertained as they turn each page, how the story will represent the ups and downs we all experience in life. But I also try to make what I write optimistic, positive and uplifting; even during the sadder or darker moments, there is a chance for happiness. In Lil’s Bus Trip, Lil was a single teenage mother in the 1950s: circumstances meant that Cassie’s father did not know Lil was pregnant. Lil and Cassie are therefore very close; they have very similar lively and independent natures, and they are both strong women. Lil’s life has passed by in a whirl: all older people know how that feels. One minute you are changing nappies then, before long, you are wondering where all the years have gone. Cassie, 65 years old and single, is a singer, a popular performance poet; she has everything she needs in life. And Lil, who lives in a retirement home and enjoys the chance to spend time with her neighbour Maggie and to perform secret random acts of kindness for Jenny, the harassed warden, is also contented in her home by the sea. But a holiday away from their usual routine offers both mother and daughter the chance to rethink their lives and to examine their priorities. And Lil, who thought she was perfectly fine alone, begins to wonder if some company in her older years might not be a good thing. Then she meets a man. And another man. Like buses, there isn’t one for a long, long time, then they come along in twos.
Northern Europe is an exciting backdrop for Lil’s adventures. The Normandy beaches and the history of what happened there long ago allow an opportunity for reflection on life. Lil has a strange experience by herself in the graveyard at Thiepval, and it’s exactly the same one I had myself several years ago, an unexplainable moment in a place bristling with sadness and a tangible atmosphere of loss. But afterwards, Lil and Cassie enjoy the bustle, culture, beer and chocolate of Bruges and the calm environment of a rural location in Boom. Then they visit Amsterdam, a city I love, vibrant and bubbling, full of fun, before coming back through Belgium and France and ending the holiday with an unforgettable celebration in a French coastal resort.
Once home, though, both Lil and Cassie need to rethink and reset. Lil has decisions to make, and Cassie is visited by a stranger who will change her life. The story won’t end until the last page.
I hope readers will love Lil’s Bus Trip in the same way that they have enjoyed the last six novels. One reviewer said that my books should be available on the NHS, and that gave me so much to be happy about: it’s a real thrill to think that readers will smile and feel uplifted. My next novel, which will be about the impromptu getaway of three very different women in their golden years, will be pure entertainment from start to finish, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Watch this space.
And while I’m mentioning future projects, I’m so excited to reveal that I’ve written another novel for Boldwood books in a completely different genre. This one will be spooky and will have a dual timeline. I can’t wait to tell you more. I’ve enjoyed the experience of writing it so much, and I think readers will find it quite powerful
But right now, I’m celebrating Lil’s Bus Trip. I hope you will enjoy meeting the different characters and travelling along with them, sharing the bumpy road, the smiles and the unfolding story.
If you enjoy it, please do leave a nice review – we authors thrive on it and it really brings a moment of genuine warmth and happiness as we sit at laptops bashing out the next story. Readers are the people who make everything worthwhile.
Sending best wishes and, as a small preview, here’s Lil’s journey, mapped out below. X